Tunis, Tunisia, 15 April 1939.
Attended acting classes at Centro Sperimentale film school, Rome.
Married the producer Franco Cristaldi.
1956—appeared in small part in short film
; 1957—contract with Cristaldi; 1958—began appearing in
secondary roles in Italian films; early 1960s—international
stardom, particularly with Fellini's
; 1977—in TV mini-series
Jesus of Nazareth
Silver Ribbons, Italy, for Best Actress, for
La ragazza di Bube
, 1963, and
, 1984–85, and for Best Supporting Actress, for
Via Flamina Km.17,200, 1–0018 Rome, Italy.
Anneaux d'or ( Chaines d'or ) (Vautier)
I soliti ignoti ( Big Deal on Madonna Street ; Persons Unknown ) (Monicelli) (as Carmelina); Tre straniere a Roma (Gora); La prima notte (Cavalcanti); Totò e Marcellino (Masa)
Il magistrato (Zampa); Un maledetto imbroglio ( The Facts of Murder ) (Germi); Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti ( Fiasco in Milan ; Hold-up á la Milanaise ) (Loy); Vento del sud (Provenzale); Upstairs and Downstairs (Thomas) (as Maria)
Austerlitz ( The Battle of Austerlitz ) (Gance) (as Pauline); Il bell'Antonio (Bolognini) (as Barbara Puglisi); I delfini (Maselli); Rocco e i suoi fratelli ( Rocco and His Brothers ; Rocco et ses freres ) (Visconti) (as Ginetta)
La ragazza con la valigia ( Girl with a Suitcase ; Pleasure Girl ) (Zurlini) (as Aida Zepponi); Les lions sont lâchés (Verneuil); Senilità (Bolognini) (as Angiolina); La viaccia ( The Love Makers ) (Bolognini)
Cartouche ( Swords of Blood ) (de Broca) (as Venus)
Il gattopardo ( The Leopard ) (Visconti) (as Angelica Sedara/Bertiana); 8½ ( Otto e mezzo ) (Fellini) (as Claudia); La ragazza di Bube ( Bebo's Girl ) (Comencini) (as Mara)
Circus World ( The Magnificent Showman ) (Hathaway) (as Toni Alfredo); The Pink Panther (Edwards) (as Princess Dala); Il magnifico cornuto ( The Magnificent Cuckold ) (Pietrangeli) (as Maria Grazia Artusi); Gli indifferenti ( A Time of Indifference ) (Maselli) (as Carla Ardengo)
Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa ( Sandra ; Of a Thousand Delights ) (Visconti) (as Sandra)
Blindfold (Dunne) (as Vicky Vincenti); Una rosa per tutti ( A Rose for Everyone ; Every Man's Woman ) (Rossi) (as Rosa); "Fata Armenia" ("Queen Armenia") ep. of Le fate ( The Queens ; Sex Quartet ) (Monicelli) (as Armenia); Lost Command ( Not for Honor and Glory ) (Robson) (as Aicha); The Professionals (Richard Brooks) (as Maria Grant)
Don't Make Waves (Mackendrick) (as Laura Califatti); Piero Gherardi (Werba)
The Hell with Heroes (Sargent) (as Elena); C'era una volta il West ( Once upon a Time in the West ) (Leone) (as Jill McBain); Il giorno della civetta ( The Day of the Owl ; La Maffia fait la loi ; Mafia ) (Damiani) (as Rosa Nicolosi)
La tenda rossa ( Krasnaya palatka ; The Red Tent ) (Kalatozov) (as Nurse Valeria); Nell'anno del signore (Magni) (as Giuditta Di Castro); Ruba al prossimo tuo ( Una coppia tranquilla ; A Fine Pair ) (Maselli) (as Esmeralda Marini)
The Adventures of Gerard (Skolimowski) (as Countess Teresa); Certo, certissimo . . . anzi probabile ( Certain, Very Certain, as a Matter of Fact . . . Probable ) (Fondato) (as Marta)
