11 January 2014

Lorella De Luca (1940-2014)

Last thursday, 9 January 2014, Italian actress Lorella De Luca (1940-2014) passed away. After her 'discovery' at the age of 14, she became the Sandra Dee of the Italian cinema of the 1950s. Her fresh and graceful appearance in hit comedies like Poveri ma belli/Poor But Beautiful (1956) endeared her to the public. De Luca was the widow of film director Duccio Tessari, in whose films she often starred. She was 73.

Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit. (Casa Editr. Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze), no. 3580. Photo: G.B. Poletto / Titanus.

Poor But Beautiful

Lorella De Luca was born in Florence, Italy in 1940. At the age of fourteen, she was discovered by a director who followed De Luca home, and convinced her father that she should be in films.

Lorella made her acting debut in Fellini’s Il bidone/The Swindlers (Federico Fellini, 1955) as Patrizia, the young daughter of middle-aged con man Augusto (Broderick Crawford). She subsequently attended the prestigious film school Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome.

The following year, De Luca's had her breakout role in Dino Risi's comedy Poveri ma belli/Poor But Beautiful (1956) alongside the other young actors Marisa Allasio, Renato Salvatori and Maurizio Arena. The success of the film made De Luca one of the most popular ingénues of Italian cinema; her freshness and grace endeared her to the public.

She continued playing naïve young girls in hit comedies like Padri e figli/A Tailor's Maid (Mario Monicelli, 1957) as Vittorio De Sica’s daughter, Il medico e lo stregone/Doctor and the Healer (Mario Monicelli, 1957) starring De Sica and Marcello Mastroianni, Domenica è sempre domenica/Sunday Is Always Sunday (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1958), Primo Amore/First Love (Mario Camerini,1958) and Racconti d'estate/Love on the Riviera (Gianni Franciolini, 1958) with Alberto Sordi.

In 1958, De Luca joined Alessandra Panaro and Mario Riva as a show girl in the popular TV quiz show Il Musichiere (The Musician).

She also acted in Belle ma povere/Pretty But Poor (Dino Risi, 1957), the sequel of Poveri ma belli, again starring Maurizio Arena and Renato Salvatori , which was again followed by Poveri milionari/Poor Millionaires (Dino Risi, 1958).

De Luca was one of the several women who were romantically involved with Maurizio Arena. She co-starred with him in Il principe fusto (Maurizio Arena, 1960), a film which he co-wrote, produced and directed. Their relationship created a minor scandal when it was revealed by the Italian media that Arena, after publicly announcing his intention to wed Anna Maria Pierangeli, was also engaged to De Luca.

East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 1375, 1961. Retail price: 0,20 DMN.

Marisa Allasio, Maurizio Arena and Renato Salvatori. East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 1356, 1961. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: Progress. Publicity still for Poveri ma belli/Poor But Beautiful (Dino Risi, 1957).

Peplums and Spaghetti Westerns

During the 1960s, Lorella De Luca played princesses or slave girls in Peplums, the Italian ‘sword-and-sandal’ or ‘muscleman’ films, such as Nel Segno di Roma/Sheba and the Gladiator (Guido Brignone, 1959) starring Anita Ekberg.

De Luca also appeared under the pseudonym Hally Hammond in the Spaghetti Westerns Una Pistola per Ringo/A Pistol for Ringo (Ducio Tessari, 1965), and its sequel Il ritorno di Ringo/The Return of Ringo (Ducio Tessari, 1965), both featuring Giuliano Gemma billed as Montgomery Wood.

Earlier, director Tessari had helped write Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dollars, and encouraged by its success he had decided to produce his own Spaghetti Western. A Pistol for Ringo was a huge success in Italy and Spain, and also did well in the United States.

Between 1965 and 1978, De Luca starred in a total of nine films directed by Ducio Tessari, including the drama Una voglia da morire/ A desire to die (Ducio Tessari, 1965) with Raf Vallone, and the spy film Kiss Kiss...Bang Bang (Ducio Tessari, 1966).

In 1972, Tessari and De Luca married. She also worked behind the scenes as an assistant director. After 1967, with the birth of their two daughters Federica and Fiorenza Tessari, she accepted only occasional parts during the next decade.

Her last acting roles were in The Fifth Commandment (1978) and the television miniseries Nata d'amore/Born of love (Duccio Tessari, 1984).

She was actively involved in her husband's later career and was first assistant director in his final film, the comedy C'era un castello con 40 cani/There Was a Castle with Forty Dogs (Ducio Tessari, 1990) starring Peter Ustinov. De Luca made one last appearance in Bonus malus (Vito Zagarrio, 1993) and retired from the film industry after Tessari's death the following year.

Their two daughters, Federica and Fiorenza Tessari, both are actresses.

Scene from Poveri milionari/Poor Millionaires (1958). Source: EmeliusBisestile (TouTube). No subtitles.

Trailer Una Pistola per Ringo/A Pistol for Ringo (1965). Source: The Spaghetti Western Darabase (YouTube).

Trailer Kiss Kiss...Bang Bang (1966). Source: The Night of the Trailers (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

Sandra Dee is a good comparison