Belinda Lee Profile

Belinda Lee
Belinda Lee
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15 June 35 is born in Budleigh Salterton, Devon, Great Britain, to Robert Esmond Lee, a former army captain and owner of the Rosemullion Hotel, and Stella Mary Graham, a florist
is raised as a good class-English country girl
? attends the Rookesbury Park Preparatory School at Fareham, Hampshire
c. 44 is sent to St. Margaret’s, a boarding school at Exeter, Devon, approximately 20 miles from home. The school has a reputation for "good manners and the development of personality." There she is known as Billie and plays right wing on the hockey team.
her best friend is Sally Moulding, also an army officer’s daughter, who recalls: "We spent most of our time reading plays in which we often took a dozen or more parts each. Billie - even then - said she would be an actress."
c. 47 pesters her parents to send her to drama school. They finally relent, and Belinda attends the Tudor Arts Academy in Minehead / Hindhead, Surrey.
? her parents separate. Belinda and her mother move into a flat in South Kensington.
52 joins the Nottingham Playhouse repertory company for a year
? wins a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London
53 debuts on stage in Point of Departure
54 while playing in one of the Academy’s productions, she’s spotted by director Val Guest and cast for The Runaway Bus
becomes good friends with fellow British actress Anna Kashfi. To save expenses, the two share a flat. Anna will marry actor Marlon Brando in 1957.
? plays several parts at the Nottingham Playhouse
Val Guest introduces her to Rank’s still photographer Cornel Lucas, who takes some glamour publicity photographs for The Runaway Bus. Lucas is 14 years her senior. They fall madly in love and become engaged.
5 / 15 June 54 marries Lucas. They want to have at least four children, whose names they have already chosen.
will never return to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She makes another film for Val Guest. When the Rank Organisation offers her a seven-year contract, she readily accepts.
Lucas takes ten thousand photographs of his wife and sends them to leading newspapers and magazines around the world
introduces a “young singer” at a jazz concert at the Royal Albert Hall. She is so nervous she can’t remember if anyone heard her introduction or if indeed she herself uttered a word.
54 the US Navy chooses her as “Miss Deep Ocean of 1954”
55 attends the Cannes Film Festival
attends the Venice Film Festival. She poses in the same white swimsuit in both Cannes and Venice.
3 November 55 attends the Royal Film Performance of To Catch a Thief at the Leicester Square Odeon in London together with Diana Dors, Kathy Jurado, Gina Lollobrigida, Kenneth More, Anna Neagle, Arthur Rank, and Peter Ustinov.
13 January 56 is off to Helsinki, Finland, for the British Film Week. There she tries cross country skiing.
has lunch at the Monte Carlo restaurant and, over cocktails, complains about her difficult hair and her search for a good hairdresser
29 February 56 comedian Bob Hope gives several British starlets a break in the States. He is making a television film for the U.S. that features young actresses Maureen Swanson, Julia Arnall, and Belinda Lee. The group is photographed for newspapers at a rehearsal with Douglas Fairbanks and Elsa Martinelli.
12 April 56 her photo appears in American newspapers. “Something new under the sun—wearing one of the latest designs in swimwear fashions for next summer’s bathing beauties, Belinda Lee smilingly anticipates the coming season. The pure white suit is striped in gold thread, but that fact won’t keep the girls out of the water—the gold won’t tarnish.”
after the premiere of Richard III, she and the other guests meet the First Lady of Finland, Alli Paasikivi
26 April 56 Sir Charles and Lady Tupper and their daughter Margot of Winnipeg are photographed with her at Pinewood Studios after a luncheon there. The Tuppers are touring Europe.
17 May 56 visits the fair at Battersea Park, London, together with Phyllis Calvert, John Gregson, Kenneth More, Jean Marsh, Robert Morley, Jon Pertwee, Jeanette Scott, and Tony Wright
56 appears in Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London
attends the Cannes Film Festival
attends the Berlin Film Festival
during the Venice Film Festival, she attends a posh and aristocratic party at the Doge’s Palace. She takes off her shoes, only to find out that the floor is so ice cold that she almost screams.
attends the Variety Club's All Star Gala at the Festival Gardens, London. Stars seen include Julia Arnall, Tonia Bern, Terence Morgan with Peggy Cummins, Derek Bond, George Baker, John Gregson, John Pertwee, Kenneth More, Tony Wright, Janette Scott, Shirley Ann Field, Petula Clark, and Robert Morley.
