Sandra Milo, diva of great films and TV personality between Fellini and Craxi

With his exuberant physique and self-irony, he has been able to play both comic, dramatic and pathetic roles throughout his career.

Diva actress of great films – such as “8 and 1/2” by Federico Fellini which won two Oscars – and popular television character, Sandra Milo – who died today at the age of 90 – with her exuberant physique and self-irony, during his career he was able to interpret both comic, dramatic and pathetic roles. E with her four marriages, her great love for Fellini and her relationship with the socialist secretary Bettino Craxi she conquered the gossip columns for a long time. Destined by the soft opulence of her physique to impersonate the girl devoted to love, always available for courtship, both in the cinema and on TV she was able to manage the absent-minded consistency of her characters with sly irony, juggling between comedy and mischief.

The most famous films

Particularly famous in the cinema of the 1960s, Sandra Milo acted mainly in arthouse films, and was also successful in France. She made her big screen debut in 1955 in Antonio Pietrangeli’s ‘Lo scapolo’ alongside Alberto Sordi, but her first major role came four years later with Roberto Rossellini’s ‘Il Generale Della Rovere’.

She was again directed by Pietrangeli both in ‘Adua e le compagne’ (1960), in ‘Ghosts in Rome’ (1961) and in ‘La visita’ (1964). You won the Nastro d’argento twice, in 1964 for ‘8 e 1/2’ (1963) and in 1966 for ‘Giulietta degli ordini’ (1965), both Fellini. Among the other numerous films to remember: ‘Frenesia dell’estate’ (1963), ‘Le Voci Bianca’ (1964), ‘Le Belle Famiglia’ (1964), ‘L’Umbrella’ (1965). For a period she abandoned the stage to dedicate herself to her family. In the 1980s her career as a television presenter was intense, giving her popularity thanks to the programs ‘Mixer’ and ‘Piccoli fans’ on Rai 2. In the 2000s she returned to acting in the theater and on the big screen, among latest films performed: ‘Il Cuore Elsewhere’ by Pupi Avati (2003); ‘Happy Family’ by Gabriele Salvatores (2010); ‘A casa tutti bene’ by Gabriele Muccino (2018); ‘An enemy who loves you’ by Denis Rabaglia (2018). In 2020 she received the Golden Globe for her career and in 2021 the David Speciale for her career.

The beginnings of his career

Born as Elena Salvatrice Greco in Tunis on 11 March 1933 to a Sicilian father and a Tuscan mother, she spent her childhood in Vicopisano, a medieval village in the province of Pisa, where she attended elementary school up to the fourth grade, and then moved with her family to Viareggio. In 1948, at 15, she married the Marquis Cesare Rodighiero, with whom she became pregnant, but the child died at birth due to premature birth. The marriage lasted only a few months (later annulled by the Court of the Sacred Rota) but long enough to bring her closer to a highly sought after elite.

In 1955 she decided to start acting and took part in Antonio Petrangeli’s film ‘Lo scapolo’, alongside Alberto Sordi: she made her debut in the role of an exuberant hostess. Thanks to her shapes and her high voice, she manages to make her way in the Italian comedy. She gained visibility with ‘The woman who came from the sea’ (1957) by Francesco De Robertis, of which she was the protagonist together with Vittorio De Sica. Also in 1957 she appeared in ‘The Adventures of Arsenius Lupine’ by Jacques Becker and in ‘The Two-Faced Mirror’ by André Cayatte; in the same year she starred in Steno’s ‘Totò nella Luna’, impersonating the beautiful Tatiana, the object of the Neapolitan comedian’s desire.

She was then the naive prostitute in ‘General Della Rovere’ (1959) by Roberto Rossellini, and the girl with too easy morals, who loves jewels and underwear, in ‘The Green Mare’ (1959) by Claude Autant -Lara. In 1960 Sandra Milo offered proof of her ability to move from brilliant to pathetic tones (acting for the first time with her voice) in ‘Adua e le compagne’ by Pietrangeli, the story of a group of prostitutes who try to reintegrate into the society after the closure of the brothels, where he acted alongside Claudio Gora and Marcello Mastroianni.

