12 July 2012

Luciana Paluzzi

Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi (1937) is best known as SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball (1965). Before and after her brush with James Bond, the red-haired beauty appeared in many Italian films, but also in several Hollywood productions.

 Luciana Paluzzi
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 47.

Whirlwind Courtship
Luciana Paluzzi (sometimes credited as Luciana Paoluzzi) was born in Rome, Italy in 1937 as the daughter of an Italian army officer. She studied in Milan to become a naval engineer and modelled for Italian fashion magazines. At the age of 16, she met a film director and began her screen career with a bit part in the comedy Sua altezza ha detto no!/Her Highness said no! (1953, Maria Basaglia) with Jacques Sernas, followed by an uncredited bit part in the American romance Three Coins in the Fountain (1954, Jean Negulesco), which was filmed in Rome. Her following films included the French comedy J'avais sept filles/I Had Seven Daughters (1954, Jean Boyer) as one of the daughters of Maurice Chevalier, and La châtelaine du Liban/The Lebanese Mission (1956, Richard Pottier) as an attractive mysterious woman in the Arabian desert. She played various small roles and occasionally the female lead, such as in the British adventure Sea Fury (1958, Cy Endfield) starring Stanley Baker and Victor McLaglen in his very last film. The gorgeous redhead showed a strong command of the English language. In England she also costarred with Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers in the comedy Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959, Roy Boulting, Jeffrey Dell). In Germany she appeared in Fritz Lang’s adventure epic Der Tiger von Eschnapur/The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) as the servant of Debra Paget. In the 1959-1960 season, Paluzzi appeared on the American TV network NBC in the short-lived espionage series Five Fingers, with David Hedison. At the set she met actor Brett Halsey, after a whirlwind courtship, the couple married in Las Vegas in January 1960. They appeared together in the potboiler Return to Peyton Place (1961, José Ferrer), but a year later the couple divorced already, shortly after the birth of their son. In Hollywood, Paluzzi guest-starred in popular TV series like Bonanza (1962) and Burke's Law (1964), and was also second female lead in the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello comedy vehicle Muscle Beach Party (1964, William Asher). That year she also played the villainess in the spy-series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. As the seductive THRUSH agent Angela, she appeared in the first season episode The Four Steps Affair and in the movie version of the show's pilot episode, To Trap a Spy. She later also appeared in an episode of the spin-off, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966–1967).

 Luciana Paluzzi
Spanish postcard by Oscarcolor, no. 483.

Fiery, Red-haired Villainess
Audiences worldwide still remember Luciana Paluzzi best as the fiery, red-haired villainess in the James Bond film Thunderball (1965, Terence Young). Paluzzi originally auditioned for the part of the lead Bond girl, Dominetta ‘Domino’ Palazzi. In an interview with Ciaran Brown, she remembered: “Two months went by and I didn't hear anything from anybody. Then I got a call one day from the director Terence Young who said, 'I have good news and I have bad news....the bad news is that you can't play the role of Domino, but the good news is that you're going to play the role of Fiona'. The 'bad girl' part was more fun to play." The producers had cast Claudine Auger, changing the Domino character from an Italian to a Frenchwoman and renaming her Dominique Derval. In his fourth film, James Bond (Sean Connery) aims to recover two stolen warheads. They have been taken by the evil SPECTRE organisation, headed by mastermind Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi). (SPECTRE stands for Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). SPECTRE hides the bombs under the ocean depths and threatens to detonate the weapons unless a ransom of 100,000,000 pounds is paid, so Bond heads to Nassau. There he is seduced by the voluptuous, bouffant-haired Fiona Volpe (Paluzzi). She is a deadly assassin working for SPECTRE, but when she plots to execute Bond, she falls foul of her own scheme. In the Kiss Kiss Club she is shot in the back with a bullet meant for 007. Connery then deposits her body at a nearby table and says to a couple sitting there: "Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She's just dead." Years later, in the documentary Bond Girls Are Forever (2002), Paluzzi told that she was amazed at the level of fame, publicity and recognition she received from Thunderball. However, when she returned to the Italian film industry, she felt she was taken less seriously as an actress.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery. German postcard by ISV, no. H 123.

Femme Fatale
In the same year as Thunderball, Luciana Paluzzi played the female lead in the Italian comedy Questa volta parliamo di uomini/Let's Talk About Men (1965, Lina Wertmüller) opposite Nino Manfredi. In the US she was the love interest in the western Chuka (1967, Gordon Douglas), and the female lead in the American/Japanese sci-fi film, The Green Slime (1968, Kinji Fukasaku). In Europe, Paluzzi appeared in B-films as the thriller Femmine insaziabili/Beverly Hills (1969, Alberto De Martino) starring Dorothy Malone, the spaghetti western Il pistolero dell'Ave Maria/Forgotten Pistolero (1969, Ferdinando Baldi), and the thriller Coartada en disco rojo/Two faces of fear (1972, Tulio Demicheli) with Fernando Rey. She was generally cast as a femme fatale. She reunited with Thunderball co-star Adolfo Celi for the crime drama La mala ordina/The Italian Connection (1972, Fernando Di Leo), with Thunderball director Terence Young for the thriller Klansman (1974) starring Lee Marvin, and acted alongside another former Bond girl, Ursula Andress, in the sex comedy L'infermiera/The Sensuous Nurse (1975, Nello Rossati). For the latter she even did a nude scene. She also continued working in television on such shows as Search (1973) and Hawaii Five-O (1978). One of her last film appearances was a supporting part in The Greek Tycoon (1978, J. Lee Thompson) starring Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset. In 1980 she married Michael Solomon, CEO of a communication company. Luciana Paluzzi and her husband reside in Los Angeles, USA. She has one son with Brett Halsey, film producer Christian Halsey Solomon (1961).

Official Trailer of Thunderball (1965). Source: The Cult Box (YouTube).

Trailer The Green Slime (1968). Source: SideShowCarny (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Brian J. Walker (Brian’s Drive-in Theater), Ciaran Brown (Ciaran Meets the Stars), Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, James Bond Multimedia, Les James Bond Girls (French), Wikipedia, and IMDb.


Bunched Undies said...

Ahhh....The Green Slime. A guilty favorite. And I'd love to see a 1960's Wertmuller comedy. Great post

Bob of Holland said...

Paluzzi herself is one of my guilty favorites too. Vroooom.