So you think Sophia Loren was the biggest sex symbol of Italian film back in the day? Wrong! Meet Claudia Cardinale, one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on screen. She won the “Most Beautiful Girl in Tunisia” contest in 1957, which earned the young vixen a trip to the Venice Film Festival where she caught the attention of Italian directors. The Tunisian knockout grew up speaking French, and didn’t learn the Italian language until she was cast in Mario Monicelli’s 1958 international blockbuster “Big Deal On Madonna Street”. Her voice was even so raspy that she had to be dubbed for most of her films. By the early 60s, Cardinale was working with all the famous directors of the day and gained popularity in the United States by appearing in westerns such as Once Upon A Time In The West and The Professionals. These are the five essential films of Claudia Cardinale. Caution: Hot.
Rocco and His Brothers as Ginetta (1960)
Cardinale rose to fame in Italy with the release of Luchino Visconti’s 1960 neorealist film Rocco and His Brothers. Claudia plays the fiancée of a southern Italian man who must adapt to a different way of life after moving to the north. I was first introduced to the beauty of Claudia Cardinale through this film, which is a personal favorite of mine. The themes of the film are especially interesting to me as I spent last summer in Italy, and talked to locals about the modern day regional tensions in Italy. I also discussed the supreme hotness of Claudia Cardinale with locals over a few cold ones. “Rocco and His Brothers” is available to rent on Netflix.
8 ½ as Claudia (1963)
By 1963, Cardinale had numerous credits to her name and scored a life-changing role in Federico Fellini’s Academy Award winning film 8 1/2. The film was loosely based on Fellini himself, and the title references the number of films the Italian great had directed. The main character, played by Marcello Mastroianni, is a famous director suffering from mental blocks and slowly loses himself in dreams and fantasies. Cardinale appears as “Claudia”, whom is cast by the director as his ideal woman. 8 1/2 was ground-breaking and marked a significant shift in Fellini’s past of neorealism to a more grand and magical perspective in filmmaking. You must stream this film now and appreciate the early-sixties wonder that was Claudia Cardinale.
Sandra as Sandra Dawson (1965)
Claudia Cardinale teamed up with Luchino Visconti again for the director’s 1965 take on the Greek Myth of Electra. The controversial film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and Cardinale is stunning as a young woman with a troubling past. Sandra returns home to Tuscany after the murder of her father at Auschwitz, and her American husband suspects that she may be a little too close with her brother Gianni. This character study is a must-see for Cardinale fans, but is not available on Netflix. Show some Amazon love for Ms. Cardinale!
The Professionals as Mrs. Maria Grant (1966)
An epic cast surrounds Claudia Cardinale in this Academy Award nominated western from director Richard Brooks. Maria Grant (Cardinale) has been kidnapped by a Mexican bandit (Jack Palance), and her loving husband gets nasty by finding four “professionals” to track her down. The hired guns are played be Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Burt Lancaster and Woody Strode, who wreak all kinds of havoc in this film set the end of the Mexican Revolution. I like to imagine that the professionals were not up for the job, but saw a picture of Cardinale and were like “Yeah, we’ll find her.” Cardinale brings straight heat and performed her own stunts after her double was injured in an explosion. You can rent movies online such as The Professionals through services such as Netflix.
Once Upon A Time In The West as Jill McBain (1968)
Cardinale’s sex appeal was off the charts in her younger days, and she is scorching hot as the ex-prostitute with a shotgun in Sergio Leone’s 1968 Spaghetti Western Once Upon A Time In The West. Jill McBain’s husband is gunned down, and she arrives in town from New Orleans to claim land which is the only source of water in the region. Cardinale was at the height of her fame, and her character’s steamy appearance and demeanor will make you wish that you had a chance to be in her sights. Ennio Morricone’s classic score adds to this unforgettable role that will leave Cardinale’s piercing eyes etched in your mind. Once Upon A Time In The West is available to stream on Netflix.