Popsy Pop ( The Butterfly Affair ; The 21 Carat Snatch ; Queen of Diamonds ) (Herman) (as Popsy); Les Pétroleuses ( The Legend of Frenchie King ; The Petroleum Girls ) (Christian-Jaque) (as Maria); L'udienza ( Tee Audience ; The Papal Audience ) (Ferreri); Bello, onesto, emigrato Australia sposerebbe compaesana illibata (Zampa)
La scoumoune (Giovanni) (as Genevieve Saratov)
Libera, amore mio ( Libera, My Love ) (Giovanni); I guappi ( Blood Brothers ) (Squitieri); Il giorno del furore ( Days of Fury ; One Russian Summer ) (Calenda) (as Anya)
Gruppo di famiglia in un interno ( Conversation Piece ; Violence et Passion ) (Visconti) (as wife)
A mezzanotte va la ronda del piacere ( The Immortal Bachelor ; Midnight Pleasures ; Qui comincia l'avventura ) (Fondato) (as Gabriella Sansoni)
One ep. of Il communo senso del pudore ( A Common Sense of Modesty ) (Sordi); The Pink Panther Strikes Again (Edwards)
Blonde in Black Leather (Di Palma); Un jour peut-être à San Pedro ou ailleurs ; Il prefetto di ferro (Squitieri); La part du feu (Périer); Goodbye e Amen ( Goodbye and Amen ) (Damiani) (as Aliki)
Cocktails for Three ; L'arma ( The Gun ) (Squitieri) (as Marta Campagna); La petite fille en velours bleu ( The Little Girl in Blue Velvet ) (Bridges); Corleone ( Father of the Godfather ) (Squitieri) (as Rosa Accordino)
L'ingorgo ( Traffic Jam ) (Comencini); Escape to Athena (Cosmatos) (as Eleana)
Si salvi chi vuole (Faenza)
La pelle (Cavani); The Salamander (Zinner) (as Elena)
Le Cadeau ( The Gift ) (Michel Lang) (as Antonella); Fitzcarraldo (Herzog) (as Molly); Burden of Dreams (Blank—doc)
Le Ruffian ( The Ruffian ) (Giovanni) (as la "baronne"); Princess Daisy (Hussein—for TV); Stelle emigranti (Mazeni—for TV)
Claretta (Squitieri); Enrico IV ( Henry IV ) (Bellochio) (as Matilda)
La storia ( History ) (Comencini) (as Ida); Donna delle meraviglie ( The Woman of Wonders ) (Beraviglie)
L'Été prochain ( Next Summer ) (Trintignant) (as Jeanne)
Un Homme amoreux ( A Man in Love ) (Kurys) (as Julia Steiner); Sniper (Jameson)
Blu Elettrico ( Electric Blue ) (Gaeng) (as Tata)
La bataille des trois rois ( The Battle of Three Kings ; Tambores de duego ; Drums of Fire ) (Barka); La Revolution Française ( The French Revolution ) (Enrico and Heffron) (as the Countess); Ben Webster: The Brute and the Beautiful (Jeremy—doc)
Hiver 54, l'Abbé Pierre (Amar); Atto di dolore (Squitieri); Money (Stern)
Mayrig (as Araxi/Mayrig); Act of Contrition (Squitieri)
588 Rue Paradis ( Mother ) (as Araxi/Mayrig)
Son of the Pink Panther (Edwards) (as Maria)
Elles ne pensent qu'a ca ( Women Have Only One Thing on Their Minds ) (as Margaux)
Un été à La Goulette (Boughedir) (as Herself); 10–07: L'affaire Zeus (Ciupka) (as Agent)
Nostromo (Reid) (as Viola); Cannes … les 400 coups (Nadeau—for TV) (as herself)
Sous les pieds des femmes (Krim) (as Aya 1996); Deserto di fuoco (Castellari—for TV) (as Leila)
Riches, belles, etc. (Schpoliansky); Mia, Liebe meines Lebens (Soldati—for TV) (as Mary O' Sullivan); Mein liebster Feind—Klaus Kinski (Herzog—doc) (as herself)
Luchino Visconti (Lizzani) (as herself); Briganti (Squitieri)
Io, Claudia, tu, Claudia , with Anna Maria Mori, Milan, 1995.
