Italian star Gina Lollobrigida, ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’, dead at 95

Dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world” after the title of one of her movies, the Italian actress and sculptor Gina Lollobrigida has passed away at 95

Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida

The Italian film legend Gina Lollobrigida, who was propelled to international stardom during the 1950s by being dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world” after the title of one of her movies, died in Rome on Monday. She was 95.

Lollobrigida had surgery in September to repair a thigh bone broken in a fall. She returned home and said she had quickly resumed walking.

Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano wrote on Twitter: “Farewell to a diva of the silver screen, protagonist of more than half a century of Italian cinema history. Her charm will remain eternal.”

Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida

A drawn portrait of the diva graced a 1954 cover of Time magazine, which likened her to a “goddess” in an article about Italian movie-making. More than a half-century later, 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.

‘Lollo’ – as she was lovingly nicknamed by Italians – started making movies right after the end of World War II, becoming the silver screen’s stereotypical concept of buxom Mediterranean beauty.

Lollobrigida was born on July 4, 1927 in Subiaco, near Rome. She began her career in beauty contests, posing for the covers of magazines and making brief appearances in minor films. Producer Mario Costa plucked her from the streets of Rome to appear on the big screen.

She starred in the Golden Globe-winner “Come September” with Rock Hudson; “Beat the Devil”, a 1953 John Huston film starring Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones; and “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell”, which won Lollobrigida Italy’s top movie award, a David di Donatello, as best actress in 1969.

She worked alongside the country’s top directors following the war – Mario Monicelli, Luigi Comencini, Pietro Germi and Vittorio De Sica. Her male foil was Vittorio Gassman, one of Italy’s leading men on the screen.

Eccentric mogul Howard Hughes eventually brought Lollobrigida to the United States, where she performed with some of Hollywood’s leading men of the 1950s and 60s, including Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Yul Brynner.

Two of her more popular films at home were Comencini’s “Pane Amore e Fantasia” (“Bread, Love and Dreams”) in 1953, and the sequel a year later, “Pane Amore e Gelosia” (“Bread, Love and Jealousy”).

Gossip columnists commented on alleged rivalries between her and Sophia Loren, another Italian film star celebrated for her beauty,

Lollobrigida also was an accomplished sculptor, painter and photographer, and eventually essentially dropped film for the other arts. With her camera, she roamed the world from what was then the Soviet Union to Australia. In 1974, Fidel Castro hosted her as a guest in Cuba for 12 days as she worked on a photo reportage.

Her first marriage, to Milko Skofic, a Yugoslavia-born doctor, ended in divorce in 1971. Later, Lollobrigida took a few parts in American TV series — including “Falcon’s Crest” and “Love Boat” — but then reinvented herself as an artist.