'Most beautiful woman in the world' Gina Lollobrigida in bizarre fake marriage plot
Published 30/01/2013 | 07:00
She was one of the leading sex symbols of her day, starring in romantic comedies alongside Bob Hope and Rock Hudson.
Now Italian film star Gina Lollobrigida, once dubbed "the most beautiful woman in the world", is embroiled in a real-life legal drama that would not seem out of place on the silver screen.
The Italian film star claims that her ex-boyfriend, a Spanish businessman 34 years her junior, staged a secret ceremony in which he "married" an impostor pretending to be her at a registry office in Barcelona.
The 85-year-old actress accuses Javier Rigau y Rafols, 51, of hoping to lay claim to her estate after her death.
Ms Lollobrigida believes the registrar went ahead with the ceremony three years ago, marrying her former boyfriend and a mystery woman called Teresa - a woman Ms Lollobrigida claims was posing as her.
"This vile person married me by proxy, without my knowledge and without my permission, in order to inherit my estate after my death," she said.
"There will be international investigations because I want to shed light on this squalid affair and all the people involved."
Ms Lollobrigida accuses Mr Rafols of fraud, saying that he was able to carry out the elaborate charade because he had in the past obtained the legal right to act on her behalf.
"A while ago he convinced me to give him my power of attorney. He needed it for some legal affairs. But instead I fear that he took advantage of the fact that I don't understand Spanish...Who knows what he had me sign," she told the Italian press.
Javier Saavedra, a Spanish lawyer who said he represented Mr Rafols until 2009 when they fell out over allegedly unpaid bills, claimed the actress’s version of events was true.
“Rafols paid money to a woman who looked like Gina Lollobrigida to enter into a fake marriage,” he told The Daily Telegraph from Madrid.
“He presented legal papers bearing what was supposedly Lollobrigida’s signature. He is known for moving in high society circles."
The couple met at a party in Monte Carlo in the 1980s.
The relationship lasted more than 20 years and in 2006 she considered marrying him, but later changed her mind.
"I was going through a rough time and I thought that changing my life would pull me out of depression. But when I flew to New York to prepare for the wedding, I realised it would have been a mistake," she said.
The pair split up and Ms Lollobrigida is now threatening legal action against her former beau.
She made a formal complaint to Carabinieri police in Rome on Sunday.
The fake marriage allegedly took place three years ago, but she only found out about it by chance this week when she came across legal records on the internet.
"I found a document in which it seems that in November 2010 he became my husband, in Barcelona, in front of eight witnesses. It is incredible. At the altar there was another woman, a certain Teresa."
The former screen siren divides her time between a villa in Monte Carlo and a mansion on Rome's Via Appia Antica, or Appian Way, a stretch of ancient Roman road that leads out of the capital.
The garden is full of her stone statues – she is a keen sculptor – and dozens of white peacocks.
A member of her staff, who identified himself as Carlo, confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that she was planning to launch legal action.
"She's very angry. She considers him to be a vulture. A very strange affair," he said.
Javier Saavedra, a Spanish lawyer who represented Mr Rafols until they fell out over allegedly unpaid bills in 2009, claimed the actress’s version of events was true.
“Rafols paid money to a woman who looked like Gina Lollobrigida to enter into a fake marriage,” he said from Madrid. “He presented legal papers bearing what was supposedly Lollobrigida’s signature.”
Efforts to contact Mr Rafols in Spain were unsuccessful.
Ms Lollobrigida made dozens of films in the 1950s and 1960s, when she was compared with two other sultry Italian actresses – Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale.
She was described as "the world's most beautiful woman" after starring in a 1955 film of the same name, and acted opposite Humphrey Bogart, Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster.
She made her first Hollywood film, Beat the Devil, with Humphrey Bogart in 1953 and starred in Solomon and Sheba with Yul Brynner. She appeared with Anthony Quinn in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Since retiring from acting she has become an accomplished photographer and has also been involved in humanitarian causes, acting as a special representative for the United Nations Children's Fund.
By Nick Squires, Telegraph.co.uk