FILMS… Returning to a Bond with Gina Lollobrigida, a Bella, Bella Actress



Gina Lollobrigida shows she’s made of stern stuff in A Woman of Straw…


Remembering this outstanding Italian Golden Hollywood actress heading a British cast in a 1960s British thriller.


Woman of Straw – Available now, Simply Media AND PHOTOS © united artists


I was sad to learn of the passing of the Italian actress, politician and photographer Gina Lollobrigida. This actress had danced her way into many hearts with her hunky co-star Rock Hudson in a Golden Globe winning film role in Come September (1961) in this one of two movies with him. Wikipedia adds that this multitalented actress was a celebrated photographer as her entertainment career was on the wane and also once interviewed Fidel Castro.

She also starred as the main protagonist in a film role, where a woman’s past comes back to haunt her. Gina headed the cast with Telly Savalas, Lee Grant, Shelley Winters and more in the comedy Buona Sera Mrs Campbell (1968). This plot is kinda similar to Mamma Mia (2008), as this war “widow”, “Mrs Campbell” is in hot water not only her daughter believes her father died in the war. But her three possible fathers – and their families –  are due to return to visit their small Italian town. Each of these men has been paying for “Mrs Campbell”‘s daughter’s upkeep believing they are her father… Cue comic mayhem…

Gina also made that almost compulsory appearance in an Aaron Spelling guest star role in The Love Boat (1977-87) in a Christmas double bill episode. My first television remembrance of her was however in her role in something completely different. I’m not talking about the recently watched (for the first time!!) Falcon Crest (1981-90) and for Gina, another Golden Globe winning role. That Prime Time soap is on the review list and a review of the first episode will be coming soon…

Gina had starred in one of those fabulously glossy 80s mini-series book adaptations, namely Deceptions (1985). She brought some extra glamour to this series as she plays Princess Alessandra – a good friend of one of two twin Stefanie Powers characters  – who holds an extravagant birthday party for her friend and her twin… leading to the twins swapping places which inevitably leads to some unforeseen drama…

After looking through Gina’s filmography I was drawn to the title and then the plot for the movie, Woman of Straw (1964). She starred in this crime thriller and drama with the man who was then playing Bond, Sean Connery. This was just before he took up Marnie (1964). Woman of Straw also starred Ralph Richardson, who was last reviewed in The Wrong Box (1966).

Anyway back to Woman of Straw,  it tells of an African tin mine owner, the elderly Charles Richmond (Richardson). Charles basically is a rude and horrible man with no redeeming features. He lives in a huge house that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jane Austen adaptation, sneers and makes nasty comments about everyone, everything and anything, is cruel to his pack of dogs and treats his servants abysmally.

Charles apparently drove his brother – and work partner – to suicide and then married his brother’s widow. She was apparently one of the few loves of his life and is the only person he says nice things about. But he still made a snidey comment about her after her death. The other love of his life is classical music which he loves, yet he doesn’t like the composers. He plays this music very loudly and all the time over his home’s tannoy system.

He lives in this palatial home with his nephew – and stepson – Tony Richmond (Connery), who is a young and handsome playboy (and knows it). Tony is still angry with Charles about how his parents were treated by his uncle, now an old wheelchair-bound curmudgeon. Charles is dying yet leaving most of his money to charity in his will. Tony is peeved as he is only going to inherit 20 thousand from him, (and to him a small amount) and has to put up with his daily insults and put downs from his uncle  / stepfather…

After Charles is bitten by one of his dogs – after mistreating it – he employs a pretty nurse, Maria Marcello (Gina Lollobrigida) to treat him.  Maria meets all his criteria – pretty and does not smell of goat’s cheese, and he’s instantly horrible to her. Maria also meets Tony’s wishes as one night in her room, Tony approaches her with a devious plan. This plan is that she marries the old man and when Charles dies, she gives Tony a million quid … and this pact is sealed with a passionate kiss which she returns.

The three go on holiday together with the servants on his yacht (which is more like a cruise ship), and his servants, two brothers, Thomas and Fenton in tow. After a near death experience at sea, when one of the brothers is swept overboard in a storm, this brother is saved. Maria chooses to quit her job after she sees Charles’ gleeful reaction as he watches these events. After they moor up, she quits and goes to say in a hotel. Tony visits her and tries to convince her to return.

