Humphrey Bogart once claimed that Gina Lollobrigida made “Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple". Somehow, this Italian legend’s life was even crazier than that, with legendary suitors, endless lawsuits, rivalries, battles with tycoons, political ambitions, boy toys, rivalries, and so much more.
On July 4, 1927, Gina Lollobrigida arrived into the world kicking and screaming. The future star was born into a middle-class life—but there was something special about this baby.
Even the midwife made an eery prophecy, exclaiming, "This one will be heard of". But no one—not the midwife, parents, or her three sisters—could have guessed how true this would be.
Gina's father was stiflingly traditional and banned her from going to the cinema.
But this couldn't stop Gina—a rebel with her own scandalous cause.
She'd sneak into theaters and secretly watch films from behind the curtains. Above all, Gina had a fascination with love scenes and even convinced the projectionist to give her copies of the tantalizing scenes. The young girl had no clue that she held her own destiny in her hands.
One day, a young Gina came home to the shock of her life. There were Germans occupying her family's residence. During WWII, they invaded Gina's small Italian town. Just like that, the Lollobrigidas' comfortable life and livelihoods vanished into thin air. This occupation was already a nightmare.
Tragically, it got even worse.
Gina and her family fled with only what they could carry. They slept outdoors, scavenged for food, and barely evaded secret mines. Her parents took any work they could find and struggled to support the family.
In the wake of this scrambling nightmare, a silver lining appeared.
Gina was ecstatic after earning a singing scholarship at a prestigious performing arts school. But then the universe dealt her another problem.
In just six months, Gina had to seek a new singing instructor six times. The school and instructors found it nearly impossible to teach her.
Understandably, many would assume she was a difficult or incompetent pupil. The truth was bizarre. Turns out, the 19-year-old was too beautiful and charming.
Not one, but six teachers fell in love with her. Gina realized early on that her beauty was a double-edged sword: It lured people in, but afterward, her admirers refused to let her go.
Then one day, the tables turned.
On New Year’s 1947, Gina Lollobrigida met Milko Skofic, a handsome doctor seven years her senior. The young beauty was familiar with being loved. But after just one night with this man, everything changed.
Now, Lollobrigida was doing the pining and yearning.
That night, she came home and wrote about her dreams of marrying him. New year, new love. Sadly, nothing was as it seemed.
Once again, Gina got what she wanted. Just two years later, the mismatched pair married. But there was a stunning imbalance in their professional careers.
Gina was a struggling actress, while Milko was a hotshot doctor—not that either cared.
They were blissfully in love. But the newlyweds had no idea what challenges and temptations the universe would throw their way.
In the late 1940s, Gina's career became a source of frustration.
She landed one of her first leading roles in the film Pagliacci, only to have it flop hard. Critics despised the movie. But that wasn't the worst part. Reviewers didn’t just criticize the film as a whole, they went after her acting.
If it was any consolation, critics praised her beauty.
But this only angered Gina more.
Gina Lollobrigida didn’t take any comfort in compliments about her beauty. In fact, she was sick of everyone focusing on her appearance. The burgeoning star knew she had so much more to offer. Once again, her stunning looks became both an asset and a burden.
However, if Gina went looking for support, she couldn’t find any at home.
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Sadly, Gina's own husband didn’t believe in her. Milko even tried to talk her out of acting altogether. He didn’t believe she would be successful. It seemed like the world was against her—but Gina wasn’t just a pretty face, she was bold and brave.
These doubters motivated her, and more than anything, she wanted to prove everyone wrong.
Gina just needed the right role. When Hollywood came calling, it seemed like a golden twist of fate.
Gina became a star, we know that now. But her path to Hollywood was more than a little creepy. It was lust at first sight when Howard Hughes came across a photograph of a bikini-clad Gina Lollobrigida. She was 23.
He was 44.
The movie boss enticed Lollobrigida with an invitation for a screen test in Hollywood. She accepted as long as he also provided a ticket for her husband. Hughes agreed. But it all seemed too good to be true. Could she really trust this notorious man?
Turns out, no. Last minute, the mogul only provided Gina with one ticket instead of the promised two. She faced a huge dilemma. After all, Hughes was a Hollywood power player. He could make or break her international career. The actress wanted—no—needed a breakout role. But what price was she willing to pay?
