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Virna Lisi (Virna Pieralisi)

Virna Lisi

Ancona-born Virna Lisi began her film career in her teens. Discovered in Paris by two Neapolitan producers, Antonio Ferrigno and Ettore Pesce, she debuted in La corda d’acciaio (The Steel Rope, 1953). Initially, she did musical films, like E Napoli canta (Napoli Sings, 1953) and the successful Questa è la vita (Of Life and Love, 1954, with the popular Totò). Nonetheless, her beauty was more valued than her talent, as seen in Le diciottenni (Eighteen Year Olds) and Lo scapolo (The Bachelor) films of 1955. Yet she filled demanding roles, particularly in La donna del giorno (1956), Eva (1962), and the spectacle Romolo e Remo (1961). In the late 1950s, Lisi did theater at Piccolo Teatro di Milano in I giacobini by Federico Zardi under the direction of Giorgio Strehler. During the 1960s, Lisi did comedies and participated in television dramas that were widely viewed in Italy. Lisi also promoted a toothpaste brand on television with a slogan that would become a catchphrase among Italians: “con quella bocca può dire ciò che vuole” (with such a mouth, she can say whatever she wants). Hollywood producers sought a new Marilyn Monroe and so, Lisi debuted in Hollywood comedy as a blue-eyed blonde temptress opposite Jack Lemmon in How to Murder Your Wife (1965) and appeared with Tony Curtis in Not with My Wife, You Don’t! (1966). Virna Lisi then starred with Frank Sinatra, in Assault on a Queen (1966), in La Ragazza e il Generale, co-starring with Rod Steiger, and in two films with Anthony Quinn, The Secret of Santa Vittoria, directed by Stanley Kramer, and the war drama The 25th Hour. She garnered attention for a photo of her ‘shaving’ her face that appeared on the March 1965 cover of Esquire magazine.

To overcome her typecasting playing seductresses, Virna Lisi sought new types of roles, of evil women or of a lover in relationships of disparate age for example. In those years, she participated in Italian productions, in Casanova 70 and Le bambole (1965), Arabella (1967), and Le dolci signore (1968). Lisi also starred in The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (1965) which shared the Palme d’Or at Cannes that year. In the early 1970s, she decided temporarily to attend to her husband Franco Pesci and their son, Corrado. Nonetheless, a career renaissance occurred soon for Lisi with a large list of productions, including Al di là del bene e del male (1977), Ernesto (1979), and La cicala (1980). For the film La Reine Margot (1994), Lisi portrayed a malevolent Catherine de’ Medici and so she won both the César and Cannes Film Festival awards, along with a Silver Ribbon for Best supporting Actress. In 2002, Lisi starred in her last film, Il più bel giorno della mia vita. On 18 December 2014, Lisi died of cancer in Rome at age 78.

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  • Annex - Lisi, Virna_NRFPT_01 -

Born

  • November, 08, 1936
  • Ancona, Italy

Died

  • December, 18, 2014
  • Rome, Italy

Cause of Death

  • cancer

Cemetery

  • Cimitero Flaminio
  • Rome, Italy

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