Claudia Cardinale

Claudia Cardinale


Birth Place
La Goulette, Tunis, TN
April 15, 1938


Though the international film market was glutted with sultry European actresses during the 1960s, few could boast the depth and range of talent as Claudia Cardinale. Blessed with an extraordinary face and figure, Cardinale began her career as lovely window dressing in films like "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1958). But she soon proved to the cinematic community that her screen abilities ...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Franco Cristaldi
Producer. Marriage kept secret until announced in 1967; divorced c. 1975.
Pasquale Squitieri
Director. Directed Cardinale in "Act of Sorrow" (1990).


Though the international film market was glutted with sultry European actresses during the 1960s, few could boast the depth and range of talent as Claudia Cardinale. Blessed with an extraordinary face and figure, Cardinale began her career as lovely window dressing in films like "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1958). But she soon proved to the cinematic community that her screen abilities were far greater than her photogenic nature, as evidenced by nuanced turns in "Girl with a Suitcase" (1961), Federico Fellini's "8 ½" (1963) and Luchino Visconti's "The Leopard." By the mid-1960s, she rivaled such fellow international stars as Sophia Loren and Catherine Denueve in worldwide popularity, but after starring in Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1969), she retreated to European features, where she continued to hone her craft in films like Werner Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo" (1982). Fondly remembered by movie fans the world over for her equally dazzling looks and talent, Cardinale remained the definition of a true movie star for over five decades.

She was born Claude Josephine Rose Cardinale (pronounced "Car-din-arl-ay") to French and Sicilian parents on April 15, 1938 in La Goulette, a predominately Italian neighborhood in the Tunisian capital of Tunis. She grew up speaking her mother's native language, French, and Tunisian Arabic, and did not learn Italian until she began her acting career. Initially, Cardinale wanted to be a teacher, but after entering and winning a 1957 contest to find the "most beautiful Italian girl in Tunisia," her path to film stardom was set. The first prize was a trip to the Venice Film Festival, where her earthy beauty captured the attention of the European press. After a two-month stint at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Italian National film school), Cardinale made her feature film debut in Jacques Baratier's "Goha" (1957), starring Omar Sharif. She then received a seven-year contract from Vides Cinematografica, a production company run by producer Franco Cristaldi who, like Cardinale, had been born in Tunis.

What Cristaldi did not know was that Cardinale was pregnant at the time of their meeting. The French father was in Tunisia, and had stated that he wanted nothing to do with his offspring. Realizing that to sign Cardinale in such a state would fly in the face of his company's contract clauses which forbade weight gain and unnecessary fraternization, Cristaldi arranged for Cardinale to deliver the child, a boy named Patrick Frank, in London in 1958. He was then placed in the care of nuns in Italy until the age of 4 ½, when Cardinale's family cared for him in Tunis. As part of the arrangement, the boy was told that Cardinale was his older sister, not her son. Meanwhile, Cristaldi had brought Cardinale back to Italy, where he began grooming her as a starlet in the mold of Brigitte Bardot. She earned her first international hit with Mario Monicelli's "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1958), a fizzy crime farce about a group of hapless criminals who attempt and fail to break into a pawnshop. Cardinale had a minor role as the object of desire, a young girl kept a virtual prisoner by her over-protective husband. A major hit around the world, "Big Deal" thrust Cardinale into the international spotlight.

Though many of Cardinale's early roles were built largely around her physical attributes, she soon proved herself to be a capable dramatic and comedic actress in a wide variety of films for some of the most acclaimed Italian directors of the 1960s. In "Bell'Antonio" (1960), co-written by Pier Paolo Pasolini, she played the wife of Marcello Mastroianni, whose confusion over sex and love made him a renowned lover with strangers but impotent with her. Luchino Visconti cast her in a minor role in his iconic, neo-realist masterpiece "Rocco and His Brothers" (1960), and she gave a heartbreaking turn as a mistreated showgirl who became the romantic obsession of a teenage boy in Valerio Zurlini's "Girl with a Suitcase" (1961). By 1963, she had appeared in two of the greatest titles in world cinema - Federico Fellini's "8 ½" (1963), in which she essentially played herself, an actress named Claudia cast by director Marcello Mastroianni as the "perfect woman," and Visconti's criminally underrated "The Leopard" (1963), as the object of unrequited passion by an Italian nobleman (Burt Lancaster) and his nephew (Alain Delon). These and other films helped to mint Cardinale as the thinking man's sex symbol, and as an actress who could dazzle with her brain as well as her beauty. However, many moviegoers did not know that another actress dubbed her voice in nearly all of her films prior to 1963. At first, this was due to her rudimentary Italian, but as time wore on and her grasp of the language improved, producers continued to rely on dubbing because of her odd pronunciation - Cardinale was, in fact, speaking Italian with a French accent and in a surprisingly deep tone. The first time her actual voice was heard on film was in Fellini's "8 1/2.""