Howard Hughes was a womanizer whose sordid affairs with actresses weren’t exactly secret. He wasn’t offering Gina this incredible opportunity out of the goodness of his heart. However, Gina got support from a shocking place.
Her husband Milko encouraged her to go on this long trip without him.
The last thing the doctor wanted was his wife's blame or resentment. While no one expected Hughes to respect Gina’s marriage vows, Milko did. They trusted each other. He made a risky gamble—and sent his young wife off to the lion’s den.
When Gina Lollobrigida landed in Los Angeles, she brought her luggage, but most importantly, her ambition.
The moment she landed, Hughes’ agents whisked her off to a luxurious hotel suite with staff on hand at her beck and call.
This all-expenses trip seemed like a dream—but it was actually a gilded prison. Hughes stationed guards outside her room, not to protect her, but to bar her from going anywhere without him.
He even blocked her phone calls. But his deception didn't end there.
Gina flew all the way to Hollywood and subjected herself to Hughes’ domination, only to be disappointed. The situation was even more unsettling than she thought. Turns out, there was no screen test waiting for her. Hughes had no interest in boosting her career unless she paid the heftiest price imaginable.
The only scene Hughes gave her was a divorce scene. Subtle. His true intentions were obvious and so, so shady.
Gina saw Hughes every day, but as his virtual prisoner, it wasn’t by choice. It was clear Hughes was more interested in her body than her acting chops.
He made relentless propositions daily. The scandal and allure of the industry tested her, but Gina passed.
Turns out, the good doctor’s faith was not misplaced. She even rejected Hughes—for the most unbelievable reason.
Gina didn’t reject Hughes purely out of faithfulness to her husband. Turns out Hughes was also too rich, if that’s even possible. She felt the gap between them—as a young actress and millionaire mogul—was too great.
That’s why Lollobrigida turned the tables and challenged Hughes: she’d consider his proposals if he gave up his wealth. Hughes didn’t just keep his millions, he also kept harassing her. One day, Lollobrigida had enough and demanded to go home.
Hughes agreed, but unfortunately for Gina, he had one last trick up his sleeve.
Like so many actresses before and after her, Hughes took advantage of Gina—but not in the way you’re thinking of. Before she left, Hughes threw her a farewell party. He made sure she had one too many drinks.
Then, he presented the tipsy woman—who struggled with English even while sober—with a contract. Hughes promised her it was for something innocent, and she acquiesced. Turns out, Gina Lollobrigida had signed a deal with the devil.
If Hughes couldn’t own Gina's body, her career would do. Thanks to this contract, she couldn’t work with anyone but him in America. For years, he obstructed her American career.
He didn’t give her any opportunities—not that she would’ve accepted them anyway.
Understandably, other American studios were reluctant to cross this legend. As a result, Gina's American career struggled and remained in limbo for a decade. Tragically, the powerful man duping the younger woman is a tale as old as time.
But Hughes didn’t know he’d finally met his match.
Gina was strong-willed enough that the prospect of Hughes winning was intolerable. After all, she’d done nothing wrong, yet he punished her for honoring her marriage. So she came up with a genius plan. Fortunately, Gina discovered a loophole that allowed her to appear in American films.
Hughes couldn’t stop her from filming American films outside of the country. Even with these challenges, she pushed forward—and the universe finally rewarded her in massive ways.
In 1953, Gina finally caught her big break in Pane, amore e fantasia. The BAFTA nomination was just the cherry on top.
Once the ball started rolling, it didn’t stop.
In the same year, she appeared in John Huston’s Beat The Devil with Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones. The actress proved she didn’t need to give into Hughes’–or any sketchy producer’s– advances to become a star. Gina could do it herself—and boy, did she ever.
There was no actress quite like Gina Lollobrigida:
She was a one-woman show. The star was her own agent, publicist, makeup artist, and photo editor. All she had was her doctor-turned-manager husband. Even then, Milko Skofic lacked the industry connections of typical managers.
Gina always knew she was special. Now, she’d proved it to everyone. But this led to an ego that reared its diva's head.
When Lollobrigida agreed to be in the Italian film The Lady Without Camelias, she was probably excited. She had no idea what she was in for. The satirical plot featured a talentless shopgirl who becomes a star purely due to her face and body. This enraged Gina.
