TV & Movies

Lina Wertmüller, Italian Director of Seven Beauties, Dies at 93

In 1977, Wertmüller became first woman to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director

Lina Wertmuller in 2007. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Lina Wertmüller, the Italian director of 1970s classics such as “Seven Beauties” and “Swept Away,” died Thursday in Rome at age 93, La Repubblica reported.

In 1977, she became the first woman to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director for the 1975 drama “Seven Beauties.” Two years ago, she accepted an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards.

After an introduction from actor Marcello Mastroianni, Wertmüller got her start in film as a protégé of Federico Fellini — working as assistant director on his 1963 classic “8 1/2.” She directed her first film of her own in 1963, “The Lizards,” and followed with many more.

Her first breakout success came with 1972’s “The Seduction of Mimi,” which established her reputation as a master of the Italian commedia all’Italiana style.

Two years later, she achieved even greater international acclaim for writing and directing “Swept Away,” which followed followed a wealthy capitalist woman (Mariangela Melato) and a communist boat crew member (Giancarlo Giannini) who become stranded on a deserted island together after a yachting mishap. The National Board of Review awarded named it the best foreign film the following year. (The film also inspired Guy Ritchie’s 2002 remake starring then-wife Madonna and Adriano Giannini, son of Giancarlo — which turned out to be a critical and box office dud.)

But Wertmüller is perhaps best known for “Seven Beauties,” the picaresque and flashback-heavy story of an Italian everyman (played by Giannini again) who deserts the army during World War II and is imprisoned in a German concentration camp where he does anything and everything to survive. The film pulled off a rare feat at the 1977 Academy Awards, earning four nominations — including two for Wertmüller as both director and screenwriter as well as for Best Foreign Language Film and for Giannini’s lead performance. (It was shut out in all four categories.)

The film’s success led Warner Bros. to hire Wertmüller for her first English-language film, “Night Full of Rain,” a romantic drama starring Giannini and Candice Bergen that proved to be a box office disappointment.

Other credits included “Blood Feud” (1978), “A Joke of Destiny” (1983), “Softly … Softly” (1984), “A Complex Plot About Women, Alleys and Crimes” (1985), “Summer Night With Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil” (1986) and “Crystal or Ash, Fire or Wind, as Long as It’s Love” (1989), starring Faye Dunaway, Nastassja Kinski and Rutger Hauer.

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