June 56 is on the cover of Epoca
12 July 56 it’s all in a day’s work. Robert Giles is one of four persons employed by the J. Arthur Rank Organisation to plan personal appearances for the stars and act as their escort when needed. He says Belinda Lee “is absolutely indefatigable as far as energy is concerned and comes through the most arduous functions without a complaint.”
12 October 56 the ladies of the silver screen who are to meet Queen Elizabeth II at this year’s royal command movie showing have been advised nicely but firmly to wear more clothes than those presented last year. The revealing cut of evening gowns on the stars at the 1955 command showing scandalized all ranks of Londoners. To curtsey before the Queen this year are Marilyn Monroe, Anita Ekberg, Arlene Dahl, Brigitte Bardot, Belinda Lee, and Joan Crawford.
December 56 prepares the Christmas dinner for her husband and guests, everything from turkey to Christmas pudding
she is compared to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, and the British press see her as a rival to Diana Dors, after which Lucas advises her to stop bleaching her hair
6 February 57 attends the premiere of The Secret Place at the Gaumont Theatre in London
57 has a large record collection, both jazz and classical
arranging parties is her favorite hobby. She sets the table with Chinese porcelain.
27 April 57 is severely injured when her hair catches fire from a candle during shooting of a scene at Pinewood Studios
57 is voted one of the top British money-making stars in the 1957 Motion Picture Herald fame poll, which is conducted by the movie magazine
she and Lucas decorate the house themselves. She’s happy that they have the same taste and that they both like bright colors and nature. The dining room walls are carmine, red and white striped; the antique furniture is dark mahogany. The living room, green and yellow, has big windows facing the garden.
advertises for Lux soap and Vitapointe shampoo
she and Louis Jourdan, her co-star in Dangerous Exile, visit Montmartre in Paris and try to find a painting for her living room. She already has a fake Renoir there.
May 57 represents Great Britain at the Cannes Festival with actresses Julia Arnall, Susan Beaumont, Muriel Pavlow, and Diana Dors. She visits the Aga Khan with her husband Cornel Lucas.
September 57 attends the Venice Film Festival. Along with Italian actors Massimo Girotti and Angelo Cifariello, she climbs out of the plane. Actor Curd Jurgens kisses her on the cheek.
meets Prince Filippo Orsini, head of the Orsini family in Venice / Rome during the filming of La Venere di Cheronea. The Orsinis are one of the oldest and finest families in Italy, with many popes and generals in their lineage. Prince Orsini is 37 / 38, intelligent, and good-looking. His titles are Prince of Solofra, Duke of Gravina, Prince of Roccagorga and Vallara, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, and Assistant to the Papal Throne. He’s highly decorated in WWII and married to Francesca Romana/Franca Countess Bonacossi. They have two sons (one of whom will become gay), and live in a palazzo at the Via Panama. He is also a connoisseur of nightclubs, parties, and whisky.
she’s a frequent guest with Orsini at the fashionable Capriccio nightclub, owned by his cousin Raimondo. Raimondo will court Soraya, the ex of the Shah of Iran, in 1962 and marry Princess Kethevane in 1978.
57 is offered the title role in Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. The shooting will take place in Rome. Despite her husband’s protests, she obtains a leave of absence from Rank Organisation and is off to Italy.
there are newspaper reports of a romance with Massimo Girotti, her co-star in Goddess of Love. But their romantic nightly walks are only to fool the press, as she is just seeing Prince Orsini.
she is introduced to the Roman high society by Orsini. Gossip columns mention that she has also caught the eye of Farouk, playboy and exiled King of Egypt.
lets her hair grow and wears no make up. For the first time in her life, she feels truly free. Orsini is smitten. They don’t try to hide their relationship. She claims: “I was educated in Rome - socially speaking... Rome has changed me. One day I was a quiet English girl. The next day I was a woman! Oh, how those Italians love us actresses..."