American audiences soon took notice of the actress as well, and she made her Hollywood debut in Blake Edwards' "The Pink Panther" (1963) as a Middle Eastern princess whose prized possession - the titular jewel - is stolen by a master thief, "The Phantom" (David Niven), who is being sought out by Peter Sellers' inept Inspector Clouseau. More Stateside features followed, including the thriller "Blindfold" (1965) with Rock Hudson, and Richard Brooks' thrilling Western "The Professionals" (1966), with Cardinale as the wife of an American rancher (Ralph Bellamy) kidnapped by a Mexican bandit (Jack Palance), who is then pursued by a quartet of mercenaries led by Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin. During this period, Cardinale also maintained her European career in such films as Visconti's "Vaghe stele dell'Orsa" ("Stella") (1965) in which she played a Holocaust survivor who returns to her home in Tuscany to re-ignite an incestuous relationship with her brother.

The following year, while filming the sex comedy "Don't Make Waves" with Tony Curtis in Los Angeles, Cardinale revealed the truth about her son to the international press. She had fallen in love with her mentor, Cristaldi, who had applied to the Vatican to annul his marriage in order to wed Cardinale. The couple was married in Georgia before returning to Italy to break the news to Patrick. The announcement shocked many fans, but in interviews, both Cristaldi and Cardinale explained that the revelation was made to prevent any negative publicity from affecting the boy. Cardinale soon returned to making films on both sides of the Atlantic; some remarkable, while others modest regional hits or obscurities. The most acclaimed picture during this period was unquestionably Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968), the sprawling coda to his "Dollars" trilogy of post-modern Westerns. She played Jill, the woman at the center of a violent, three-way power struggle between a hired gun (Henry Fonda), the mysterious stranger bent on killing him (Charles Bronson), and the bandit (Jason Robards) whom Fonda framed for the murder of Cardinale's husband. Met with critical and audience disdain upon its release, "Once Upon a Time" was eventually regarded as Leone's greatest work and one of the finest Westerns ever made.

After her work in the Leone film, Cardinale appeared almost exclusively in European features, many of which never reached American theaters. There were several notable films during this period, including 1969's "The Red Tent," an Italian/Soviet production about the 1928 crash of an Italian airship near the North Pole which starred Sean Connery and Peter Finch, and "Bello, onesto, emigrato Australia sposerebbe compaesana illibata" ("A Girl in Australia") (1971), a romantic comedy with Alberto Sordi which earned her a 1972 David for Best Actress. In 1977, she appeared on American television in Franco Zefferelli's "Jesus of Nazareth" (NBC, 1977) as the adulteress Jesus (Robert Powell) spared from stoning in the Gospel of John. The six-hour miniseries allowed her to return to her native Tunisia, which stood in for Jerusalem.

In 1981, Cardinale played Klaus Kinski's lover, a brothel owner who finances his mad scheme to build an opera house along the Amazon River in Werner Herzog's surreal "Fitzcarraldo" (1982). She remained a fixture of European film in the decades that followed, and continued to collaborate with the continent's top directors, including Liliana Cavani in "The Skin" (1981), which reunited her with Burt Lancaster; Marco Bellocchio in "Henry IV" (1984), Diane Kurys in "A Man in Love" (1987), and Henri Verneuil, who cast her as the matriarch of an Armenian family who emigrates to France after the genocide of 1915 in "Mayrig" (1991) and its sequel, "588 rue paradis" (1992).

