Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Nights of Cabiria (1957, It.)
(aka Le Notti Di Cabiria)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Nights of Cabiria (1957, It./Fr.) (aka Le Notti Di Cabiria)

In co-writer/director Federico Fellini's romantic melodrama - a post-war Italian neo-realistic film with a wonderful musical score by Nino Rota - the winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar awarded in 1958.

[Note: Fellini's La Strada (1954, It.), also starring Giulietta Masina (Fellini's wife), won the inaugural Best Foreign Language Film Oscar awarded in 1956.]

The 1966 Broadway stage musical Sweet Charity directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse (and Fosse's feature film directorial debut and adaptation Sweet Charity (1969) with Shirley MacLaine) both paid homage to Fellini's plot-line.

  • the principal title character was Maria 'Cabiria' Ceccarelli (Giulietta Masina) - a waifish, short-statured, optimistic-minded, naive, overly-trusting, independent street-walking prostitute in the city of Rome, who sought clients in the Passeggiata Archeologica of Rome's Parco di Porta Capena at night. The isolated and disgraced outcast was often wearing a striped blouse, a ratty fake fur jacket and ankle bobby socks. [Note: Her movements and actions recalled Charlie Chaplin's comic Little Tramp character.]
  • in the film's playful opening, Cabiria unexpectedly became the victim of her live-in client-lover (and pimp) Giorgio (Franco Fabrizi), who stole her purse with 40,000 lire and nearly drowned her in a canal. It was the first of many similiar humiliations and degradations that the heroine would experience in various episodes or vignettes as she went on a personal odyssey to search for true love
  • one night while outside a nightclub in the Via Veneto, the starstruck Cabiria met jaded and recently-jilted movie star Alberto Lazzari (Amedeo Nazzari), who after dancing the jitterbug-mambo with her at a different club, invited her to his palatial house. Upon the return of Lazzari's glamorous, irritated girlfriend to the mansion later that evening, Cabiria (hidden away and locked in the bathroom with the dog) watched as Alberto reconciled with her after their earlier argument at the club
  • that evening, she observed a nameless "Man with the Sack" (Leo Catozzo) - a saintly 'good samaritan' feeding and providing for vagrants and poverty-stricken cave dwellers, including one of Cabiria's elderly and once-beautiful ex-colleagues - it was a possible premonition of her own coming fate; afterwards, she serviced a trucker
  • a few days later during a religious pilgrimage and church mass with other prostitutes and pimps at the Shrine of Divine Love, she prayed to a statue of the Virgin Mary, vainly hoping for a better and purer life ("Madonna, Madonna, help me to change my life. Bestow your grace on me too. Make me change my life"), but nothing changed
  • during a magic show in a variety-vaudeville theatre, the drunk Cabiria was called upon by the mentalist-magician-wizard (Aldo Silvani) (with devil’s horns) to be hypnotized on stage; she became the object of heckling and ridicule from the mostly-male audience about her desired wish to be married to someone who truly loved her; she imagined herself as a virginal maiden with a flowery crown who was courted by an invisible caring suitor named Oscar in a beautiful garden with lovely waltz music
  • afterwards, an accountant named Oscar D'Onofrio (François Périer) who witnessed the show, was sympathetic to her plight. He met her out on the street, and after getting to know each other better, Cabiria fell in love with him when he proposed; she announced plans to marry him in two weeks, while her streetwalker friend Wanda (Franca Marzi) cautioned her about selling her shack-house and belongings, and withdrawing all of her money (700,000 lire, her dowry) from her bank account
  • Cabiria joined Oscar for a walk in a wooded forest with high cliffs overlooking a lake, when she told him: "You suffer, you go through hell...but then happiness comes along for everyone. You've been my angel"; but then she became suspicious of Oscar's ruthless and dishonorable motives when his attitude changed
  • after realizing his true intentions (she asked: "You want to kill me?!"), she dropped her purse at his feet, begged to die ("Kill me, kill me, throw me off the cliff! I don't wanna live anymore"), and was left writhing on the ground covered in dead leaves and dirt as he grabbed her purse, ran off and abandoned her; it was a repeat of the film's opening sequence
  • after being devastated and humiliated once again, as Cabiria returned to town in the film's redemptive coda, she encountered teenaged revelers happily forming a circus-like parade as they danced and played music. The ever-hopeful and undefeated Cabiria - with her spirits lifted - joined the impromptu group and gave a transcendent, hopeful and bittersweet teary smile - the last image was of a single black tear falling from her left eye
Final Transcendent Sequence - Cabiria With a Single Black Tear

Rome Streetwalker Maria 'Cabiria' Ceccarelli (Giulietta Masina)

Cabiria's Jitterbug-Mambo Dancing with Movie Star Alberto Lazzari

With Hypnotist-Mentalist

Cabiria Approached by Oscar D'Onofrio After Magic Show

With Oscar at a Cliff-Edge Before She Was Robbed


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