A woman who is redolent of another screen siren, Sophia Loren, would become known as the Mona Lisa of the 20th Century. She could mesmerise with owl-like eyes as brown and as rich as cinnamon and beguile her audience with her evocatively seductive voice.
Born in Subiaco, Italy, the young Luigina studied painting and sculpting while at school but was destined to be admired by both men and women as she spent much of her early to mid teen years modelling. Lollobrigida began entering beauty pageants and by 1945 she came third in the Miss Italia Pageant which afforded her national exposure.
Her young life was peppered with bit parts in Italian films until 1950 when tycoon, Howard Hughes asked her to work with him in Hollywood. She refused explaining she was happiest in Europe, a decision that would prevent her from acting in the American Movie industry filming in the US nevertheless, she would appear in those American films shot in Europe and her performance in Bread, Love and Dreams in 1953 awarded her with a BAFTA nomination for which she won the Nastro d’Agento award. She became an international star.
In 1949 she married a Slovenian physician, Milko Skofic with whom she had one child, a boy Andrea. Having given up practising medicine to become her manager, Gina and Milko Skofic, after 22 years, divorced in 1971.
With her momentum restored, she went on to appear in two of her most renowned Italian films; The Wayward Wife 1953 and Woman of Rome 1954 and later appeared in French and English films; her first being Beat the Devil in 1953. However, during her five-decade career she became known as The Most Beautiful Woman in the World and Beautiful but Dangerous, after a film of the same name she appeared in, in 1955.During the same year she received her first David di Donatello for Best Actress having sung several arias from Tosca. It was the beginning of an impressive list of appearances in films that starred some of the finest actors the silver screen has ever known.
Through the years she won six David di Donatello awards and as many Bambi Awards whilst being nominated three times for the Golden Globe, one of which she was awarded in 1961.
By the launch of the 1970’s Lollobrigida’s film career had slowed considerably until she was cast in several television series until the mid 1980’s. But her career had taken on a new facet wherein she became a successful photographic journalist whose clients were, among many, Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn, Henry Kissinger and David Cassidy. After harnessing an exclusive interview with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, she released a collection of her work titled Italia Mia which was published in 1973.
Having lived in her home in Sicily surrounded by sprawling gardens and an expansive ranch since 1949, she also stays at her property on Via Appia Antica in Rome or at her villa in Monte Carlo. In 1994, she released a book of photographs, Wonder of Innocence and after 50 years in the film industry, Gina Lollobrigida retired in 1997. In 1999 she was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and in 2013 she sold her diamond jewellery collection for $4.9 million in Geneva and passed the profits over to raise money for stem cell research.
Heard to famously say, “There is only one trouble with having played the most famous courtesan of all times and that is, after Sheba, all other roles will certainly seem tame and anticlimactic”, she has admitted to having had many lovers. “I still have romances. I am very spoiled. All my life, I’ve had too many admirers.”
From the first moment the youngest girl child born in the picturesque mountain village in Subiaco made her mark in the world and although she always maintained she had become an actress by mistake, once she appeared on the silver screen, the industry knew it would never be the same again.
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