Claudia Cardinale
Birth Date:
April 15, 1938
Birth Place:
Tunis, Tunisia
Famous for:
Her role in 'Claretta' (1984)
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Claudia Cardinale
Claretta Petacci


“Never felt scandal and confession were necessary to be an actress. I've never revealed myself or even my body in films. Mystery is very important.” Claudia Cardinale

Italian Tunisian actress Claudia Cardinale has been in showbiz since the late 1950s. Though her primary language is French, the majority of her films have been either Italian or French. She became known during the 1960s as an iconic sex symbol despite never appeared in a nude or fully topless scene. Cardinale's most memorable performances include “Girl with a Suitcase” (1961), “Bebo's Girl” (1963), “Mafia” (1968), “A Girl in Australia” (1971), “La pelle” (1981), “Claretta Petacci” (1984), “Act of Sorrow” (1990) and “Sinyora Enrica ile Italyan Olmak” (2010). In 1988, she was handed the David di Donatello Alitalia Award. She went on to receive the Career Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice Film Festival, the Career David at the 1997 David di Donatello Awards and the Career Award for Cinema at the 1998 Flaiano International Prize. In addition, she was given the 2000 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists European Silver Ribbon, for her international success, the Honorary Golden Berlin Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival and the European Actors Award at the 2003 Filmfest Ludwigsburg. She earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Transilvania International Film Festival in 2009 and from the Yerevan International Film Festival in 2010.

Cardinale was married to film producer Franco Cristaldi from 1966 until they divorced in 1975. She has one son, Patrizio (aka. Patrick Frank), who was adopted by Cristaldi, and one daughter, Claudia, fathered by her long term companion Pasquale Squitieri.

Cardinale has been UNESCO good will Ambassador for the Defense of Women's Rights since 1999. In 1995, she wrote an autobiography with Anne Mori called “Moi Claudia, Toi Claudia.” Her second book, “Mes Etoiles,” about her personal and professional relationships with a number of her directors and co-stars through her nearly 50 years in show business, was published in 2005.

Joséphine Rose

Childhood and Family:

Claudia Cardinale was born Claude Joséphine Rose Cardinale on April 15, 1938, in La Goulette, a predominately Italian neighborhood in the Tunisian capital of Tunis. Her father was a  Sicilian railway worker, born in Gela. Her mother, Yolande Greco, was born in Tunisia to Sicilian emigrants from Trapani, Italy. Claudia grew up speaking her mom's native language, French, and Tunisian Arabic, and did not learn Italian until she started her acting career. Originally, she was intended to become a teacher, but after winning a 1957 beauty contest as “The Most Beautiful Italian Girl in Tunisia,” she began landing acting jobs. She was trained at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Italian National film school).  

In 1966, Claudia was married to Italian film producer Franco Cristaldi, but they later divorced in 1975. She has since lived with Pasquale Squitieri, an Italian film director. Claudia has two children: Patrizio (Patrick Frank), who was born out of wedlock to a Frenchman when she was 17 and later adopted by her former husband Franco Cristaldi, and Claudia, whose biological father is Squitieri. Patrizio operates Spanish restaurant El Salon Verde on New York's East Side with Hayne Suthon.

Act of Sorrow


In 1957, 19 year old Claudia Cardinale won the Italian embassy's “Most Beautiful Italian Girl in Tunisia” contest. Her prize was a trip to Venice during the Venice Film Festival, in which her natural beauty attracted the attention of the Italian cinematic industry. After the festival, she was offered movie roles, but at first she rejected them and returned to Tunis. She made her feature film acting debut opposite Omar Sharif in “Goha” (1958), a French/Tunisian co-production directed by Jacques Baratier. The film won the Jury Prize and was nominated for Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival. Following a two month stint at Italian National film school, she signed a seven year contract with the Vides studios, a production company run by producer Franco Cristaldi who, like Cardinale, had been born in Tunis and the two later married.

Cardinale landed a small role as a pure, black clad Sicilian girl, almost held prisoner at home by her overbearing brother on the Italian criminal comedy “Big Deal on Madonna Street” (“I soliti ignoti”), produced by Cristaldi. The film was a major international success, and was nominated for a 1959 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She soon followed it up with a leading role in the Italian romantic comedy film “Three Strangers in Rome” (“Tre straniere a Roma,” 1958), directed by Claudio Gora. She appeared in several films in 1959, such as “Vento del Sud,” with Renato Salvatori, “Venetian Honeymoon” “The Facts of Murder” (“Un maledetto imbroglio”), an Italian crime film directed by and starring Pietro Germiand with Cardinale, and “Upstairs and Downstairs,” a British comedy/drama film directed by Ralph Thomas.      

