Claudia Cardinale

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Claudia Cardinale
Ottoemezzo-Cardinale crop.png
Claudia Cardinale in Otto e mezzo (1963)
Born Claude Joséphine Rose Cardinale
(1938-04-15) 15 April 1938 (age 77)
Tunis, French protectorate of Tunisia
Residence Rome, Italy
Paris, France
Occupation actress
Years active 1958–present
Spouse(s) Franco Cristaldi (1966–1975)
Partner(s) Pasquale Squitieri (1975–present)
Children Patrizio

Claudia Cardinale (born 15 April 1938) is a Tunisian-born Italian actress of Sicilian parentage who appeared in some of the most prominent European films of the 1960s and 1970s. Notable credits include Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (1960) and The Leopard (1963), Philippe de Broca's Cartouche (1963), Federico Fellini's (1963), and Sergio Leone's epic Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). The majority of Cardinale's films have been either Italian or French.

Outspoken on women's rights causes over the years, Cardinale has been a UNESCO goodwill ambassador for the Defense of Women's Rights since March 2000. In February 2011 the Los Angeles Times Magazine named Cardinale among the 50 most beautiful women in film history.

Early life[edit]

Claudia Cardinale was born Claude Joséphine Rose Cardinale in La Goulette, a neighborhood of Tunis, French protectorate of Tunisia.[1] Her mother, Yolande Greco, was born in Tunisia to Sicilian emigrants from Trapani.[2] Her maternal grandparents had a small maritime construction firm in Trapani but later settled in La Goulette, where there was a large Italian community. Her father was a Sicilian railway worker, born in Gela.[2] Her native languages were French, Tunisian Arabic, and the Sicilian language of her parents. She did not learn to speak Italian until she had already begun to be cast for Italian films.[3]

Cardinale received her education at the Saint-Joseph-de-l'Apparition school of Carthage which she attended along with her younger sister Blanche.[4] She then studied at the Paul Cambon School, where she graduated with the intention of becoming a teacher.[5] As a teenager she was described as "silent, weird, and wild", and like other girls of her generation was fascinated by Brigitte Bardot who came to prominence in the 1956 film And God Created Woman, directed by Roger Vadim.[6]



French film director Jacques Baratier who spotted Cardinale

Cardinale's first contact with the world of cinema was participating in, along with classmates, a short film by French director René Vautier, Anneaux d'or, successfully presented at the Berlin Film Festival. The film made her a minor local celebrity,[7] and led to her being spotted by Jacques Baratier who wanted an actress of Tunisian nationality in his film Goha opposite Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, which marked her film debut.[8][9] The turning point came in 1957, when the Italian cinema in Tunis organized a competition to find the "Most Beautiful Italian Girl in Tunisia",[10] with the prize being a trip to Venice during the Venice Film Festival. She was spotted there by film producers and was invited to attend the Experimental Center of Cinematography in Rome under Tina Lattanzi. She briefly attended but found it an unsatisfactory experience, displaying a poor attitude to the job of an actress, exacerbated by difficulties with the Italian language.[11] She abandoned her studies after three months and decided to return home, earning herself a cover story in the popular weekly Epoca because of her unexpected decision to turn her back on cinema.[12]

Back in Tunis, however, she discovered unexpectedly that she was pregnant, the result of a short, violent relationship with a Frenchman, older than her by about ten years, which began when she was still only seventeen years old.[13] Determined not to have an abortion, she found salvation in the proposal of a 7-year exclusive contract by the Vides production company of Franco Cristaldi.[14][15] Cristaldi largely managed her early career, and she was married to him from 1966 until 1975.[9]

Under the new contract, in 1958 Cardinale had a role opposite leading Italian actors Vittorio Gassman, Totò, Marcello Mastroianni and Renato Salvatori in Mario Monicelli's international successful criminal comedy Big Deal on Madonna Street (I soliti ignoti).[16] She portrayed Carmelita, a girl locked up in the house by her brother. The comedy was a huge success, and Cardinale became instantly recognizable, and some newspapers were already referring to her as "the girlfriend of Italy".[17] Later that year she had a leading role opposite Yvonne Monlaur in Claudio Gora's romantic comedy Three Strangers in Rome.[18]

Cardinale's pregnancy was kept a secret from the public and she worked until seven months into it, falling into a state of depression, tormented by thoughts of suicide.[19] In fear that she could no longer hide the pregnancy, she asked Cristaldi to terminate her contract, but he understood her predicament and sent her to give birth in London, away from the prying eyes of the press, with the excuse that she had gone there to learn the English language for a film.[20] Cristaldi commanded Cardinale not to reveal her own motherhood, because that would be a betrayal of the public and would mean the end of her career, and he drew up a very detailed plan covering every aspect of her life to maintain the secret.[21] Cardinale stated: "I was no longer mistress of my body nor my thoughts. Even talking with a friend about something that could make me appear different from my public image was risky, because it could be disclosed, putting me in trouble. Everything was in the hands of Vides".[22] For seven years Cardinale kept this huge secret, not only from the public but also from Cristaldi's own son who grew up in the family as a brother. Not until a tabloid discovered the truth and authoritative journalist Enzo Biagi published an exclusive article in Oggi magazine and L'Europeo was the painful revelation revealed, but it also came as a great relief and burden off of her shoulders.

