getty images/tommaso boddi
getty images/tommaso boddi
If you have worked with King Vidor and John Huston, shared the screen with Humphrey Bogart and Rock Hudson, Tyrone Power and Yul Brynner, Anthony Quinn, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Yves Montand, Marcello Mastroianni and Erroll Flynn, well, it’s pretty safe to assume that you are part of cinema history. If you have been the honored guest of presidents and heads of state and pursued for a dozen years by Howard Hughes, and scores of other men, dazzled by one of the world’s great beauties … in other words if you are Gina Lollobrigida, then the only surprising thing about receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is that it took so long. But that is precisely what happened on Thursday when Hollywood corrected a long-standing oversight and honored one of filmdom’s last Grande Dames with an overdue tribute on Hollywood Boulevard.
Shortly thereafter Signora Lollobrigida – “La Lollo” as she was commonly and adoringly referred to in the days of La Dolce Vita and Cinemascope blockbusters – did us the honor of visiting the HFPA headquarters and regale us with some priceless memories from a life which not only includes dozens of films shot during the golden age of Cinecittà and Hollywood (as well as French cinema), but also a career as a sculptor and published photographer!
getty images/gamma-keystone/ hfpa/luca celada
At 90, Lollobrigida dazzled not only with her ageless beauty but with her wisdom, spirit, and sense of humor as she recalled salient episodes of a storied career which included three Golden Globe nominations and one win as World Film Favorite (1961). A career of triumphs as well as heartaches, like the one on Vidor’s Solomon and Sheeba, a biblical epic in which she played the titular queen to Tyrone Power’s King Solomon. On that set in Spain, as Ms. Lollobrigida recalled, Power would collapse and die after filming a duel scene with George Sanders. A shock which has stayed with the actress to this day. “Tyrone Power was a wonderful man,” Lollobrigida recalled. “He once woke me up in the middle of the night and told me: ‘I can’t sleep. I just have to tell you I have seldom worked with such a nice co-star.’ That was a very sweet compliment from such a huge star,” added Lollobrigida, “even though he did wake me up!”
hfpa archives/getty images
Sheeba, which had been completed by two thirds at the time of Powers death, would end up having to be re-shot with Yul Brynner now in the starring role. That film also features a quite racy (for the standards of the time) “pagan dance” performed by the Italian beauty “in a costume”, she revealed to the enthralled HFPA journalists, “which I had personally sewed.” That turned out to be the case even with the resplendent turquoise mise she wore on the day of her visit. Her film career is now in the past, admitted “Lollo”, but her creative life goes on, and she does have plans for her future: “I would like to have an exhibition of sculptures at the Getty Museum,” she said.
As she left on her way to being honored at the Italian Cultural Institute as part of the Filming In Italy festival, we were left with the distinct feeling of having witnessed living film history.