Gina Lollobrigida, known as the face of Italian film, dies

He’s waving from the back seat of a convertible just before the Cannes Film Festival. And so here she is again, jet-lagged onto the tarmac in Paris, her scarf fluttering spectacularly in the evening breeze. Again, encrusted with emeralds – both clothes and rings – in his villa outside Rome.

An actress, yes, but somehow Gina Lollobrigida was always better than that.

Lollobrigida emerged as the face of Italy as it pulled itself out of the rubble of World War II and the tyranny of fascism. la dolce vitaThe sirens sounded, urging the Romans to cheer, rejoice, and embrace once more.

The late author Peter Bondanella wrote in his book Italian Films that “as an actor he showed something far more important than the genuine talent he often displayed in his work.”

Lollobrigida remained in the public eye until her death on Monday, with a life on film and an endless array of photographs of celebrities nailed next to Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol or David Bowie.

Lollobrigida, who was forever loved by her homeland, died in Rome, Italian news agency Lapresse said, citing the governor of Tuscany, Eugenio Giani. Lollobrigida was an honorary citizen of the Tuscan city.

His spokeswoman, Paola Comin, also confirmed the death but did not provide details, according to the Associated Press.

Lollobrigida suffered a broken femur and surgery after a fall in September. He said he returned home and started walking fast.

Gina Lollobrigida with Billy Wilder at the awards ceremony.

Billy Wilder poses with Gina Lollobrigida at the 1960 Academy Awards.


Lollobrigida’s rise to stardom was swift. He made films in Europe and the United States, signed a long-term Hollywood contract with Howard Hughes, acted with Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra and Rock Hudson, worked and ran with Salvador Dali, Fidel Castro and heart surgeon Christian Barnard. At a drama festival with a local woman, Sophia Loren, a heated competition ensued, wondering if the two had enough oxygen in Italy.

“I am fire. I am a volcano. Everything I do, I do with passion, fire and power,” he told The Times in 1994. “That’s who I am.”

Born in Subiaco, Italy in 1927 (she sometimes said 1928), Lollobrigida was the second of four daughters of Giovanni and Giuseppina Lollobrigida. At the start of World War II, when Allied air raids destroyed their home, the family fled to the heart of Rome.

Lollobrigida said her childhood memories were filled with hunger, hardship and turmoil.

“I know what it’s like to be hungry. I know what it’s like to lose a home. I remember being scared,” he told The Associated Press in 1994. “I know what it’s like to grow up without any toys.”

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She was studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome when a talent agent spotted her and offered her a modeling and acting contract. When he was called to the Cinecitta studio, the center of Italian cinema, he was offered 1,000 lire to sign.

“I told them the price I wanted was 1 million lire, and I thought that would stop everything,” Lollobrigida told Vanity Fair in 2015. “But they said yes!”

Before Alina, Lollobrigida appeared in a number of films filmed in Italy, some of which were less popular, but Lollobrigida uses her beauty as a weapon in a dangerous smuggling operation. Among others, it attracted the attention of eccentric businessman, pilot and maverick movie mogul Hughes.

Hughes invited Lollobrigida to a screen test in Hollywood. I requested two plane tickets to accompany my husband, but when his travel package arrived in Rome, there was only one ticket.

Her husband, a doctor named Milko Skofic, was not very happy with her, but finally gave in. “‘ He said, “Go. I don’t want you to ever say I’m not allowed to have a career.’ So I went alone.”

Hughes put the 24-year-old up in a suite at the Town House Hotel, then in a luxurious brick and terra cotta resort on Wilshire Boulevard. She was handed scripts, met with voice coaches and English teachers.

When the two went out for dinner, they usually went to low-key restaurants, so Hughes avoided the media he feared. Several times they ate in the car, he said.

Gina Lollobrigida stands behind a car and signs autographs for a smiling crowd.

Gina Lollobrigida signing autographs at the Cannes Film Festival in 1961.

(Anonymous / AP)

“I knew very little English at the time,” he told Vanity Fair. “Howard Hughes taught me swear words.”

After two-and-a-half months of protecting his advances and putting up with his erratic behavior, Lollobrigida said she signed a seven-year deal to return home. The deal made it difficult and prohibitively expensive to hire Lollobrigida to any American film studio other than Hughes’ RKO Pictures.

He said he had never made a single film for Hughes and was content waiting for a contract in Europe, where there was no shortage of work.

Lollobrigida quickly became a star in Europe, appearing in almost a dozen films before winning the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress for her role in Bread, Love and Dreams. This is considered by some critics to be his best and most natural character.

“I made it in spite of Howard Hughes,” he told Age Australia in 1999.