Not only did she view it as an insult to Italian cinema as a whole, but it also felt like a personal affront to her. After all, Lollobrigida constantly struggled with accusations that she was nothing but eye candy. She gave producers a chance to amend the script but they refused.
That's when she made a drastic decision.
Gina felt like she had no choice but to walk out on the film—and that's when it got unbelievably messy. The producers sued her for 200 million lire for breach of contract. In retaliation, Lollobrigida countersued.
She argued the movie was insulting not only to her but to the nation’s film industry. The public and law agreed with Gina.
She felt vindicated when The Lady Without Camelias was a financial and critical flop. But this wasn't the last time she used her strong will to wrangle a victory.
In 1956, Gina Lollobrigida faced Howard Hughes head-on with the release of her first American film Trapeze. She rejected his assertions that his studio—and by default him—owned her. With this film, she boldly declared she could freely star in any American film.
Gina may have lost a few battles, but she won the war: The film was a hit. She was one of the very few women who triumphed over this man. Unfortunately, Hughes was not the only suitor to cross boundaries in his pursuit of her.
Not unlike Howard Hughes, Prince Rainier III pursued Gina Lollobrigida for years. Unfortunately—for her and his wife—he was just as brazen. It hit a chilling climax.
Seriously, where did he find all this audacity? The Italian refused out of respect for not only Kelly, but herself. In stark contrast, Gina was finding out just how remarkable her own marriage was.
The marriages of Hollywood stars are notorious and for good reason. The real love lives of celebrities were often more dramatic and scandalous than their movies. Likewise, Gina Lollobrigida’s marriage was shocking, but for totally opposite reasons.
Her marriage was largely happy and faithful. Despite the countless wealthy, famous, and powerful suitors who made advances, she rejected them all.
As the industry found out, Gina refused to play their games.
Italian, beautiful, poor during WWII, and beauty pageant winners: Both Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren were practically twins. One couldn’t help but compare the two. But the ravenous media took it to a whole new level by manufacturing a rivalry.
Tabloids added fuel to the fire by hounding them with inflammatory questions about one another. But the truth was not what it appeared.
In actuality, there was no feud. But that doesn't mean Gina and Sophia didn't play games. Both Italian stars purposefully disappointed the press. Gina's tool of choice against these predators?
Ignorance. She even pretended not to understand English when asked provocative questions.
But while Gina and Sophia didn’t have beef, she did have an excruciating encounter with another star.
One day, Gina experienced every woman’s nightmare. The Kremlin hosted a reception for the industry’s best and brightest. Naturally, the actress spent hours ensuring her outfit, makeup, and hair were immaculate.
Her white lace Dior dress was stunning, as was her coiffed up-do. The last thing she expected or wanted was to wear the same outfit as another guest—but that's exactly what happened.
Gina had a doppelganger at the event—and it wasn't just any guest, it was Elizabeth Taylor. Even worse, the actresses styled their hair the same way.
This fashion disaster made headlines all over the globe. Afterward, Lollobrigida found another way to spend her riches: on custom couture to ensure this mortifying moment never happened again. However, this wasn’t the only negative encounter she had with fellow icons.
While Sean Connery is a legend today, he was a nobody when he starred with Gina Lollobrigida in Woman of Straw. The actress was the star.
She knew it and behaved accordingly. By the end of filming, Connery vowed to never work with her again.
Hilariously, Gina didn’t feel the same way and stated she’d accept any role alongside Connery, even without seeing the script. The spicy actress was an acquired taste many didn’t appreciate. This had some huge consequences.
Gina Lollobrigida was a magnet for lawsuits. The emphasis on her beauty always frustrated her, and so she soothed this frustration by suing reviewers who took it too far. At one point, the actress juggled 10 lawsuits simultaneously. Except, this love of litigation is ironic considering her own run in with the law.
In 1965, Gina Lollobrigida made an alarming discovery. She couldn’t access any of her jewelry. Was she the victim of a seven-figure theft? Turns out, she owed thousands in state taxes. This enraged Gina because she wasn't a tax evader...at least not intentionally.
It was an ordeal, but she finally sorted out this mess and recovered her treasures.
Fortunately for the Italian star, this misstep didn't impact her fans' worship of her in the slightest.
There are many actresses, but there was only one Gina Lollobrigida. Italians called her “Gina Nazionale,” or “the Pride of Italy". Plus, she wasn’t just the Pride of Italy, to many, she was Italy.
