Emerging in the wake of Sophia Loren's
international success, Claudia Cardinale was originally
touted as Italy's answer to Brigitte
Bardot; while never attaining a measure of global stardom
comparable to either performer, she nevertheless proved
herself a highly capable actress, working with many of the
most renowned filmmakers in world cinema. Born in Tunisia
on April 15, 1938, Cardinale first attracted attention in
1957 after winning the "Most Beautiful Girl in Tunisia"
contest; her prize was a trip to the Venice Film Festival,
inspiring her to pursue a career in acting. After studying
at Rome's Centro Sperimentale film school, she made her
screen debut in 1958 in Mario Monicelli's classic caper
comedy I Soliti Ignoti, followed a year later by
Pietro Germi's Un Maledetto Imbroglio.
Under the guidance of producer Franco Cristaldi (later
to become her husband), Cardinale emerged as a major sex
symbol; however, she also continued to appear with highly
regarded filmmakers, including Abel Gance (The Battle
of Austerlitz), Luchino Visconti (Rocco E I Suoi
Fratelli), and Philippe de Broca (1962's Cartouche).
In 1963, Cardinale received her widest exposure to date,
playing herself the object of star Marcello Mastroianni's
fantasies in Federico Fellini's masterpiece 8
1/2. That same year, she also appeared in Visconti's
epic Il Gattopardo. Their combined success piqued
Hollywood's interest, and in 1964 she co-starred in her
first American production, Henry Hathaway's Circus World.
She also appeared opposite Peter Sellers in Blake Edwards'
Cardinale continued dividing her time between Hollywood
and Europe for the remainder of the decade, appearing in
diverse projects ranging from the 1965 Visconti war drama
Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa to the 1966 Richard Brooks
Western The Professionals. In 1968, she also co-starred
in the Sergio Leone classic Once
Upon a Time in the West. However, with the 1969
Mikhail Kalatozov adventure La Tenda Rossa, Cardinale
began appearing almost exclusively in European films, few
of which were distributed in English-language markets. As
a result, she was largely a memory when she resurfaced in
the 1976 hit The Pink Panther Strikes Again. A year
later, she also co-starred in the television miniseries
Jesus of Nazareth. Cardinale's next high-profile
international project was the 1982 Werner Herzog art-house
hit Fitzcarraldo. She followed it with another miniseries,
1983's Princess Daisy, then again remained in Europe
prior to the 1993 flop Son of the Pink Panther.