Mariangela Melato (September 18, 1941 – January 11, 2013) was an Italian cinema and theater actress.
Melato was born in Milan and studied at the Milan Theatre Academy. A striking, blonde actress, she began her stage career in the early 1960s and rose to fame after delivering powerful performances for a number of notable Italian stage directors such as Dario Fo, Luchino Visconti and Luca Ronconi.
Her cinematic debut came in 1969 with Pupi Avati’s Thomas e gli indemoniati and Melato would continue to deliver memorable performances in the 1970s and grew to become a highly respected leading lady of many acclaimed and award-winning Italian films. Her memorable early film roles include the school teacher in Nino Manfredi’s comedy Between Miracles (1971) and the female leads in Elio Petri’s The Working Class Goes to Heaven (1971) and Vittorio De Sica’s Lo chiameremo Andrea (We’ll Call Him Andrew, 1972).
Melato received much praise for her role as Giancarlo Giannini’s Milanese mistress in The Seduction of Mimi (1972), directed by Lina Wertmüller. This was to be the start of a very successful working relationship with Wertmüller, who also cast Melato and Giannini as the leads in her next film, Love and Anarchy (1973), in which Melato plays an anarchic prostitute. The popular duo of Melato and Giannini were then paired in a third film by Wertmüller; Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August (1974). Melato’s critically acclaimed comedic performance in this film as a spoiled, unsympathetic aristocrat is one of her most internationally known roles.
For the remainder of the 1970s, Melato worked with some Europe’s most renowned directors, including Claude Chabrol in Nada (1974), Elio Petri in Todo modo (1976) and Luigi Comencini in Il gatto (1978). She also worked on television; playing the role of Princess Bithiah, in the miniseries Moses the Lawgiver (1974), which was also released in a theatrical version.
After attaining international success with many of her films, Melato attempted to make a career for herself in America as well. She played one of her most famous parts with a supporting role as villainess General Kala in Flash Gordon (1980). She also played the female lead opposite Ryan O’Neal in the comedy So Fine (1981). However, she failed to attain the same success that she had in Italy and quickly went back to her native country, where she went on to act in a number of comedies and dramas. She also reunited with Lina Wertmüller for the film Summer Night, with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil (1986) but gradually appeared in fewer films, and did more theatre. She gave one of her most wonderful theatrical performances in the leading role of The Miracle Worker.