Italian cinema bids farewell to actress Virna Lisi

(AGI) Rome, Dec 18 - Italian cinema is mourning Virna Lisi, thearistocratic, beautiful and much-admired actress who died onThursday aged 78. The Italian who conquered Hollywood with hercharm, and who decided to flee from the Mecca of cinema becauseshe did not want the role of the "new Marilyn" they had chosenfor her, condemning her to parts for a blonde airhead and sexdoll. She embodied the 'anti-diva' ethos: living with the samehusband for 53 years until his death a year ago, and rejectingthe advances of distinguished colleagues, including FrankSinatra. In a career

(AGI) Rome, Dec 18 - Italian cinema is mourning Virna Lisi, thearistocratic, beautiful and much-admired actress who died onThursday aged 78. The Italian who conquered Hollywood with hercharm, and who decided to flee from the Mecca of cinema becauseshe did not want the role of the "new Marilyn" they had chosenfor her, condemning her to parts for a blonde airhead and sexdoll. She embodied the 'anti-diva' ethos: living with the samehusband for 53 years until his death a year ago, and rejectingthe advances of distinguished colleagues, including FrankSinatra. In a career of some 60 years she won many awards: sixNastri d'Argento (a record she shares with Margherita Buy), twoDavid di Donatello, a Cannes Best Actress and a Cesar. Born in1936 in Ancona, Virna Pieralisi, aka Lisi, began work in theentertainment world at an early age. Her big break came in 1957when Chlorodont toothpaste chose her to act in their sketch onthe historic Carousel television programme, whose slogan "withthat mouth she can say what she likes" won immediate success,and became a real hit during those years. On April 25, 1960Virna Lisi married Roman architect and chairman of AS Roma,Franco Pesci, bearing him a son. From the mid-sixties she beganto appear in art films too. It was around that time that shewas called to Hollywood, where the US film majors were lookingto launch a possible heir to Marilyn Monroe. Lisi signed aprestigious seven-year exclusive contract with Paramount andmoved to Los Angeles with her husband and son. Over three yearsshe worked in four films with actors such as Jack Lemmon,Terry-Thomas, Frank Sinatra, George C. Scott and Tony Curtis.However she disliked her appointed role of Marilyn-style sexbomb and brainless blonde, and in 1968 refused the lead inRoger Vadim's Barbarella (then played by Jane Fonda), returningto Italy and terminating her contract with Paramount (andpaying a substantial penalty). In the same period she alsorefused to appear nude on the cover of Playboy. Back in Romeshe resumed work at full capacity for two decades, alternatingbetween brilliant and dramatic roles in various films shot inItaly, France, Germany, Great Britain and even in someHollywood productions filmed in Europe. In 1996, she played thelead in Follow Your Heart by Cristina Comencini, based on thenovel by Susanna Tamaro. She worked with the Roman director onher final two feature films, The Best Day of My Life (2002) andLatin Lover. . .