As a result, she often represented her country when foreign dignitaries visited.
Countless Old Hollywood stars achieved riches and fame—but who can say they were pseudo-ambassadors? By this point she had proved she was more than a pretty face, and she had the resume to back it up.
Most actresses can only dream of such success, but Gina Lollobrigida lived it.
Lollobrigida appeared to have a perfect life: a successful career, a loving marriage, a beautiful son, beauty, riches, and fame. If you think that sounds too good to be true, you’re right. Fans and co-stars alike were stunned after the darker parts of her life came to light.
Turns out, Gina and her husband were divorced in every way except legally. But strangely, cheating was not at the heart of it. The couple simply drifted apart and became incompatible over time.
But there wasn’t anything they could do until Italy legalized divorce in 1971. The second that happened, they raced toward their freedom.
They were one of the first divorces in the nation. Sadly, Gina's career followed the downfall of her marriage.
Most stars struggle to cope as their careers slow down. But not Gina. Instead of clinging to the glory days, she found her calling—for a second time—as a photojournalist. And this wasn’t some vanity project, she was good.
Undoubtedly her star power and connections helped her land opportunities to photograph Paul Newman and Salvador Dali. But she wasn’t content with entertainment or fluff pieces about her fellow stars. Soon, she shocked the world. She landed a gig with a man more notorious than all of Hollywood combined.
Gina Lollobrigida became the envy of any serious journalist after she landed an interview with reclusive Cuban ruler Fidel Castro. Even better? It’s still a mystery how she pulled it off.
What Gina wanted, she got...even from Castro. In 1975, she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary Rittrato di Fidel, featuring her work with him. Unfortunately, history repeated itself as she fended off salacious gossip questioning her work.
Some people couldn’t help but wonder: How did Gina Lollobrigida nab this unbelievable opportunity? What did the pair get up to in Cuba? Haters had theories, and none of them were flattering. The rumors of a secret love affair with Castro stunned her, especially considering her many failures in that department.
Her work with a dictator was ironic considering her foray into democratic politics.
At 72, Gina found yet another calling and jumped into politics. In 1999, she ran for European Parliament. Unfortunately, her star power had limits and she did not succeed. Still, she was undeterred.
This was not the end of her political aspirations—but for now, she put politics on the back burner in favor of love.
Gina was blessed with beauty, but cursed in love.
Despite her long list of admirers, she couldn't find The One. As she said, “My experience has been that, when I have found the right person, he has run away from me. I am too strong, too popular. Important men, they want to be the star—they don’t want to be in your shadow".
That didn’t stop her from seeking romance out in questionable places.
In October 2006, Gina Lollobrigida shocked the world by announcing her relationship and engagement with Javier Rigau y Rafols, a man 34 years younger than her.
But that wasn't the surprising part. You see, the couple had met years ago at a party in Monaco in 1984, and had been secretly together ever since.
This sparked a media furor that tested their devotion.
Just two months after announcing their engagement, this May to December romance ended up in flames.
Gina broke off the engagement. The devastated woman blamed the media: “Javier is desperate. Ever since we have announced this wedding, he has been tormented with lies and slander. He can’t take it anymore".
It was a tragic end to a secret 22-year relationship. Except…was it?
Turns out, her love story was a myth and fairytale.
Gina and Rigau had not secretly dated since 1984. Or even 2000. They'd lied about being together for 22 years. In reality, they’d only been together for two years.
They told the falsehood in the hope that people would take their imminent marriage more seriously. Well that didn’t work, did it? Little did Gina know, it was about to get worse, and this time it was her ex-fiancé who dealt her a terrible betrayal.
In 2013, Gina Lollobrigida discovered something more shocking and bizarre than any of her Hollywood films.
Sometimes reality really is stranger than fiction.
One day, she randomly stumbled across marriage certificates for her and her ex, Rigau. According to this paperwork, they married in 2010. Gina made it her mission to get to the bottom of what had to be a mistake.
Shockingly, Rigau married Gina in 2010.
..without her. He used a stand-in. Her former boy toy insisted that she'd signed the paperwork, agreeing to marriage by proxy to escape the media. Rigau claimed they were over the moon.
Gina, however, asserted that he'd conned her. She accused him of arranging this marriage behind her back.
