Virna Lisi

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Virna Lisi
Virna Lisi cropped.jpg
Born Virna Lisa Pieralisi
(1936-09-08) 8 September 1936 (age 78)
Ancona, Italy
Occupation actress
Years active 1953-present
Spouse(s) Franco Pesci (1960–2013; his death)
Children Corrado (b. 1962)
Relatives grandsons: Franco (b. 1995)
Federico and Riccardo (b. 2003)

Virna Lisi (born Virna Lisa Pieralisi 8 November 1936 in Ancona, Marche, Italy) is a Cannes and César award-winning Italian film actress.


Early career[edit]

She 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 line of steel, 1953). Initially, she did musical films, like E Napoli canta (Napoli sings, 1953) and the successful Questa è la vita (1954, with the popular Totò). Nonetheless, her beauty was more valued than her talent, as seen in Le diciottenni and Lo scapolo 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).[1]

Hollywood career[edit]

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). 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 also gained attention for a photo of her 'shaving' her face that appeared on the March 1965 cover of Esquire magazine.

Career renaissance in Europe[edit]

Indeed, to overcome her role typecasting as the Seductive Woman, Virna Lisi sought new types of roles, of evil women or of a lover in relationships of disparate age for example. In those years, Virna Lisi 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, Virna Lisi decided temporarily to attend to her family, husband Franco Pesci and her son Corrado, born in July 1962. Nonetheless, a career renaissance occurred soon for Virna 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,[2] along with a Silver Ribbon for Best supporting Actress.

Particularly since the late 1990s, Virna Lisi did many successful dramatic productions of television. In 2002, Lisi starred in her last film, Il più bel giorno della mia vita.


A Brazilian rock band, Virna Lisi, is named after her. The 1980s Argentinian band Sumo (led by Luca Prodan), made a song for her. The singer's brother is the actor Andrea Prodan, who appeared with her in the movie I ragazzi di via Panisperna (1988).


Selected filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1953 The Steel Rope
And Naples Sings Maria
1955 Eighteen Year Olds Maria Rovani
The Bachelor uncredited
Les Hussards Elisa
1956 The Woman of the Day Liliana Attenni
The Courier of Moncenisio Jeanne Thibaud
1961 Romolo e Remo Julia
1962 Eva Francesca Ferrara
1965 The Birds, the Bees and the Italians Milena Zulian
How to Murder Your Wife Mrs. Ford
The Dolls Luisa (segment "La telefonata")
Casanova 70 Gigliola
1966 Assault on a Queen Rosa Lucchesi
Not with My Wife, You Don't! Julie Ferris/Lieutenant Julietta Perodi
1966 The 25th Hour Suzanna Moritz
The Girl and the General Ada
Arabella Arabella
1968 Anyone Can Play Luisa
The Girl Who Couldn't Say No Yolanda Nominated—Nastro d'Argento for Best Actress
1969 The Secret of Santa Vittoria Caterina Malatesta
The Christmas Tree Catherine Graziani
1970 The Voyeur Claude
1973 Zanna Bianca Sister Evangelina
1977 Beyond Good and Evil Elisabeth Nietzsche Nastro d'Argento for Best Supporting Actress
1979 Ernesto Ernesto's Mother
1980 La Cicala Wilma Malinverni David di Donatello for Best Actress
1982 Time for Loving Adriana David di Donatello for Best Supporting Actress
Nastro d'Argento for Best Supporting Actress
1990 Merry Christmas... Happy New Year Elvira Nastro d'Argento for Best Actress
Nominated—David di Donatello for Best Actress
1994 La Reine Margot Catherine de Medici Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award
Nastro d'Argento for Best Supporting Actress
César Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—David di Donatello for Best Supporting Actress
1996 Follow Your Heart Olga Nastro d'Argento for Best Actress
Italian Golden Globe for Best Actress
Nominated—David di Donatello for Best Actress
2002 The Best Day of My Life Irene Nastro d'Argento for Best Supporting Actress
Flaiano Prize for Best Acrtess - Audience Award



  1. ^ "Virna Lisi" (in Italian). Rai Uno. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Queen Margot". Retrieved 2009-08-27. 

External links[edit]