Italian Actress Elsa Martinelli Dies at 82

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Elsa Martinelli

The star of European and American cinema was most famous for her role opposite Kirk Douglas in 'The Indian Fighter.'

Elsa Martinelli, the Italian bombshell actress known for her classic looks and jet-set lifestyle, working between Hollywood, Paris and Rome, died Saturday in Rome. She was 82.

Martinelli was originally discovered as a model in 1953 by designer Roberto Capucci. She began taking on small roles, beginning in 1954 with Claude Autant-Lara’s The Red and the Black.

But her most famous role came just two years later after Kirk Douglas (or his wife, according to an alternate version of the story) claimed to have spotted her on a Life magazine cover. Douglas recruited her to play a Sioux chief’s daughter in the 1955 film The Indian Fighter, which he starred in and also produced.

In 1956, Martinelli won the Silver Bear for best actress at the Berlin International Film Festival for the title role in Mario Monicelli’s Cinderella story Donatella.

She also worked with the top directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, starring in Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses (1960), Howard Hawks' Hatari! (1962), Orson Welles’ The Trial (1962), Elio Petri’s The 10th Victim (1965) and Vittorio De Sica’s Woman Times Seven (1968).

Martinelli's last English-language role was in Eugene Levy’s comedy remake Once Upon a Crime (1992). She acted until 2005, with her last role playing Duchessa di Monteforte in Rai 1's blockbuster historical drama TV series Pride.

She is survived by her daughter, actress Cristiana Mancinelli. 

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