ROME – Actress Silvana Pampanini, the voluptuous postwar Italian diva who starred in more than fifty films and reigned as Italy’s sex symbol in the 1950’s when she worked with Vittorio De Sica, Marcello Mastroianni, Buster Keaton, and Vittorio Gassman, among others, died on Wednesday in Rome. She was 90.
Born September 25, 1925, in Rome, Pampanini was the niece of soprano Rosetta Pampanini. She therefore trained as an opera singer and entered the film business after participating in a Miss Italy beauty pageant in 1946. Her failure to win prompted an outcry in the tabloids of the day.
Pampanini’s first big hit was 1951 comedy “Bellezze in bicicletta,” (”Beauties on bicycles”) directed by Carlo Campogalliani. A slew of pics followed, including Luigi Comencini’s drama “The White Slave Trade” in 1952, with Vittorio Gassman; Italo-Spanish comedy “The Island Princess,” (Aka “Tirma”) with Mastroianni; and “Roman Tales,” with De Sica, in 1955. In 1965 she starred in Dino Risi’s Buenos-Aires-set dark comedy “The Gaucho,” also with Gassman.
Pampanini, who became known in France as Ninì Pampas, also worked with Jean Gabin, Henri Vidal, and Abel Gance. She became an icon of Italian beauty around the world, paving the way for subsequent Italian screen sirens Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida.
Though she never married and had no children, Pampanini is said to have cavorted with a string of famous men including Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Egypt’s King Farouk, Orson Welles and Omar Sharif.
A devout Catholic, Pampanini worked only occasionally after giving up acting full-time to look after her elderly parents in the mid-1960s. Her most recent screen role was in Italian TV movie “Tre Stelle” in 1999.