17 November 57 in his review of The Secret Place, Norman Rae writes: “Belinda Lee does reasonably well, but the camera is not always kind to a blonde whom the British industry hopes to build into superstar quality. Her hawk-like features are often sharpened instead of softened.”
returns to Lucas after completing Goddess of Love. Soon, however, comes her announcement: “Our marriage is over. I’m very sorry, but I can’t keep on living with a man I don’t love. I’m ambitious and I want to be an international star and it’s impossible to combine marriage and ambition.”
15 December 57 Dr. Daan Marvais, a big-game hunter of Edenvale, near Johannesburg, has a most unenviable task ahead of him. He will soon have to shoot a huge male elephant charging actress Belinda Lee. But what really worries Dr. Marvais is the fact that he may not shoot until the elephant is only a few yards away from Miss Lee. The scene will be one of the highlights of the film Voice of the Lion, which will be shot in Natal. “I cannot afford to miss,” said Dr. Marvais recently. “I will only have time for one shot, and if I do miss, well, I uses there will be no leading lady or a camera crew to continue the film. I am so worried about the responsibility that I have not slept for a week. During a nightmare, I dreamt that I missed the elephant and I saw Belinda Lee being trampled into the ground by the beast.” Dr. Marvais will have to separate a male elephant from the herd and make it charge Miss Lee, who will not us a stand-in, and the camera crew behind her.
flies off to Rome as often as her schedule allows. The gossiping gets worse, and the Pope condemns the relationship. There are reports that Princess Orsini arranges dinner parties for the cardinals only on evenings Belinda has time off.
9 January 58 the Pope orders Orsini to stay away from Belinda
58 is off to Johannesburg, South Africa, for location filming for Nor the Moon by Night
24 January 58 the film is only half completed when she abruptly leaves everything and flies off to Rome incognito, using the pseudonym Linda Lucas. An angry telegram from Rank awaits her at the Rome airport, ordering her to return immediately. Orsini awaits her at the airport; she ignores the telegram’s warnings, and together they head for her spacious apartment at 29 Via Caroncini. Not far from Belinda’s apartment is the stately home of the Orsinis.
spends the evening with Orsini. Earlier in the day she is visited by Princess Franca Bonacossa Orsini, who wants her to stay away from her husband. Then the Princess takes her two sons and leaves Rome.
25 January 58 she takes an overdose of sleeping pills. She is found in time and is taken quickly to a hospital by an ambulance, where she is revived in an iron lung.
Orsini wants to see her, but hospital personnel won’t allow it. Very upset, he leaves the hospital. At home he slashes his wrists. He is found in time, too, taken to the same hospital that she is in and is later transferred to a psychiatric clinic.
28 January 58 police question her at her home for two and a half hours. A police official said he was “convinced there would be no judicial action.” Her husband, who flew to Rome upon hearing the news, sees her for an hour after the police questioning. Asked if he plans a divorce, he replies, “I don’t know yet.” He then returns to London.
later there will be rumors of a suicide pact between her and the prince. Upon recuperation, Belinda is forced to leave Rome but returns several weeks later and rents a small house in Torvaianica.
the Pope orders Orsini to go to a monastery. Orsini loses his position in the Vatican, and no member of the Orsini family is ever again allowed to enter the Vatican.
is back in Africa to finish Nor the Moon by Night. It will be her last film for Rank
February 58 is on the cover of Settimana Incom
6 April 58 ? after three weeks the authorities expel her again. In England she learns that her husband has filed for divorce.
April 58 ? meets Orsini in Paris, where he arrived in his new Lancia car
May 58 she and Orsini attend the Cannes Film Festival and shock the world by wandering around Cannes, staying in the same villa, looking very much in love, and driving around in an English limousine that was given to Belinda by her husband as a birthday present. Two days later, Lucas starts divorce proceedings in London, and soon the paparazzi are more interested in the villa in Cap d’Antibes, 15 km from Cannes, than in other festival happenings.
Belinda comments “The Prince and I came straight from our apartment in Paris for a short vacation...” Orsini adds: “We’re just good friends.”
30 May 58 it’s on again with Prince Orsini and Belinda Lee. Actually, it was never really off—they both nearly died for the love of the other.
3 July 58 Rome’s broadminded social set appears to have recovered from the initial shock of the Prince Orsini-Belinda Lee headliners. Since their return from the Riviera, the colorful lovers have been invited to some of the best parties.
