Italian screen legend Gina Lollobrigida, who illuminated the world stage in the 1950s and 1960s, and who was dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world,” died Jan. 16 at age 95.
“Lollo,” as she was affectionately nicknamed by Italians, appeared on a 1954 cover of Time magazine, which likened her a “a goddess” in an article about Italian movies.
“More than a half-century later,” reported the Associated Press in its obituary, “Lollobrigida still turned heads with her brown, curly hair and statuesque figure, and preferred to be called an actress instead of the gender-neutral term actor.”
American audiences will remember her from “Trapeze” (1956) with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis; “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1956), as Esmeralda, Quasimodo’s beloved beauty (Anthony Quinn played Quasimodo); “Solomon and Sheba” (1959), a biblical epic with Yul Brynner; “Come September” (1961), a romantic comedy with Rock Hudson; and “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” (1968), a comedy about an unwed mother.
Even as her star rose in the United States, she continued to make many more European films than American ones.
She starred with many of the continent’s leading men. She starred in the 1955 film, “La Donna Più Bella del Mondo” (“The Most Beautiful Woman in the World” — a term some in Holly-wood came to use about Lollobrigida herself.
The New York Times noted that Lollobrigida was always considered more a sex symbol than a serious actress — at least by the American press — but she was also nominated for a BAFTA award as best foreign actress in “Pane, Amore e Fantasia” (1953). She received Golden Globe nominations for “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” in 1969 and for a recurring role on the prime-time television soap “Falcon Crest” in 1985.
After two decades in front of the camera, she embarked on a second career as artist and filmmaker. She published her first book of photographs, “Italia Mia,” in 1973. “Believe it or not, she takes good pictures and isn’t just trading on her name,” Gene Thornton of The New York Times wrote.
Lollobrigida continued as an active supporter of Italian and Italian-American causes, particularly the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). In 2008 she received the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award at the Foundation’s Anniversary Gala. In 2013, she sold her jewelry collection and donated the nearly $5 million from the sale to benefit stem-cell therapy research.
The Guardian, covering the starlet’s funeral, reported that her fans shouted “goodbye, Queen of Rome” as her coffin was carried into Piazza del Popolo in Rome.