At the last minute before sailing, Charles visits her hotel and he apologises to Maria and asks her to return and marry him. She sees a softer side of Charles and then marries him – with Tony as best man –  while still having a flirtation with Tony (and her flirty behaviour is observed by the Captain). However, she begins to like Charles, and he in turn becomes more likeable and he seems to love her and becomes a nicer person.

However, her plan with Tony goes ahead, as Charles then changes his will in his young wife’s favour, observed by two witnesses. Tony is to receive more money too.. but unexpectedly, Charles dies apparently of natural causes, just an hour or so before they disembark the boat. This event naturally is to Tony’s dismay as he tells Maria that Charles’ will is not legal and she will receive nothing. Tony suggests that she make out Charles is still alive to the others until he can get the will verified in London as soon as they return. He promises he will send a doctor to verify Charles’ death as occurring after they return home if she convinces the others to believe Charles is alive…

Gina’s character is this titular character, with a person of straw defined as a weak character which is a tad unfair, in lieu of Gina’s fabulously versatile performance where she goes through many emotions. It’s clear in her dalliance with Tony, that he is the only person she is weak for with Tony appearing to love her and she seems to love this trustworthy co-conspirator. This phrase is also explained with the more obscure, but likely definition of this title on IMDB HERE as;

one person serves as a front for another in activities that may or may not be legal.

Gina’s character is seen to dislike Charles at first and she is not afraid to tell him when she dislikes his evil words or behaviour. She is not afraid to leave this job and give up the plan for his money because of these, Yet the first time she does this in the early days of her employment it’s only when Tony visits her she is persuaded to return (with a slap and a snog from Tony).

Maria also seems to care for others as she builds a good relationship with the servants, Thomas (Johnny Sekka) and Fenton (Danny Daniels). This is seen as caring for one of the brothers after his brush with death. She also seems to care for Charles too and is worried about him preempting his death by smoking cigars and eating unhealthily. It’s also seen that she cares in a scene where Charles overstrains himself when he is fishing and tries to bring in a big catch, where she cuts the fishing line and the fish gets away. It’s a stark contrast to Tony who actively encourages his relative to smoke, and he easily manipulates his stepfather / uncle’s behaviour. Tony knows Charles will do exactly what he wants, as Tony gets his desired actions, in some reverse psychology moves…

Gina gives a credible and mesmerising performance throughout this film. In her performance, she is believable as a strong, caring and genuinely nice person, you can tell she has a good heart and is always genuine in her actions. With the later twists and turns that occur in this well written plot, once they return to England with the recently passed away Charles, you want the best for her character as she waits patiently for a knock on the door signalling that Tony’s “doctor” has arrived.

Gina rightly won top billing for this movie, and her performance was award-worthy. She is an exceptional addition to her two male co-stars who convinced me with their multilayered performances in this film. This film really was a tale of the unexpected with a Hitchcockian plot, bombastic score, love triangle and ending. But I’m now off to check Gina’s role as she dances her heart out with Rock Hudson, and you can expect a review. Come September.




6 thoughts on “FILMS… Returning to a Bond with Gina Lollobrigida, a Bella, Bella Actress

  1. A very loving tribute to Gina lollobrigida, Gill.
    I have never seen or heard of woman of straw, but it sounds like a good one!
    If I’m really honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a film with Gina lollobrigida! I will have to remedy this as soon as possible

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading your review I’m reminded just how strong Gina was in this, Gill. I didn’t realize she got top billing, but she definitely deserved it! After my first viewing, I passed it on immediately to my mom and she watched it and loved it too. So awesome that your blogathon led me to this film. RIP Gina ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never realized that Gina Lollobrigida had gone on to become a renowned photographer until I came across a book of her photographs some time ago. In reading some of her bios, it seems she was a visual artist by inclination and became an actress by accident. In her long life she fulfilled several dreams. Woman of Straw sounds like a very good showcase of her acting talent!

    Liked by 1 person

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