Elsa Martinelli, Star of ‘The Indian Fighter,’ Dies

Italian Actress and Former Model Elsa
Flueeler/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

ROME — Italian actress Elsa Martinelli, who starred opposite Kirk Douglas in the 1955 Western “The Indian Fighter” and went on to gain international recognition working with such directors as Mario Monicelli, Roger Vadim, Orson Welles, Howard Hawks, and Elio Petri, died Saturday in Rome. She was 82.

Born in the Tuscan city of Grosseto, Martinelli moved to Rome in the early 1950s and started a career as a model after her slim physique was noticed by fashion designer Roberto Capucci. She soon appeared in Vogue and Life, where she was noticed by Kirk Douglas’ wife, Anne Buydens.

Martinelli made her acting debut in 1954 in the Stendhal adaptation “Le Rouge et le Noir,” directed by France’s Claude Autant-Lara. But her breakout role came the following year in Andre de Toth’s “The Indian Fighter,” which Douglas produced.

“Sex in the person of Elsa Martinelli, Italian actress introduced here, and the relationship of her Indian maid character with Douglas is a story factor and ballyhoo point,” Variety’s review said.

Martinelli went on to alternating roles in European and U.S. productions, working with Monicelli in “Donatella” (1956); with Vadim, opposite Mel Ferrer, in “Blood and Roses” (1960); with Hawks in “Hatari!” (1962); with Welles in Kafka adaptation “The Trial” (1962); and with Petri in campy social satire “The 10th Victim” alongside Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress (1965).

Martinelli’s role as a lower-class young woman mistaken for a high-society lady in “Donatella” won her the Silver Bear acting award at the 1956 Berlin Film Festival.

She appeared in more than 40 feature films and, starting in the 1970s, veered more toward TV work in Italy, most recently in hit miniseries “Orgoglio” in 2005, in which she played the Duchess of Monteforte.

Martinelli’s last role in an English-language film was as Carla the Agent in Eugene Levy-directed ensemble comedy “Once Upon a Crime,” in 1992.

Martinelli married twice, first to Franco Mancinelli Scotti di San Vito and subsequently, in 1968, to Paris Match photographer Willy Rizzo.

She is survived by a daughter from her first marriage, Cristiana Mancinelli, who is also an actress.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 2

Leave a Reply

2 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Sasha Kasdan says:

    She was fabulous in every film she appeared in. But her appearance as Basel Zoo photographer Anna Maria “Dallas” D’Allesandro in “Hatari!” was one for the books. She was fabulous in the animal scenes…especially where she was tracked down by the three baby elephant “hound dogs”.

  2. Perhaps the writer or the publication could do a name spelling check. Would it not be appropriate and fitting if the century-old mainstay print digest of the movie production industry would accurately spell the last name of one of the classic masters of that movie industry? It’s Howard Hawks, not Hawkes.

More Film News from Variety

Loading