1950s Italian film siren Gina Lollobrigida dies at 95

The post-World War II Italian film industry was a juggernaut that rivaled Hollywood as the world’s leading exporter of films. Deeply poetic works like Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” and Vittorio de Sica’s “Baikal Thieves” were masterpieces of Neorealism that turned themes of scarcity and despair into high art.

But when Time magazine examined the power of Italian filmmaking in 1954, it didn’t put Rossellini or De Sica on the cover. instead of It featured Gina LollobrigidaThe ruby-lipped bombshell was cloaked in clinging gowns, whose presence in comedies, romances and adventures fueled the rebellion against neorealism.

Ms Lollobrigida, who died on January 16 in Rome aged 95, was for a time an international sensation.

In the estimation of actor Humphrey Bogart, her charm “made Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple.” Life magazine called “La Lolo” — as she was nicknamed — “the greatest argument ever made for liberal immigration policies.” For New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, she was “the original Italian over-stuffed star”, the pneumatic predecessor of Sophia Loren, who would soon become entrenched in the public imagination as the ultimate Italian sex goddess.

Ms. Lollobrigida (pronounced lo-lo-BRIDGE-EEh-dah) was among Brigitte Bardot and European screen beauties. Anita Ekbergwhose charm stirred the imagination of generations of moviegoers.

With a career spanning a quarter of a century and more than 50 films, Ms. Lollobrigida had a decidedly mixed reputation as an actress. “She is disabled by a lack of intensity, a lack of presence,” film historian David Shipman once noted. He compared his sex appeal to one dimension of an advertising billboard.

He began his career on a lark in 1946, when a film director spotted the one-time art student on the streets of Rome and befriended him. And it was a photo of Ms. Lollobrigida in a bikini that proved enough to lure billionaire industrialist and filmmaker Howard Hughes to fly to Hollywood in the 1950s. He kept her a virtual prisoner for weeks in a fancy hotel, she later said. He agreed to a deal. She said she rejected his sexual advances and in return he made it prohibitively expensive for other filmmakers in the United States.

As a result, little Lorraine conquered Hollywood first. Ms. Lollobrigida, who often upstaged their rivals, later remarked to Life interestingly: “We are as different as a good racehorse and a goat.”

His ascension continued, but in European films or European American co-productions such as “Beat the Devil” (1953) and “Trapeze” (1956). The former is a cheeky caper about con artists in which Bogart and Ms. Lollobrigida were cast as husband and wife. The latter featured him as a circus performer whose desires and ambitions threaten to break up the partnership of aerialists played by Burt Lancaster. Tony Curtis.

Even after she ran away from Hughes, Ms. Lollobrigida remained subject to cinematic leer for a long time. “Solomon and Sheba” (1959), in which she performed as Sheba, is a memorable one Technical Pagan Dance Much to the delight of co-star Yul Brynner as Solomon. Her tub scene was a highlight of another World War II movie with Frank Sinatra, “Never So Few” (1959). In the drama “Go Naked in the World” (1961), she was a call girl hidden by a builder’s son (Anthony Franciosa), and in “Woman of Straw” (1964) she played a nurse recruited for an assassination plot. – Starring Sean Connery.

“Strange Bedfellows” (1965), opposite Rock Hudson, “The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell” (1968), with Bob Hope, and “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” (1968), three ex-GIs (Telly Savalas , Peter Lawford and Phil Silvers) about an Italian woman who falls in love with him.

Ms. Lollobrigida earned a reputation as a performer who was belligerent and demanding, with an insatiable vanity and an unbridled desire for control on set.

She was also in controversy, filing 10 cases at a time. She sued the producers for breach of promise and claimed her lawyers used her image without permission in advertisers and publications. According to Time, she won over an Italian film critic for the derogatory description of her “husband”.

In interviews, Ms. Lollobrigida presented herself as one of life’s indomitable survivors: an Italian country girl who endured wartime hardships, sexual abuse, dodgy producers and a vicious entertainment press.