She then tackled a dramatic role playing the passionate and naive heroine of ‘Vanina Vanini’ (1961), based on the story by Stendhal and directed by Rossellini. Sandra Milo is panned by critics who define her as a ‘canine canine’. Yet, the sensational failure reported by the film at the Venice Film Festival returns Sandra Milo to her character: she was the graceful lady in ‘Ghosts in Rome’ (1961) directed by Pietrangeli and the young provincial girl who seeks love by correspondence in ‘ The Visit’ (1963) by the same director.

The meeting with Fellini

His career seems to have a setback, but things will change thanks to the icrucial meeting with Federico Fellini, who will make her his protégé, his lover and give her the nickname ‘Sandrocchia’. Thus she went on to shoot the two films that made her most famous, ‘8 and ½’ (1963) and ‘Juliet of the Spirits’ (1965), in which she embodied the role of the Fellini-style femme fatale: ditzy and ridiculous, but also naive and irresistibly uninhibited. For both she received the Nastro d’Argento as best supporting actress. Self-irony and light-heartedness, combined with an instinctive comic streak, make her the effective interpreter of Carla, director Guido’s lover in ‘8 and 1/2’, while in ‘Giulietta degli Spiriti’ she knows how to characterize three characters symbolically opposed to the female model represented by Giulietta Masina.

His golden season seemed to end with Dino Risi’s ‘The Umbrella’ (1965). Between the Seventies and Nineties his appearances on the big screen became sporadic with few titles under his belt, however confirming his skills as a brilliant character actor in ‘Grog’ (1982), Francesco Laudadio’s first film, ‘Waiters’ (1995) by Leone Pompucci, and ‘The heart elsewhere’ (2003) by Pupi Avati.

How many times has she been married

Sandra Milo confessed that she remained away from the set for a long time mainly due to her desire to have a family which however clashed with an unstable love life. Second marriage she married the film producer Moris Ergas from 1954 to 1966 (with whom she has a daughter, Deborah, a journalist). The third marriage she is with Ottavio De Lollis in 1969, with whom she will have two children, Ciro and Azzurra. Divorced in 1985, in 1990 she had a quick marriage with the Cuban Jorge Ordoñezeven if, as she declared in an interview with ‘Vanity Fair’, that relationship was never true: it would have just been a stunt to get people talking about herself.

In the 1980s, however, Sandra Milo kept her relationship with the public alive through a series of successful television programmes. Helped by her closeness to Bettino Craxi, according to gossip, in 1982-83 she hosted a costume column within Giovanni Minoli’s in-depth program ‘Mixer’ on Rai 2, considered at the time the ‘socialist network’. From 1985 to 1989 she hosted ‘Piccoli fans’, an afternoon program for children: her exaggeratedly naive and childish hosting (also due to her falsetto voice) and a series of grotesque situations made her famous again to the public, so much so that she managed to eclipse the season of cinematic successes of the sixties.

At the beginning of the 2000s Sandra Milo returned to the cinema taking part in numerous films including ‘Il Cuore Elsewhere’ (2002) by Pupi Avati, ‘Chi nasce tondo…’ (2007) by Alessandro Valori, ‘Impotenti existenziali’ (2009 ) by Giuseppe Cirillo, ‘Alta infedeltà’ (2010) by Claudio Insegno, ‘Happy Family’ (2010) by Gabriele Salvatores, ‘W Zappatore’ (2011) by Massimiliano Verdesca, ‘Impepata di nozze – Getting married in the south is completely different history’ (2012) and ‘With all the love I have (2015) – both by Angelo Antonucci -, ‘Prima di monday’ (2016) by Massimo Cappelli, ‘A Casa Tutti Bene’ (2018) by Gabriele Muccino. At the 2018 edition of Lei ai Nastri d’Argento Documentari she received the special award as best protagonist for ‘Salvatrice-Sandra Milo tells her story’ by Giorgia Würth.

After receiving the David di Donatello for lifetime achievement in 2021, in 2022 Sandra Milo is the protagonist of the docu-reality ‘Quelle Brave Ragazze’, with Mara Maionchi and Orietta Berti. In 2023 a second edition was produced, again with Milo again supported by Maionchi and Marisa Laurito (replacing Orietta Berti). On 21 December 2023 she is among the protagonists of the Prime Video comedy series, Gigolò per caso, 6 episodes directed by Eros Puglielli, with, among others, Christian De Sica and Pietro Sermonti.

(by Paolo Martini)