A German/Spanish/Italian co-production.
Detailed profile of Spanish director Eugenio Martín (by John Exshaw/CinemaRetro)
Eleonora Rossi Drago (wikipedia)
Born in an elegant suburb of Genoa, her father from Le Marche and a Spanish mother. He was a navy captain who, with a heavy heart, gave her permission to marry in a hurry in October 1942 because she was seventeen and expecting a baby. The honeymoon was delayed by three days due to furious aerial bombardment by Anglo-American forces over Genoa. Some months later, having been evacuated to Cuneo, she gave birth to her only child, Fiorella, but in 1944 her husband Cesare Rossi joined the partisans. At the end of the war he decided to emigrate to Argentina but Eleonora refused to follow him. The couple separated in January 1947 and she remained in Genoa with their daughter.
Initially finding work as a model and fashion designer she made her debut as an actress with the Piccolo Teatro company in Ligure. In the summer of 1947 she entered Miss Italy and was even considered one of the favourites but, because of the rules, she was excluded from the competition when they found out she was both married and a mother. As a result she moved to Rome and made her film debut in I pirati di Capri employing her married name, Eleonora Rossi.
At the start of her career she played mostly conventional roles in genre films. A chance to climb higher up the ladder came when she auditioned for Giuseppe De Santis, for the film ‘Non c’è Pace’, but the role was given to Lucia Bosè. She was able to utilise her many expressive talents in films like, Persiane chiuse, Sensualità, Le amiche, Donne sole and La strada lunga un anno, but her voice was very often dubbed by someone else. In order to improve her photogenic qualities she had a plastic surgery operation on her nose but she was left dissatisfied with the results and had a further two operations, without ever losing her innate class, elegance and air of sophistication. The press crowned her “the Duchess of Italian Cinema” and frequently reported on her romantic ties to her colleague, Amedeo Nazzari, Prince Alfonos of Borbone and Duke Cesare D’Acquarone who was later assassinated in Acapulco.
In reality, Rossi Drago wasn’t free to re-marry because she had only just separated from her husband in June 1956. Six months earlier, for a few weeks, she returned to the theatre with Zio Vanja by Čechov , directed by Visconti and a supporting cast including Rina Morelli, Paolo Stoppa and Marcello Mastroianni. Following Un maledetto imbroglio shot in 1959, she had two other significant roles in Estate violenta and in Tiro al piccione,
Having reached the peak of her career, at the age of 35, Eleonora never appeared in any more significant roles. She acted in many episodic featurs like Il disco volante, L’idea fissa, Se permettete parliamo di donne and in more mainstream or commercial films, often in co-production with France, Spain, Germany or Yugoslavia. She also recorded an LP of poetry and theatre speeches. Her last role in a big budget feature was as the wife of Lot in the ‘The Bible’, directed by John Huston.
She was also a frequent guest on television variety shows and appeared in commercials for a famous brand of Champagne.
At 41 years of age, ignored by the film industry, she was hired by a fotoromanzo to appear in an episodic historical story playing the role of Queen Mary Stuart. In a desperate attempt to relaunch her career, in 1968 she returned to the theatre playin a 40-year-old lesbian, alongside Olga Villi, but the play by Brunello Rondi, entitled Shocking, only ran for a few days. In her last films, Rossi Drago was forced to accept secondary roles in more exploitative films and so her career came to an end at the age of 45.
Man mano che la commedia italiana passava dalla narrazione e descrizione di personaggi allo sketch dai toni grossolani e dall’estetica sexy, l’espressione sofisticata e i tratti nobili di Eleonora Rossi Drago non suscitavano più l’interesse di registi e produttori. L’attrice invecchiando affrontava un crescente isolamento professionale e cadde in un profondo stato depressivo dovuto anche allo sfiorire della bellezza fisica. Nel novembre del 1971, poche settimane dopo essere diventata nonna, tentò il suicidio con il gas ma fu salvata dall’ingegnere siciliano Domenico La Cavera che la sposerà nel 1973 a Palermo e le sopravviverà. Con il secondo matrimonio, la Rossi Drago trova finalmente la serenità e abbandona senza rimpianti il mondo dello spettacolo, con un’unica piccola eccezione: nel 1989 collabora, assieme a Claudia Cardinale e Claudio Gora, al documentario di John Jeremy – su testi di Ennio De Concini e Alfredo Giannetti – dedicato alla figura del jazzista Ben Webster, The Brute and the Beautiful.
L’attrice è deceduta all’età di 82 anni nella sua casa di Palermo, probabilmente stroncata da un’emorragia cerebrale.