Gina Lollobrigida, Italian Bombshell Movie Star, Dies at 95

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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.

According to Italian news agency Lapresse, Lollobrigida died in a clinic in Rome. No cause of death has been cited. In September she had 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.

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After resisting 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 favorite.

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 starred in director 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, she also starred 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 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 production.

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 while 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 CBS primetime sudser “Falcon Crest” as Francesca Gioberti in 1984 and guested on “The Love Boat” two years later.

Lollobrigida was included in a cast of top European stars including Marcello Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Alain Delon, Anouk Aimee and Fanny Ardant in Agnes Varda’s 1995 film “Les cent et une nuits de Simon Cinema.”

Luigina Lollobrigida was born in Subiaco, Italy. Modelling work in her youth let to participation in a series of beauty contests, and she placed third in the Miss Italia pageant in 1947. She made her feature film debut the year before with a small role in the Italian-language “Return of the Black Eagle.”

Lollobrigida married a Slovenian doctor, Mirko Skofic, in 1949; he gave up his practice to serve as her manager, but they were divorced in 1971.

As her movie career faded, Lollobrigida pursued other interests, including photojournalism and sculpting; she also ran, unsuccessfully, for a seat in the European Parliament.

On the occasion of her visit to New York City in 2010, the New York Times opened its story by gushing, “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World walked into Harry Cipriani on Fifth Avenue in black boots and a riding-hood-red cloak, and for the only person in the room expecting her, it perhaps was a trick of the imagination, but it seemed as if the whole restaurant lost its train of thought for a second.”

At the David di Donatello Awards, she won the Golden Medal of the City of Rome in 1986, a 40th Anniversary David in 1996 and a 50th Anniversary David in 2006. She won the Berlinale Camera at the Berlin Film Festival in 1986, a special prize for outstanding contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in 1995 and the career award at the Rome Festival in 2008.

In 2018, Lollobrigida was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She is survived by a son.

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