New Delhi: Gina Lollobrigida, the 1950s Italian bombshell who starred in films including ‘Fanfan la Tulipe’, ‘Beat the Devil’, ‘Trapeze’ and ‘Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell’, has died. She was 95.
A generation of Indians will remember Lollobrigida from her sensational appearance at the 1978 International Film Festival of India (IFFI), where her flirty exchanges with Kabir Bedi were grist for the gossip magazine mill as well as politically incorrect comparisons between her physical attributes and those of Zeenat Aman.
Kabir Bedi, in his autobiography ‘Stories I Must Tell’, recalls a famous face-off Praveen Babi had with Lollobrigida at a party the Italian actress hosted in his honor for playing Sandokan in the famous Italian television series. The temperamental Indian actress was upset with Lollobrigida because she was apparently getting too comfortable with Bedi.
Lollobrigida also provided fodder for film magazines when it was rumored that she was being cast by Krishna Shah in his Indo-American movie, Shalimar, starring Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman and Rex Harrison. The role eventually went to Sylvia Myles, an American actress who was nominated twice for an Oscar.
According to the Italian news agency Lapresse, Lollobrigida died in a clinic in Rome.
No cause of death has been cited. In September she had surgery to repair a thigh bone broken in a fall, but she recovered and competed for a Senate seat in Italy’s elections held last year in September, though she did not win, reports ‘Variety’.
After resisting maverick aviator Howard Hughes’ offer to make movies in Hollywood in 1950, Lollobrigida starred with Gerard Philipe in the 1952 French swashbuckler ‘Fanfan la Tulipe’, a fest winner and popular favourite.
Her first American movie, shot in Italy, was John Huston’s 1953 film noir spoof ‘Beat the Devil’, in which she starred with Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones.
The same year she starred with Vittorio De Sica in Luigi Comencini’s ‘Bread, Love and Dreams’, for which she won a BAFTA for best actress in a foreign film.
Lollobrigida, according to ‘Variety’, starred in Robert Z. Leonard’s Italian-language ‘The Most Beautiful Woman in the World’ (aka ‘Beautiful But Dangerous’), for which she received the best actress award at the inaugural David di Donatello Awards in 1956.
That year also saw the actress star in Carol Reed’s ‘Trapeze’, also starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and lensed in Paris. Also in 1956 she shot an Italian- and French-produced remake of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ in which Anthony Quinn played Quasimodo, but Lollobrigida, playing Esmerelda, was first billed.
More high-profile projects followed, including King Vidor’s ‘Solomon and Sheba’, with Yul Brynner, and the WWII movie ‘Never So Few’, with Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Steve McQueen, both in 1959; in 1961 she starred with Rock Hudson in the comedy ‘Come September’. By this point she was regularly shuttling between Italian, American and the occasional French productions, notes ‘Variety’.
In 1961 she won the Golden Globes’ Henrietta Award for world film favorite – female. The actress won a David di Donatello Award in 1963 for her work in the Italo-French production ‘Imperial Venus’.
Lollobrigida starred with Sean Connery and Ralph Richardson in Basil Dearden’s 1964 English thriller ‘Woman of Straw’, but, as ‘Variety’ points out, even though she continued to make Italian films, her international star began to fade until a resurgence with the 1968 comedy ‘Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell’, with Shelley Winters and Phil Silvers.
After an 11-year absence from screens big or small, Lollobrigida took on a recurring role on the CBS primetime sudser ‘Falcon Crest’ as Francesca Gioberti in 1984 and guested on ‘The Love Boat’ two years later.