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|Also Known As:||Lollo Brigidia,Luigina Lollobrigida,Diana Loris||Died:|
|Born:||July 4, 1927||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Italy||Profession:||Cast ... actor photographer model executive sculptor sketch artist|
One of several earthy Italian beauties to set the film world on fire during the 1950s and 1960s, Gina Lollobrigida was an actress and director whose skill at both drama and light comedy was often overshadowed by her voluptuous figure. Though she never enjoyed the acclaim of contemporaries like Sophia Loren or Anna Magnani, she worked steadily in Hollywood and international features for nearly three decades, appearing opposite Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster in the circus-themed "Trapeze" (1956) and Victor Hugo's remake of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1956). In 1959, she made quite an impression as the sexually-charged queen in the biblical epic "Solomon and Sheba," and earned a Golden Globe for her starring role opposite Rock Hudson in the romantic comedy "Come September" (1961). Lollobrigida went on to enjoy further success with the Italian-made "Venere Imperiale" (1962), "Strange Bedfellows" (1965) and "Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell" (1968), only to see her career wind down in the early 1970s. Though she earned praise for a 1984 guest spot on "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990), Lollobrigida focused her attention on other artistic endeavors like photojournalism and sculpting, while also being active in promoting Italian-American heritage and even dabbling in politics with an unsuccessful run for Italian office. Despite a later career of unimpressive films, Lollobrigida remained one of Italy's premiere exports.
Born Luigina Lollobrigida in Subiaco, Italy on July 4, 1927, she was one of four daughters born to her father, a furniture maker. She competed successfully in several beauty pageants as a teenager, and earned a living as a model for magazines and illustrated novels under the name Diana Loris. She relocated to Rome in the mid-1940s and continued to model and compete while studying sculpture and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts at Rome. She was discovered there by talent scouts who convinced her to try her hand at acting. She made her film debut as an extra in the costume adventure "Aquila Nera" in 1946. A year later, she placed third in the Miss Italia pageant, which increased her exposure significantly. More roles in Italian films followed before she came to the attention of American magnate and film producer Howard Hughes, who allegedly signed her to a Hollywood contract. Said document was later the source of a dispute between the actress and Hughes, which held up her Hollywood debut until nearly a decade later.
By the 1950s, Lollobrigida was enjoying considerable popularity from her film career; her face and figure graced covers and layouts in countless international publications, which dubbed her "La Lollo" or "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World," after her 1955 film of the same name. Her signature hairstyle, dubbed "the tossed salad," found favor among fashion-forward types, even serving as the name for a particular type of lettuce. Lovestruck admirers, however, were disheartened to know that she was happily married to Yugoslavian doctor Milko Skofic, with whom she had one son. American audiences finally received their first glimpse of Lollobrigida in John Huston's irreverent adventure parody "Beat the Devil" (1954), which did not pave an immediate path to more Hollywood productions, but did make her a particular favorite among male moviegoers.
She returned to Hollywood features in the mid-1950s. Films like the circus drama "Trapeze" (1956) with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis vying for her hand, or the 1956 remake of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," with Anthony Quinn's Quasimodo pining for her Esmerelda, were popular box office attractions, and she divided her time between making films in America and on the Continent. Her looks ensured that she would rarely be cast in anything but exotic or glamorous roles. She was a sexually charged Queen of Sheba in the controversial "Solomon and Sheba" (1959), but she fared well in comedy-dramas like "Come September" (1961) with Rock Hudson. That same year, she claimed the Henrietta, the Golden Globe's award for World Favorite - Female Actress.
She maintained a steady film career throughout the 1960s, though as the decade progressed, her presence in A-pictures like "Woman of Straw" (1964), a thriller with Sean Connery, or the comedy "Hotel Paradiso" (1966) with Alec Guinness was slowly eclipsed by more obscure period adventures and arthouse-oriented features. Her last significant hit was "Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell" (1968), an amusing comedy about an Italian woman who had convinced three former GIs that they fathered her child during World War II, and discovered, to her horror, that the trio were returning to Europe to see their long-lost offspring. A popular comedy at the box office, it later served as the basis for the blockbuster musical "Mamma Mia" and earned Lollobrigida a Golden Globe nomination and a David from her native Italy.
Lollobrigida's film career ground to a virtual halt in the Seventies, so she shifted her attention behind the camera to become a successful photojournalist and documentary film maker. A collection of her photographs, which captured subjects as varied as Paul Newman and Salvador Dali, was published in the book Italia Mia in 1973. Two years later, she wrote, directed and produced "Rittrato di Fidel" (1975), a documentary that featured her exclusive interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Lollobrigida also busied herself as an executive for various fashion and cosmetic companies.
After a brief return to American productions in episodes of "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990), which earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and the TV movie "Deceptions" (1985), she focused her energies on sculpting, and was highly praised for her efforts. French president Francois Mitterand presented her with a Medal of Honor for her artwork, and her creations were shown at museums and galleries around the world. The end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium saw Lollobrigida earn further laurels for her body of film work, including career celebrations from the David di Donatello Awards and countless film festivals. In 2002, a stretch of seafront property in Venice was named in her honor, while the house where she was born was commemorated in 2003.
In 1999, Lollobrigida unsuccessfully campaigned for the Parliamentary seat of her hometown of Subiaco with the center-left party The Democrats. Undaunted, she returned to the acclaim that surrounded her art career, much of which was highlighted in her 2003 book Sculptures. In 2006, she raised eyebrows in Europe for her engagement to Javier Rigau y Rafols, a Spanish businessman several decades her junior even though Lollobrigida had not been married since divorcing Skoifc in 1971. That same year, their engagement was called off and later blamed on media pressure. Meanwhile, she remained a committed activist for Italian and Italian-American causes, most notably working with the National Italian American Foundation. In 2008, Lollobrigida received the nonprofit foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award for her efforts.
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