11 September 58 she and Orsini are charged with adultery in a divorce suit filed by her husband. Attorneys for Lucas say the papers were served on the couple as they dined at St. Tropez, on the French Riviera. Lucas asked for damages from the prince.
December 58 leaves Rank and looks for an apartment in Paris
11 December 58 she and Prince Orsini set up housekeeping in a modest little Paris mansion
May 59 is on the cover of Tempo
German producer Wolf C. Hartwig casts her for his upcoming Die Wahrheit ueber Rosemarie. She will wear 25 designs by Munich’s youngest couturier, Werner Wunderlich, costing DM 12,000.
14 January 59 Dorothy Kilgallen reports that “Belinda Lee, whose romance with Prince Orsini is in high gear again, used her influence to get a big part for the relatively impoverished Italian nobleman in her new movie, The Nights of Lucretia.”
59 together with Orsini she rents the Herwig-Villa in Geiselgasteig, Munich, Germany. Recent tenants have been Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich.
8 April 59 she and Lucas are finally divorced. Prince Orsini is delighted. Lucas remarries quickly.
July 59 Princess Franca Bonacossa Orsini starts divorce proceedings in Rome. Belinda is quoted saying: "My future husband has reached metal age. There’s silver in his hair, lead in his knees, and a tooth made of gold!"
59 meets Italian journalist Gualtiero Jacopetti. He’s 15 years her senior.
November 59 buys a dozen new gowns in Paris and leaves for Italy to play Messalina. There are also sarcastic comments like “Belinda Lee has returned to work. Here we can see her sitting in a swimming pool full of milk!”
is on the cover of Tempo
22 December 59 it’s all for the sake of art. She submerges herself in a pool of milk in Rome. She’s playing the title role of Messalina, a tempestuous empress of ancient Rome. Although she’s wearing a bikini, she’ll appear to be less fully dressed.
January 60 the press officially announces that she has dumped Orsini
8 February 60 Dorothy Kilgallen reports that “gallantry is still on the rampage in Europe, and Prince Filippo Orsini has a badly cut eye to prove it; he may carry a scar for life. Some chap, described as a “nobleman,” made an insulting remark about Belinda Lee, one of Prince Orsini’s favorites, a fight ensued, the other fellow struck Filippo in the face with a riding crop."
? Orsini returns to Rome but, his wife refuses reconciliation. French starlet Irene Tunc will become his escort. Tunc’s husband, actor-director Yvar Govar, will attempt suicide over this affair in the spring of 1960.
March 60 she and Orsini are often seen nightclubbing together
April 60 Orsini is photographed with blonde Swedish model Ninni Bylund, but he doesn’t look happy at all. There’s gossip about Belinda’s having an affair with Walter Chiari, her co-star in Love, the Italian Way.
Spring 60 Jacopetti becomes her steady escort. He had been forced to marry an 11-year-old gypsy to avoid legal prosecution.
May 60 attends the Cannes Film Festival. Belinda looks very Italian in a black wig.
July 60 the press heralds that Belinda Lee doesn’t give a damn about Prince Orsini or Walter Chiari. Now she has a new playboy, Gualtiero Jacopetti, who has distinguished himself by seducing a gypsy girl despite the armed resistance of her gypsy tribe. Jacopetti is a veteran journalist and the editor in chief of a leading Italian magazine. He comes to films as a commentary writer and narrator of documentaries.
October 60 for the abduction of two Chinese girls who are still minors, Jacopetti is sentenced to three months in a Hong Kong jail
December 60 there is gossip about Belinda and Jacopetti’s being engaged and about to get married/becomes engaged to Jacopetti
March 61 spends her last days in Las Vegas. There she and Jacopetti meet fellow Italian actor Rosanno Brazzi, who will play himself in Jacopetti’s upcoming Mondo Cane / Women of the World
she is off to Las Vegas with Italian director Gualtiero Jacopetti, his co-director Pietro/Paolo Cavara, and Neapolitan driver Alet Nino Falenza/Falenga. The men are employed by Cineriz of Rome, a film company, and they are making a documentary, The Woman in the World, about women's lives in various parts of the world. She is not in the film. When the men are about three-quarters through the shooting, they return to California.
