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Gina Lollobrigida - Goddesses of the Silver Screen
2524    Dibyendu Banerjee    10/05/2020

Login Lollobrigida, popularly known to the movie world as Gina Lollobrigida, was born on 4 July 1927 in Subiaco, a hill town near Rome, as one of the four daughters of a furniture manufacturer and his wife. During the World War II, the family moved to Rome, where she had to spend her teenage years dodging the wartime bombs and uncertainties. After the end of the War, while she started to study painting and sculpture, she was also working as a model under the name Diana Loris, which helped bring her to the attention of Italian directors. Prior to her first motion-picture appearance, in Aquila nera (The Black Eagle 1946), Luigina Lollobrigida won a number of European beauty contests and in 1947, she entered the Miss Italia pageant and came in third place, which gave her national exposure. At around that time, she was summoned by Cinecittà, a large film studio in Rome,after a talent scout spotted her outside Rome’s Academy of Fine Arts, where she was studying drawing and sculpture.

Gina Lollobrigida
The alluring beauty in black and white

Her initial roles in 1947 were small and uncredited, but slowly she came to the light and began playing parts with dialogues and then leading roles, which include Mad About Opera (1948), Campane a Martello (1949) and The Bride Couldn’t Wait (1949). In 1949, she married Milko Skofic, a Slovenian physician, some seven years her senior, who became her manager and with whom she had a son in 1957.


Howard Hughes, an American business magnate and film director, was one of her persistent admirers and his infatuation with La Lollo began in 1950 when he saw publicity photos of a 23-year-old bikini-clad Gina, taken by her husband, who by that time had appeared in a few Italian films, but was not well known. Hughes, then 44, quickly located the ingénue and invited her to Hollywood in 1950, for a screen test. Her trip to Los Angeles lasted for two and half months, but finally she refused the final terms of the contract, preferring to remain in Europe, which prevented her to work in American movies filmed in the USA until 1959.

Gina Lollobrigida

In 1951, Gina appeared in films like A Tale of Five Cities, Four Ways Out and The Young Caruso, followed by Wife for a Night, Infidelity and Beauties of the Night in 1952. However, she first came to international attention in the French swashbuckler Fearless Little Soldier (Fanfan la Tulipe 1952). Her performance in Bread, Love and Dreams (Pane, amore e fantasia 1953) was highly applauded and that led to it becoming a box-office success and her receiving a BAFTA Nomination, as well as winning a Nastro d’Argento award, which said to be the oldest movie award in Europe.


However, she first came to the limelight and widely reached to the cine-goers in the English language film Beat the Devil (1953), which was filmed in Italy and directed by John Huston. In the film she played the wife of Humphrey Bogart, with Jennifer Jones as her rival. While her performances in the films were widely appreciated by the critics and the mass, Humphrey Bogart, the leading man in the movie, openly remarked that, in the film Gina looked like Marilyn and performed like Shirley Temple. During that period she also appeared in The Wayward Wife (1953) and Woman of Rome (1954), which are rated high among her most renowned Italian films and also in the Italian-American production Crossed Swords (1954), in which she appeared opposite to Errol Flynn.

Gina Lollobrigida

She was awarded David di Donatello for Best Actress for her performance in Beautiful But Dangerous (1955), directed by Robert Z. Leonard, in which she interpreted the Italian operatic soprano and actressLina Cavalieri, while singing in her own voice, some arias from the opera Tosca. After that, Gina played the role of the female protagonist in the circus drama Trapeze (1956), co-starring Burt Lancaster and appeared as Emeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956), with Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo.


The fantastic success of the films made her famous and she was nicknamed Italian Movie siren and described as the most beautiful woman in the world. Due to her cute tossed salad hairdo, that looked alike a curly lettuce, she was also fondly nicknamed Lollo.

Gina Lollobrigida
In The Hunchback of Notre Dame

After appearing in a French movie The Law (1858), with Marcello Mastroianni, Gina Lollo co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Never So Few (1959) and with Yul Brynner in the dazzling periodical Solomon and Sheba (1959), directed by King Vidor, that featured an intense orgy scene, which was almost completely new and totally unthinkable idea in Hollywood motion pictures in those early days.

