The bitter existence of Laura Antonelli, sad sex symbol of Italy


Laura Antonelli in “Malizia”

For Luchino Visconti she was “the most beautiful female face in the world”. A thought shared by millions of viewers, after the cinema had consecrated her as the sex symbol of an entire generation. Laura Antonelli would be 80 today. But Laura “n’existe plus”, as the title of a book by the French Philippe Brunel states, still unpublished in Italy, which talks about the troubled life of the actress of Malice. Killed by a heart attack in her little house in Ladispoli where she lived, now forgotten by everyone, unrecognizable and penniless. It was 2015 but Laura Antonelli had begun to die long ago, in a sad parable almost like a “sunset boulevard” in which, however, cinema has little or nothing to do with it.

Born in Pula with the surname Antonaz, when Istria was still Italian, Laura moved with her family to Naples where she graduated and became a physical education teacher. Job that he will practice for a short time in a high school in Rome. Her beauty, in fact, in the capital of the sweet life is immediately noticed and Laura leaves the school gyms to lend her face to some commercials and some photo novels. Thus began the first small parts in films such as The magnificent cuckold by Antonio Pietrangeli. Notoriety begins to come with The male blackbird, sexy comedy by Pasquale Festa Campanile in which she is the wife of cellist Lando Buzzanca. It is 1971, two years later he arrives Malice by Salvatore Samperi and the image of Laura Antonelli while climbing the stairs revealing the garter belt goes around the world. Image that will struggle to shake off. As Simone Cristicchi sings, in a song dedicated to her, Laura is the actress “who undresses for a peeping tom people who have become the erotic dream of a generation”.

But in addition to many unglued films, the actress also meets the interest of important directors. Recites in Trap for a wolf by the master of the nouvelle vague Claude Chabrol. On the set he meets Jean-Paul Belmondo with whom he will have a stormy love story that will occupy the covers of the magazines. It will then be D’Annunzio’s Giuliana Hermil The innocent, cinematographic testament of Luchino Visconti, with Giancarlo Giannini. Always with Giannini he will return to the big screen in another costume film this time shot by Ettore Scola, Passion of love. After this blaze in auteur cinema. the roles of beautiful and undressed return. Up to his dose horribilis, 1991. Samperi, in search of a new success, offers her to act in Malizia 2mila, a remake of the cult that made her famous almost 20 years earlier. Laura accepts but the production asks her to undergo cosmetic surgery to erase the normal signs of aging. Unfortunate intervention that disfigures her face, erasing its extraordinary beauty.

Gilles GIRIBALDI via Getty Images

Laura Antonelli and Jean-Paul Belmondo at the Cannes Film Festival in 1974, France. (Photo by Gilbert GIRIBALDI / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

But the worst is yet to come. Laura is in fact arrested in her luxurious villa in Cerveteri for drug dealing. Convicted in the first instance, she will then be acquitted on appeal almost ten years later. “Crazy Laura, naive Laura, poor drug addict Laura, fragile, sensitive Laura to the dragged pillory, Laura awaits the sentence crucified in the newspaper condemned for ten years to go mad ”, Cristicchi always sings. Meanwhile, the world of entertainment has turned its back and the former sexy icon moves to a small apartment – a bathroom, a kitchen, two rooms and a cot to sleep in – in Ladispoli. Some pitiless photos portray her, unrecognizable, in the rare outings with shopping bags. In the meantime he chose to devote himself to prayer and filled his small house with religious symbols. Now Laura Antonelli “n’existe plus”.

On Laura’s last days, very touching is the memory made by the actress and writer Francesca d’Aloja who had known her because she was engaged to her older brother. In the good book Special bodies (The ship of Theseus) tells of when still at its peak he gave her his clothes kept in an immense walk-in closet. Or his impeccable style when he went out in the evening for some jet set party of the Roman show. Until he meets her, years later, almost without recognizing her.

She was sitting on a broken sofa in the dim light of a bare room. Next to it was a small table on which the telephone was placed, in front of it an empty bookcase, with only three volumes. I hugged her tightly and struggled not to cry. His body, his body so different. She smiled and that was the only detail, along with her eyes, liquid and beautiful, that allowed me to recognize her. The rest had disappeared.

At a certain moment the proposal of Lino Banfi also arrives a Sunday in to assign the money from the Bacchelli Law. But Laura refuses, saying she’s fine. She wants to be alone, without money, in peace and in prayer. The world of entertainment just doesn’t interest her anymore. She died of a heart attack at 73, alone, in the summer. Many well-known faces at his funeral in Ladispoli. Many onlookers too, arrived at the church directly from the beach in shorts and flip-flops. Poor Laura.

Laura Antonelli and Giancarlo Giannini

United Archives via Getty Images

Laura Antonelli and Giancarlo Giannini in LOuchino Visconti’s “The Innocent” (Photo by FilmPublicityArchive / United Archives via Getty Images)

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