Hand color tinted photo of Gina Lollobrigida from the 1956 movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Gina Lollobrigida (born 4 July 1927 in Subiaco, Italy), is an Italian actress and photojournalist. She was one of Italy’s most prominent actresses of the 1950s and early 1960s.
Born Luigina Lollobrigida, she was one of four daughters of a furniture manufacturer (her sisters are Giuliana, Maria and Fernanda). She spent her youth in a picturesque mountain village. In her youth, Gina did some modelling, and from there she went to participate successfully in several beauty contests. At around this time, she began appearing in Italian language films. In 1947, Gina entered the Miss Italia pageant and came in 3rd place. The contest was won by Lucia Bosé and second place was Gianna Maria Canale – they would both go on to be actresses, though neither would come near Lollobrigida’s success.
Her appearance in Italian films brought her to the attention of Hollywood and she made her first American film, Beat the Devil, in 1953. As her popularity increased, Lollobrigida earned the nickname The World’s Most Beautiful Woman after her signature 1955 movie.
She made another notable appearance in Trapeze with Burt Lancaster in 1956 and starred in The Hunchback of Notre Dame the same year. In 1959 she co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Never So Few and with Yul Brynner in Solomon and Sheba. The latter was notable for having Brynner replace Tyrone Power (who died during filming), for being the last film directed by King Vidor, and for an orgy scene extremely licentious for Hollywood motion pictures of that era.
In 1961 she made one of her most popular films, Come September, with Rock Hudson, for which she won the Golden Globe as “World Film Favorite.” She co-starred with him again in 1965’s Strange Bedfellows and appeared alongside Alec Guinness in 1966’s Hotel Paradiso. In 1968 she starred in the enjoyable Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell with Shelley Winters, Phil Silvers, and Telly Savalas, the plot of which is the basis for the stage musical Mamma Mia!. For this role she was nominated for a Golden Globe.
Lollobrigida co-starred with Bob Hope in the comedy The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell and also accompanied Hope on his visits to military troops overseas.
By the 1970s her film career had wound down. She appeared in only a few poorly received productions in the early part of the decade. In the mid 80’s, she starred in “Falcon Crest” as Francesca Gioberti, a role originally written for Sophia Loren who turned it down.She also had a supporting role in the tv mini series Deceptions in 1985 with Stephanie Powers.
In 1986, she was the head of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival which awarded the Golden Bear to Reinhard Hauff’s film Stammheim, although she herself, infringing the Festival rules, distanced herself publicly from the decision, claiming the decision had been made for political reasons. She made a few minor film appearances in the 1990s.
By the end of the 1970s she had embarked on what turned out to be a successful career as a photographic journalist. She photographed, among others, Paul Newman, Salvador Dalí and the German national football team and scooped the world’s press by obtaining an exclusive interview with Fidel Castro. In 1973 a collection of her work was published, Italia Mia.
She has focused on other interests such as sculpting and it was 1984 before she returned to American television screens with a part in Falcon Crest. She was also a corporate executive for fashion and cosmetics companies.
In 1999 she ran unsuccessfully for one of Italy’s 87 seats in the elections for European Parliament with the center-left party The Democrats.
In 1949 she married a Slovenian physician, Mirko Skofic. They had one child, Mirko Skofic, Jr., and were divorced in 1971. Skofic gave up the practice of medicine to become her manager.
In 1969 she was engaged for a short time to George Kaufman, a New York real estate heir. In the 1960s she also had an affair with heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard.
In October 2006, at age 79, she announced to Spain’s ¡Hola! magazine her engagement to a 45-year-old Spanish businessman, Javier Rigau y Rafols, whom she met at a party in Monte Carlo in 1984 and who had been her companion since then. The engagement was called off on 6 December 2006, reportedly due to media pressure.
Now virtually retired, Lollobrigida has not made a film since 1997. She told PARADE in April 2000:
“ I studied painting and sculpting at school and became an actress by mistake …. I’ve had many lovers and still have romances. I am very spoiled. All my life, I’ve had too many admirers. ”