Cardinale proved herself to be a competent dramatic and comedic actress in a wide variety of films for some of the most noted Italian directors of the 1960s. In “Il bell'Antonio” (1960), a drama helmed by Mauro Bolognini and co-written by Pier Paolo Pasolini, she starred as the wife of Marcello Mastroianni, whose confusion over sex and love made him a famed lover with strangers but impotent with her. She had a minor role as Ginetta in Luchino Visconti's “Rocco and His Brothers” (1960), starring Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori and Annie Girardot, portrayed Pauline Bonaparte in Abel Gance's “Austerlitz” (1960), opposite Pierre Mondy and Martine Carol, appeared with José Suárez and François Périer in Luigi Zampa's “The Magistrate” (1960), starred with Vittorio Gassman and Renato Salvatori in Nanni Loy's “Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti” (1960) and had a leading role in Francesco Maselli's “Silver Spoon Set” (1960).

In 1961, Cardinale offered a sorrowful turn as a naïve nightclub singer  who became the romantic obsession of a teenage boy in Valerio Zurlini's “Girl with a Suitcase.” The film was nominate for Palme d'Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, while Cardinale received the Special David at the 1961 David di Donatello Awards for her performance. She continued to appear in many films such as “La viaccia” (1961), “The Lions Are Loose” (1961), “Cartouche” (1962), “Careless” (1962), Federico Fellini's “8 ½” (1963), which won two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design (black and white), Luchino Visconti's “The Leopard” (1963)  and Luigi Comencini's “Bebo's Girl” (1963), where she won Silver Ribbon for Best Actress at the 1965  Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for her portrayal of Mara. “8 ½” marked the first time that Cardinale was allowed to dub her own dialogue. Previously her voice was thought to be too throaty and, coupled with her Tunisian accent, was considered unsuitable. She recalled, “I wasn't speaking a word of Italian until I was 18. They had to dub my voice in my first Italian picture!”

Still in 1963, Cardinale made her Hollywood debut in the Blake Edwards comedy film “The Pink Panther,” in which she was cast as Princess Dala. Her subsequent American credits were Henry Hathaway's “Circus World” (1964, with John Wayne and Rita Hayworth), Philip Dunne's “Blindfold” (1965, opposite Rock Hudson), Mark Robson's “Lost Command” (1966, opposite Anthony Quinn and Alain Delon), Richard Brooks' “The Professionals” (1966, with Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin), Alexander Mackendrick's “Don't Make Waves” (1967, with Tony Curtis) and Joseph Sargent's “The Hell with Heroes” (1968, with Rod Taylor). She continued to star in Italian movies such as “Time of Indifference” (1964, with Rod Steiger and Shelley Winters), Luchino Visconti's “Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa” (“Sandra,” 1965), Franco Rossi's “A Rose for Everyone” (1967), “A Fine Pair” (1968), Sergio Leone's “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968, with Henry Fonda), “The Conspirators” (1969) and Marcello Fondato's “Certain, Very Certain, As a Matter of Fact... Probable” (1969). In Damiano Damiani's “Mafia” (1968), she won a David di Donatello for Best Actress for her role as Rosa Nicolosi. In 1969, she starred with Sean Connery and Peter Finch in “The Red Tent,” a joint Soviet/Italian film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov.

During the 1970s, Cardinale worked almost exclusively in European films, many of which never reached American theaters. In “Bello, onesto, emigrato Australia sposerebbe compaesana illibata” (“A Girl in Australia”, 1971), an Italian comedy directed by Luigi Zampa, she picked up a David di Donatello for Best Actress for her performance as Carmela. Her other film credits during this period included “The Adventures of Gerard” (1970), “Frenchie King” (1971), “Scoumoune” (1972), “Days of Fury” (1973, with Oliver Reed), “I guappi” (1974), “The Immortal Bachelor” (1975), “Blonde in Black Leather” (1975), “Il comune senso del pudore” (1976),  “ Il prefetto di ferro” (1977), “Corleone” (1978), “Little Girl in Blue Velvet” (1978) and “Escape to Athena” (1979). In 1977, Cardinale appeared on American television in an episode of the NBC miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth,”  where she appeared as The Adulteress.  

