Producer and distributor

ROME — Producer and distributor Goffredo Lombardo, who shepherded some of postwar Italy’s most celebrated pictures, among them Luchino Visconti’s Palm d’Or winner “The Leopard,” via his century-old Titanus shingle, died Wednesday (Feb. 23) in a Rome clinic. He was 84.

Born in Naples in 1920, Lombardo was the son of Gustavo Lombardo – who founded Titanus in 1904 — and Giselda Lombardo, an Italian silent movies diva, whose screen name was Leda Gys.

A great gentleman, and also a shrewd dealmaker, Lombardo took the reins of Titanus during the 1950’s, when the company was an established industry powerhouse.

Departing from his father’s secure course, Goffredo Lombardo in those years steered Titanus towards a riskier but more rewarding strategy of investing returns from commercial films to finance projects by promising young helmers such as Federico Fellini’s 1955 “Il Bidone” (The Swindle), Francesco Rosi’s 1959 “I Magliari,” and Ermanno Olmi’s 1961 “Il Posto” (The Job).

As legend has it, it was Goffredo Lombardo who discovered the then 18-year-old Sofia Scicolone and launched the aspiring actress’ career by re-christening her Sophia Loren. Though it was producer Carlo Ponti – now her husband — who made Loren a star.

Lombardo began working with Visconti in 1960 when he produced the neo-realist classic “Rocco and His Brothers,” which won that year’s Venice Golden Lion.

In 1963 they made “The Leopard,” which starred Burt Lancaster as a Sicilian prince. The 19th century-set picture cost a fortune because Visconti paid painstaking attention to period detail. Its memorable ballroom scene took more than three weeks to shoot.

Titanus at that point nearly went belly up — also due to financial damage incurred from previously financing U.S. helmer Robert Aldrich’s 1962 flop Bible epic “Sodom and Gomorrah.”

By the 1980’s Lombardo had turned exclusively to making lucrative TV dramas for RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, including hit mini-series “Orgoglio.”

A 1965 Cannes International Film Festival juror, Lombardo won many prizes, including three David di Donatellos — Italy’s top film nods — for best producer, and a 1995 Venice Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.

He is survived by a son, Guido Lombardo, who now heads Titanus, with whom last year he celebrated the company’s centennial.

Funeral details were not released.

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