Gina Lollobrigida
In Solomon and Sheba

The 1960s opened a new horizon for the most beautiful woman in the world, when she played the role of the leading lady opposite to Rock Hudson in the romantic comedy Come September (1961), a sprightly romantic comedy set in Italy, which also featured Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. Initially, she was reluctant about the offer, as she was not enthusiastic about returning to Italy, where the film was shot.


However, finally she accepted the offer, as it allowed her to work with Hudson. The film was a great success and Gina won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the film. In the same year she played the role of a beautiful prostitute in Go Naked in the World (1961). She co-starred with Stephen Boyd in Venere Imperiale (Imperial Venus 1962), a loose biopic directed by Jean Delannoy, in which Gina portrayed the role of Paolina or Paulette, the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, a woman legendary for her beauty and love affair and won the Nastro d’Argento and the David di Donatello awards.

Gina Lollobrigida
In Come September

After that Gina continued to be paired with the top leading men of the screen like, Sean Connery in the thriller Woman of Straw (1964), with Rock Hudson again in Strange Bedfellows (1965) and with Alec Guinnes in Hotel Paradiso (1966). She also shared the silver screen with Shelley Winters, Phil Silvers and Telly Savalas in Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968) and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won the David di Donatello Award for the third time. She co-starred with Bob Hope in the comedy The Private Navy of Sgt O’Farrell (1968) and later accompanied him on his visits to entertain the overseas military troops.


1968 made a mark in her life, when in the month of January, she had a one-night extramarital affair witha South African doctor Christiaan Barnard, who subsequently performed the first heart transplant surgery. After that, she was also involved in a short time affair with George Kaufman, a New York real estate heir.

However, by the 1970s, the roaring film career of Gina Lollobrigida had slowed, mainly due to the tough competition from the talented and younger beauties like Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Shirley MacLaine and Sophia Loren. In 1971, she divorced Milko Skofic, whom she married way back in 1949. Though people thought that they had a happy marriage, Gina later confessed that they had been drifting apart for a long time. While the divorce left her a free woman, she had to contend with advances from her numerous admirers, some of whom were married. In the 1970s, Gina was seen in only a few films, which included King, Queen, Knave (1972) and in a few other poorly received productions.

Gina Lollobrigida
The most beautiful woman in the world

Gina Lollobrigida performed her job as a member of the jury at the 8th Moscow International Film Festival in 1973, but by that time she had started her second career as a photojournalist and sculptor. She photographed many famous persons, which include artist Salvador Dali, politician Henry Kissinger, film actors Paul Newman and Audrey Hepburn and a collection of her work was also published in 1973, under the title Italia Mia. She even got the rare opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Fidel Castro of Cuba. She also maintains an enormous studio in Pietrasanta, where she creates figurative sculptures in marble and bronze that have been exhibited in Paris, Moscow, and Venice and other places. Much later, she confided to a magazine in April 2000 that she studied painting and sculpting at school and became an actress by mistake. Gina also turned to politics, when in 1999, she unsuccessfully contested for one of Italy's 87 European Parliament seats, from her hometown of Subiaco.

Once Gina confided privately that, although her life she always had a weakness for younger men. At the age of 79, when she announced her engagement to a 45-year-old Spanish businessman, Javier Rigau y Rafols in October 2006, she confessed that in beginning what existed between them was only passion, love came later. However, the engagement was subsequently called off on 6 December 2006.In January 2013, she started legal action against Javier Rigau y Rafols, accused Rigau of fraud and claiming that her ex-boyfriend had staged a secret ceremony in which he married an imposter pretending to be her at a registry office in Barcelona, as he intended to lay claim to her estate after her death. She lost the court case in March 2017 and decided to appeal.

Gina Lollobrigida

Despite the limitations due to her advanced years, Gina Lollobrigida has continued to play her role as an avid supporter of Italian and Italian American causes, particularly the National Italian American Foundation. She was crowned with the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award at the Foundation's Anniversary Gala in 2008. She sold the precious collection of her jewelry in 2013 and donated the nearly $5 million from the sale proceeds for the benefit of the stem cell therapy research.

Since 1949, she has been living in her home ranch and gardens in Sicily, which included her personal museum. However, she often stays at her house on Via Appia Antica in Rome and at a villa in Monte Carlo.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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