After working in the films “Si salvi chi vuole” (1980), “Goodbye e amen” (1980) and “The Salamander” (1981), Cardinale was cast as Principessa Consuelo Caracciolo in “La pelle” (1981), an Italian/French drama/war movie helmed by Liliana Cavani. The film was nominated for Palme d'Or at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival, and  she was handed a Silver Ribbon for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. In the following year, she was cast as a successful brothel owner named Molly in Werner Herzog's surreal “ Fitzcarraldo,” which starred Klaus Kinski as the title character. She next appeared in “Bankers Also Have Souls” (1982, with Pierre Mondy) and “Le ruffian” (1983). The actress returned to American television in the NBC made for TV film “Princess Daisy” (1983), opposite Lindsay Wagner, Paul Michael Glaser and Robert Urich. There she portrayed Anabelle de Fourdemont Valenski.

Cardinale had the title role in “Claretta Petacci” (1984), an Italian movie directed and co-written by Pasquale Squitieri. For her bright acting, she took home the Venice Film Festival Pasinetti Award for Best Actress, the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon for Best Actress and the Golden Globes Italy for Best Actress. The same year, she also portrayed Matilda in Marco Bellocchio's “Henry IV” (1984). 1985 to 1989 saw roles in the films “Woman of Wonders,” “L'été prochain,” “ History” (TV), “Hit Man” (TV), “A Man in Love,” “La révolution française” and “Hiver 54, l'abbé Pierre.”

Entering the 1990s, Cardinale was cast in the starring role of Elena in “Act of Sorrow” (“Atto di dolore,” 1990),  a French/Italian drama directed by Pasquale Squitieri. The role brought her a Golden Globe, Italy for Best Actress and  Prix du Festival at the Montréal World Film Festival. She went on to work in various films throughout the decade, including “Mother” (1991), Blake Edwards' “Son of the Pink Panther” (1993), “Elles ne pensent qu'à ça...” (1994), “Sous les pieds des femmes” (1997), “Riches, belles, etc.” (1998) and “Brigands” (1999). She also appeared in television projects, such as “10-07: L'affaire Zeus” (1995), “ Nostromo” (1997), “ Deserto di fuoco” (1997) and “Mia, Liebe meines Lebens” (1998).   

In the new millennium, Cardinale could be seen in such films as “Élisabeth - Ils sont tous nos enfants” (2000, TV), “And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen...” (2002), a thriller movie helmed by Claude Lelouch and starring Jeremy Irons and French singer Patricia Kaas, “The Demon Stirs” (2005), “Cherche fiancé tous frais payés” (2007), “Hold-up à l'italienne” (2008) and “The String” (2009). In  “Sinyora Enrica ile Italyan Olmak” (2010), she netted the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival Golden Orange for Best Actress for her role as Signora Enrica. She also appeared with Jean Dujardin, Marie-Josée Croze and Toni Servillo in the drama film “A View of Love” (2010), directed by Nicole Garcia.

Cardinale will play Signora Morosini in the thriller film “Joy de V.,” directed and written by Nadia Szold. He also is set to appear in other upcoming film projects such as “Gebo et l'ombre” (2012), “El artista y la modelo” (2012), “ Effie” (2012) and “Deauville” (2012).            


Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival: Golden Orange, Best Actress, “Sinyora Enrica ile Italyan Olmak,” 2010
Yerevan International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2010
Transilvania International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009
Filmfest Ludwigsburg: European Actors Award, 2003
Berlin International Film Festival: Honorary Golden Berlin Bear, 2002
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: European Silver Ribbon, For her international success, 2000
Flaiano International Prizes: Career Award, Cinema, 1998
David di Donatello: Career David, 1997
Venice Film Festival: Career Golden Lion, 1993
Golden Globes, Italy: Golden Globe, Best Actress (Migliore Attrice), “Act of Sorrow,” 1991
Montréal World Film Festival: Prix du Festival, “Best Achievement in Cinema” on the occasion of the presentation of the film “Atto di dolore” (1991) by Pasquale Squitieri, 1990
David di Donatello: Alitalia Award, 1988     
Golden Globes, Italy: Golden Globe, Best Actress (Migliore Attrice), “Claretta Petacci,” 1985
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Actress (Migliore Attrice Protagonista), “Claretta Petacci,” 1985
Venice Film Festival: Pasinetti Award, Best Actress, “Claretta Petacci,” 1984
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Supporting Actress (Migliore Attrice Non Protagonista), “La pelle,” 1982
David di Donatello: David, Best Actress (Migliore Attrice), “A Girl in Australia,” 1972
David di Donatello: David, Best Actress (Migliore Attrice), “Mafia,” 1968
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Actress (Migliore Attrice Protagonista), “Bebo's Girl,” 1965
David di Donatello: Special David, “Girl with a Suitcase,” 1961

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