In 1959 she appeared opposite Salvatori in the mafia film Vento del sud, and played the wife of Maurizio Arena in Luigi Zampa's Il magistrato.[23] Cardinale also starred opposite Pietro Germi in his crime film Un maledetto imbroglio, an important film for her in learning the craft of acting and learning to feel at ease in front of the camera.[24] It was her first real test as an actress,[25] for which she received a glowing review from Federico Fellini, who stated that he would remember Cardinale for a long time to come, mentioning her long, brown, unruly hair and her face which reminded him of a cat, "passionately lost in the tragedy".[26] She then played the role of Maria in Ralph Thomas's British film Upstairs and Downstairs, which starred Michael Craig and Anne Heywood in the lead roles.[27] In her early roles she was usually dubbed, as her voice was considered by producers too hoarse and even sometimes annoying for the audience.[28]


Cardinale in Il bell'Antonio (1960)

In 1960 Cardinale starred opposite Marcello Mastroianni in Mauro Bolognini's Golden Leopard-winning drama film Il bell'Antonio.[29] The film marked the start of a fruitful partnership between the two. Cardinale stated that her films with Bolognini were among the most joyful of her career, considering him to be "a great director, a man of rare wisdom, professionalism, great taste and culture. Beyond that, for me personally, a sensitive and sincere friend."[30] In Bolognini's films Cardinale played roles of women who lead men to perdition, playing a praying mantis type. During the filming of Il bell'Antonio, her co-star Marcello Mastroianni fell in love with her, but she rejected him as she did not take his love seriously, considering him to be one of those actors who cannot help but fall in love with their costars.[31] Mastroianni insisted that his feelings were genuine, even after many years.[32] The genuine tension between the two actors proved to be ideal for reproducing the tension between the characters in the film. Cardinale next portrayed Pauline Bonaparte in Abel Gance's French film Napoleone ad Austerlitz,[33] and after appearing opposite Gassman and Salvatori in the sequel to Big Deal on Madonna Street, Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti, she portrayed Ginetta, the fiancée of Spiros Focás, alongside Salvatori and Alain Delon in Luchino Visconti's critically acclaimed Rocco and His Brothers.[34] However, it was her leading performance in Francesco Maselli's I Delfini which gained her most attention during this period.[16] Francesco Freda stated that the film launched her "to great success", and noted the "sweetness of her smile" which struck a chord with the public.[35]

Cardinale in Girl with a Suitcase (1961)
The Leopard (1963)

In 1961, Cardinale appeared in Valerio Zurlini's Girl with a Suitcase, Bolognini's La Viaccia, Henri Verneuil's French comedy Les Lions sont lâchés,[36] and had a cameo role in Auguste. The following year she starred opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo as Vénus in the 18th-century set adventure Cartouche, which made her a major film star in France.[37] She also played Angiolina, the romantic interest of Anthony Franciosa in Bolognini's Senilità, a character which film writer Jacek Klinowski describes as "a spirited and strikingly beautiful twenty-year-old".[38]

1963 would prove to be the finest and most prolific year of her career, appearing in a number of leading productions of the year. She starred alongside Burt Lancaster The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), playing a village girl marrying a progressive young aristocrat (Alain Delon), and played a film actress cast by a director (Marcello Mastroianni) in Federico Fellini's . Both films were critically acclaimed and are often cited by critics and scholars as among the greatest films ever made.[39][40] In Cardinale's early Italian films, another actress's voice was dubbed in place of Cardinale's because her naturally deep, hoarse voice (which later became one of the reasons for her success) contrasted with her feminine appearance.[41] She also initially spoke Italian with a slight French accent, something that reportedly bothered Italian audiences of the time. Not until was she allowed to dub her own dialogue.[41][42] Cardinale has said, "When I arrived for my first movie, I couldn't speak a word [of Italian]. I thought I was on the moon. I couldn't understand what they were talking about. And I was speaking in French; in fact I was dubbed. And Federico Fellini was the first one who used my voice. I think I had a very strange voice."[9] In 1963 Cardinale also portrayed a prostitute in La ragazza di Bube, also known as Bebo's Girl,[43] and played Princess Dala, a wealthy aristocratic woman who is the love and jewellery interest of David Niven in the Cortina d'Ampezzo-set The Pink Panther. Cardinale's voice in the film was dubbed by Gale Garnett who went uncredited.[44] Niven raved about working with the actress, calling her "Italy's happiest invention after spaghetti".[45]

