Acclaimed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini drew on his own circus background for the 1954 classic La Strada. Set in a seedy travelling carnival, this symbolism-laden drama revolves around brutish strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn), his simple and servile girlfriend Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife), and clown/aerialist Matto (Richard Basehart).
Appalled at Zampano's insensitive treatment of Gelsomina, the gentle-natured Matto invites her to run off with him; but Gelsomina, like a faithful pet, refuses to leave the strong man's side. Eventually Zampano's volcanic temper erupts once too often, leading to tragic consequences.
Written by Fellini and Tullio Pinelli and scored by Nino Rota, La Strada was the winner of the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, awarded in 1956.