Gia Scala

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Gia Scala
Gia Scala Goodyear Theatre.jpg
Josephine Grace Johanna Scoglio

3 March 1934
Died30 April 1972 (aged 38)
Cause of deathAcute ethanol and barbiturate intoxication
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California
OccupationActress, model
Years active1955–1969
Don Burnett
(m. 1959; div. 1970)

Gia Scala (born Josephine Grace Johanna Scoglio; 3 March 1934 – 30 April 1972) was an English-born Italian-American actress and model.

Early life[edit]

Scala was born 3 March 1934, in Liverpool, England, to Sicilian father Pietro Scoglio, and Irish mother Eileen O'Sullivan. She had one sister, Tina Scala, also an actress.[citation needed]

Scala was brought up in Messina and Mili San Marco in Sicily, the latter on the estate of her grandfather, Natale Scoglio, who was one of the largest citrus growers in Sicily. When Scala was 16, she moved to the United States to live with her aunt Agata in Whitestone, Queens, New York City.[citation needed] After graduating from Bayside High School,[1] she moved to Manhattan to pursue acting. Scala supported herself by working at a travel agency.[citation needed]

While she worked during the day for airlines and an insurance agency, Scala studied acting at night, with Stella Adler among her teachers.[1] She met Steve McQueen. The two dated from 1952 to 1954. Scala began to appear on game shows, including Stop the Music, where she was spotted by Maurice Bergman, an executive of Universal International located in New York City.[citation needed]


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

In 1954, accompanied by her mother, Scala flew to Los Angeles to screen test for the role of Mary Magdalene in The Gallileans. Although she did not get the part, Peter Johnson at Universal Studios was impressed with Scala's screen test. Scala had her first official job in Hollywood when she was given a non-speaking, uncredited part in the movie All That Heaven Allows, starring Rock Hudson. Despite her minor role in the movie, Universal Studios signed her to a contract, dyed her hair dark brown, had her four front teeth capped, and gave her the stage name Gia Scala.

Songwriter Henry Mancini met Scala on the set of Four Girls in Town. Inspired by her beauty, he wrote "Cha Cha for Gia", which appeared uncredited in the 1957 film.[citation needed]

Scala became emotionally distraught following the death of her mother in 1957. In 1958, she became a naturalized American citizen.[2] Scala soon after landed roles in such films as Tip on a Dead Jockey (1957), The Garment Jungle (1957), The Tunnel of Love (1958), and The Guns of Navarone (1961), starring Gregory Peck and David Niven.

Scala made frequent appearances on American television during the 1960s, appearing in such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Convoy, The Islanders, The Rogues, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Twelve O'Clock High, Tarzan, and It Takes a Thief (1969) in the episode "The Artist Is for Framing", her final acting role.

Later years[edit]

On 21 August 1959, Scala married Don Burnett, an actor[3] turned investment banker. After 11 years of marriage they divorced on 1 September 1970, and Burnett married actress Barbara Anderson. Scala had difficulties with alcohol and her career began to wane.

In 2015, author/researcher Sterling Saint James wrote a book about Gia Scala's life titled Gia Scala: The First Gia. Tina Scala provided intimate details about her sister's life.


On the night of 30 April 1972, 38-year-old Scala was found dead in her Hollywood Hills home. Los Angeles County Coroner Thomas Noguchi reported her cause of death was from accidental "acute ethanol and barbiturate intoxication".[1]

Scala is interred next to her mother, Eileen O'Sullivan-Scoglio, in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[citation needed]

Film and television credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1954 Stop the Music 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 Goodyear Theatre (TV) Giovanna
1957 Four Girls in Town Vicki Dauray
1957 The Big Boodle Anita Ferrer filmed in Cuba
1957 Don't Go Near the Water Melora Alba MGM
1957 The Garment Jungle Theresa Renata
1957 Tip on a Dead Jockey Paquita Heldon filmed in Spain and Culver City, California
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 in London
1959 The Angry Hills Eleftheria filmed in Greece and London
1959 Battle of the Coral Sea Karen Philips
1960 I Aim at the Stars Elizabeth Beyer filmed in Munich, Germany
1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV) Lottie Rank "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?"
1960 The Islanders (TV) Rhea "Duel of Strangers"
1961 The Guns of Navarone Anna filmed in Rhodes Island and London
1961 Here's Hollywood (TV) Herself Episode 1.154
1961 Hong Kong (TV) Maria Banda "The Runaway"
1961 Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV) Lisa Talbot "Deathmate"
1962 The Triumph of Robin Hood Anna filmed in Croatia and Italy
1964 Operation Delilah Dalida filmed in Spain
1964 Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV) Kitty Frazier "The Sign of Satan"
1964 The Rogues (TV) Simone Carnot "Take Me to Paris"
1965 The Rogues (TV) Lisa de Monfort "The Laughing Lady of Luxor"
1965 Convoy (TV) Madeline Duval "Passage to Liverpool"
1965 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV) Dr. Katya Markova "Jonah & the Whale"
1965 Twelve O'Clock High (TV) Ilka Zradna "R/X for a Sick Bird"
1965 Run for Your Life (TV) Marika Takacs "How to Sell Your Soul for Fun & Profit"
1966 Jericho (TV) Simone DuBray "Upbeat & Underground"
1967 Tarzan (TV) Martha Tolboth "The Golden Runaway"
1969 The Name of the Game (TV) Renata Marino "The Inquiry"
1969 It Takes a Thief (TV) Angel "The Artist Is for Framing" (final appearance)


  1. ^ Before 1 April 1974 Liverpool was part of Lancashire


  1. ^ a b c "Gia Scala Is Dead; Film Actress, 38". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2 May 1972. Archived from the original on 4 September 2017. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  2. ^ Crivello, Kirk (1 January 1990). Fallen Angels: The Lives and Untimely Deaths of 14 Hollywood Beauties. Berkley. p. 188. ISBN 0-425-11968-8.
  3. ^ "Gia Scala Wed to Don Burnett". The New York Times. United Press International. 22 August 1959. p. 9. Retrieved 3 November 2020 – via ProQuest.

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