Rossano Brazzi, who played a series of aristocratic romantics in films ranging from “South Pacific” to “The Barefoot Contessa” before reverting to character parts in his later years, has died in Rome, Italian news agencies said Monday.
One of them, ANSA, quoting sources close to the actor’s family, said Brazzi died Saturday in a Rome hospital from an undisclosed virus that affected his nervous system. He was 78.
Brazzi played in more than 200 movies. Many of the most successful were filmed in the United States in the 1950s and ‘60s.
His first Hollywood appearance was in “Little Women” (1949), but it was “The Barefoot Contessa” (1954) that made him a star specializing in roles as a Latin lover or well-heeled playboy.
His compelling magnetism probably was best typified in two films: “South Pacific” (1958), in which he played the cultured French planter opposite Mitzi Gaynor as the Army nurse who learns to love him, and “Summertime” (1955), in which he seduced spinster Katharine Hepburn despite being a married man with several children.
Some of his other U.S. box-office successes included “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954), “Woman Times Seven” (1967) and “Krakatoa, East of Java” (1969).
Born in Bologna, Italy, he was left an orphan when Mussolini’s Fascists killed his parents. Brazzi studied law before turning to the stage and made his film debut in 1939. His success in the Italian cinema was immediate. He became a full-fledged U.S. movie presence in “The Barefoot Contessa,” which featured Humphrey Bogart as a director and Ava Gardner as a Spanish dancer who becomes a Hollywood star. Brazzi portrayed Count Vincenzo Torlato-Faurini, who weds Gardner and then kills her over sexual frustrations.
Brazzi made headlines of a different kind in 1984 when he was among 37 people indicted after an investigation of an international arms and drug smuggling ring operating in Italy, West Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, Turkey and other parts of the Mediterranean. The case against him was later dropped.
Until his illness he had been working in a film where he played the role of an Italian prosecutor, ANSA reported.
Survivors include his second wife, Isle Fischer. His first wife, Lydia Bertolini, died in 1981. His funeral will be Wednesday in Rome.