In 1953, he returned to Hollywood and starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in the John Huston-directed and Truman Capote-written adventure/comedy Everyday , which was filmed in Italy. It was Lollobrigida’s first English-language film, and she was called upon to play the role of a temptress, as would be her fate. Although the film helped introduce Lollobrigida to America, it was not a box office success.

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Three years later, she went one better as the scheming and scheming Lola in Trapeze, about a crippled acrobat who tries to coax greatness out of her haughty, distracted protégé, played by Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Shot in Paris, the film was a financial success.

Lollobrigida discovers the whereabouts of Willa alongside Yul Brynner in the sexually suggestive Bible story Solomon and Sheba and Rock Hudson in the 1961 romantic comedy about a married man and his mistress. They meet every year, which turns into a youth hostel. Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin are among the young tourists staying at the resort. Despite the pancake-thin plot, the film is good.

And that’s how the 60s went – romantic comedy after romantic comedy that matched Lollobrigida with stars such as Ernest Borgnine, Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery, Peter Lawford and Bob Hope. If the films were sometimes forgettable, as Lollobrigida later admitted to many, this only seemed to burnish her star power. Not one of her movies could be named, but everyone knew La Lolla.

With Hollywood film offers slowing down, Lollobrigida returned to Italian cinema in 1984 with a cameo in the TV series Falcon’s Creed and a mandatory cameo in The Love Boat.

For all the courtships, friendships and all the tabloids that followed her, the so-called “most beautiful woman in the world” was married only once, and the union ended in 1971. .

Gina Lollobrigida stands outside with arms outstretched.

Gina Lollobrigida on her 95th birthday last year.

(Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images)

But the man, who is more than three decades her junior, married quietly in Barcelona, ​​Spain in 2010, and said he was chosen as a surrogate over Lollobrigida because of concerns the ceremony would become a media sensation.

The young man, Javier Rigau y Rafols Lollobrigida, signed the marriage document and said that the witnesses could confirm the marriage bond. Pictures of the two together have circulated over the years.

However, he denied the marriage, calling the license and other documents “a monstrous and gross fraud.” He has filed lawsuits in Italy and Spain and vowed to launch an “international investigation.” The discovery of the truth from anywhere quickly became embroiled in ongoing legal disputes at the time of his death.

Men seemed to flow through Lollobrigida’s life like a fast-flowing stream. They chased after him and he kept them all at bay, he said.

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“It would be good for me as a person to have someone to mentor me, but I can’t have everything. I have many interests, and maybe that’s enough,” he told the New York Times in 1995.

One of his interests was jewelry, which he collected like a museum curator. He traveled to diamond mines in Africa and came home with a few. She bought a gold bangle studded with a galaxy of rubies, sapphires and emeralds. He went to India to buy a necklace. And he openly wondered if this pursuit of wealth was the opposite of a deprived childhood. He eventually sold most of his collection and donated the proceeds to stem cell research.

He studied sculpture and began a second career as a photographer, producing five books. In 1973, he flew to Cuba armed with eight cameras, 200 pieces of film and 10 pairs of blue jeans, and his interview with Fidel Castro was published in the Italian magazine Gente, an exclusive magazine.

“I was sunbathing naked in the garden of the palace when a man came out and announced the presence of Fidel. He smiled at me, pretending not to notice my lack of clothing,” she wrote. “He shook my hand and welcomed me to Cuba.”

In 1999, Lollobrigida ran for the European Parliament, admitting that she had little interest in politics, and campaigned only because she was invited. He shrugs as voters vote for more serious candidates. In 2022, he announced his candidacy for the Senate, citing political unrest in Italy, but he was disqualified.

During his career, he won more than ten awards. He was nominated three times for the Golden Globe, winning once in 1961, and in 1985 he was nominated for the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, which honors French citizens who have made significant contributions to the arts. French President Francois Mitterrand awarded him the Legion of Honor for his achievements, and in 2008 the Italian American National Foundation presented him with a lifetime achievement award.

When he turned 90, Rome celebrated in the historic Piazza di Spagna, where Lollobrigida unveiled a statue commissioned in his honor. For decades he lived in a villa near the ancient Appian Way (not to mention a ranch in Sicily and a house in Monte Carlo), and the people of Rome saw him as a lifelong ambassador for all that was good and glorious in Italy.

“It’s just 30 plus 30 plus 30,” he told reporters when asked about his longevity.

And then, La Lolla being La Lolla, feuded with Lauren.

“I was never looking to compete with anybody,” he said. “But I was always No. 1.”

Lollobrigida has the parents of son Milko Skofic.


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