Film Comment (Denville), March-April 1983.
"Claudia Cardinale," an interview with Michel Buruiana in Séquences (Montreal), March 1991.
Lane, John Francis, in Films and Filming (London), January 1963.
Ecran (Paris), January 1978.
"Claudia Cardinale in Claretta ," in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), June 1984.
Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), April 1990.
Legrand, Gérard & Rouyer, Philippe, "Notes pour un portrait./ Entre Luchino Visconti et Blake Edwards," an article and interview in Positif (Paris), December 1992.
* * *
Claudia Cardinale, the Italian actress famous for her husky, almost raspy voice, began her career by winning a contest for "the most beautiful Italian girl in Tunisia." As the winner, she was granted a trip to the Venice Film Festival, and eventually attended acting classes at the Centro Sperimentale in Rome. She was promoted by producer Franco Cristaldi, who carefully guided her every move in regard to the cinema, and later married her.
Cardinale was discovered during the era when Brigitte Bardot created one sensation after another both on screen and off. Cardinale could merely have become "the Italian Bardot," and, indeed comparisons have been drawn between the two actresses. But a number of factors helped lead Cardinale's career in a different direction. The publicity surrounding both Cardinale's films and her personal life was not nearly as sensational as that concerning Bardot. More importantly, Cardinale soon began appearing in the films of the major Italian auteurs. Minor, and later more substantial, roles in the films of Mario Monicelli, Mauro Bolognini, Luchino Visconti, and Federico Fellini made her a star in Italy and abroad.
While many of Bardot's films are now known simply because she is in them, Cardinale's films are often important works in the careers of their respective directors. For example, she appeared in Monicelli's best-known comedy ( Big Deal on Madonna Street ), co-starred in a fine series of films for Bolognini ( Il bell'Antonio, La viaccia , and Senilità ), and gained critical and popular recognition for her role as the fiancée of the eldest brother in Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers . She appeared in multiple roles in Fellini's 8½ , one of her most memorable films.
In these films, Cardinale's characters were, more often than not, portrayed as glamorous sex objects, not unlike Bardot. The variations each director introduced in the presentation of Cardinale in this type of character, however, prove interesting. In 8½ she plays Claudia, herself, as well as the ideal woman of Guido's dreams. Outside the immediate narrative context of the film, her character becomes a symbol for Fellini of unspoiled, yet unattainable, innocence. Though beautiful and sensuous, she is not crassly sexual.
Later, in Leone's Once upon a Time in the West , Cardinale portrays Jill McBain, the new bride of murdered settler Brett McBain. Again, her character could be described as the object desired by the male figures in the film, but Jill McBain signifies much more within the context of the film's complex narrative, and within the genre of the Western itself. She represents the forces of civilization, as female characters often do in Westerns. The final scene depicts Jill providing water to the thirsty workers building the railroad (that other symbol of the taming of the west), implying that Jill will fulfill her husband's dream of running a railroad station. Her past life as a prostitute in New Orleans, however, recalls the less than desirable elements of civilization, which will inevitably follow the settlers. In this film, as in 8½ , Cardinale's character carries symbolic, almost mythic connotations.
Cardinale made her American film debut in Blake Edwards's very popular The Pink Panther , securing her international star status. Other American films, such as The Professionals , followed. During the 1970s and 1980s, however, Cardinale made most of her films in Italy and Europe. Many were not distributed in America or suffered from limited distribution, thereby reducing Cardinale's international exposure. Three 1980's roles, in Liliana Cavani's La pelle (well-received at Cannes), in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo , and Diane Kurys's A Man in Love , have again focused attention on her as she enters a more mature phase of her life and career.
—Susan M. Doll