Ursula Andress

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Ursula Andress Pencil Portrait
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The word osteoporosis literally means porous (spongy) bone. It causes one’s bones to become fragile, so they break more easily.

Bone is made up of minerals, mainly calcium salts, bound together by strong collagen fibres, and has a thick, hard outer shell, referred to as the cortex, although the terms cortical bone, and sometimes compact bone are also used. Inside this, there’s softer, spongy bone (or trabecular bone) which has a honeycomb-like structure. Bone is a living, active tissue that’s constantly renewing itself. Old bone tissue is broken down by cells called osteoclasts and replaced by new bone material produced by cells called osteoblasts.

The balance between the breakdown of old bone and the formation of new bone changes at different stages of our lives. In the case of osteoporosis, the disease progresses silently, with no symptoms, until a bone breaks or fractures. In 2000, Ursula Andress discovered that she was afflicted with the disease, a shocking diagnosis for a woman who, despite her passion for good food, still regularly skied, swam and walked miles each day. For millions of cinemagoers, who remembered her iconic appearance in Doctor No,” it barely seemed possible that the ultimate Bond girl could now be facing a life of immobility.

Today, according to contactmusic.com and perhaps understandably as a result of her brittle bone disease, the former Bond girl doesn’t like her pictures being taken because she doesn’t want to spoil people’s memories of her.

It has been been a tempestuous life with a career blighted by speech intonation problems. Beset by a strong Swiss-German accent, and a tendency to put the emphasis of a word on the wrong syllable, the Bond producers, felt her accent might be too difficult for an American audience to understand and, to all intents and purposes, deemed it insufficiently alluring. Anyone listening to some of her subsequent screen roles would be in little doubt that she was dubbed by the ‘forgotten woman’ of the Bond franchise, revoice artist Nikki van der Zyl,.



Born in Bern, Ursula had four sisters and one brother. Her father worked for the government and she was raised strictly, “with absolutely rigid discipline, like medieval times. I wasn’t allowed to talk at the table unless I was addressed,” she recalls. “I was not allowed to see boys or go to dances until I was 17.” At 18 she took off for Rome, where she appeared in three quickie Italian films. This led to a contract with Paramount and to Hollywood where she met and married fledgling actor John Derek. “I always look for a man who will help me, that I can learn from,” she was reported as saying in 1980, the year she fell pregnant for the one and only time in her life.

Andress is fluent in french, spanish, italian, german and english and it remains mystifying to me that she has never made better professional use of her linguistic talents. Naturally, she made foreign films but I think it fair to say she could have devoted much more of herself to improving her craft. As it was, she became a celebrity icon and chose to live that role. By the mid 70’s leading roles in high profile english and american movies had given way to appearances in low key, low budget european entries such as L’Infermiera’, an italian film, also known by the titles of ‘I Will If You Will’, ‘The Nurse’, ‘The Sensuous Nurse’ and ‘The Secrets of a Sensuous Nurse’. It’s an uninspiring plot line, in which an aging widower begins suffering from heart trouble, and in an effort to speed him on his way, his greedy heirs hire a seductive nurse (Andress) to get his pulse racing. Their plan eventually backfires as the young beauty begins to fall in love with the old man. It’s all predictable softcore fare and likely to interest only pubescent males; personally I don’t have enough life left in me to even consider wasting time revisiting the movie, a timely reminder therefore, for all aspiring actresses, that trading on one’s looks is very temporal.

In 1962 she played the wet bikini role in Dr. No,” which launched the James Bond franchise. Her marriage, however, dissolved. “I couldn’t lie to John,” she says of her indiscretions. Utilising an interesting turn of phrase to describe her string of affairs, she was quoted as saying; “I was taken by curiosity while John is not one who plays around.” The marriage ended in divorce in 1966 due to her well-publicized love affair with the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, a liason that endured for seven years.


The french actor had shot to fame playing a nonchalant, irresistible hoodlum cop-killer in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 classic Breathless (a vastly inferior remake was released in 1983 starring Richard Gere.) He fast became the most popular French star of the decade and a regular fixture of the Nouvelle Vague, working with top directors like Louis Malle and Truffaut, who hailed his genius. He was lovingly nicknamed “Bébel” in France and was a major box-office draw in numerous films. He epitomised the French rogue in films like 1930s gangster saga Borsalino and spy thriller That Man From Rio’.

