03 November 2013

Lisa Gastoni

Gorgeous Lisa Gastoni (1935) is an Italian film actress, who started her career with small parts in British films. In the 1960s and 1970s she became a sensual leading lady of the Italian cinema, who won several awards.

Lisa Gastoni
Yugoslavian postcard by Cik Razglednica.

Diabolical School Girl

Lisa (sometimes Liza) Gastoni was born Elisabetta Gastone in Alassio, Italy in 1935. She was the daughter of an Italian father and an Irish mother. She moved to England after World War II and there began her film and modelling career.

In 1954 she had a small part as Lisa Gastoni in the comedy Doctor in the House (Ralph Thomas, 1954) based on the novel by Richard Gordon, which follows a group of students through medical school. Doctor in the House was the most popular box office film of 1954 in Great Britain and made of Dirk Bogarde a big star.

She played more small roles in comedies like Man of the Moment (John Paddy Carstairs, 1955) featuring Norman Wisdom, The Baby and the Battleship (Jay Lewis, 1956) starring John Mills and Richard Attenborough, and Three Men in a Boat (Ken Annakin, 1956) with Laurence Harvey.

Gastoni was one the diabolical school girls in Blue Murder at St Trinian's (Frank Launder, 1957), the sequel to The Belles of St. Trinian's (Frank Launder, 1954), set in Ronald Searle's fictional St Trinian's Girls School.

Throughout the 1950s, Gastoni appeared in various B-films such as the romantic comedy Second Fiddle (Maurice Elvey, 1957) with Adrienne Corri, the thriller Intent to Kill (Jack Cardiff, 1958) starring Richard Todd, and the crime film The Breaking Point (Lance Comfort, 1961). She also co-starred as Giulia in the popular TV series The Four Just Men (1959-1960) and appeared in some episodes of the hit series Danger Man (1960–1961), starring Patrick McGoohan.

Patrick McGoohan (1928-2009)
Patrick McGoohan in Danger Man. Dutch postcard. Publicity still for the TV series Danger Man (1960-1961).

Swashbucklers And Peplums

Lisa Gastoni returned to Italy in the 1960s. In 1961, she featured in Le avventure di Mary Read/Queen of the Seas (Umberto Lenzi, 1961). She appeared in such Swashbucklers as I quattro moschettieri/The Four Musketeers (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1963) and in Peplums, the Italian sword-and-sandal films, like Tharus figlio di Attila/Colussus and the Huns (Roberto Bianchi Montero, 1962).

Gastoni had a small part in the melodrama Eva (Joseph Losey, 1962) featuring Jeanne Moreau. In 1965 she played the female lead in the science fiction horror film I Criminali della Galassia/Wild, Wild Planet (Antonio Margheriti, 1965). The low-budget aesthetics and general cheesy vibe of the picture have made it a cult favourite. Also interesting was the atmospheric Giallo Le notti della violenza/Callgirls 66 (Roberto Mauri, 1965).

Eventually Lisa Gastoni gained the attention of respected directors. She co-starred in the crime drama Svegliati e uccidi/Wake Up and Die (Carlo Lizzani, 1966), based on the real life of Italian criminal Luciano Lutring (Robert Hoffmann), aka ‘il solista del mitra’ (the machine-gun soloist). For her role as Lutring’s wife,  she was awarded with the Nastro d'Argento (Silver Ribbon) for Best Actress.

The turning point in her film career was her role as the sensual aunt of wheelchair bound Lou Castel in Grazie, zia/Come Play with Me (Salvatore Samperi, 1968). The drama was listed to compete at the Cannes Film Festival, but the festival was cancelled due to the May 1968 events. This part would set the tone for the roles she would play for the next decade; attractive bourgeois women who were seductive yet sexually frustrated.

Her later films include such erotic dramas as Maddalena (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1971) and La seduzione/Seduction (Fernando Di Leo, 1973) with Maurice Ronet. At the time of the latter’s release, the newspapers widely reported the news of a man who died of a heart attack watching the film. She was awarded with a Silver Ribbon for Best Actress for her role in the drama Amore amaro/Bitter Love (Florestano Vancini, 1974). Later followed Scandalo/Scandal (Salvatore Samperi, 1976) with Franco Nero, and the thriller L'immoralità/Cock Crows at Eleven (Massimo Pirri, 1978).

After 1979, Gastoni retired from acting for over 20 years, focusing on painting and writing. She returned to the screen in Cuore sacro/Sacred heart (Ferzan Özpetek, 2005) as the mother of an workaholic businesswoman (Barbora Bobulova). The film won two David di Donatello awards, including one for Bobulova as Best Actress. Since then Lisa Gastoni played several supporting parts in films and on TV.

Trailer I Criminali della Galassia/Wild, Wild Planet (1965). Source: Sleaze-o-Rama (YouTube).

Italian trailer Grazie, zia/Come Play with Me (1968). Source: CGHomeVideo (YouTube).

Sources: AllMovie, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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