Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Girls of Grindhouse: Florinda Bolkan

Florinda Bolkan was born as Florinda Soares Bulcão on February 15, 1941 in Uruburetama, in the state of Ceará, Brazil.  She was the youngest of the three children in her family and was born to a Brazilian father, who was over 60 years old at the time, and an Indios mother.

After her father died when she was young, Florinda's mother remarried and the family moved to Rio de Janiero where the 14 year old Florinda took a job as a secretary.  Her mother had two more children from her second husband the family struggled through difficult times.  Even so, Florinda continued to study, became fluent in English and French as well as Portuguese, and earned a degree in languages at the age of 18.

Eventually she found work as an Executive Hostess for Varig Airlines and became engaged to a Polish nobleman, but marriage wasn't something that she wanted.  She and a group of friends left Brazil for Europe and Florinda settled in Paris for a couple of years where she was offered work as a model but declined because of her introverted nature.  Eventually she returned to Brazil.

After an invitation to Rome by some Italian friends in 1967, Florinda was introduced to director Luchino Visconti who tried to get her to come out of her shell and try acting.  She reluctantly agreed and was cast in Voleur de crimes (1969), then Machine Gun McCain (1969) with John Cassavetes, and the big budget flop Candy (1968) with Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and John Huston among others.

Now known as Florinda Bolkan, she learned Italian and her workload increased.  In 1968 she was in Metti una Sera a Cena and then in 1969 she starred in Visconti's The Damned.  She was also in the Academy award winning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1969) and became one of the most famous actresses in Italy and the world.  Between 1970 and 1975, Florinda starred in over 20 films with some of the most important directors and actors of that time including Michael Caine, Kirk Douglas, Omar Shariff and of course, Lucio Fulci. 

After success with gialli like A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971) and Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) and nunsploitation classics like Flavia The Heretic (1974) and The Last House on the Beach (1978), Hollywood wanted her.  In 1978 she moved there to star in a CBS mini-series with David Janssen called The Word.  The series and the Hollywood lifestyle disappointed her.

She took a break from acting to try to lead a normal lifestyle and try all of the things that she wanted to do but couldn't because of her acting career.  She traveled, sailed, played tennis, skied, and rode horses but this luxurious lifestyle didn't bring her any peace of mind and after four years she returned to acting in Italy.

After some stage work, Florinda appeared on television in what would become the most popular TV series in Italian history.  This series, "La Poivra" also introduced her to a younger generation of viewers, and her fame skyrocketed again.  In 1984, in an attempt to truly gauge her acting abilities, she returned to the theatre.

In 1988 she appeared in the American comedy Some Girls but her focus was almost entirely on Italian television and theater at this point.  Her culinary talents allowed her to publish a gastronomic paperback for gourmets called "Vi invito a tavola" in the early 1990s. 

She returned to Brazil in 2000 to work on a project called I Didn't Know Tururu that she wrote, produced, directed and starred in which led to the founding of her own film and music company.  In addition, she is also head of Florinda Bolkan NGO, a foundation for children in financial need with offices in Brazil and Italy.

 According to The Grindhouse Cinema Database, her grindhouse filmography includes:  Un Detective (1969), Don't Torture a Duckling (1972), Flavia The Heretic (1974), Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1969), The Last House on the Beach (1978),  A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), Machine Gun McCain (1969), and E Venne il Giorno dei Limoni Neri (1970.)