During this period, she recounted her lengthy and storied career in a 1995 autobiography, Moi, Claudia, toi, Claudia, and she was feted by award organizations and festivals around the world, including an honorary Golden Lion from the 1993 Venice Film Festival. Cardinale also lent her fame to UNESCO as a goodwill ambassador for the defense of women's rights beginning in 1999. In 2002, Cardinale received an honorary Golden Bear from the Berlin Film Festival. Three years later, she published a second book, Mes Etoiles, which recounted more stories from her life in front of the camera. Far from being retired, Cardinale continued to star in three to four films a year, including a critically acclaimed turn as a Tunisian mother unable to come to terms with her French-educated son's homosexuality in "Le fil" ("The String") (2009).



Cast (Feature Film)

All Roads Lead to Rome (2016)
Effie Gray (2015)
Joy De V. (2013)
El Artista y la Modelo (2012)
Le Fil (2010)
Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008)
Cherche Fiance Tous Frais Payes (2007)
Marcello: A Sweet Life (2006)
The Magic of Fellini (2002)
And Now Ladies and Gentlemen (2002)
Fellini (2001)
My Best Fiend (1999)
Sous Les Pieds des Femmes (1998)
Kini & Adams (1997)
A Summer in Goulette (1996)
Elles ne pensent qu'a ca (1994)
Blake Edwards' Son of the Pink Panther (1993)
588 Rue Paradis (1992)
Money (1991)
Mayrig (1991)
Atto di Dolore (1991)
La Batalla de los Tres Reyes (1990)
La Revolution Francaise (1990)
Hiver 54, l'abbe Pierre (1989)
Helene Vannier
Blu Elettrico (1988)
A Man in Love (1987)
Julia Steiner
Naso di Cane (1987)
La Storia (1986)
L' Ete Prochain (1986)
La Donna Delle Meraviglie (1985)
Enrico IV (1985)
The Salamander (1983)
Le Ruffian (1983)
Stelle Emigranti (1983)
Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Le Cadeau (1982)
Burden of Dreams (1982)
The Skin (1981)
Princess Caracciolo
Escape to Athena (1979)
La Part du feu (1978)
L' Arma (1978)
Marta Campagna
Corleone (1978)
Rosa Accordino
La Petite fille en velours bleu (1978)
Francesca Modigliani
Il Prefetto di Ferro (1977)
Qui comincia l'avventura (1976)
A Mezzanotte va la ronda del Piacere (1975)
Gabriella Sansoni
Conversation Piece (1974)
Professor'S Wife
Libera, Amore Mio (1974)
Libera Valente
One Russian Summer (1973)
La Scoumoune (1972)
Bello Onesto Emigrato Australia Sposerebbe Compaesan Illibata (1971)
L' Udienza (1971)
Les Petroleuses (1971)
The Adventures Of Gerard (1970)
The Red Tent (1970)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)
Jill McBain
Mafia (1969)
Rosa Nicolosi
A Fine Pair (1969)
Esmeralda Marini
The Hell With Heroes (1968)
The Queens (1968)
Don't Make Waves (1967)
Laura Califatti
A Rose for Everyone (1967)
Lost Command (1966)
The Professionals (1966)
Maria Grant
Blindfold (1966)
Vicky Vincenti
Sandra (1966)
Time of Indifference (1965)
Carla Ardengo
The Facts of Murder (1965)
The Magnificent Cuckold (1965)
Maria Grazia Artusi
Bebo's Girl (1964)
Cartouche (1964)
Circus World (1964)
Toni Alfredo
The Pink Panther (1964)
Princess Dala
Fiasco in Milan (1963)
Carmela Nicosia
8 1/2 (1963)
The Leopard (1963)
Angelica Sedara/Bertiana
La Viaccia (1962)
Bell'Antonio (1962)
Barbara Puglisi
Rocco and His Brothers (1961)
Girl With a Suitcase (1961)
Aida Zepponi
Austerlitz (1960)
The Dauphins (1960)
Upstairs and Downstairs (1959)
Big Deal On Madonna Street (1958)

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Fellini (2001)
Stelle Emigranti (1983)
Burden of Dreams (1982)

Cast (Special)

Circus of the Stars (1977)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo" (1997)
Princess Daisy (1983)
Annabel De Fournament
Jesus of Nazareth (Do Not Use) (1977)

Life Events


Short film debut in "Anneaux d'or/Chaines d'or" (France)


Feature film debut in "Goha" (France)


Won a beauty contest as "The Most Beautiful Italian Girl in Tunisia" and a trip Venice Film Festival


Joined cast of CBS series "Falcon Crest"

Photo Collections

Don't Make Waves - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from Don't Make Waves (1967), starring Tony Curtis, Sharon Tate, and Claudia Cardinale.


