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Lončar in the 1966 sex comedy The Birds, the Bees and the Italians.
28 April 1943
Belgrade, German-occupied Serbia
|Other names||Beba Longar|
Desanka "Beba" Lončar (Serbian Cyrillic: Десанка „Беба“ Лончар, born 28 April 1943) is a Serbian-Italian film actress. She appeared in 52 films between 1960 and 1982. She was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Known for her film career during the 1960s and 1970s, she first became a star in native Yugoslavia before moving to Italy where she achieved considerable success.
Growing up in the Belgrade neighbourhood of Dorćol, Lončar got involved with performing at an early age. During the late 1950s she was given on-camera speaking bits in kids' and youth programmes on the recently launched TV Belgrade. She studied acting under tutelage of director Soja Jovanović who gave Lončar her film debut — an uncredited bit part in 1960's Diližansa snova.
Lončar's break came when she got cast alongside another pair of first-time film performers Boris Dvornik and Dušica Žegarac in France Štiglic's Deveti krug, a Holocaust story about a Jewish family from Ljubljana that would later go on to achieve notable critical success.
Before Deveti krug was even released, 16-year-old Lončar landed her first lead role — the part of Sonja Ilić, beautiful young girl in the teenage comedy Ljubav i moda.
Early career in Yugoslavia
Deveti krug premiered in late April 1960 to good reviews. Although the lead role of Ruth Alkalaj went to another teenage up-an-coming actress — Dušica Žegarac — Lončar's portrayal of Magda also received very positive notices. The film got selected for competition at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival during May with Lončar and Žegarac, both still high school students, getting their first taste of glitz and glamour as they made the rounds at the festival. Several months later in August, the film won the Golden Arena award at the 1960 Pula Film Festival in addition to becoming Yugoslav official submission for the best foreign movie and actually getting nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 33rd Academy Awards.
Later that fall Ljubav i moda came out, creating a sensation the likes of which hadn't been seen in the country up to that point. The cheeky storyline backed by the pop music soundtrack became a commercial smash hit. Carrying the breezy comedy alongside Dušan Bulajić as well as established stars of Yugoslav cinema Miodrag Petrović Čkalja and Mija Aleksić, Lončar's beauty and charm left an impression on the general audiences that paved the way for her movie career.
With only two films under her belt, by the end of 1960, 17-year-old Lončar's cinematic profile was raised beyond all expectations. She next got cast as the female lead in Aleksandar Petrović's directorial debut — romantic drama Dvoje — alongside Miha Baloh and Miloš Žutić. Playing the role of mysteriously flirtatious Belgrade girl Jovana Zrnić, she once again got plenty of positive reaction in the press. The movie got released in late July 1961, and the following year got selected for the competition programme at Cannes. Although it ended up not quite matching the success of Deveti krug on the festival circuit, Dvoje got very good reviews for its innovative approach as a breath of fresh air in the Yugoslav cinema that up to that point mostly made genre films of very specific and rigid structure and narrative. The movie also marked the first time Lončar was officially billed with her nickname Beba rather than her given first name, a practice that would be continued for the remainder of her career.
Already a bona fide film star in Yugoslavia as well as a nationwide sex symbol, Lončar started getting parts in foreign productions being shot in Yugoslavia. Franz Antel cast her in the supporting role of Afra in the Austrian movie …und ewig knallen die Räuber , which was the first time she took part in a foreign film. Following a few more Yugoslav movies where she had notable roles such as Soja Jovanović's comedy Dr whose screenplay was based on Branislav Nušić's novel of the same name and Zdravko Randić's Zemljaci, Lončar took a supporting part in the British over-the-top adventure film The Long Ships directed by Jack Cardiff and starring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, Russ Tamblyn, and Rosanna Schiaffino that was entirely shot in Yugoslavia. She reportedly got the role of Gerda due to another actress already cast for the role leaving the set. Forced to scramble, Cardiff looked for a local replacement and ended up casting blonde Lončar whose physical features fit the requirements of the Viking woman role.
Another foreign production in Yugoslavia Lončar took part in was the German-funded, English-language, western-musical In the Wild West directed by Sobey Martin with the young actress in the female lead role opposite Austrian singer-actor Freddy Quinn. In between she also starred along with Milena Dravić (another young Belgrade actress whose career path resembled Lončar's) as well Ljubiša Samardžić, Boris Dvornik, and Miki Mićović in a romantic summer youth comedy Lito vilovito about local boys from the Dalmatian coastline seducing young tourist girls.
The Italian period
Lončar's career in the Italian cinema began in 1964 when she got cast by Mauro Bolognini for his segment within La donna è una cosa meravigliosa, a three-segment film. At only twenty one years of age she moved to Rome and continued acting in Italian films.
Year 1965 was a breakout one for Lončar in Italy as she appeared in six films. In early spring Carlo Lizzani's La Celestina P... R... premiered where she had a sizable role followed by a bit part in Gérard Oury's Le Corniaud and a bigger one in Steno's Letti sbagliati. The late summer saw her in Mario Monicelli's Casanova 70 playing one of Marcello Mastroianni's many love interests in the film followed by Luciano Salce's Slalom where Lončar and Daniela Bianchi appeared as tandem of temptresses weaving their web around the duo of pals, both of whom are married, played by Vittorio Gassman and Adolfo Celi. She rounded the year off with Massimo Franciosa's Il morbidone.
Her early roles in Italy revealed a theme that would mostly continue for the rest of her career in the country as the Italian directors and producers generally cast her in roles of exotic and mysterious seductresses within the commedia all'italiana genre.
- The Ninth Circle (1960)
- Ljubav i moda (1960)
- And Love Has Vanished (1961)
- …und ewig knallen die Räuber (1962)
- The Long Ships (1964)
- Le Corniaud (1965)
- Slalom (1965)
- Casanova 70 (1965)
- The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (1966)
- Hermann der Cherusker - Die Schlacht im Teutoburger Wald (1967)
- Some Girls Do (1969)
- Brancaleone at the Crusades (1970)
- Who Killed the Prosecutor and Why? (1972)
- Sunday Lovers (1980)
- Kuća ukletih (1982)
Lončar was married to Croatian businessman and socialite Josip "Dikan" Radeljak. The two met in Split during the 1970s and had a son Leo in 1982. After giving birth for the first time at the age of 39, Lončar decided to end her film career. Towards the end of the 1980s the couple separated as Radeljak left Lončar for the younger actress Ena Begović. Following a bitter court battle, their divorce was finalized in 1994 with Radeljak getting the custody of their only son.
During summer 2000, Lončar started living with Serbian skier Stevan Marinković Knićanin whom she eventually married. In late 2000, she moved from Rome to her hometown Belgrade where she's been living ever since. Despite not acting for almost 30 years, Lončar is still very much in demand by the Serbian and former Yugoslav media. However, she leads a very quiet, low-key life and rarely makes media appearances. Her latest one was for the 50th anniversary of the release of Ljubav i moda during June 2010.
- YU heroina, Beba Lončar: Na ceni je elegancija, a ne ekstravagancija!;Mini džuboks, late 1968
- "Beba Lončar za Press: Ne žalim ni za čim". Press. 8 July 2010.