One of the most popular actresses and iconic sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, Gina Lollobrigida was born in 1927 in the mountain village of Subiaco, where she grew up. When she was 20, she entered the beauty competition Miss Italia, but came in only third. After appearing in a few films in Italy, film tycoon Howard Hughes invited her to Hollywood; however, she preferred to work in Europe and returned to Italy. Her appearance in Italian and French films eventually brought her to the attention of Hollywood and her first American movie was John Huston’s Beat the Devil (1953) with Humphrey Bogart. After her movie Beautiful but Dangerous (1955), she was named the “most beautiful woman in the world” and was considered the prototype of Italian beauty. Her film, Come September (1961) starring Rock Hudson, won the Golden Globe as the World’s Film Favorite. She was nominated three times for the Golden Globe and six times for the David Di Donatello Award, resulting in as many wins. In the 1970s, Lollobrigida took a break from acting to concentrate on another career: photography. She portrayed famous subjects such as Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn and Salvador Dalì and published a collection of her work in 1973, “Italia Mia.” In an interview to the magazine Parade in 2000, she declared she “became an actress by mistake.”
Sophia Loren was born Sofia Scicolone in 1934 in Rome. She grew up in Pozzuoli, near Naples, without any support from her father who refused to marry Sofia’s mother. She was noticed at age 14 during a beauty contest by film producer Carlo Ponti who launched her career and, 22 years her senior, also became her husband in 1966, after their first marriage was annulled to spare Ponti from bigamy charges. By her late teens, Sophia was playing lead roles in many Italian films, and in 1957 began a successful career in the United States. She had a much publicized fling with her co-star Cary Grant, who was 53 at the time, while she was 22. After several films in Hollywood, Sophia returned to Italy in 1960 to star in La ciociara, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. Sophisticated and sensual, she was an international movie star throughout the 1960s and 1970s, starring in films both in Italy and the U.S. with such actors as Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston. Since the 1980s, she has slowed down her acting career to raise her two children. She was awarded the Honorary Academy Award for her work in film in 1991. She now divides her time between Switzerland and Los Angeles and remains one of the most popular and beloved film stars in the world. She keeps a low-profile lifestyle claiming, “Show business is what I do, not what I am.” She was quoted saying “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.”
Born in Tunisia in 1938 from Sicilian parents, Claudia Cardinale grew up speaking French, Arabic and Sicilian and did not learn Italian until she began to be cast for Italian films. However, in her first Italian films, she was dubbed, reportedly because of her deep hoarse voice and heavy French accent. It was not until the movie that launched her career internationally, Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963), that she was allowed to use her own voice. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she appeared in some of the most acclaimed Italian and European films of the period and may be best known to American audiences for Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Cardinale has been honored at many film festivals, including the 1993 Venice Film Festival, and the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, although she never won an Oscar. In 2011, the Los Angeles Times Magazine named her among the 50 most beautiful women in film history.