Born and raised in La Goulette, a neighbourhood of Tunis, Cardinale won the "Most Beautiful Italian Girl in Tunisia" competition in 1957, the prize being a trip to Italy, which quickly led to film contracts, due above all to the involvement of Franco Cristaldi, who acted as her mentor for a number of years and later married her. After making her debut in a minor role with Omar Sharif in Goha (1958), Cardinale became one of the best-known actresses in Italy after roles in films such as Rocco and His Brothers (1960), Girl with a Suitcase (1961), Cartouche (1962),The Leopard (1963), and Fellini's 8½ (1963). [a] From 1963, Cardinale became known in the United States and Britain following her role in The Pink Panther opposite David Niven. For several years, she appeared in Hollywood films such as Blindfold (1965), Lost Command (1966), The Professionals (1966), The Hell with Heroes (1968), and the Sergio Leone epic Western Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), a joint US-Italian production, in which she was praised for her role as a former prostitute opposite Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, and Henry Fonda.
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