A history and philosophy student at the Universities of Pisa and Milan, Mario Monicelli first yelled "Roll 'em" (in Italian, of course) when he co-directed a 16-millimeter short subject called I ragazzi dela via Paal (1935), inspired by Ferenc Molnar's The Boys of Paul Street. The film won a Venice Festival prize, whereupon Monicelli embarked on a lengthy apprenticeship as assistant to several of Europe's top directors: Gustav Machaty, Pietro Germi, and a host of others. A scriptwriter from 1944, Monicelli formed a partnership with comedy scrivener Stefano Vanzina, who billed himself as "Steno." The team directed its first feature, Al diavolo la Celebrita, in 1949. Monicelli's first solo effort was Proibito (1954), which like many of his best films dealt with everyday folks who are mired down by their unwillingness to take risks and/or their inability to rise above their simple-minded attitudes. One of his biggest hits was Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), a tale of a "perfect crime" gone awry due to the indecision, ignorance, and ineptitude of its participants. Even when Monicelli's characters are firm in their convictions, they are prone to failure: An excellent example of this is his 1963 drama I compagni (The Conformist), a case history of a labor strike which, like Monicelli's earlier La Grand Guerra (The Great War, 1959) won Venice's Golden Lion Award. Mario Monicelli has also won the Berlin Festival Best Director prizes for 1957's Fathers and Sons, 1976's Caro Michele, and 1982's Il Marchise del Grillo.