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Charisma still lingers

The Indian Government plans to honour Gina Lollobrigida with the Life Achievement Award, later this year. Randor Guy

Photo: AFP

A charmer: Gina Lollobrigida.

She made waves in the international film, cultural and fashion landscapes in the past four decades. As actor, photographer, documentary filmmaker, sculptor and painter, she has built up a formidable reputation. Gina Lollobrigida, the glamorous sex sy mbol, has also been described as ‘the most beautiful woman in the world.’

In India she became popular because of the box-office hit, ‘Come September’ (1961), in which she co-starred with Rock Hudson. Its theme music too was a hit with audiences. The film was adapted with great success in Tamil as ‘Anbe Vaa’ by noted filmmaker A.C.Thirulokachandar for the House of AVM. MGR and B. Saroja Devi starred in it.

Italy, post-World War II, produced a bevy of beautiful screen sirens and three of them made international headlines in the early 1950s. They were Sylvano Mangano, Sophia Loren, and Gina Lollobrigida.

Background

Born Luigina Lollobrigida in June 1927 to a small town furniture-maker, she fought hard to rise above the narrow and confining ambience of her small town life. Thanks to her stunning looks and figure, she gained some success as a model under the name of ‘Diana Loris’. She also took part in many beauty contests.

She was sought after and put on contract by eccentric American billionaire and studio-owner Howard Hughes. Unfortunately, like many stars under contract to Hughes, she had no opportunity to face the camera.

Hollywood debut

Anyway, her Hollywood debut came through in 1956 with Carol Reed’s big budget circus-based movie ‘Trapeze.’ It had Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Then came the cult movie, John Huston’s ‘Beat the Devil,’ written by Truman Capote, in which she starred with Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre. Gina played a British woman and spoke the memorable lines, “What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.” In ‘Solomon and Sheba’ (1959), she acted opposite Yul Brynner. Their intense romantic sequences scorched the screen. Then came ‘Come September.’

Another film which attracted attention in India was ‘Woman of Straw’ (1964) in which her co-star was Sean Connery. This thriller was adapted successfully in a Tamil play.

Though she continued to appear in Hollywood and Italian films, she began to be overshadowed by fellow Italian Sophia Loren.

One of Gina’s later movies, ‘Buona Sierra, Mrs. Campbell,’ was adapted with some measure of success in Tamil. Her list of movies includes ‘Strange Bedfellows,’ ‘Hotel Paradiso,’ ‘Where the Hot Wind Blows’ and ‘Stuntman.’

With her film career on the decline, she began to concentrate on her other talents such as photography, sculpting and painting. She went around the world taking photographs of human interest. She also published books, which were quite successful. She is one of the few to interview the Cuban leader Fidel Castro and she also made a documentary film about him. Then she made one on Indira Gandhi too.

She loved life and had intimate relationships with her onscreen heroes such as Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster and Rock Hudson. She tried unsuccessfully to enter the Italian Parliament and continues to hold an interest in national politics.

She was married once and has a son. Now at the age of 79, she is planning to marry again and this time to someone who is 30 years younger. She has visited India many times and claims that the country is close to her heart.

Not surprisingly, the Indian Government has chosen to honour her with the Life Achievement Award in Delhi later this year. Age has not withered her charm or charisma.

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