Virna Lisi

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Virna Lisi
Virna Lisi cropped.jpg
Lisi on 18 March 2011
Born Virna Pieralisi
(1936-11-08)8 November 1936
Ancona, Italy
Died 18 December 2014(2014-12-18) (aged 78)
Rome, Italy
Cause of death Cancer
Nationality Italian
Occupation Actress
Years active 1953-2014
Spouse(s) Franco Pesci (1960–2013; his death)
Children Corrado Pesci (b. 1962)

Virna Pieralisi (Italian pronunciation: [ˈvirna ˈliːzi]; 8 November 1936 – 18 December 2014), better known as Virna Lisi, was an Italian actress.


Early career[edit]

Ancona-born Lisi 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 garnered attention for a photo of her 'shaving' her face that appeared on the March 1965 cover of Esquire magazine.

Career renaissance in Europe[edit]

To overcome her typecasting playing seductresses, Lisi sought new types of roles, of evil women or of a lover in relationships of disparate age for example. In those years, she 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, she decided temporarily to attend to her husband Franco Pesci and their son, Corrado. Nonetheless, a career renaissance occurred soon for Lisi 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. Since the late 1990s, Lisi made many successful dramatic productof television. In 2002, Lisi starred in her last film, Il più bel giorno della mia vita.[3]


On 18 December 2014, Lisi died of cancer in Rome at age 78.[4]


A Brazilian rock band named 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).


Year Film Role Notes
1953 The Steel Rope Stella
And Naples Sings Maria
1955 Eighteen Year Olds Maria Rovani
The Bachelor uncredited
Les Hussards Elisa
New Moon Lucia
1956 The Woman of the Day Liliana Attenni
The Courier of Moncenisio Jeanne Thibaud
1959 World of Miracles Laura Damiani
Il padrone delle ferriere Claire de Beaulieu
1961 Romolo e Remo Julia
1962 Eva Francesca Ferrara
1963 Les bonnes causes Gina Bianchi
1964 The Black Tulip Caroline „Caro“ Plantin
1965 The Birds, the Bees and the Italians Milena Zulian
How to Murder Your Wife Mrs. Ford
The Dolls Luisa (segment "La telefonata")
The Man, the Woman and the Money Dorothea (segment "L'ora di punta")
Casanova 70 Gigliola
1966 Assault on a Queen Rosa Lucchesi
Not with My Wife, You Don't! Julie Ferris/Lieutenant Julietta Perodi
1967 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
Better a Widow Rosa Minniti
1969 The Secret of Santa Vittoria Caterina Malatesta
The Christmas Tree Catherine Graziani
1970 The Voyeur Claude
The Heist Stella
1971 The Statue Rhonda Bolt
Roma Bene Duchess Silvia Santi
Love Me Strangely Nathalie Revent
1972 Bluebeard Elga
The Pebbles of Etratat Alny
1973 White Fang Sister Evangelina
Night Flight from Moscow Annabel Lee
1974 Challenge to White Fang Sister Evangelina
1977 Beyond Good and Evil Elisabeth Nietzsche Nastro d'Argento for Best Supporting Actress
Golden Grolla for Best Actress
1979 Ernesto Ernesto's Mother
1980 The Cricket Wilma Malinverni David di Donatello for Best Actress
Golden Grolla for Best Actress
1982 Time for Loving Adriana David di Donatello for Best Supporting Actress
Nastro d'Argento for Best Supporting Actress
1984 Amarsi un po' Princess Marisa Cellini
1987 I Love N.Y. Anna Cotone
1989 Via Panisperna Boys Ettore Majorana's Mother
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 Actress - Audience Award
2015 Latin Lover Rita Posthumous
Nominated—David di Donatello for Best Actress
Nominated—Italian Golden Globe for Best Actress



  1. ^ "Virna Lisi" (in Italian). Rai Uno. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Queen Margot". Retrieved 27 27 August 2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ Virna Lisi at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (18 December 2014). "Italian Actress Virna Lisi Dies At 78". Variety. 

External links[edit]