Who Was Gina Lollobrigida, Once Dubbed 'Most Beautiful Woman in the World'?

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Who Was Gina Lollobrigida, Once Dubbed 'Most Beautiful Woman in the World'?

Italian media reported that Gina Lollobrigida, an Italian actress who was once called "the most beautiful woman in the world" and who certainly marked Italian cinema, died at the age of 95. During the 1950s and 60s, Lollobrigida was one of the world's most sought-after performers and starred in a number of European and American films alongside many of the leading Hollywood stars of the time.

Born in 1927 in Subiaco, in the mountains east of Rome, she was the daughter of a furniture maker. In her teenage years, she modeled and participated in beauty contests, and in 1947 she came third in the Miss Italy pageant.

On the application form for that competition, she wrote that she had a talent for acting, but that she wanted to do something serious with her skills. After a string of roles in European films, including a Bafta-winning performance in Bread, Love, and Dreams, it was her performance in 1953's Beat the Devil opposite Humphrey Bogart that brought her international fame and millions of fans.

"La Lollo" also "caught the eye" of the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, who noticed her advertising photos and invited her to Hollywood where he repeatedly tried to seduce her, despite the fact that she had been married to Milko Skofic, a Slovenian doctor, for a year earlier.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Lollobrigida recalled how he tried several times: “But he didn’t succeed … there was just too much difference between us. I said to him, ‘If you lose all your money, then perhaps I’ll marry you.’ Maybe he was surprised that there was one person who wasn’t interested in his money”.

Career peak

Her commercial peak came in the mid-to-late 1950s, when she starred in the films "Solomon and Sheba", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Beautiful But Dangerous" whose original title - "La donna più bella del mondo" - presented as "the most beautiful woman in the world".

Her fame was also such that in the 1960s a new type of salad was named after her - lollo rosso - although reports differ as to whether this was a reference to her curly hair or the petticoats she often wore. Lollobrigida and Skofic divorced in 1971, and she mostly retired from acting and focused on photography, publishing several collections.

Her subjects were Henry Kissinger, Yuri Gagarin, Grace Kelly, and many other notable personalities. She also secured an exclusive interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In 1999, Lollobrigida ran unsuccessfully for the European Parliament representing former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's Democrats, but did not seem particularly enthusiastic.