That said, she launched a legal battle. It brought some shocking secrets to light.
According to Gina, she and Rigau never slept together—in every sense of the word. She insisted they never slept in the same room while traveling, much less the same bed. Meanwhile, Rigau vehemently denied her claims.
Instead, he insisted they were together in every way. This legal battle morphed into a huge hot mess—but as more people became involved, it got even worse.
Things did not look good for Gina Lollobrigida after Giulia Citani, her ex-lawyer, stepped in. She wasn't on her side at all.
In a massive betrayal to the star, Citani insisted that her former client was legally married and signed the paperwork. In response, Gina insisted the Rigau, Citani, and others were conspiring against her.
In 2017, Gina faced her biggest disappointment yet. Her world turned upside down after Spanish courts ruled their marriage was legitimate.
But the fight wasn't over yet.
After appeals, the courts finally charged him with forgery. But guess what? This crazy ordeal with Rigau didn’t deter Gina from the dating arena. Enter: boy toy number two.
In 2015, there was a new guy—and scandal—on the scene. Andrea Piazolla became her newest employee and “the best person” in her life. He was 27 to her 88, just how she liked it.
Today, there is still intrigue and scandal surrounding this relationship.
Was he just an assistant? Or was he yet another boy toy and doomed love affair? Tragically, she just couldn’t catch a break as drama erupted around this one too.
Gossip turned into alarm as Gina gave extravagant gifts and cash to Piazolla and his family.
Eyebrows raised as the employee ended up with three luxury properties and a Ferrari.
Gina Lollobrigida maintained that she saw him as just a son, and that she willingly forked over the cash. But even this caused a horrific chain of events. That didn’t please her real son, who went on the offensive.
Milko Skofic Jr, Gina's only child, jumped in to rescue his mom from Piazolla’s clutches. Or did he?
In March 2015, Milko begged Italian courts to assign a guardian who’d take over his mother’s finances and business decisions.
He insisted his intentions were pure; he simply wanted to protect her from predators like Piazolla. But Gina wasn't grateful for his intrusion—quite the opposite. She believed his behavior was traitorous and greedy, and she wasn't afraid to show her displeasure.
For years, Milko and Gina had a relationship that was, at best, strained. But his legal maneuvers pushed her over the edge. Now, she wanted nothing to do with him and his shameless attempts to seize her wealth for himself. Their family squabbles turned into a fierce and public battle where both sides refused to surrender.
Gina Lollobrigida insisted she was of sound mind, and the courts agreed with her. But she didn’t feel any sense of triumph from this victory. She couldn’t help but find it bittersweet and disappointing. This was nothing like her past battles.
No victory took away the pain of feeling betrayed by your only child.
Milko may have lost this battle, but he waited for the perfect opportunity to strike. Years later, that opportunity came.
Thanks to her incredible career, Gina Lollobrigida had lots of money and knew how to spend it. She indulged younger men and their expensive tastes. In fact, she was so generous that, once again, her son questioned her mental stability.
He launched another battle against her. In October 2021, Milko requested the courts block her accounts to prevent her from giving any more lavish gifts. If he won, Gina could only use her hard-earned money for essential expenses. The bitter fight had devastating results.
The tables turned against Gina.
The Supreme Court of Italy ruled that the aging star needed a legal guardian. Her age and wealth made her a target for vultures. She felt "embittered but not resigned". Despite this terrible defeat, Gina refused to lie down and give up, continuing to challenge doubts about her mental capacities.
At 95 years old, Gina Lollobrigida ran for the Italian senate. The ISP’s opinions are controversial, to say the least. These include leaving the European Union, exiting NATO, and refusing to arm Ukraine against Russia. Despite her fame, Gina Lollobrigida received just over one percent of the votes.
Born in 1927, Gina Lollobrigida was one of the few surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age Era. Almost everyone she knew and loved sadly passed on without her. While the lives of her legendary contemporaries were tragically cut short, she marched on. But eventually, all of this had to come to an end—and Gina left this world in her usual style.
Gina Lollobrigida had no problem being in the spotlight, but she also knew how to do a magnificent curtain call.
Since 2009, she refused to allow any visitors to her home, either her house in Rome or her villa in Monaco. On January 16, 2023, the legendary actress, the last true star of Golden Hollywood, passed at the age of 95.
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