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CULTURE

Italian film legend Gina Lollobrigida dies aged 95

Actor Gina Lollobrigida, one of the last icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood, has died aged 95, Italy's culture minister said on Monday.

Italian film legend Gina Lollobrigida dies aged 95
Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida at the Rome Film Festival in, 2008, where she was given a lifetime achievement award recognising a career spanning six decades. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

“Farewell to a diva of the silver screen, star of more than half a century of Italian cinema history. Her charm will remain eternal,” Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano wrote after Italy’s Ansa news agency reported her death.

Lollobrigida, famed when younger for her biting wit and sensual beauty, underwent an operation at a Rome clinic in September after breaking her femur, the agency said.

READ ALSO: Gina Lollobrigida: Five of the Italian icon’s most famous films

Best known for Luigi Comencini’s 1953 classic “Bread, Love and Dreams”, and Jean Delannoy’s 1956 “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, Lollobrigida starred with many of the leading men of the time, including Errol Flynn, Burt Lancaster and Humphrey Bogart.

Luigia “Gina” Lollobrigida was born on July 4, 1927, in Subiaco, a mountain village 50 kilometres east of Rome.

Her big breakthrough came in 1953 starring alongside Bogart in John Huston’s romp “Beat the Devil”. Bogart said at the time Lollobrigida made “Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple.”

Gina Lollobrigida meets Marilyn Monroe in 1954 during a gala held at a New York theater. (Photo by AFP)

She began to study sculpture after her family moved to the capital, supporting herself by singing and modelling before attracting the attention of Italian film producers.

She said her entry into acting was an accident.

“I refused when they offered me my first role. They insisted again… So I told them my price was one million lire, thinking that would put a stop to the whole thing. But they said yes!” she told Vanity Fair.

Italians then dubbed her their answer to Elizabeth Taylor after her signature movie “La Donna Piu Bella del Mondo” (“The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”) in 1955.

She had an infamous long-standing rivalry with fellow Italian diva Sophia Loren.

Affectionately dubbed “La Lollo” by fans, she played the queen in “Solomon and Sheba” in 1959 and a single mother in “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell”, garnering a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.

Gina Lollobrigida with her four dalmatians at the 25th Cannes International Film Festival in 1972. (Photo by AFP)

A cinema sex symbol, she was pursued for years by US tycoon Howard Hughes, who brought her to Hollywood, and by Prince Rainier of Monaco, at the time still married to Princess Grace.

“I’ve had many lovers and still have romances,” she was quoted by several British newspapers as saying in 2000. “I am very spoiled.”

She was married in her early 20s to Slovenian doctor Milko Skofic, with whom she had a son before they divorced in 1971.

Gina Lollobrigida with her husband Milko Skofic and her son Milko Jr at the Paris Orly airport in 1960. (Photo by AFP)

In 2006, aged 79, she announced plans to marry Spanish long-time partner Javier Rigau Rafols, 34 years her junior, but they split up a year later.

Lollobrigida accused him in 2013 of having tricked her into signing documents allowing him to marry her by proxy, with a stand-in, in a civil ceremony in Spain.

“My experience has been that, when I have found the right person, he has run away from me,” she told Vanity Fair magazine in 2015. “I am too strong, too popular.”

The marriage was annulled by a Vatican court in 2019.

Lollobrigida won seven David di Donatello awards during her career, Italy’s Oscar equivalent.

But by the 1970s she had turned from acting to sculpture and photojournalism, including getting a scoop interview and photoshoot with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

She was back in the spotlight in 2021, amid a bitter legal battle with her son over her fortune.

Italy’s Supreme Court ruled that she needed a legal guardian to stop people preying on her wealth, because of a “weakening” in her perception of reality.

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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