28 November 2019

Laura Antonelli - actress

Pin-up star of 1970s sex-comedies


Laura Antonelli first moved to Rome to be a gymnastics teacher
Laura Antonelli first moved to Rome
to be a gymnastics teacher
The actress Laura Antonelli, whose career was at its peak while Italian cinema audiences were indulging a taste for sex-comedies during the 1970s, was born on this day in 1941 in Pula, a port city now part of Croatia but then known as Pola, capital of the Italian territory of Istria.

A curvaceous brunette who posed for both the Italian and French editions of Playboy magazine in the early 1980s, although Antonelli was mostly remembered for appearing scantily clad opposite male stars such as Marcello Mastroianni and Michele Placido, she was a talented actress, winning a Nastro d’Argento - awarded by Italian film journalists - as best actress in Salvatore Samperi’s 1974 comedy-drama Malizia (Malice).

She also worked on several occasions for Luchino Visconti, one of Italy’s greatest directors. Indeed, she starred in 1976 as the wife of a 19th century Roman aristocrat in Visconti’s last film, L’Innocente (The Innocent), based on the novel The Intruder by Gabriele d'Annunzio.

However, the success of her career was largely built on roles in films such as Devil in the Flesh (1969), The Divine Nymph (1975) and Tigers in Lipstick (1979), the content of which outraged Italy’s fledgling feminist movement and shocked the Catholic Church.

Devil in the Flesh, also known as Venus in Furs and based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s erotic novel of the latter name, was released in Germany in 1969 but immediately banned upon its first showing in Italy in 1973, with all copies of the film confiscated by the authorities on the grounds of indecency.  It was re-released two years later, but in a heavily-censored version.

Antonelli was most frequently cast as a sultry  temptress in 1970s sex-comedies and dramas
Antonelli was most frequently cast as a sultry
temptress in 1970s sex-comedies and dramas
Malizia was her breakthrough film, but even that had a plot that was sexually highly-charged as Antonelli portrayed a widower’s young housekeeper who battles the advances of both her employer and his teenage sons. The film was a box-office hit and Antonelli became Italy’s newest sex symbol.

She was seldom out of the gossip magazines and in 1972 began a long and sometimes tempestuous relationship with the French playboy actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, her co-star in The Scoundrel (1971) and Docteur Popaul (1972), whose previous girlfriends included Ursula Andress and Brigitte Bardot.  They had met in Paris.

Antonelli was born Laura Antonaz in Pola. Her family was displaced during the Second World War and lived in refugee camps before moving to Naples, where her father found work as a hospital administrator.

As a teenager, her parents regarded her as ugly and clumsy and pressed her to take up gymnastics, in her words, “in the hope I would at least develop some grace.” She became proficient, excelling in rhythmic gymnastics and eventually qualified as a gymnastics instructor.

She moved to Rome and began a career as a high-school gym teacher. Her social life in Rome enabled her to meet people in the entertainment industry, who helped her first find modelling work and then some small parts in films.  She made her big-screen debut in 1966.

Antonelli had a long relationship with the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo
Antonelli had a long relationship with
the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo
Antonelli, who had been married to a publisher, Enrico Piacentini, broke up with Belmondo in 1980.

She had another major success in 1981 opposite the French actor Bernard Giraudeau in Ettore Scola’s drama Passione d’amore (Passion of Love), in which she played the beautiful married mistress of an army captain. The film was later the inspiration for a Stephen Sondheim musical Passion.

Thereafter, Antonelli career began to slip into decline and after a 1991 sequel to Malizia bombed, she began a retirement that saw her eventually become a recluse, her well-being not helped by a 10-year battle to overturn a conviction for dealing cocaine after the drug was discovered by police in a raid on her home. She protested her innocence and finally won €108,000 (£76,000) in compensation.

Unwilling to be seen in public in her later years after botched cosmetic surgery, she become the beneficiary of a law passed in Italy that provides financial assistance for artists who have fallen on hard times.  She died in June 2015 from a heart attack, aged 73, at her villa in Ladispoli, a modest seaside resort about 35km (22 miles) from Rome.

The Croatian port city of Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula,  which was part of Italy between 1920 and 1945
The Croatian port city of Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula,
 which was part of Italy between 1920 and 1945
Travel tip:

The Istrian peninsula, which includes a number of beautiful towns and cities such as Pula, Rovinj, Perec and Vrsar, was partitioned to Italy in the Treaty of Rapallo in 1920 after the dissolution of the Austria-Hungary empire following the First World War. In the Second World War it became a battleground for rival ethnic groups and political groups. It was occupied by Germany but with their withdrawal in 1945  Yugoslav partisans gained the upper hand and Istria was eventually ceded to Yugoslavia. It was divided between Croatia and Slovenia following the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991. Nowadays, only the small town of Muggia, near Trieste, remains part of Italy.

The remains of the Roman villa of Pompeo at Ladispoli, the seaside resort near Rome, where Antonelli died
The remains of the Roman villa of Pompeo at Ladispoli,
the seaside resort near Rome, where Antonelli died
Travel tip:

Modern Ladispoli is a somewhat characterless seaside resort made up of hotels and apartment buildings built on a grid of criss-crossing parallel streets. Ladispoli occupies the area of the ancient Alsium, the port of the Etruscan city of Cerveteri and later a Roman colony.  Remains of both ancient civilisations are visible in the Etruscan necropolis of Monteroni and Vaccina and the Roman Villa of Pompeo.  There is also a castle, the Castle of Palo, built in the 12th century and rebuilt 400 years later.

Also on this day:

1873: The death of astronomer Caterina Scarpellini

1907: The birth of novelist Alberto Moravia

1913: The birth of film music composer Mario Nascimbene

1977: The birth of World Cup hero Fabio Grosso


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