Gina Lollobrigida, Italian diva and international icon, actress, but also photographer and sculptor, is celebrating today 90 years, indeed … 30 + 30 + 30 as she prefers.
Incarnation of Mediterranean beauty, Gina Lollobrigida moves first in the world of entertainment to stay at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome where she moved in 1944 when the city is still occupied by the Nazis, playing in photo stories and as background actress in some films . But her provocative beauty draws her on the most desired stage that of the Miss Italia contest in 1947 where she won third place. The winner was the 17-years-old Lucia Bosè, but Gianna Maria Canale, Eleonora Rossi Drago and Silvana Mangano were also among the participants. But Gina for the public is the triumphant and her face is challenged to exclusive by news magazines of the time. From the Miss Italia runway to the world of cinema, the step is really short and she begins to work at Cinecittà playing small roles and also as body double.
In 1950, the American Magnate Howard Hughes, fascinated by her, invited her to the United States where she signed a contract for Hollywood but came back to Italy when she realized she had signed an agreement that would have forced her to work only in Howard Hughes productions. What could be a defeat is what will become her luck: she starts working with important Italian directors like Luigi Zampa, Mario Monicelli, Steno, Pietro Germi and Carlo Lizzani. But also in other countries where he plays “Fanfan la Tulipe” with the star of the time Gérard Philipe and with director René Clai in “Les Belles de Nuit” in 1952: Paris conclame her diva.
But it is her interpretation next to Vittorio de Sica in “Pane, Amore e Fantasia” (1953) – followed the following year by “Pane, Amore e Gelosia” in the role of the provocative plebeian Maria, that makes her get the success and acclamation of the general public which from now on will only call her “The Lollo”. That’s then we see her engaged in big co-productions next to Humprey Bogart in “Beat The Devil”, who said of her ‘made Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple‘ or “Trapeze” with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster set in the circus world. Legend says that Gina Lollobrigida refused to use a body double and that director Carol Reed was shooting all the dangerous scenes at dawn before the diva came to the set.
In 1956, she interpreted Esmeralda in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and a sensual Queen Sheba in “Solomon and Sheba” next to Yul Brinner in 1959. The censorship at the time intervened heavily to prevent Queen Sheba’s dance, which she interpreted, could disturb the sleep of viewers.
Even though the 50s are her stage of excellence in the years to come, she uses intelligently her fame and aura of sex symbol by reducing appointments with the big screen and dedicating herself to her artistic passions like sculpture – her first love – and photography that becomes her new muse. She travels the world by portraying the greats of her time and exposing in prestigious galleries. In 1974, the first photographic book by the actress “Italia Mia” is published. Famous is also her long documentary interview with Fidel Castro in 1975. ” We spent 12 days together. I was not interested in him like politic leader, but as a man. He understood that I had not gone there to massacre him and accepted with joy, “said the actress.
Gina Lollobrigida will celebrate her birthday with a ceremony at Piazza di Spagna in Rome where, at the end of a red carpet 200 mt long, she will exhibit a statue made with Horacio Pagani, Argentine automotive entrepreneur, with precious materials never used for a sculpture. It represents the figure of a woman flying out of the silhouette of a racing car.
And Gina in her long life and career certainly had a long flight off.