When her screen career faded, she continued with vigor. She became a sculptor, and she published books of her photography. “I may not be Cartier-Bressonbut I can do something better,” she later told the New York Times. In 1972, she made a short film documentary about Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

She was also a fundraiser for the United Nations Humanitarian Mission, which led to her unsuccessful bid to win an Italian seat in the European Parliament in 1999. Through it all, she became “La Lolo”, managing to spice up the scandal pages and celebrity magazines with private travels brought on by her own “weakness for young men”.

As of October, she sued her boyfriend, 25 years her junior, accusing her of arranging an unauthorized marriage to hide her substantial fortune, estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. His son tried unsuccessfully to declare him mentally unfit to handle his business affairs. He emphasized his independence by comparing himself to the Colosseum, declaring, “I will never be broken and I will never fall.”

The second of four daughters, Luigia Lollobrigida was born on July 4, 1927 in the Sabine hill town of Subiaco. His father lost his furniture factory to Allied bombing during World War II and moved the family 50 miles west to Rome. where he began selling cigarettes and military blankets on the black market.

“We were so poor that I made my shoes out of frozen straw,” she later told Weekly World News. After Italy surrendered, she sang and sold sketches to American GIs. She used the money she earned to pay for singing lessons and won a scholarship to the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome.

A chance encounter with a studio executive led to a role as a movie extra and then gradually to bigger parts. She also worked as a model and won the title of Miss Rome before finishing third in the Miss Italy pageant.

In 1949, she married Yugoslav doctor Milko Skofic, who became her manager. He took ribald publicity photos of 23-year-old Ms. Lollobrigida that intrigued Hughes, who immediately provided her with a single, one-way ticket to Los Angeles.

Hughes put her up in a luxury hotel, where guards were stationed outside her door and she was not allowed any mail or phone calls. He asked her to leave her husband and, to press the point, assigned her divorce scenes for her screen test.

Exhausted from six weeks of gold-covered captivity, Ms. Lollobrigida said she broke down in a 2 a.m. meeting with Hughes and signed a contract. Only then was he allowed to go home.

Ms. Lollobrigida pushed the marquee forward in European films. She made a bodice-busting impression in “Fanfan la Tulipe” (1952), a swashbuckler starring French star Gerard Philippe. She had a breakthrough the following year, playing a sparky, barefoot farmer in the lively comedy. “Bread, Love and Dreams” Opposite De Sica, who was also a well-known actor, portrayed the awkward but smitten Carabinieri officer.

He commanded $48,000 for the film, which was doubled for the equally popular sequel “Bread, Love and Jealousy” (1954). When he took half the profits from the second sequel, “Scandal in Sorrento” (1955), Lorraine was hired and Mambo your way to Hollywood.

Meanwhile, Ms. Lollobrigida has drawn more headlines for her romances than her movie roles. In the 1960s, she had brief relationships with New York real estate heir George S. Kaufman and South African heart surgeon Christian Barnard, whom she later called “cheap publicity seekers”. At his Hotel Jaguar Wearing only a mink coat. She said she tried to seduce Hudson, who was gay and who, she later told CNN host Larry King, “slept in bed”.

In 2006, Ms Lollobrigida said she had called off a planned wedding to Spanish businessman Javier Rigau y Rafols. But in 2010, Rigau organized a wedding in Barcelona with a proxy “stand-in” bride. She called the matter a “horrendous and obscene fraud” perpetrated by fortune hunters.

Rigau presented witnesses who testified that he signed the authorization for the proxy. After a Rome court ruled against Ms Lollobrigida in 2017, she sought an annulment. Meanwhile, as her son, Andrea Milko Skofic, challenged her qualifications, she often appeared in the company of her new manager, Andrea Piazzolla, who was 60 years her junior and whom she called “the best person I’ve ever met in my life”. Until now.”

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano announced the death but gave no further details. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

Ms. Lollobrigida once told Vanity Fair magazine that, whatever her public image, she saw herself as a single soul, needing little but art. “I’ve never made a deal, been free and always alone.” she said In 2015. “My strength is my free spirit, and my great imagination gives me strength and vitality.”

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