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Dino De Laurentiis, who died today, produced two of Federico Fellini's masterpieces, "La Strada" (1954) and "Nights of Cabiria" (1957).

This energetic impresario, winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the 2001 Academy Awards (left), embraced all kinds of movies. Many of his films were milestones. He was an executive producer on both the 1962 breakthrough Italian mob movie, Alberto Lattuada's "Mafioso," and the 1972 breakthrough American cop movie, Sidney Lumet's "Serpico." He forged relationships with writers and actors as well as directors; Fellini got Anthony Quinn to star in "La Strada" because Quinn was acting in another De Laurentiis film, the inept spectacle "Attila."(De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti shared the Best Foreign Film Oscar for producing "La Strada." De Laurentiis won the same award three years later for Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria.")

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De Laurentiis produced two of the most intelligent and engrossing Biblical epics, Richard Fleischer's 1962 "Barabbas" and John Huston's 1966 "The Bible" (both written by Christopher Fry), and several of the most original and entertaining comic-book movies, including Mario Bava's "Danger: Diabolik" (1968) and Mike Hodges' "Flash Gordon" (1980).

His credit lists on the Internet often don't include the movies he made as the founder of the production company and distribution unit, the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

But in 1986 and 1987 DEG put out Michael Mann's "Manhunter," David Lynch's "Blue Velvet," Curtis Hanson's "The Bedroom Window," Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead II," and Kathryn Bigelow's "Near Dark."

De Laurentiis also produced a ton of commercial garbage, and sometimes got into disputes with cinema's greatest talents, including David Lean over their aborted two-part version of "Mutiny on the Bounty." But for over half a century De Laurentiis furthered the careers of directors who inspired movie-lovers and other filmmakers -- and some, like Mann, Lynch, Hanson, Raimi and Bigelow, continue to enliven far-flung locations, sound-stages and cinemas today. De Laurentiis's own output makes the aspirations of most contemporary producers look puny.

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