The World’s Most Beautiful Woman
“Popularity has a bright side, it unlocks many doors. But the truth is that I don’t like it very much because it changes the private life into a very small thing.” Gina Lollobrigida
A former beauty queen and a graduate of fine arts who eased into acting in the late 1940’s and was tagged by American moviegoers as “The best thing to come out of Italy since spaghetti,” Gina Lollobrigida achieved a reputation as an international star in the 1950s thanks to her performances in such movies as Fan-Fan the Tulip(1952), Beauties of the Night (1952), Bread, Love and Dreams (1953, received a Silver Ribbon Award and a BAFTA Film nomination) and its sequel Bread, Love and Jealousy (1954). The World’s Most Beautiful Woman (1955, won a David di Dontello award) and Trapeze (1956). She was handed her next Silver Ribbon for her performance in Imperial Venus (1963) and took home a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the movie Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968) before leaving the screen in the early 70s to focus on her photography and sculptures. She made an auspicious return in 1984 by picking up a Golden Globe nomination in the television series “Falcon Crest,” as Jane Wyman’s half sister.
Now practically retired from acting, Lollobrigida has not made a film since 1997. She informed Parade magazine 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.”
As for her private life, Lollobrigida was married to Milko Skofic from 1949 to 1971 and has a son with him. In 1966, she had an affair with comedian Jerry Lewis. At age 79, in October 2006, Lollobrigida made headlines after publicly proclaiming her engagement to Javier Rigau y Rafols, a Catalonian businessman who is 34 years her junior. The bond, however, came to an end on December 6 because of media pressure.
Childhood and Family:
Gina Lollobrigida was born Luigina Lollobrigida on July 4, 1927, in Subiaco, Rome, Italy, to a working-class family. With her sisters Giuliana, Maria and Fernanda, she grew up in a picturesque mountain village. She attended Rome Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Italy, studying painting and sculpture, and did modeling in her youth. Gina earned the nickname “La Lollo” because she represented the prototype of Italian beauty.
On January 15, 1949, Gina married a Slovenian physician, Milko Skofic. After they had a son named Milko Skofic Jr., the couple divorced in 1971.
Young Gina Lollobrigida did modeling and took part successfully in numerous beauty competitions. At around this time, she started appearing in Italian films and made her debut as Nelly Corradi’s girlfriend in 1946’s Elisir d’Amore/This Wine of Love after being discovered by director Mario Costa. A year later, Lollobrigida entered a beauty contest for Miss Italy, coming in third after Lucia Bosé and Gianna Maria Canale. The same year, she also appeared in such movies as director Alberto Lattuada’s drama Delitto di Giovanni Episcopo, Il/Flesh Will Surrender, starring Aldo Fabrizi in the title character, and the English-language A Man About the House.
In the early 1950s, Lollobrigida increased her status by playing roles in both Italian and international films, including Campane a Martello/Children of Chance (1950), René Clair’s Le belle della notte/Beauties of the Night (1952), Alessandro Blasetti’s Altri tempi Infidelity (1952), Christian-Jaque’s Fanfan la Tulipe/Fan-Fan the Tulip(1952), John Huston’s Beat the Devil (1953) and Mario Soldati’s La provinciale/The Wayward Wife (1953), in which she brightly portrayed the miserable adulteress Gemma. However, it was not until Pane, amore e fantasia/Bread, Love and Dreams (1953) and Pane amore e gelosia/Bread, Love and Jealousy (1954) that she was launched to stardom. Her performance in the first project even brought the actress a Silver Ribbon for Best Actress from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, as well as a BAFTA Film nomination for Best Foreign Actress.
As her fame was boosted, Lollobrigida graced the covers of both Time and Life magazines and was labeled “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman” after her signature motion picture Donna più bella del mondo, La (1956), which handed her a David di Dontello. She went on to perform in such highly praised projects as Carol Reed’s Trapeze (1956, with Burt Lancaster), Notre Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1957), Jules Dassin’s La legge/The Law (1959) and Frank Sinatra’s Never So Few (1959).
Kicking off the early 1960s, Lollobrigida starred in her next Hollywood film, Go Naked in the World (1961) and scored a hit with Come September (also 1961), a comedy/romance costarring Rock Hudson. The two rejoined in 1965 for Strange Bedfellows. She also teamed up with Alec Guinness in Hotel Paradiso (1966) and had the title role in the enjoyable Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968), where she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress - Musical/Comedy. Nevertheless, Lollobrigida reached her supreme success in Italian films with movies like Mare matto/Crazy Sea (1963), Le bambole/Four Kinds of Love (1965), Io, io, io... e gli altri /Me, Me, Me... and the Others (1966) and Un bellissimo novembre/That Splendid November (1969). She also picked up her next Silver Ribbon for her work in Venere imperiale/Imperial Venus (1963).
The productive performer withdrew from movies to work as a photographer in the 1970s. She then offered a notable performance as Fatina Azzurra, the Blue Fairy, in the TV miniseries version of “Avventure di Pinocchio, Le/Pinocchio” (1972). By the time she had emerged as a successful photographic journalist, Lollobrigida had photographed Paul Newman, Salvador Dalí and the German national football team, among others, and impressed the world’s press by attaining an exclusive interview with Fidel Castro. A collection of her work was published in 1973, called “Italia Mia.”
Still concentrating on other interests, including sculpting, Lollobrigida did not make a comeback until 1984, when she was cast as Francesca Gioberti, Angela Channing’s half-sister in the CBS primetime soap opera “Falcon Crest.” She earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. This was followed by the television films Deceptions (1985) and Romana, La (1988). She made a handful of minor film appearances in the 1990s and ran fruitlessly for one of Italy’s 87 seats in the election for European Parliament in 1999, two years after her last film appearance in 1997’s XXL. Lollobrigida was also a business executive for fashion and cosmetics companies.