13 March 61 she, Italian director Gualtiero Jacopetti, his co-director Pietro/Paolo Cavara, and the Neapolitan driver, Alet Nino Falenza/Falenga, are traveling from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Near San Bernardino, California, on US 91, nearly 210 miles east of Filmland, the driver, driving too fast, loses control on the winding road. A tire blows, the car somersaults and is flipped over on its top, and she is thrown out. She was sitting next to the driver and ended up with her face on the ground and her body inside the car / her body is found 60 ft. from the car.
she is seriously injured and dies twenty minutes later of a fractured skull and broken neck in the arms of a California police officer who watches her moaning repeatedly. He will remember her as “the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.”
Jacopetti’s leg is broken; the driver and Cavara are only slightly injured. They and the driver are taken to a hospital in Barstow.
the highway patrol radios the San Bernardino County coroner a report that says it comes partly from a witness, Joseph Chapman, 30, Yucca Grove, employed on a freeway-building project.
some minutes later, the car of Rosanno Brazzi stops at the site of the accident. Brazzi will tell author and lawyer Fenton Bresler in 1975: “I saw her body covered with a sheet lying beside the road. I shall never forget the sight when I lifted that sheet. Her head was almost completely severed from her body."
Orsini spent the evening before Belinda’s accident with a beautiful blonde at a nightclub in Rome
15 March 61 from his hospital bed, Jacopetti calls her name over and over. He tells of vainly trying to save her life in the last seconds before the crash: “When the tire blew, I was sitting in the back seat behind her. I tried to hold her…then all of a sudden the car started to turn around...and she was out of the car.”
“He just keeps calling her name over and over,” said Michael Guarini, Jacopetti’s friend from Los Angeles. “They were very much in love with each other.”
Jacopetti will claim "She has put her mark on me for ever." In 1962 he will turn out Mondo Cane, the first and commercially most successful of several sensational feature-length documentaries that focuses on lurid and cruel aspects of life.
Paolo Cavara is bruised and has a sprained ankle. The driver, Nino Falenga, 43, of Hollywood and who suffered a fractured shoulder blade, said they were probably going more than 80 miles per hour at the time of the crash.
17 March 61 Orsini flies from Rome to Los Angeles to attend her funeral service
20 March 61 her brief Episcopal service is attended by only fifteen. Her parents are in London and cannot attend. Jacopetti is still hospitalized and cannot attend. Pink roses and a ribbon bearing his name cover her casket. Actor Rosanno Brazzi and his wife Lydia are in attendance.
21 March 61 Dorothy Kilgallen reports that Belinda Lee’s spectacular death caused sadness but little surprise among those who knew her. They had a feeling she was building up toward “a big finish.” She had been calm enough when she was married to her first husband, but the “recklessness took over” they say after she went to Italy and became involved with Prince Orsini.
23 March 61 is cremated at Hollywood Memorial Park; the ashes are inurned in the Park’s columbarium. The funeral parlor refuses to turn the urn over to Orsini since he is not a relative of hers. Six months later her urn will be flown to Rome.
? Orsini dates French starlet Corinne Cazal. His castle and palace will be turned into hotels; one named Britannia Hotel.
25 August 61 Prince Orsini works at a film insurance company
8 December 61 her ashes are placed in Rome's Protestant Cemetery, where poets Keats and Shelley are buried. Jacopetti wipes tears from his eyes as her ashes are lowered into the grave. He is still using a cane.
9 July 67 in London, Gualtiero Jacopetti says that he loved Belinda Lee a lot. “She was shy, really, and fundamentally very modest. But she was not very serious about acting. She came to it, like that, through hazard, like so many girls do. She was beautiful, but it was hard for me to judge. Beauty only an instant lasts. After you have lost the initial impact of it, you can’t judge it anymore.”
3 April 77 Jacopetti is linked with actress Candice Bergen
Nathalie,, Bild, The Charleroi Mail, The Charleston Gazette, The Chronicle Telegram, The Coshocton Tribune, The Galveston Daily News, The Gleaner, Indiana Evening Gazette, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times, The Kerrville Times, The Lethbridge Herald, The Lincoln Gazette, Mansfield News Journal, The Morgantown Post, The Oakland Tribune, The Odessa American, The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Oswego Palladium-Times
Recommended Books:
Fifties Blondes by Richard Koper
Belinda Lee Group
Belinda Lee
The Love Goddesses: Belinda Lee