During the 1950’s and early 1960’s Gina Lollobrigida was considered often one of the most beautiful women in the world.
Remembering the legendary Gina Lollobrigida 1927-2023
During the 1950’s and early 1960’s Gina Lollobrigida was considered often one of the most beautiful women in the world. The Italian’s actress sex symbol status boosted her career, a successful run co-starring with some of the best and most legendary actors of all time, including Errol Flynn, Rock Hudson, Humprey Bogart, Yves Montand, Marcello Mastroianni, Tony Curtis and countless more. The legendary actress never stepped out of the limelight despite slowing down her acting career, and achieved success in other fields, most notably, photojournalism, and also tried a career in politics, though unsuccessfully. Gina Lollobrigida dies at age 95, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy and the memory as one of the most popular figures of modern history.
Born Luigina Lollobrigida in Subiaco,4 July 1927, during her youth, she did some modelling and participated successfully in several beauty contests, and it was also around this time, she began appearing in Italian films in minor roles. In 1947, Lollobrigida entered the Miss Italia pageant and came in third place, giving her national exposure. In 1950, Howard Hughes signed Lollobrigida on a preliminary seven-year contract to make three pictures a year but she refused the final terms of the contract, preferring to remain in Europe and Hughes suspended her.
The dispute prevented her from working in American movies filmed in the U.S. until 1959, though not from working in American productions shot in Europe. In 1953 her performance in Bread, Love and Dreams (Pane, amore e fantasia) led to it becoming a box-office. She then started a successful run, acting alongside some of the greatest names of Hollywood’s golden age, while also continuing to work with European productions.
Together with Bread, Love and Dreams, The Wayward Wife (1953) and in Woman of Rome (1954) were three of her most renowned Italian films, in the French industry she appeared on such films as Fearless Little Soldier (Fanfan la Tulipe, 1952), Beauties of the Night (Les Belles de nuit, also 1952), and Le Grand Jeu (1954). Her first widely seen English-language film, Beat the Devil (1953), was shot in Italy. In this film, directed by John Huston, she played the wife of Humphrey Bogart, with Jennifer Jones and Robert Morley as her costars.
For many this period was Lollobrigida’s most important one in her career. Starring in the Italian-American production Crossed Swords (1954), co-starring with Errol Flynn, in The World’s Most Beautiful Woman (also known as Beautiful But Dangerous, 1955) the latter led to her receiving the first David di Donatello for Best Actress award. In this film, she interpreted Italian soprano Lina Cavalieri, singing some arias from Tosca with her own voice. She also had the principal female lead in the circus drama Trapeze (1956) co-starring with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956), where she appears as Esmeralda with Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo. In 1959 she continues her successful run starring in the French movie The Law (1959), alongside Yves Montand and Marcello Mastroianni, co-starring with Frank Sinatra in Never So Few (1959) and with Yul Brynner in Solomon and Sheba (also 1959).
Gina Lollobrigida won her first Golden Globe Award for the 1961 romantic comedy Come September, where she had a leading role along with Rock Hudson, Sandra Dee, and Bobby Darin.
During the mid 1960’s she co-starred with Sean Connery in the thriller Woman of Straw (1964), with Rock Hudson again in Strange Bedfellows (1965) and appeared with Alec Guinness in Hotel Paradiso (1966). It was during this stage of her career, that she started to reject roles in many films. She later revealed regret for having refused a supporting role in La Dolce Vita (1960). The film’s director, Federico Fellini, wanted to cast her in the film but, she explained, proposed projects were arriving too often at the time and her husband accidentally misplaced the script.
By the 1970s, her film career had slowed down and she established a second career as a photojournalist, where she achieved a scoop by gaining access to Fidel Castro for an exclusive interview.
In the 1980s, she received a third Golden Globe nomination for her role in the television series Falcon Crest as Francesca Gioberti, originally written for Sophia Loren, who had turned it down.
In the 1990s, she made a few minor French film appearances and continued to participate in and attend international film festivals, never completely abandoning the limelight. She also tried a career in politics, first in 1999, when she unsuccessfully ran for election to the European Parliament and more recently in the 2022 Italian general election, at the age of 95, attempted to win a seat in the Senate of the Republic.
One of the last living legends of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Gina Lollobrigida died in Rome on 16 January 2023, at the age of 95. RIP.
Look back: Top 10 Gina Lollobrigida Movies of All Time
Watch Gina Lollobrigida as Sheba in the 1959 film “Solomon and Sheba”
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