Gina Lollobrigida
Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida waves as she arrives at the Red Cross Gala in Monte Carlo August 1, 2014. Image Credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

Gina Lollobrigida, the Italian-born film star who was among Hollywood's most sought-after female actresses in the 1950s and '60s and was frequently described as one of the world's most beautiful women, has died. She was 95.

She died in Rome after a long illness, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

The daughter of a furniture manufacturer shared the screen with leading men such as Humphrey Bogart, Rock Hudson, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Anthony Quinn. She carved out a movie career that landed her on the cover of Time Magazine in 1954 and earned a Golden Globe award in 1961 for the romantic comedy "Come September." The men in her personal life were no less illustrious, including billionaire Howard Hughes and heart-transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard.

As her acting work began to wind down by the early 1970s, Lollobrigida took up photography and sculpture and eventually politics. Her lens captured luminaries such as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, singer Ella Fitzgerald and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1974, she scooped the world's press with an exclusive interview and photo-and-film session with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida Image Credit: IMdB

'Never-Ending Italy'

"La Lollo was genuine, never-ending Italy," Luis Canales wrote in "Imperial Gina: The Very Unauthorized Biography of Gina Lollobrigida" in 1990.

"She could speak and act for the young and the old, the flower-girl in the market and the aristocrat."

Lollobrigida introduced herself to new audiences with her role as Francesca Gioberti in the mid-1980s US television series "Falcon Crest," receiving her third Golden Globe nomination for the role. In 1999, she ran unsuccessfully for one of Italy's seats in the European Parliament for the center-left party the Democrats.

The actress made headlines in May 2013 when she raised almost $5 million for stem-cell research by selling jewelry from her collection. In an interview conducted for auctioneer Sotheby's at the time, Lollobrigida said she was moved by a television program about a young girl who would die if she didn't receive treatment discovered through stem-cell research.

Early Years

Lugina Lollobrigida was born on July 4, 1927, in the Italian village of Subiaco, about 50 miles east of Rome. Her carpenter father, Giovanni Lollobrigida, and her mother, Giuseppina Mercuri, had three other daughters, according to Canales's book.

Lollobrigida entered beauty contests to put food on the table and pay for art lessons and, in 1947, she came third in the Miss Italy contest behind Lucia Bose and Gianna Maria Canale, both of whom later had successful film careers in Italy.

The exposure of the beauty contest led to movie offers for the young Lollobrigida and she appeared in a number of Italian films, such as "Bread Love and Dreams" (1953), before making her first American movie: John Huston's "Beat the Devil" (1953) with Bogart. Other US hits followed, including "Trapeze" (1956) with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" with Quinn the same year.

Though never shy about showing off her figure on screen or in public, Lollobrigida frequently expressed annoyance at depictions of her physical beauty that seemed to dismiss her abilities as an actress and an artist.

"I studied painting and sculpting at school and became an actress by mistake," Parade magazine quoted her as saying in April 2000. "I've had many lovers and still have romances. I am very spoiled. All my life, I've had too many admirers."

Lollobrigida married Slovenian physician Milko Skofic in 1949 and had a son, Milko Skofic Jr., in 1957. They divorced in 1971.