Catherine Spaak: Italian Star Dies at 77

Italian Star Dies at 77

She starred in features including ‘Il Sorpasso,’ ‘La Ronde,’ ‘The Cat o’ Nine Tails,’ ‘Weekend at Dunkirk’ and ‘Diary of a Telephone Operator.’


Spaak had suffered a brain hemorrhage last year, and her death in Rome was reported Sunday. She was naturalized citizen of Italy and did most of her work there.

Italy’s Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini called Spaak “a multifaceted, cultured and elegant artist who found a home in our country that she welcomed and loved.”

In 1964 features, Spaak starred in director Roger Vadim La Ronde, played women longing for love in all segments of 3 notti d’amore and toplined the drama La calda vita opposite Fabrizio Capucci, the first of her four husbands.

She starred for horror director Dario Argento alongside James Franciscus and Karl Malden in The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971).

“I was terrified of acting,” she once said. “I lived in terror for years. I didn’t want to be an actress but a ballerina, but I was too tall at the time. But doing this job was my salvation.”

Born in France in 1945 to Belgian parents, Spaak appeared in her first film when she was 15. She found early success in the Dino Risi-directed road trip comedy Il Sorpasso (1962), starring Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Her credits also included The Little Nuns (1963); The Empty Canvas (1963); The Man, the Woman and the Money (1965), also starring Mastroianni.

She appeared in L’armata Brancaleone (1966); Adultery Italian Style (1966); The Libertine (1968); If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969); Diary of a Telephone Operator (1969), where she was paired with Claudia Cardinale; Horse Fever (1976); and Alice (2010).

For Italian TV, Spaak served as host of the court show Forum and the talk show Harem, and as a recording artist, she covered Françoise Hardy songs.