Italian actress Silvana Mangano's earliest "connection" with filmmaking occurred indirectly through her romantic relationship with Marcello Mastroianni. Trained as a dancer, Mangano was supporting herself as a model when, at 16, she won the Miss Rome beauty pageant. This led to a movie contract, though it would take three years for Mangano to ascend to international stardom with her earthy, sensuous performance in Bitter Rice (1949). Though she never scaled the heights of her contemporaries Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida, Mangano remained a cinematic favorite into the 1970s, working with such major directors as De Sica and Visconti. Long married to Bitter Rice producer Dino De Laurentiis, Mangano bore him several children -- one of whom, daughter Raffaela, produced Mangano's next-to-last film Dune. Sylvana Mangano abandoned films in 1981 to mourn the plane-crash death of her son Federico, but briefly returned to the screen on two occasions before her own death at the age of 59.