Silvana Pampanini

Silvana Pampanini (25 September 1925 – 6 January 2016) was an Italian film actress, director and singer. She caused sensation when she took part in the 1946 Miss Italy contest and the following year she started her movie career. Her original plans to be an opera singer never materialized.

Silvana Pampanini
Silvana Pampanini in The Cheerful Squadron, in 1954.
Born(1925-09-25)25 September 1925
Died6 January 2016(2016-01-06) (aged 90)
Rome, Italy
OccupationFilm actress

Beauty pageant

Pampanini was wrongly reported as Miss Rome of 1947.[1] A caption in a 1952 newspaper said, "She is considered Italy's all-time beauty."[2] Actually in post-war Italy most young film actresses were selected from beauty pageants. Because of her physical looks and public persona Silvana was compared first to Deanna Durbin, then to Jane Russell.

Film career

Green-eyed and long-legged Silvana quickly became one of the most popular pin-up girls and movie stars in her country. She was considered a sex symbol throughout the 1950s. At the start of their career both Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren briefly appeared as extras in some films Pampanini starred in. The Roman curvaceous brunette was usually dubbed when acting but used her own voice when singing. Notably, she could speak French and Spanish, sing, dance, play the piano and she also recorded several songs on 78 rpm vinyl records. Some of her films were screened in the English speaking countries, usually with subtitles.

In a 1952 worldwide publicized press statement she complained that middle-aged Hollywood actors like Clark Gable, Charles Boyer, Spencer Tracy and Ronald Colman were too old to play romantic lovers. The same year she was introduced to Gregory Peck and later to Charlie Chaplin who were visiting Rome. She also met Humphrey Bogart, Rhonda Fleming and Claudette Colbert, while they were filming in Italy. Then in 1955 Silvana flew to New York City, Denver and Los Angeles, appeared on television but rejected offers from Hollywood because she was told she would have to study English for a long time and she did not like the American working schedule. In California she visited the Universal and Paramount studios making the acquaintance of Cecil B. De Mille, Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, Billy Wilder, William Holden and Joan Crawford who were busy on their sets. Playing the real-life part of a glamorous and smiling ambassadress of Italian cinema and fashion she travelled extensively all over the world including West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Scandinavian countries, URSS, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Israel, Egypt, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Tunisia and South Africa, often appearing on local TV shows and participating in film festivals as a special guest or panel member. Wherever Silvana went she was personally welcomed by royalty, heads of states, prime ministers, diplomats and dictators, including Juan Domingo Peron, Raul Castro, Marcos Perez Jimenez, prince and later emperor Akihito, Rafael Trujillo jr., Adnan Menderes, king Farouk, not to mention popes Pius XII and John XXIII.

In her heyday the actress was popular in France where they nicknamed her Ninì Pampan, in Spain where she was cast in Tirma, and in Latin America, especially in Mexico, where she starred in three movies including Sed de Amor with Pedro Armendáriz. Dynamic and sometimes temperamental signorina Pampanini was often involved in arguments and litigations with film producers which eventually jeopardized her career. Nevertheless, she successfully worked with distinguished actors and directors such as Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Alberto Sordi, Totò, Jean Gabin, Henri Vidal, Abel Gance, Vittorio De Sica, Buster Keaton. She turned down a supporting role in a film directed by Federico Fellini because he asked her to gain weight.

The film O.K. Nero, in which Pampanini played the role of scantily dressed Empress Poppaea, was banned in certain places because of scenes that were considered indecent.[3] In several countries, including the USA and Sweden, censorship prohibited Tower of Lust, made in France in 1954 and directed by Abel Gance. It was the morbid story a French medieval nymphomaniac queen who has all his lovers killed and nearly commits incest with one of his sons. Despite her risqué film roles and alluring photos published in men's magazines, she never appeared nude. Moreover, Pampanini claimed she always declined the invitations of producers and directors on their sofa, and nobody proved her wrong.

Threats and controversies

In 1954, the actress was sent a letter threatening that her home would be blown up if she did not leave a payment of 8 million lira in her car.[4]

Soon afterward, she went to Spain for three months to make a movie while police and agents of Lloyd's of London investigated the threat. A newspaper article reported that her "bosom [was] insured with Lloyd's for $48,000."[5]

Silvana's lawyers were definitely busy. In 1955 an influential Jewish Greek-born producer, a former fiancé, took legal action against Miss Pampanini because he wanted her to return his valuable engagements gifts, but he finally lost the case. In 1957 the already declining movie star sued a Roman duchess whose dog had bitten her leg during a spring walk in the Parioli district and asked for a 1 million lira compensation. At the 1958 Venice Lido Film Festival the actress beat a female journalist who had been unkind to her in a magazine article. One year later the cantankerous Pampanini was taken to court for contract breach by a Mexican producer who specifically applied for a female judge expected to be indifferent to her charms.

Personal life

Although she had countless admirers and passionate suitors, Silvana never married and had no children. In 1947 she dated Tyrone Power while he was shooting a film in Rome and one year later she abruptly terminated Orson Welles' unsophisticated courtship with a couple of slaps on his face. In 1951 she rejected the marriage proposal made by Toto, the most popular actor in Italy, who was older than her father. The press often announced that signorina Pampanini had a new boyfriend who was going to lead her to the altar at last, but none of them succeeded. In 1959 she also had a brief love affair with American TV personality George DeWitt.

In her autobiography Outrageously Respectable, published in her country in 1996, she wholeheartedly compared herself to Ava Gardner because of their similar physical appearance, and to Greta Garbo because they both received no eminent awards for their acting careers. In late October 2015, a few weeks after turning 90, Silvana was hospitalized and underwent abdominal surgery, but never recovered. Oddly enough, in Italy the day she died is a national festivity celebrating an old ugly witch who takes presents to children and then is burnt with a bonfire.

In compliance with her last will she was buried in a white coffin and her gravestone was decorated with the inscription SILVANA FOREVER. Hundreds of Pampanini's luxurious personal belongings—furniture and silverware items, paintings, jewels, books signed by the authors, elaborate clothes, luxurious evening dresses, old fashioned fur coats, and autographed photos—were sold at an auction in Rome two months after her death.



Film director

  • Melodie a Sant'Agata (1958)


  1. "Detonator (photo caption)". Indiana, Culver. The Culver Citizen. 7 September 1949. p. 7. Retrieved 21 January 2016 via
  2. "'Wow!' Girl". Indiana, Greenfield. Greenfield Daily Reporter. 15 January 1952. p. 5. Retrieved 21 January 2016 via
  3. "Film to Get Test Showing". Illinois, Decatur. The Decatur Herald. 22 June 1953. p. 11. Retrieved 21 January 2016 via
  4. "Police Guarding Italian Actress". Texas, Corpus Christi. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times. 12 May 1954. p. 4. Retrieved 21 January 2016 via
  5. "Star Goes to Spain". Michigan, Holland. The Holland Evening Sentinel. 15 May 1954. p. 7. Retrieved 21 January 2016 via

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