She starred in La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, the 1956 and 1957 winners, respectively, of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She was the wife of the Italian film director Federico Fellini, by whom Masina's career was much helped. By her intense performances, incarnating naive characters who dealt with cruel circumstances, Giulietta Masina is often known as the female Chaplin.
She was cast by Fellini, who picked her after canvassing her photographs, for the radio station for which he was scripting. By 1943 Masina was effectively gaining notice as a radio actress, working beside some popular figures of those years. Masina's first work was Terziglio, a radio serial which was scripted by Fellini. It was about a young married couple and Massina incarnated Pallina, the wife main character. So, they fell in love and, on October 30, 1943, Masina was married to Fellini although they couldn't have children in tragical circumstances (See below). Despite distancing from acting, Giulietta Masina returned to the university stage for some time, acting with Marcello Mastroianni. Her latest stage work was in 1951.
With the help of the professional influence of her husband, whose cinema career had begun to blossom, she was brought to the cinema screen. Indeed, of the entire cinema career of Giulietta Masina, half of the Italian films, the most successful ones, have been either written or directed by her husband.
Giulietta Masina debuted through an uncredited role in Paisà (1946) whereas Fellini was credited in its script. Masina's first screen credit was in the 1948 Without Pity film, which was another adaptation of Fellini, and she was opposite to John Kitzmiller. In 1954 she starred La strada of Fellini, which earned the Academy Award of Best Foreign Language Film meaning Masina's international stardom, incarnating the abused wife of a circus strongman (Anthony Quinn). In 1957 she won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of the title role in Fellini's Nights of Cabiria which earned another Best Foreign Language Film award of the Academy, as a prostitute who endures life's tragedies with innocence and resilience. Masina's career was severely hit by the critic and office box failure of The High Life (1960). Subsequently she became dedicated mostly to attend her own life and marriage. Nonetheless, she filmed again with Fellini in Juliet of the Spirits (1965), which earned both the award of New York Film Critics (1965) and the award of the Golden Globes (1966), as the Best Foreign Language Film of the year. In 1969 Masina did her first work in English, in The Madwoman of Chaillot beside Katherine Hepburn.
After almost two decades during which she did sporadic works for television only, Giulietta Masina filmed again with Fellini in Ginger and Fred, already in 1986. During those years, Masina rejected work offerings, instead to attend the precarious health of her husband. Her last work of cinema was A Day to Remember (1991).
Giulietta Masina died from a cancer on March 23, 1994, at the age of seventy-three. Fellini had died just five months earlier, on October 31, 1993. They are buried together at Rimini cemetery; their tomb is marked by a prow-shaped monument, the work of sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro.