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Elsa Martinelli (1935 - 2017)

Ralph Crane / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Elsa Martinelli (1935 - 2017)

Elsa Martinelli, the Italian actress and model who starred in several English-language films, including “The Indian Fighter,” died Saturday, July 8, 2017, in Rome, according to multiple news sources. She was 82.

Martinelli was “discovered” by actor Kirk Douglas after he saw her on the cover of a magazine. He cast her in his production of “The Indian Fighter” (1955). It was her first English-language film. She spent much of the 1950s and 1960s splitting her time between Hollywood and European motion pictures.

Other notable Hollywood films included “Hatari!” (1962) with John Wayne and “The Pigeon That Took Rome” (1962) with Charlton Heston. Her last English-language film was the 1992 comedy “Once Upon a Crime” featuring John Candy, James Belushi, and Cybill Shepherd.


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Born Jan. 30, 1935, in Tuscany, she was featured on the covers of Vogue and Life magazines before switching her career path to acting. She was one of the first models to successfully navigate that transition.

She had small roles in the Italian film “If You Won a Hundred Million” (1953) and the French production “The Red and the Black” (1954) before being cast in the lead female role of Onahti in “The Indian Fighter.”

In 1956, she won the Silver Bear Award for best actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance in the Italian comedy “Donatella.” Her last role was in the 2005 Italian TV series “Orgoglio.”

Martinelli is survived by her daughter, Christiana Mancinelli.

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