Sandra Milo: Italian Actress and Television Host
Sandra Milo, born as Salvatrice Elena Greco on March 11, 1933, in Tunis, was a prominent Italian actress and television host. She gained fame through her roles in films like “Il generale Della Rovere,” “Adua e le compagne,” “Fantasmi a Roma,” “Giulietta degli spiriti,” and, most notably, “8½,” which won an Oscar. She was among the leading actresses of Italian cinema in the 1960s, often collaborating with renowned director Federico Fellini. Sandra Milo’s father was Sicilian, and her mother hailed from Tuscany. She spent her childhood in Vicopisano, a medieval village near Pisa, where she attended elementary school up to the fourth grade. During her teenage years, her family moved to Viareggio.
Early Personal Life and Marriage
At the young age of 15, in 1948, Sandra Milo married the Marquess Cesare Rodighiero and became pregnant. Sadly, her child passed away prematurely at birth, leading to the annulment of their marriage by the Roman Rota Tribunal just 21 days after the wedding. Her cinema debut alongside Alberto Sordi in “Lo scapolo” (1955), directed by Antonio Pietrangeli, marked the beginning of her acting career. Known for her voluptuous figure and childlike voice, she became a prominent figure on the big screen, appearing in numerous genre films.
Career Highlights and Collaboration with Fellini
Her breakthrough came in 1959 with “Il generale Della Rovere,” directed by Roberto Rossellini, where she played the role of a prostitute alongside Vittorio De Sica. She reprised a similar role in Antonio Pietrangeli‘s “Adua e le compagne” (1960). That same year, she starred in Claude Sautet‘s “Asfalto che scotta,” alongside Lino Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo, launching her into a promising era of auteur films. In 1961, she starred alongside Eduardo De Filippo, Vittorio Gassman, and Marcello Mastroianni in “Fantasmi a Roma,” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli.
However, her career faced a setback in the same year with the harsh reception of “Vanina Vanini” at the Venice Film Festival, a film based on Stendhal’s work and again directed by Roberto Rossellini. The film, especially Milo’s performance, received severe criticism, and she was sarcastically dubbed “Canina Canini” by Enrico Lucherini.
A significant turning point in her career was her collaboration with Federico Fellini, with whom she also had a clandestine 17-year-long relationship. In Fellini’s masterpieces “8½” (1963) and “Giulietta degli spiriti” (1965), affectionately nicknamed “Sandrocchia” by the director, she portrayed a femme fatale character, ironic and uninhibited, often in contrast to more demure and bourgeois-looking wives. She won the Nastro d’argento award for Best Supporting Actress for both films.
Later Career and Personal Life
After her notable experiences with Fellini, Sandra Milo continued her acting career, appearing in films directed by Luigi Zampa, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Dino Risi, and others. In 1968, she took a hiatus from cinema for about a decade.
Her tumultuous personal life, including her marriage at the age of 15 to Marquess Cesare Rodighiero in 1948 (which lasted only 21 days), an 11-year relationship with Moris Ergas (resulting in the birth of their daughter Deborah, a TV journalist), and later marriage to Ottavio De Lollis (with whom she had children Ciro and Azzurra), overshadowed her prolific film career. She revealed in an interview that she had suffered severe physical abuse from her ex-husband, Ergas, but chose not to press charges.
In a remarkable turn of events, her premature-born third child, Maria Azzurra, who had initially appeared stillborn but miraculously came to life, led to the recognition of this miracle by the Catholic Church during the beatification process of Sister Maria Pia Mastena, founder of the Holy Face Sisters.
Return to Acting and Television Career
In 1979, after a long hiatus, Sandra Milo returned to cinema with appearances in comedies such as “Riavanti… Marsch!” and “Tesoromio.” She later starred in films like “Grog” (1982) and “Cenerentola ’80” (1984). Meanwhile, she began her television career.
Sandra Milo‘s television journey included hosting a five-episode series of “Studio Uno” in 1966 and an interview for “Uomini e Libri” in 1962. After more than two decades, she returned to television, aided by her proximity to Bettino Craxi, to host shows on Rai 2. She collaborated on “Mixer,” a cultural program hosted by Giovanni Minoli, during the 1982-1983 season.
From 1985 to 1989, she hosted “Piccoli fans,” an afternoon children’s show that became famous for her overly innocent and childlike demeanor, along with her falsetto voice. It overshadowed her earlier successes in 1960s cinema.
Life Events and Controversies
In 1985, Sandra Milo was inadvertently involved in the Fiumicino massacre, present at the check-in during a shooting that resulted in thirteen casualties caused by Abu Nidal‘s terrorists.
She also became the victim of a notorious prank phone call during the show “L’amore è una cosa meravigliosa” in 1990. An anonymous caller informed her live on air that her son Ciro had been seriously injured in a car accident, which turned out to be false. Her emotional reaction, captured on television, made her a household name in Italy, even inspiring a satirical television program.
Political Activism and Ties with Bettino Craxi
Sandra Milo had affiliations with the Italian Socialist Party, dating back to at least the 1960s, and was close to Pietro Nenni. In the 1980s, she had a romantic relationship with Bettino Craxi, who was then the leader of the Italian Socialist Party. She was associated with the world of politicians, dwarfs, and showgirls who were part of the Italian political elite connected to Craxi, Claudio Martelli, and Gianni De Michelis. She actively participated in various election campaigns and posed for political posters.
In 1999, Sandra Milo reached a plea deal, receiving a thirteen-month prison sentence and a fine of 1.3 million Italian lire for her involvement, along with her then-partner Giuseppe Lo Presti, in a real estate scam that defrauded thirteen individuals and eight banks of approximately 3 billion lire. They had individuals sign false power of attorney documents to sell valuable properties, then purchased them and obtained mortgages from financial institutions.