A new show in London reveals the decadent lives of Hollywood stars during the Golden Age of Italian cinema. With photographs taken by Marcello Geppetti, said to have partly inspired the character Paparazzo in La Dolce Vita, the Estorick Collection exhibition features Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren in the bars and cafes of 1960s Rome.
Raquel Welch dances on a table while Marcello Mastroianni looks on; Anita Ekberg smiles languidly from an open top Mercedes; and Jayne Mansfield is fed spaghetti , cigarette in hand. There’s even a sense of today’s long lens sniper: Elizabeth Taylor is snapped kissing Richard Burton on the roof a boat in 1962 (both were still married to others at the time).
Their faces blanched by the flashbulbs, these are the A-listers at the birth of celebrity culture. While some pose for the camera, others seem less pleased: Ekberg is also pictured brandishing a bow and arrow at photographers, while Franco Nero is caught assaulting Rino Barillari at the Trevi Fountain.
Yet the mood in most pictures is light and playful. According to the Estorick Collection’s director Roberta Cremoncini: “It was less aggressive than it is today.”