Elsa Martinelli

Kirk Douglas and Elsa Martinelli

Elsa Martinelli
(January 30, 1935 – July 8, 2017)

Elsa Martinelli was an Italian model and actress. She was “introduced” in The Indian Fighter (1955), which was produced by its star, Kirk Douglas, and directed by Andre de Toth.

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 Hawkes, and Elio Petri, died Saturday 8 July 2017 in Rome at the age of 82.

Born in the Tuscan city of Grosseto, Martinelli moved to Rome in the early 1950s and started a career as a model. She soon appeared in “Vogue” and “Life,” which is 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 breakthrough role came the following year in Andre de Toth’s “The Indian Fighter,” which Douglas produced.

Elsa Martinelli

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 Hawkes 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).

Elsa Martinelli 2

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.

Elsa Martinelli 3

She appeared in more than 40  films and, starting in the 1970s, moved more towards 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.

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