Marina Cicogna, Pioneering Producer of Key Italian Films, Dies at 89

Marina Cicogna, Pioneering Producer of Key Italian Films, Dies at 89

Marina Cicogna, a historic film producer and the first woman to establish herself in a traditionally male environment, has died in Rome at the age of 89. She produced some of the most important Italian films, including Metti, una Sera a Cena by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi and Indagine su un Cittadino al di Sopra di Ogni Sospetto (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) by Elio Petri, with the latter winning the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1971. The New York Times called her “one of the most powerful women in European cinema.”

Her extraordinary experience and career were recounted in 2021 in the documentary film Marina Cicogna. Life and Everything Else by Andrea Bettinetti and in her autobiography, Ancora Spero, released in 2023 by Marsilio Publishing. Cicogna died with Benedetta Gardona, her companion of more than 30 years, by her side.

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Ahead of receiving the 2023 David Award for Lifetime Achievement earlier this year, Cicogna spoke to THR Roma about her life, her films, her bond with Florinda Bolkan, the Film Academy and the parties “that have not been able to take place since ’68.” And on being a woman in the golden age of the world of cinema, she said, “Yes, the desire to put you under was all there.”

Born in Rome on May 29, 1934, Marina Cicogna Mozzoni Volpi di Misurata was an actress, photographer and screenwriter. Her grandfather was Count Giuseppe Volpi, who was president of the Venice Biennale and founder of the Venice Film Festival in 1932, after whom the Volpi Cup is named.

Raised between Milan, Venice, Cortina and Rome, she had frequented the world of the dolce vita. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in New York (Marguerite Yourcenar was among its professors), Cicogna attended a photography school, but it was her friendship with Jack Warner’s daughter that introduced her to Hollywood, where she got to know, among others, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall on the set of How to Marry a Millionaire.

With Euro International Films, purchased by her family and controlled with her brother, Bino, who committed suicide in 1971, Cicogna distributed a large number of films in Italy, from Sidney Lumet’s L’uomo del Banco dei Pegni (1964) to Luis Buñuel’s Bella di Giorno (1967) to producing her first film, Metti, una Sera a Cena.

More of the successful films she distributed include Teorema to Medea by Pier Paolo Pasolini; La Classe Operaia va in Paradiso by Petri; Uomini Contro by Francesco Rosi; Mimì Metallurgico ferito nell’onore; Film d’amore e d’anarchia by Lina Wertmüller; Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Franco Zeffirelli; and Once Upon a Time in the West by Sergio Leone.