Gina Lollobrigida, post-WWII Italian film diva, dies at 95

Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida celebrated her 90th birthday during an event in downtown Rome, Italy, on July 4, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ROME – Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, a sultry Mediterranean diva who came to represent Italy’s vibrant rebirth after World War II, has died aged 95.

La Lollo, as she was affectionately known in Italy, died in a Rome clinic, said her former lawyer Giulia Citani on Monday.

After a humble upbringing, Lollobrigida played opposite Hollywood stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Rock Hudson, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Frank Sinatra, becoming one of the most recognisable cinema icons of the 1950s and 1960s.

But she never clicked with the Hollywood studio system and her best-known films remain those she made with Italian directors before and after her American interlude.

A spokesman for Sophia Loren, a superstar diva in her own right in Italy’s heady post-war years, said the 88-year-old was “very shocked and saddened” by Lollobrigida’s death.

La Loren and La Lollo had an ongoing rivalry in the 1950s and 1960s, much of it encouraged, and some say even at least partly invented, by publicity agents.

Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano wrote on Twitter: “Farewell to a diva of the big screen, protagonist of more than half a century of the Italian film history. Her charm will remain immortal. Ciao Lollo.”

When she stopped making films full-time, Lollobrigida developed new careers as a photographer and sculptor and was a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund and its Food and Agriculture Organisation. In September, she failed in a bid to win a seat in the Italian parliament for a leftist political party at national elections.

Between 1972 and 1994, she published six books of her photographs, including Italia Mia (My Italy), The Philippines and Wonder Of Innocence.

In 1975, she made a documentary film, Portrait Of Fidel Castro, and for years there were rumours that she had had an affair with the Cuban leader.

One of her last appearances was a cameo in Italian parody movie Box Office 3D: The Filmest Of Films in 2011.

In her later years, she spent much of her time divided between a secluded villa behind walls on Rome’s ancient Appian Way in the southern part of the Italian capital and the Tuscan artists’ colony of Pietrasanta, where she kept a sculptor’s studio.

In an interview with Reuters in the Rome villa in 2006, she complained about intrusive photographers, saying they were still trying to invade her privacy.

She had a one-woman show in Pietrasanta in 2008 and dedicated it to her friend, the late opera singer Maria Callas.

When asked how she felt turning 90 in 2017, she said it was like “30 plus 30 plus 30“. REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.