Movie Clip

Lost Command (1966) -- (Movie Clip) Lovely And Warm Producers don't miss their chance to get Claudia Cardinale (as Algerian "Aicha") and Alain Delon (as French "Captain Esclavier") into swimsuits, then to the Casbah, in Lost Command, 1966.
Fine Pair, A (1969) -- (Movie Clip) Two Basic Requirements After credits in which she lands in New York from Rome, Claudia Cardinale is pretty convincing as a playful Italian jet-setter, inexplicably dropping in on businesslike police suit Rock Hudson, early in director Francesco Maselli's little-noticed A Fine Pair, 1969.
Fine Pair, A (1969) -- (Movie Clip) You Want Two Rooms? Crossing the pond with Esmerelda (Claudia Cardinale), the now grown-up amateur criminal daughter of his late Italian colleague, New York police executive Harmon (Rock Hudson) is looking only semi-competent at helping her out of a jam, in the multi-national rom-com A Fine Pair, 1969.
8 1/2 -- (1963) -- (Movie Clip) An Impoverished Poetic Inspiration At the spa for mineral water, Claudia (Claudia Cardinale) appears to glide in before movie director Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) enters conversation with writer Fabrizio (Jean Rougeul), in Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, 1963.
Professionals, The (1966) -- (Movie Clip) For The Revolution Reluctantly rescued Maria (Claudia Cardinale) caring for wounded Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), tangling with Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) and Fardan (Lee Marvin), who've been hired to bring her back to her American husband, in The Professionals, 1966.
Don't Make Waves (1967) -- (Movie Clip) California Welcomes You The title song composed to order by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman and performed by their band The Byrds (also the flip-side of their single “Have You Seen Her Face”), and director Alexander Mackendrick’s introduction of leads Tony Curtis and, at a distance, Claudia Cardinale, from Don’t Make Waves, 1967.
Don't Make Waves (1967) -- (Movie Clip) Smell The Picture? Evening at the Malibu home of flighty Italian painter Laura (Claudia Cardinale), who earlier in the day destroyed the car (and pants) owned by baffled tourist Carlo (Tony Curtis), she’s supposed to be finding her insurance documents, in the MGM beach farce Don’t Make Waves, 1967.
Rocco And His Brothers (1960) -- (Movie Clip) If A Real Man Wants A Woman On the snow day in Milan, eldest brother Vincenzo (Spiros Focas) grabs the chance to visit with almost-ex girlfriend Ginetta (Claudia Cardinale), their families since his poor relations arrived from the south, in Luchino Visconti's Rocco And His Brothers, 1960.
8 1/2 -- (1963) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Down For Good The arresting opening, a film director trapped in his car, from Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, 1963, starring Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee and Sandra Milo.
Don't Make Waves (1967) -- (Movie Clip) Give Him Some Air! Out-of-towner Carlo (Tony Curtis) who, although innocent, was sent to sleep on the Malibu beach by the sugar-daddy of artist Laura (Claudia Cardinale), whom he hardly knows, wakes up and meets locals including surfer Sharon Tate, bawdy directing by Alexander Mackendrick, in Don’t Make Waves, 1967.
Burden Of Dreams (1982) -- (Movie Clip) One Of The Leading Characters After another delay of months, director Les Blank's documentary on the shooting of director Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo resumes with the introduction of the fiery Klaus Kinski taking over the lead role, and the procurement of the boat to be carried over a Peruvian mountain, in Burden Of Dreams, 1982.
Burden Of Dreams (1982) -- (Movie Clip) We Want The Opera burdenofdreams82_wewanttheopera_FC



Patricio Cristaldi
Restaurateur. Born 1967; operates Spanish restaurant El Salon Verde on New York's East Side with Hayne Suthon.
Claudia Squitieri
Born c. 1980.


Franco Cristaldi
Producer. Marriage kept secret until announced in 1967; divorced c. 1975.
Pasquale Squitieri
Director. Directed Cardinale in "Act of Sorrow" (1990).