Cardinale in Blindfold (1965)

In 1964, Cardinale starred opposite Rod Steiger and Shelley Winters in Francesco Maselli's Italian-made Gli indifferenti, and in the Henry Hathaway's Hollywood picture Circus World opposite John Wayne and Rita Hayworth, in which she plays the daughter of Hayworth who performs with her as a mother-daughter circus act.[46] She also played the lead role in The Magnificent Cuckold, based on the Belgian play Le Cocu magnifique.[47] In 1965 she appeared in Visconti's Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa (known as Sandra in the USA and Of A Thousand Delights in the UK), playing a Holocaust survivor who may have had an incestuous relationship with her brother. Later that year she starred opposite Rock Hudson in Universal Pictures's Blindfold, the last film to be directed by Philip Dunne. Filming began on February 22, 1965 on location in Ocala, Florida.[48] Diane Bond doubled for Cardinale in the film.[49]

By 1966, Cardinale was being cited as the most popular film star in Italy, even more than Mastroianni and Sophia Loren.[50] Life stated that "the Cardinale appeal is a blend of solid simplicity and radiant sensuality. It moves men all over the world to imagine her both as an exciting mistress and wife." However, following her success in Hollywood, she began to express concerns about the direction of her career. In a July 1966 interview with Life, she confessed her fear of being over-glamorized and exploited, like Sophia Loren, and although she had several further U.S. films lined up, stated: "If I have to give up the money, I give it up. I do not want to become a cliché."[50] By the end of the decade, she had returned to making films primarily in Italy, accepting a pay cut, turning her back on Hollywood stardom. Cardinale has further said, "I don't like the star system. I'm a normal person. I like to live in Europe. I mean, I've been going to Hollywood many, many times, but I didn't want to sign a contract."[9] Film writer David Simpson notes that as a result "Cardinale never achieved the same level of fame as Loren and Gina Lollobrigida", although she appeared in a higher number of decent films.[45]

Cardinale in Lost Command (1966)
Cardinale in Nell'anno del Signore (1969)

In 1966 a photograph of Cardinale was featured in the original gatefold artwork to Bob Dylan's album Blonde on Blonde (1966); but because it was used without Cardinale's permission, the photo was removed from the cover art in later pressings.[51] That year she starred in Mark Robson's war picture Lost Command for Columbia Pictures opposite Anthony Quinn, Alain Delon and George Segal. Quinn expressed his love of working with Cardinale, stating that although he adored Cardinale and Loren equally, "I relate easier to Claudia, Sophia creates an impression of something larger than life, something unobtainable. But Claudia - she's not easy, still she's within reach".[50] She also played a Mexican marquessa in the western The Professionals, uniting her on screen again with Burt Lancaster. The following year she appeared in Una rosa per tutti and in Alexander Mackendrick's sex farce Don't Make Waves opposite Tony Curtis. Although occasional funny moments were noted, Don't Make Waves was generally panned by the critics and the lack of chemistry with co-star Curtis was highlighted.[52] In 1968 she featured opposite Franco Nero in Il giorno della civetta and reunited with Rock Hudson in the Italian-made criminal comedy Ruba al prossimo tuo under director Francesco Maselli. She also appeared alongside Rod Taylor in The Hell with Heroes and starred in one of her best known roles as former prostitute Jill McBain in Sergio Leone's epic western Once Upon a Time in the West. In 1969 Cardinale starred in Nell'anno del Signore, Certo certissimo ... anzi probabile, and The Red Tent.


Cardinale in I guappi (1974)

Cardinale has remained active through the decades. Her later films include Qui comincia l'avventura (1975), Fitzcarraldo (1982), Un homme amoureux (1987), Mayrig (1991), Li chiamarono... briganti! (1999), And now... Ladies and Gentlemen (2002), and the critically acclaimed Le fil (The String, 2010) playing a Tunisian mother with a tempestuous relationship with her French-educated gay son.[53] In Comencini's La storia (from Elsa Morante's novel), Cardinale plays a widow raising a son during World War II, and gave another well-received performance. In 1993 she appeared in Son of the Pink Panther.

Cardinale has been honoured at nearly every major film festival. She was a tributee at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival and was the guest of honour at the 47th Antalya "Golden Orange" International Film Festival.[54] She won the Golden Orange Best Actress Award for the movie Signora Enrica (2010) from the Antalya Film Festival in Turkey. She has been given lifetime achievement awards from festivals in Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Armenia, Russia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Australia, the UK and US.

