Heralded as a masterful interpreter of the "Commedia all'Italiana," screenwriter/director Mario Monicelli was not only one of Italy's most beloved and critically celebrated filmmakers (perhaps second to only Federico Fellini) but was also recognized for spawning the careers of some of the country's favorite actors. The short list of collaborators includes such notables as Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Alberto Sordi, Monica Vitti, Anna Magnani, and Giancarlo Giannini, to name but a few. Monicelli's greatest strength was his deft ability to tightrope-walk the fine line between humor and tragedy (the defining nature of Italian film comedy), where life's cruelty meets its absurdity head-on. He began as a writer and director of short films in the 1930s before teaming up with artist Steno in the '40s--the duo produced eight films in half as many years. It was not until the 1950s, however, that he broke into the international scene with arguably his best works: the Academy Award-nominated heist film"Big Deal on Madonna Street" in 1958 and "The Great War" a year later, for which he won a Golden Lion. He continued to work prolifically throughout his life, winning a lifetime achievement award at the Venice Film Festival in 1991. He died in late 2010, in a deliberate and non-ironic farewell to the comedic art form he championed, by jumping out of his hospital window while awaiting surgery for prostate cancer at the age of 95.