Italian actress Daniela Rocca, who rose briefly to stardom as the wife Marcello Mastroianni schemes to unload in Pietro Germi’s 1962 Oscar winner, “Divorce – Italian Style,” died May 28 of heart failure in a rest home in her native Sicily. She was 57.
Born in one of the poorest working-class quarters of Catania, Rocca found her way onto the screen via Italian beauty contests. She debuted in 1957 in French director Maurice Cloche’s “Marchants de filles.”
Four years later, in Mario Bonnard’s “I Masnadieri,” the actress caught Germi’s eye. He persuaded her to disguise her sultry looks – which earned her the attentions of film producers and millionaire businessmen – to play the dowdy wife in “Divorce.”
Following that film’s international success, she made 10 more features, the last of which was Fred Zinnemann’s “Behold a Pale Horse” in 1963.
Offers of roles stopped coming in, and at the age of 35, Rocca became chronically depressed and was branded insane by the popular press.
Following her recovery, Rocca played a small role in “La Macchina del cinema,” a TV movie directed by Marco Bellocchio. She also worked occasionally in the theater.
Rocca published three novels, a volume of poetry and a nonfiction study titled “Psychoanalysis, Dreams and Fantasies Hidden in the Mind,” for which Bellocchio penned a preface. She continued writing poetry in the rest home in Milo, Sicily, where she lived for the past few years up to her death.