Personal life[edit]

At the Women's World Award 2009

Claudia Cardinale met Italian film producer Franco Cristaldi at the 1964 Academy Awards and was married to him from 1966 until their divorce in 1975.[55] She has lived with Pasquale Squitieri, an Italian film director, since 1975. Cardinale has two children: Patrizio, who was born out of wedlock when she was 19 and later adopted by Cristaldi,[56] and Claudia, whose biological father is Squitieri. She is fluent in Sicilian, Arabic, French, Italian, English, and Spanish.

Cardinale is a political liberal who has supported feminist causes over the years. She has frequently stated her pride in her Tunisian background and has great roots in Arabic culture – as evidenced by her book Ma Tunisie and her appearance as herself in the Tunisian film Un été à La Goulette ("A Summer in La Goulette"). She has been a UNESCO goodwill ambassador for the Defense of Women's Rights since March 2000,[57] and was a goodwill ambassador for the UNESCO World Water Day for 2006.

She published an autobiography, with Anne Mori, Moi Claudia, Toi Claudia in 1995. Cardinale has been a regular attendee of the Academy Awards. She was awarded an honorary Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice Film Festival, and an honorary Golden Bear award at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival. The Los Angeles Times Magazine, in a February 2011 online feature, named Cardinale among the 50 most beautiful women in film history.[58] Cardinale said of her acting, "I never felt scandal and confession were necessary to be an actress. I've never revealed my self or even my body in films. Mystery is very important."[59]





  1. ^ Clancy-Smith 2011, p. 712.
  2. ^ a b Cardinale 1995, p. 5.
  3. ^ Cardinale 1995.
  4. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 12.
  5. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 28.
  6. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 19.
  7. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 23.
  8. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 21.
  9. ^ a b c d "Biography". Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Müller 2004, p. 210.
  11. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 41.
  12. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 42.
  13. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 29-30.
  14. ^ Lancia & Minelli 2009, p. 15.
  15. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 31.
  16. ^ a b Moliterno 2002, p. 134.
  17. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 55.
  18. ^ Lancia & Minelli 2009, p. 24.
  19. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 32.
  20. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 58.
  21. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 33-4.
  22. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 52.
  23. ^ Lancia & Minelli 2009, p. 27.
  24. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 120-121.
  25. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 44.
  26. ^ Fellini 1996, p. 20.
  27. ^ Dixon 2001, p. 1958.
  28. ^ Enrico Lancia, Roberto Poppi. Dizionario del cinema italiano - Le Attrici. Gremese Editore, 2003. ISBN 888440214X. 
  29. ^ Klinowski 2012, p. 290.
  30. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 144.
  31. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 40.
  32. ^ Cardinale 2006, p. 79.
  33. ^ Lancia & Minelli 2009, p. 37.
  34. ^ Bondanella 2001, p. 197.
  35. ^ Freda 2006, p. 63.
  36. ^ Audiard 1995, p. 57.
  37. ^ Cardinale 1995, p. 47.
  38. ^ Klinowski & Garbicz 2012, p. 390.
  39. ^ "The Leopard celebrates its 50th anniversary". British Film Institute. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  40. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema". Empire. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  41. ^ a b Borin 1999, p. 79.
  42. ^ "8½," Criterion Collection DVD, featured commentary track.
  43. ^ Gnudi 2008, p. 60.
  44. ^ "The Pink Panther (1964)". TCM. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  45. ^ a b Simpson 2008, p. 56.
  46. ^ Ringgold 1980, p. 231.
  47. ^ Lancia & Minelli 2009, p. 66.
  48. ^ Zambrana 2002, p. 54.
  49. ^ Lisanti 2003, p. 222.
  50. ^ a b c LIFE. Time Inc. 8 July 1966. pp. 52–4. ISSN 0024-3019. 
  51. ^ F & L Primo. F.L. Primo, Inc. 2000. p. 51. 
  52. ^ Malone 2013, p. 133.
  53. ^ Gronemann & Pasquier 2013, p. 305.
  54. ^ "Claudia Cardinale invited to 47th Altın Portakal fest". Today's Zaman. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  55. ^ Toffel 2006, p. 173.
  56. ^ "Film Star Reveals Secret of Baby Son". The Sun Herald. 16 April 1967. 
  57. ^ "Claudia Cardinale". UNESCO. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  58. ^ Georges, Cary; Leiba, Freddie (February 2011). "The 50 Most Beautiful Women in Film". Los Angeles Times Magazine. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  59. ^ Mosiello 2009, p. 227.

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