Dark, Dangerous and Deadly – Remembering Rosanna Schiaffino (1939 – 2009)

Posted in Remember by - November 14, 2014
Dark, Dangerous and Deadly – Remembering Rosanna Schiaffino (1939 – 2009)

Seductive, dark-haired Italian beauty Rosanna Schiaffino never quite made the big time, but she co-starred in an array of features from both Europe and Hollywood, working with some of the finest directors along the way. A talented actress, she brought glamour and flair to a host of European adventures and popular Art-house features.

Born in Genoa, Italy on November 25th 1939, Rosanna was a teenage beauty queen, then model before being propelled into movies and dubbed the ‘Italian Hedy Lamarr’. A promising start came in Francesco Rosi’s realistic drama ‘The Challenge’, where Rosanna gave a sensitive portrayal of a real-life Neapolitan whose husband is murdered by the Mafia on their wedding day. Schiaffino impressed again the following year in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ‘The Big Night’ (’59), as an aimless teenager on a wild trip through the streets of Rome. A sword and Sandal flick followed with ‘Romulus and the Sabines’ (’61), which was an early vehicle for Roger Moore, in which Rosanna played the beautiful goddess Venus.

In 1962 Rosanna got her Hollywood break with a small ingénue role in Vincente Minnelli’s ‘Two Weeks in another Town’, starring Kirk Douglas and Edward G. Robinson. She was then Vince Edwards’ love interest in Carl Foreman’s epic war drama ‘The Victors’ (’63), and Sidney Poitier’s wife in Jack Cardiff’s colourful adventure ‘The Long Ships’ (’64), starring Richard Widmark. A black-comedy followed with Ken Hughes ‘Drop Dead Darling’ (’66), playing the target of Tony Curtis’s lady-killer, which featured a standout turn from Lionel Jeffries as Curtis’s valet. Back on home turf Rosanna had the starring role in the interesting Nunsploitation picture ‘A Nun at the Crossroads’ (’67), as the beleaguered Sister Maria, battling an uprising in the Belgium Congo alongside John Richardson’s caring doctor.

A good role followed when she appeared alongside Anthony Quinn in Terence Young’s high seas adventure ‘The Rover’ (’67), playing an unstable girl pursued by Quinn’s stranded sailor. Rosanna was excellent in the obscure 1969 drama ‘Check to the Queen’ (aka ‘The Slave’), as an actress and model who takes in a young assistant (a cute Haydée Politoff) who secretly harbours perverse desires. Both actresses look stunning and the movie is a very good tale of decadence among the high-classes. A sex flick followed with the bawdy comedy ‘In Love, Every Pleasure Has Its Pain’ (’71), which starred popular Italian lead Nino Manfedi as a peasant who agrees to help his friend marry his ideal woman (Schiaffino) on condition that he can share her once they’re wed.

After playing a nymphomaniac in Enzo G. Castellari exploitation piece ‘Hector the Mighty’ (’72), Rosanna co-starred with Richard Crenna and Stephen Boyd in the under-rated western ‘The Man Called Noon’ (’73), as a damsel-in-distress who falls for Crenna’s amnesiac gunslinger. Rosanna then top-lined and even stole the show, in the cult mystery ‘The Killer Reserved Nine Seats’ (’74), a neat giallo with a supernatural twist. By now Schiaffino’s career was in a steady decline, and she was now taking supporting roles in exploitation fare such as Jorge Grau’s silly sex comedy ‘Back of the Store’ (‘75).

In 1976, after ten years of marriage to film producer Alfredo Bini, Schiaffino left her husband and quit the movies after beginning an affair with playboy heir Giorgio Enrico Falck. Now happy among the jet-set and with a newborn son, the couple married in 1982. Personal problems and Rosanna’s cancer diagnosis in 1991, led to their breakdown and later divorce, before Falck died in 2004. Sadly, Rosanna later died after her long battle with breast cancer, in Milan on October 17th 2009, aged 69.

A capable actress, Rosanna Schiaffino was also a tabloids dream who adorned the covers of Life magazine around the world. A sensual beauty who was prone to scandal and who could be difficult on set, she nevertheless livened up a number of classy productions in a wide variety of roles.

Favourite Movie: Check to the Queen
Favourite Performance: The Killer Reserved Nine Seats

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