The Italian Almanac

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Laura Antonelli

Hard Times

Italian erotic icon of the 1970s Laura Antonelli is set to receive a special allowance for artists who have fallen on hard times, after the government said it will respond to an appeal to help the actress. Antonelli, 68, is having to get by on a pension of 510 euros a month plus donations from her local church, according to the popular actor Lino Banfi, who launched the appeal in a letter in Thursday's Corriere della Sera.

After a recent meeting with the actress, Banfi asked Culture Minister Sandro Bondi and Premier Silvio Berlusconi to allow Antonelli to benefit from a law for poverty-hit figures from the fields of culture, art, show business and sport. He quickly obtained a positive reply. "The procedure for Laura Antonelli to be recognised as a beneficiary of the 'Bacchelli' Law will begin as soon as possible," Bondi said.

Antonelli appeared in dozens of films in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, although she is best known for Salvatore Samperi's steamy 1973 classic Malizia (Malice). The movie challenged bourgeois morality, sending a frisson through Italian society of the day and sparking the Vatican's ire with its story of Antonelli as a saucy, socially climbing maid. Her career effectively ended in 1991 when she was convicted on drugs charges before eventually clearing her name after a long legal battle.

She rarely socialises after a plastic surgery operation went wrong at the start of this decade. She has become extremely devout, according to Banfi, spending her days in prayer and listening to religious radio programmes, having stopped watching TV some 20 years ago. "I thank Lino Banfi and all those who are worrying about me," Antonelli said in a statement issued via her lawyer. "I'd like to live in a more serene, dignified way, although I'm no longer interested in this life on earth. I'd like to be forgotten".

The Bacchelli Law got its name from Riccardo Bacchelli, the Italian writer who was the first person to be helped by it shortly before his death in 1985. Other past beneficiaries include actor Salvo Randone, actress Alida Valli, boxer Duilio Loi and war-time hero Giorgio Perlasca, the Italian who posed as the Spanish consul-general to Hungary to help thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust.