Isabel Sarli

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Isabel Sarli
Isabel Coca Sarli.jpg
Hilda Isabel Gorrindo Sarli

(1935-07-09) 9 July 1935 (age 83)
  • Actress
  • model
Years active1954—1980
Known forStarring in several cult films directed by Armando Bó
Notable work
Partner(s)Armando Bó (1956-1981)

Hilda Isabel Gorrindo Sarli (Spanish pronunciation: [isaˈβel ˈsaɾli]; born 9 July 1935), nicknamed Coca, is a retired Argentine actress and glamour model, known for starring in several sexploitation films by Armando Bó, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. She began her career as a model and beauty queen, becoming Miss Argentina and reaching the semi-finalis of Miss Universe 1955. She was discovered by Bó in 1956 and made her acting debut the following year with Thunder Among the Leaves, in which a controversial nude scene featuring Sarli made it the first film to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema.

As the muse and protagonist of Bó's films, Sarli became the quintessential sex symbol of her country and a popular figure worldwide. With Bó's death in 1981, Sarli virtually retired from acting. Since the 1990s, her films have been revalued for its camp and kitsch content and are recognised as cult classics. She is considered a gay and pop icon.

Early career[edit]

Hilda Isabel Sarli Gorrindo Tito was born in Concordia, Entre Ríos Province, into a very poor family, as one of the daughters of Antonio Gorrindo and María Elena Sarli. Her father left the family when she was 3 years old. Those he had left behind, including Isabel and her mother, then moved to Buenos Aires. Her youngest sibling, and only brother, died at the age of five. Although, years later, her father tried to contact her, angrily she refused.

Sarli trained to become a secretary and, upon completing this training, started working for a publicity agency to support her mother. Then she was offered to work as a model, at which she proved to be so successful that she ended up resigning from her secretarial work. She won an award as the "most photographed model".

Contrary to what is known, she was nicknamed "Coca" by her mother.


In 1955 she was chosen Miss Argentina and met the then Argentine President, Juan Domingo Peron.

In June 1956, she met Armando Bo on a TV show, who later offered her the opportunity to star in El trueno entre las hojas (Thunder in the Leaves). Bo convinced Sarli to be naked in a scene in which she bathed in a lake, though she had previously been told she would wear a flesh-colored body stocking. Also, though Bo likewise told Sarli they would shoot from afar, the camera had magnification. The film became the first to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema. She went on to become an international Latin American star and made international headlines for the nude scene. She appeared in Time, Life, and Playboy Magazines, the first Argentinian actress to accomplish that feat. Bo and Sarli became lovers and she became the primary star of his films till his death in 1981. During this time, Sarli refused many offers to work with another director, with the exception of Leopoldo Torre Nilsson on Setenta veces siete (The Female: Seventy Times Seven) and Dirk DeVilliers on The Virgin Goddess, her only English film.

The films were controversial at the time and most of them were banned, but this ban led them to be even more successful. Films like Fuego (1969) and Fiebre (1970) reached the American and European markets.

She received offers to work in the United States with Robert Aldrich,[1] along with two offers extended to her from England, to appear in the Hammer Film production The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll and the American co-productionThe Guns of Navarone, but she declined them. However Isabel often worked in Latin America, although always under Bo's direction: she made La diosa impura in México, Lujuria tropical in Venezuela, Desnuda en la arena in Panamá, La burrerita de Ypacaraí in Paraguay, and Favela and La leona in Brazil.

After Bo's death in 1981, Sarli retired from the cinema industry altogether but came back in the mid-90s for Jorge Polaco's picaresque film, La dama regresa (1996). The film was inspired largely by her life and her public image, serving as an homage of sorts. In 2009 she teamed once more with Polaco in Arroz con leche for a bit part.

In 2011 she starred in the movie Mis días con Gloria, where she acted out a character based on herself. The film was her first major role since La dama regresa in 1996. In a radio interview, Sarli said the film had not gone well because of the poor promotion it had received.

Personal life[edit]

Before meeting Bo, Sarli was married to Ralph Heinlein and later divorced. Bo and Sarli never married, contrary to the popular belief. Isabel has two adopted children: Martin and Isabelita, who was her goddaughter. As of June 2016, she and her daughter Isabelita were living in Martinez, Buenos Aires.


In 2007 Argentinian film critic Diego Curubeto made the documentary Carne sobre carne – Intimidades de Isabel Sarli (Flesh on Flesh - Isabel Sarli's Personal Matters), with the collaboration of Isabel, Argentinian actor Gastón Pauls and Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia. It is a well-received homage that includes deleted scenes from her films, censored material, rehearsals, anecdotes and interviews.

On 12 October 2012, it was reported that the Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had named Sarli as Argentine Ambassador of Popular Culture.[2] The Boletín Oficial de la República Argentina, under Decree 1876/2012, stated:

[...] Isabel Sarli is considered a true representative of the national culture, as much for her acting skills in films as for being considered a popular icon of her day and an emblematic figure of Argentine cinema.[3]

In 2010, the movie Fuego premiered at the Lincoln Center in New York, where it was shown with English subtitles.[4] It was about this premiere that Time Magazine's critic, Richard Corliss, wrote the review described above.

The phrase "What do you want from me?", erroneously taken from the movie "CARNE", has become a catchphrase in Argentina. In fact, the phrase was used in the movie "... And the devil created the men"

Film director John Waters has said that Isabel Sarli's movies had inspired some of his own films.[5] In April 2018, John Waters presented 'Fuego' in Argentina and met Sarli [6]



Title Year Role
El trueno entre las hojas 1958 Flavia Forkel
Sabaleros 1959 Angela
India 1960 Ansisé
...Y el demonio creó a los hombres 1960
Favela 1961
La burrerita de Ypacaraí 1962
The Female: Seventy Times Seven 1962 Cora / Laura
La leona 1964
La diosa impura 1964 Laura
Lujuria tropical 1964
La mujer del zapatero 1965
La tentación desnuda 1966 Sandra Quesada
Los días calientes 1966
La señora del intendente 1967 Flor Tetis
Fuego 1968 Laura
Carne 1968 Delicia
La mujer de mi padre 1968 Eva
Éxtasis tropical 1969 Monica
Desnuda en la arena 1969 Alicia
Embrujada 1969 Ansisé
Fiebre 1972
Furia infernal 1973 Barbara
Intimidades de una cualquiera 1974 María
El sexo y el amor 1974
Una mariposa en la noche 1977 Yvonne
El último amor en Tierra del Fuego 1979
Insaciable 1979
Una viuda descocada 1980 Flor Tetis Soutién de Gambetta
La dama regresa 1996
Carne sobre carne 2007 Herself (archive material)
Arroz con leche 2009 Cameo
Parapolicial negro, apuntes para una prehistoria de la AAA 2010 Herself (interviewed)
Mis días con Gloria 2010 Gloria Saten


  1. ^ "Isabel Sarli: Intimidades de una leyenda – Noticias Urbanas".
  2. ^ "Cristina nombró a Isabel Sarli Embajadora de la Cultura Popular". La Nación. 12 October 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Decreto 1876/2012". Boletín Oficial de la República Argentina. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Argentinian Sex Symbol Isabel 'Coca' Sarli Comes to Lincoln Center — On the Big Screen". Boletín Oficial de la República Argentina. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  5. ^ "John Waters calls 'Fuego' 'a hetero film for gay people to marvel at'". 27 January 2015.
  6. ^ "John Waters: "Conocer a Coca Sarli va a ser como conocer al Papa"". 4 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Media related to Isabel Sarli at Wikimedia Commons