Gia Scala

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Gia Scala
Gia Scala Goodyear Theatre.jpg
Gia Scala
Born Josephine Grace Johanna Scoglio
(1934-03-03)3 March 1934
Liverpool, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
Died 30 April 1972(1972-04-30) (aged 38)
at home Hollywood, California, US
Cause of death Accidental?-- new evidence
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California
Occupation Actress, model
Years active 1955—1969
Spouse(s) Don Burnett (1959-1970; divorced)

Gia Scala (3 March 1934 – 30 April 1972) was an Anglo-American actress and model of Italian and Irish descent.

Early life[edit]

She was born Josephine Grace Johanna Scoglio in Liverpool, Lancashire, to a Sicilian father, Pietro Scoglio, and an Irish mother, Eileen O'Sullivan. She had one sister, Tina Scala, also an actress. Gia was raised in Messina, and Mili San Marco, Sicily, the latter was upon her grandfather—Natale Scoglio's estate. He was the largest agriculturist of citrus, mainly lemons known as the "Ballerina Brand." It was the custom of upper social and economic class families, to send their young adult children to live abroad to enculturate and to learn other languages. When she was 16 years old Gia began to reside with her aunt Agata in Whitestone, Queens, Long Island, New York. She had always wanted to be an actress; however, her very religious aunt disapproved of her aspirations. After she graduated from Bayside High School in Queens, New York, Gia moved to Manhattan to pursue acting. In order to support herself, she found employment in a travel agency where she met a person who had connections with a television producer. During this time, she took drama classes from Stella Adler, and that was when she met Steve McQueen, they dated from 1952 to 1954. She appeared on game shows, in particular Stop the Music, where she was spotted by Maurice Bergman, an executive of Universal International located in New York.[1]


Scala in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?"

In 1954, accompanied by her mother, she flew to Hollywood to screen test for the role of Mary Magdalene for the up-coming film The Gallileans. She did not get the part, but it didn't matter because the film was scrapped. Nevertheless, Peter Johnson at Universal Studios was impressed with her close-ups in the screen test. She was given a non-speaking, uncredited part in the movie All That Heaven Allows that starred Rock Hudson. Afterward Universal Studios signed her to a contract. The studio dyed her hair dark brown, had her four front teeth capped, and changed her name to Gia Scala.

Her star was rising when in 1957 her mother died. Emotionally distraught, she began to become unstable. In 1958, she was filming The Two Headed Spy in London. Her father and she were sharing an apartment, late one night they had words, Gia left in a huff, got into a taxi and went to the Waterloo Bridge. It looked as if she was going to jump off the bridge, the taxi driver called the Police, and she was taken to the Police Station. In the morning her father came to take her home. Later that same year, she became an American citizen.[2] She landed roles in Tip on a Dead Jockey (1957), The Garment Jungle (1957), and The Tunnel of Love (1958), which featured Richard Widmark and Doris Day. Her performance as a labour organiser in The Garment Jungle was critically acclaimed.

Gia received recognition for her performance as "Anna" in the film The Guns of Navarone (1961), starring Gregory Peck and David Niven.

She made frequent appearances on American television shows during the 1960s. Gia co-starred with William Shatner in a 1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode entitled "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?", another called "Deathmate", and with Christopher Lee in a 1964 Alfred Hitchcock Hour segment entitled "The Sign of Satan". She also guest starred in other series, Convoy, The Islanders, The Rogues, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Twelve O'Clock High episode "Rx For A Sick Bird" (1965), the NBC TV series Tarzan (1967), and It Takes a Thief (1969) in the episode "The Artist Is for Framing", which proved to be her final acting role.

Gia started drinking after her husband, Don Burnett, left her and moved in with Rock Hudson. Gia married actor turned investment banker Don Burnett on 21 August 1959. They divorced on 1 September 1970.[3] Her career began to deteriorate as a result of depression that led to excessive drinking.

"Cha Cha for Gia"[edit]

While Henry Mancini worked with Universal Pictures, he met Gia on the Four Girls in Town stage. Inspired by her beauty, he wrote "Cha Cha for Gia." This was an un-credited tune for the 1957 movie.[4]

Later years and death[edit]

Having British citizenship due to her birth, Gia went to London to film "The Two Headed Spy." In late summer of 1958, she returned to the U.S., and her father moved to Taormina, Sicily, where he retired from the import/export business.

