Exploring the Multifaceted Life of Italian Actress and Artist Gina Lollobrigida.
Gina Lollobrigida, born Luigia Lollobrigida (Subiaco, July 4, 1927 – Rome, January 16, 2023), was an esteemed Italian actress. Her career was marked by collaborations with prominent Italian directors such as Alessandro Blasetti, Vittorio De Sica, Pietro Germi, Alberto Lattuada, Carlo Lizzani, Mario Monicelli, Luigi Comencini, and Mario Soldati. Internationally, she worked with directors like John Huston, René Clair, Carol Reed, King Vidor, Jules Dassin, Jean Delannoy, Melvin Frank, John Sturges, Vincent Sherman, and Robert Z. Leonard. She starred alongside global icons including Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Yul Brynner, Anthony Quinn, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Bob Hope, Alec Guinness, and David Niven.
As her film career slowed, Lollobrigida embarked on a second career as a photojournalist, notably interviewing Fidel Castro in the 1970s, and later, she pursued sculpting. Her accolades include a Golden Globe for the film “Come September,” seven David di Donatello awards, three Silver Ribbons, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a BAFTA nomination for “Bread, Love and Dreams.“
Born in Subiaco, Rome, on July 4, 1927, Gina Lollobrigida was the second of six children of Giovanni Lollobrigida, a prosperous furniture maker who lost his properties due to an Anglo-American bombing, and Giuseppina Mercuri. She was related to Chelidonia Merosi, a supercentenarian and former doyenne of Italy; her father was a cousin of sports journalist Marco Lollobrigida’s grandfather, a niece of politician Francesco Lollobrigida’s great-granduncle’s brother, and sister to the grandmother of skater Francesca Lollobrigida.
In 1944, before the Allies arrived, the family moved to Rome, where Gina enrolled in the Fine Arts Institute. To support her studies, as the family’s fortune had waned, she sold charcoal caricatures and modeled for early photo-novels under the pseudonym Diana Loris.
In spring 1947, she participated in the Miss Rome contest, finishing second. Her public appeal led to an invitation to the Miss Italy finals in Stresa, where she placed third after Lucia Bosè and Gianna Maria Canale, who, like her, would become cinema stars. That year’s event also featured future famous actresses Eleonora Rossi Drago and Silvana Mangano.
In 1944, Lollobrigida, displaced with her family in the Todi area, debuted at 17 under the name “Lollo Brigida” as Corinna in Eduardo Scarpetta’s comedy “Santarellina,” directed by Luigi Tenneroni at the Teatro della Concordia in Monte Castello di Vibio, the world’s smallest Italian-style theatre. In 1947, she starred (as Diana Loris) in one of the first Italian photo-novels, “At the Bottom of the Heart,” serialized in the magazine Sogno.
Her film career began with minor roles in post-war operatic films. Notably, Silvana Pampanini recalled choosing her for a small part in a film where she was the lead. In 1950, following early successes, Lollobrigida traveled alone to Hollywood, responding to billionaire Howard Hughes’ invitation. Realizing she was being trapped in a “golden cage,” she hastily returned to Rome. An exclusive contract she had already signed prevented her from working in the U.S. until 1959, although she did appear in American productions shot in Europe.
Her early successes include Luigi Zampa’s “Bells of San Angelo” (1949), Carlo Lizzani’s “Achtung! Banditi!” (1951), “Passport to the East” by various directors, and Christian-Jaque’s “Fanfan la Tulipe” (1952, Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival), which established her stardom in France. That same year, she gained widespread popularity in Italy with Alessandro Blasetti’s “Altri tempi,” especially in the episode “The Trial of Frine” with Vittorio De Sica, who coined the term “physical magnification” for her.
In 1953, alongside Vittorio De Sica, she played the Bersagliera in Luigi Comencini’s “Bread, Love and Dreams” (Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival), earning a Silver Ribbon and a BAFTA nomination. This role cemented her place in popular imagination as a beautiful, poor but resolute and determined peasant. After reaching the pinnacle of fame, she starred in the sequel,
In 1972, Gina Lollobrigida portrayed the Fairy with Turquoise Hair in Luigi Comencini’s successful television adaptation of “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” marking her debut in a TV production. This role remained etched in the memory of multiple generations as a cult classic. Despite her peak popularity, she began to reduce her screen appearances from the following year to focus on photography, capturing personalities such as Paul Newman, Salvador Dalí, Henry Kissinger, David Cassidy, Audrey Hepburn, and Ella Fitzgerald. She also published several reportage books, including a notable 1973 interview with Fidel Castro, and devoted herself to sculpture, exhibiting worldwide in countries like China, France, Spain, Qatar, the United States, and Russia. The Academy of Arts of Drawing conserves two of her works: “a bronze dancer and a self-portrait as Minerva.”
In 1984, Lollobrigida appeared in the famous American TV series “Falcon Crest.” At nearly 60, still in excellent shape and clad in red, she danced the tarantella, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Series. In 1985, she acted in the American TV miniseries “Deceptions,” and in 1986, she guest-starred in two episodes of “The Love Boat.”
In 1988, she starred in a TV remake of “La romana,” directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, playing the protagonist’s mother, a role portrayed by Francesca Dellera, with whom she openly clashed.
Thereafter, she made only occasional appearances on TV and in films, mostly in cameo roles, including in the French comedies “One Hundred and One Nights” by Agnès Varda (1995) and “XXL” directed by Ariel Zeitoun (1997), and in the drama “A Woman in Flight.”
In 1996, she was honored with a David di Donatello Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2006, she received a special recognition on the 50th anniversary of the award, of which she was the first recipient in 1956.
In October 2010, she was a guest on Pippo Baudo’s show “Novecento,” where she recounted her long and successful career as an actress, photographer, and sculptor. In 2011, after a 14-year absence from cinema, she returned to the big screen with a special appearance in “Box Office 3D – The Filmest of Films,” directed and starred in by Ezio Greggio. At the end of the same year, for the first time together on the big screen, Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren were among the protagonists of the documentary “Schuberth – The Atelier of La Dolce Vita” by Antonello Sarno.
In May 2012, she was the guest of honor at the David di Donatello ceremony, where she shared anecdotes from her long and intense acting career. On February 2, 2018, she was honored with a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, becoming the fourteenth Italian personality to receive such a prestigious recognition.
In the 1999 European elections, Lollobrigida ran for the European Parliament with the center-left coalition, The Democrats, in both the Central and Southern Italy constituencies, garnering over 10,000 preferences, but was not elected.
In August 2022, news broke that in view of the impending political elections, the actress would be running for the Senate in the Latina single-member constituency and in other proportional representation constituencies like Eastern Sicily, for the Italia Sovrana e Popolare list, a coalition comprising various political groups, including the “Azione Civile” movement led by her personal lawyer Antonio Ingroia. She was not elected due to the list’s failure to reach the electoral threshold.
In September 2022, Gina Lollobrigida was hospitalized following a fall that resulted in a broken femur, for which she later underwent surgery. She was subsequently readmitted to a private clinic in Rome, where she passed away on January 16, 2023, at the age of 95, due to worsening health conditions. Her body lay in state on January 18 at the Protomoteca Hall in the Senatorial Palace on the Capitoline Hill, and the following day, her funeral was held at the Artists’ Church in Piazza del Popolo in Rome, with live broadcast on Rai 1. After the ceremony, her casket was taken to the city of Subiaco for burial in the local cemetery, as per her wish.
In January 1949, she married Slovenian doctor Milko Škofič on Mount Terminillo. Škofič was serving among refugees temporarily housed in Cinecittà. In July 1957, they had a son, Andrea Milko Škofič, who later gave them a grandson, Dimitri, born in 1994. Lollobrigida divorced her husband in 1971, having been separated for at least five years, during which time Škofič had begun a relationship with Austrian opera singer Ute de Vargas.
From the 1950s, her residence was a large villa on the ancient Appian Way in Rome, although in recent years she had officially moved to the Principality of Monaco.
On March 26, 2011, the newspaper El Mundo reported that the diva had secretly married Spaniard Javier Rigau in Barcelona in November 2010, although there was no record of the marriage in the civil registry of the Catalan city. Later, Lollobrigida claimed to have been tricked into the marriage through a false power of attorney she had signed, leading to a court case. Rigau was eventually acquitted, and the case was featured on the program “Un giorno in pretura” on Rai 3, an episode later removed from the schedule at Lollobrigida’s request. Subsequently, the marriage was declared null by the Sacred Rota.
Since 2007, she had been an honorary citizen of Pietrasanta, where she organized her first sculpture exhibition. In July 2013, she auctioned 22 pieces of her Bulgari jewelry collection at Sotheby’s in Geneva, raising €3.8 million for charity. The most valuable piece, a pair of pearl and diamond earrings, sold for €1.85 million.
In May 2018, at nearly ninety-one years old, Lollobrigida revealed to the newspaper Libero that she had been raped at eighteen while still a virgin in 1945. The perpetrator was a well-known football player for Lazio, whom she chose not to report or publicly identify. This traumatic event profoundly impacted her life, influencing her decision to marry not out of love but as a consequence of the violence she suffered.
Lollobrigida had a habit of speaking about herself in the third person.