Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy
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Elsa Martinelli (born Elisa Tia; 30 January 1935 – 8 July 2017) was an Italian actress and fashion model.
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Elsa Martinelli (born 30 January 1935 – 8 July 2017) was an Italian actress and former fashion model.
Born Elisa Tia in Grosseto, Tuscany, she moved to Rome with her family and in 1953 was discovered by Roberto Capucci who introduced her to the world of fashion. She became a model and began playing small roles in films. She appeared in Claude Autant-Lara's Le Rouge et le Noir (1954), but her first important film role came the following year with The Indian Fighter opposite Kirk Douglas. Douglas claims to have spotted her on a magazine cover and hired her for his production company, Bryna Productions. In 1956 she won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 6th Berlin International Film Festival for playing the title role in Mario Monicelli's Donatella.
From the mid-1950s through the late 1960s, she divided her time between Europe and the United States, appearing in films such as Four Girls in Town (1957) with George Nader, Manuela (1957) with Trevor Howard, Prisoner of the Volga (1959) with John Derek, Hatari! (1962) with John Wayne, The Pigeon That Took Rome (1962) with Charlton Heston, The Trial (1962) with Anthony Perkins, The V.I.P.s (1963) with Orson Welles, Rampage (1963) with Robert Mitchum, and Woman Times Seven (1967) with Lex Barker. In Candy (1968), her co-stars were Charles Aznavour, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, Walter Matthau and Ringo Starr.
Since the late 1960s, she has worked in Europe in mostly foreign language productions. Her last English language role was as Carla the Agent in 1992s Once Upon a Crime. Her most recent appearance was in the 2005 European television series Orgoglio as the Duchessa di Monteforte.
Martinelli was first married to Count Franco Mancinelli Scotti di San Vito, by whom she has a daughter, Cristiana Mancinelli (born 1958), also an actress. In 1968 she married the Paris Match photographer and 1970s furniture designer, Willy Rizzo.
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Biography by Hal Erickson
The official story was that Italian actress Elsa Martinelli was discovered for movies when Kirk Douglas spotted her on a 1954 magazine cover. Actually, Martinelli had been playing bits in Italian films since 1950, and had been a professional model since her early teens. Her first and only screen appearance while under contract to Douglas' Bryna Productions was The Indian Fighter (1955). The film should have made her a star, but (at least according to Douglas) Martinelli exercised nothing but bad judgment thereafter, taking parts that exploited her physical attributes but allowed her acting skills to atrophy. Finally, Douglas threw in the towel, telling Martinelli that she'd have to pay him to work for Bryna again. With such notable exceptions as Orson Welles' The Trial, Martinelli never had a part as good as her Native American heroine in Indian Fighter. She retired from filmmaking in the mid-1980s, making an unheralded return appearance in the inconsequential all-star comedy Once Upon a Crime. Elsa Martinelli is the mother of actress Cristiana Mancinelli.
Place of Death
Rome, Lazio, Italy
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