On the night of 30 April 1972, Gia was found dead in her Hollywood Hills home at 7944 Woodrow Wilson Drive. Los Angeles County Coroner Thomas Noguchi reported her cause of death was from an "acute ethanol and barbiturate intoxication." She had a prescription for valium, there were three tablets missing from the bottle, but valium was not a barbiturate; it is a benzodiazepine. If the report was accurate, who provided her with the barbiturates? Also, she was discovered nude sprawled across her bed, there were bruises on her body and blood on her pillow, the bedroom seemed to be staged with wine bottles and dirty wine glasses strewn about. Gia was a very organized and neat person. For those reasons, her sister Tina Scala never believed that Gia intended to take her life, nor was her death accidental. She was 38 years old.[5] Scala's death was later ruled "Accidental".[6] She is interred next to her mother, Eileen O'Sullivan-Scoglio, in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Postal Stamp: Republic of the Congo[edit]

In 2008, the Democratic Republic of the Congo put Gia Scala's image on their postage stamp.

Gia Scala: The First Gia [edit]

Gia Scala: The First Gia is the title of a book published first in December 2014, then re-published in July 2015. The book discusses in detail about her personal and professional life. Video on YouTube

One of the Most Beautiful Women Ever in Hollywood[edit]

IMDb chose Gia Scala as one of the “Most Beautiful Women Ever in Hollywood.” [7]

Film and television credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1954 Stop the Music (American TV series) Game show contestant, later became Bert Parks assistant
1955 All That Heaven Allows Marguerita Uncredited
1956 Never Say Goodbye Minnie Uncredited
1956 The Price of Fear Nina Ferranti Gia Scala
1957 TV- Goodyear Theater Giovanna
1957 Four Girls in Town Vicki Dauray
1957 The Big Boodle Anita Ferrer Filmed in Cuba
1957 Don't Go Near the Water (film) Melora Alba MGM
1957 The Garment Jungle Theresa Renata
1957 Tip on a Dead Jockey Paquita Heldon Filmed in Spain & Culver City, Calif.
1958 Ride a Crooked Trail Tessa Milotte Filmed in Los Angeles
1958 The Tunnel of Love Estelle Novick MGM
1958 The Two-Headed Spy Lili Geyr Filmed I London
1959 The Angry Hills Eleftheria Filmed in Greece & London
1959 Battle of the Coral Sea Karen Philips
1960 I Aim at the Stars Elizabeth Beyer Filmed in Munich, Germany
1960 TV- Alfred Hitchcock Presents Lottie Rank Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?
1960 TV- The Islanders Rhea Duel of Strangers
1961 The Guns of Navarone Anna Filmed at Rhodes Island & London
1961 TV - Here’s Hollywood Herself Episode 1.154
1961 TV Hong Kong Maria Banda The Runaway
1961 TV Alfred Hitchcock Presents Lisa Talbot Deathmate
1962 Il trionfo di Robin Hood Anna Filmed in Croatia & Italy
1964 Operation Delilah Dalida Filmed in Spain
1964 TV -Alfred Hitchcock Presents Kitty Frazier The Sign of Satan
1964 TV –The Rogues Simone Carnot Take Me to Paris
1965 TV – The Rogues Lisa de Monfort The Laughing Lady of Luxor
1965 TV- Convoy Madeline Duval Passage to Liverpool
1965 TV- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Dr. Katya Markova Jonah & the Whale
1965 TV -Twelve O'Clock High (TV series) Ilka Zradra Rx for a Sick Bird
1965 TV - Run for Your Life Marika Takacs How to Sell Your Soul for Fun & Profit
1966 TV - Jericho Simone DuBray Upbeat & Underground
1967 TV - Tarzan Martha Tolboth The Golden Runaway
1969 TV – The Name of the Game Renata Marino The Inquiry
1969 TV – It Takes a Thief Angel The Artist Is for Framing


  1. ^ "Gia Scala: The First Gia". 
  2. ^ Crivello, Kirk (1990-01-01). Fallen Angels: The Lives and Untimely Deaths of 14 Hollywood Beauties. Berkley. p. 188. ISBN 0-425-11968-8. 
  3. ^ Crivello, Kirk (1990-01-01). Fallen Angels: The Lives and Untimely Deaths of 14 Hollywood Beauties. Berkley. pp. 187–188. ISBN 0-425-11968-8. 
  4. ^ "Four Girls in Town Sound Track". 
  5. ^ "Gia Scala Is Dead; Film Actress, 38". The New York Times. 1972-05-02. p. 46. 
  6. ^ "The Private Life and Times of Gia Scala". Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  7. ^ "Most Beautiful Women Ever in Hollywood". 

External links[edit]