Virna Lisi, the woman who gave up on Hollywood

There is something exemplary and at the same time proverbial in the attractiveness of Virna Lisi, the great lady of Italian cinema who passed away on 18 December 2014 who today, 8 November, would have celebrated her birthday. She would not have organized any sumptuous party, far from flashes and paparazzi, but a simple and true dinner as she was with her dearest affections – the architect husband Francesco Pesci with whom she remained until the end, her son Corrado and friends – far from the glam and gossip, surrounded only by an aura of innate discretion, education, charm, style and good taste that made her stand out in an environment – that cinematographer Roman in particular, but also Hollywoodian – which was the exact opposite. Her style – unattainable – made her face shine with elegant simplicity, one of the most beautiful on the screen, between golden hair, a delicate mole under the lip, perfect cheekbones and clear eyes framed by a line of eyeliner, the same eyes that Marie Claire, in the seventies, included in the ranking of the most fascinating in the world like the gilded ones of Marie Laforêt.

A scene from the movie “How to Kill Your Wife”

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Virna Lisi she was so ‘beyond’ and so ‘other’ than the working world that surrounded her, she was so elegant and sophisticated in her own way, that she managed to transform a sentence that today would be considered sexist, “With that mouth he can say what he wants”, the slogan of the Chlorodont toothpaste of which she had been the testimonial – in a smash. She embodied discretion, but above all the ability to reject what she did not like. So much so that she, requested in Hollywood and not being at ease, she quietly returned to Italy, without any regrets. In the sixties, in fact, she was called to Los Angeles to take on the role of the new Marilyn, but she refused a seven-year contract with an American major after three films and to escape from strict rules that she felt too demanding, preferring to return to Rome from her beloved Franco and his son Corrado who every year, since he is gone, publicly remembers her with an award bearing his name. It is no coincidence, therefore, that it was chosen as the title Virna Lisi. The woman who gave up on Hollywood for the documentary on Sky Arte (and streaming on NowTv or on demand), the most intimate and delicate portrait that a person outside his private life like Fabrizio Corallo, who wrote and directed it, could do. A sentimental journey that transports us into his life and career, which began by chance and from a very young age, just fourteen, soon exploded with growing public success thanks to popular cinema and confirmed with the great authors by Mario Monicelli (for whom he plays in Casanova ’70 alongside Marcello Mastroianni) to Eduardo De Filippo, not to mention the numerous Hollywood productions in which he took part, from How to Kill Your Wife by Richard Quine (1965), film with the iconic scene in which he comes out of a cake wearing a bathing suit, a The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Staney Kramer, where she appears alongside the great Anna Magnani. He also worked with Maselli, Steno, Germi, Mattioli, Corbucci, Fulci, Lattuada, Dino Risi, Luigi Comencini, Amelio, and many others, leaving the mark of a charm and even more of an interpretative quality that combined art and familiarity with spectators. An art and a career that are skillfully recounted by Corallo through the images of the films, archival materials (many from the Luce Cinecittà archive and unpublished family archives) and testimonies of those who have had it alongside: from Liliana Cavani to Enrico Vanzina, from Pupi Avati to Cristina Comencini (he acted for her in Go where your heart takes you, the film adaptation of Susanna Tamaro’s bestseller of the same name), from Margherita Buy to Enrico Lucherini. With exemplary commitment and professionalism, he was able to pass from entertainment to auteur cinema, from theater to a very successful association with scripts and television series.

actress virna lisi attends the closing awards ceremony of the 5th international rome film festival at the auditorium parco della musica on november 5, 2010 in rome, italy

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With her charm, the actress from the Marche (she was born in Ancona) conquered everyone by becoming an icon of cinema and fashion with her inevitable white shirts that she wore with elbow-length sleeves, her turbans that brought out the features of the face and the soft empire-style dresses that embraced her shapes making her resemble an ancient goddess. Authentic, flawless and endowed with an unrivaled charm, Virna Lisi is still today a guide to refer to if you want simple but effective clothing, between soft and light fabrics, with details and excesses reduced to a minimum and where the true protagonist is the character – and not the mask (or parody, in some cases) – of the wearer.

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Virna Lisi with Jack Lemmon

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Virna Lisi, the woman who gave up on Hollywood