Remembering Gina Lollobrigida, the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Woman’

Actress, photojournalist and politician Gina Lollobrigida died this week at the age of 95. One of the greatest Hollywood stars of the 1950s and 1960s, she was called ‘the world’s most beautiful woman’ and was one of the last surviving major stars of the ‘golden age’ of Hollywood.

In films including Beat the Devil, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Crossed Swords, she starred alongside the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Rock Hudson and Errol Flynn.

Nicknamed ‘La Lollo’, she was said by Humphrey Bogart to make “Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple”. She was courted by movie mogul Howard Hughes, who showered her with marriage proposals, and famously enjoyed an off-camera feud with Sophia Loren, a fellow Italian star.

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.”

See also: Oscars Nominations Include Some Shocks

Born Luigina Lollobrigida in 1927, the daughter of a furniture manufacturer, Gina spent her teenage years avoiding wartime bombing raids before studying sculpture at Rome’s Academy of Fine Arts. She was offered an audition by a talent scout for Cinecitta, then the largest film studio in Europe, but turned down the first role she was offered unless she was paid a million lira – which to her surprise she was offered.

In 1947, she entered the Miss Italia beauty pageant, and the publicity shots gained her attention in Hollywood.

Howard Hughes flew Lollobrigida to Holywood – leaving behind her doctor husband. She later said she enjoyed Hughes’ attention. “He was very tall, very interesting,” she recalled. “Much more interesting than my husband.”


Nonetheless La Lollo initially avoided Hollywood, working in France and Italy on movies such as The Wayward Wife and Bread, Love and Dreams, and her first English-language picture – opposite Humphrey Bogart in John Huston’s Beat the Devil – was shot on the Amalfi coast.

She went on to star in Crossed Swords with Errol Flynn, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Antony Quinn, and in Trapeze, with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.

With Rock Hudson she appeared in romantic comedies Come September and Strange Bedfellows. After a lifetime fending off passes from Hollywood stars, Hudson’s lack of interest came as a shock. “I knew right away that Rock Hudson was gay, when he did not fall in love with me,” she later said.

As her star faded, she enjoyed pursuing a feud with Sophia Loren. Loren’s husband, film producer Carlo Ponti, had said that Loren was “bustier” than Gina Lollobrigida. Gina’s response was that Sophia could play peasants, but never ladies. “We are as different as a fine racehorse and a goat,” she said.

Her last major film was in 1972, alongside David Niven in King, Queen, Knave, but there was trouble on set, and aftewards La Lollo’ appearances were limited to TV series such as Falcon’s Crest and Love Boat.

Later in life she reinvented herself as a photojournalist, sculptor and politician, interviewing Fidel Castro, working for UNICEF and exhibiting sculptures internationally. She continued to have mainly disastrous affairs with younger men, but she became reclusive in her 80s, though at the age of 90 in 2018 she performed on Italy’s version of Strictly Come Dancing.

Gina Lollobrigida died in a Rome clinic on 16th January at the age 95, her former lawyer Giulia Citani told the Reuters news agency.

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