Belmondo did not hide his affair from his wife Elodi, with whom he had three children, Patricia, Florence and Paul, and like many spurned wives, she must have reflected further on the destruction of their family unit when her husband’s involvement with the actress was over. Affairs rarely endure and in the case of Andress and Belmondo, theirs was no exception.


In 1979, she met the actor Harry Hamlin during the filming of Clash of the Titans (he played Perseus, she Aphrodite), and neither heaven, earth nor convention could keep the pair on an ordinary mortal’s path. During the two year interim period before the film’s theatrical release, due in no small part as a result of Ray Harryhausen’s special effects post production work, they quickly became inseparable despite the obvious age gap, she was forty three and he was twenty eight. Her film stock had fallen considerably by this stage; attending a screening of the movie in the summer of 1981, I was astounded to find that she had a completely non speaking part, being employed to look merely decorative on the set of Mount Olympus.

She gave birth on May 19, 1980 to a son the couple christened Dimitri. All that was missing in the Hamlin household was a marriage license, with the actress hinted at impending nuptials for the next three years. Sadly it was not to be and the old maxim – “life comes back to bite you” was never more true than for the 60’s icon. After more than two decades of persuing her own emotional odyssey, what she now desparately craved was an unattainable goal. In 1983, she was reportedly still ‘wild about Harry,’ but he no longer shared their small, one-bedroom cottage in Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon. “I want to be with him,” said the distraught Ursula, “but he wants to go out.” Hamlin, by this stage, was being seen with other women but no one in particular; perhaps where straying from Ursula was concerned, the young actor had been ‘taken by curiosity’.

Hamlin found displaying his clad torso in ‘*Clash of the Titan*s,’ a rather preposterous experience; “They had one guy squirting me with baby oil and another who made sure one nipple was always exposed.” But at least there was his Aphrodite, Ursula. “I sure didn’t meet girls like her at the cotillion in Pasadena,” Hamlin joked. “Ursula is an amazing woman, warm and passionate with a good sense of humour, and I loved her deeply.”

During the four years they were together, they did plan to marry, but never found the right time or place, he explained in 1984. “Neither of us wanted to do it in a post office or some hideous government building.” More specifically, he blamed the obvious obstacles — “our ages and different backgrounds.”

Today, she divides her time between Spain, the U.S., Italy and Switzerland, indulging her passion for collecting wherever she gores. In a 2003 interview Mike McLeod for ‘Southeastern Antiquing and Collecting Magazine’ she discussed her preferences : “Everything that’s beautiful. A lot of things. Collecting is my joy; it gives me great satisfaction. When I go to a country, I go to flea markets, antique stores. I am always looking for something. It’s easy to walk in an antique store, and even if you have $20,000 to buy an item, you still try to get a good price. I collect furniture, rugs, paintings, frames. I like to look. It’s my hobby to go around to shops and markets.

“If I don’t have room for an item, I put it in warehouses. I’m waiting to have a big castle or country home to put all of my collection in. I have an attic full of stuff in my friend’s house in Virginia. I collect from all over the world-Shanghai, in the Andes, Kuala Lumpur, Hungary, Romania. I go to antique and flea markets in the old quarters of the cities. Pottery, paintings, china, English furniture, rosewood, empire furniture I have a chest of drawers with a desk in it.”

Recommended viewing

Doctor No (1962)

She was paid a flat $10,000 fee for her role in the film after co-producer Albert R. Brocolli vetoed first choice Julie Christie on the grounds of her bust size; clearly the credentials for a suitable Bond girl were being established early on!

Twenty one years later, Connery wanted her back for a cameo appearance in his Bond swansong Never Say Never Again but logistics intervened and the scenes were never shot; a shame really for the pair have remained firm friends for more than four decades.

She (1964)

Another classic Hammer film, shot in Israel and based on H. Rider Haggard’s fantasy novel. While on an expedition, Major Horace Holly (Peter Cushing) and his team discover the secret kingdom of Ayesha (Ursula Andress) and she is there to be obeyed. Condemned to eternal life, Ayesha wishes Holly’s colleague to join her in her eternal existence; believing him to be the reincarnation of her former lover, an Egyptian high priest whom she murdered two thousand years ago. There are catastrophic results but not before Ursula has dazzled us with her serene beauty.

Nightmare in the sun (1965)

Ursula’s second husband was the actor/director John Derek. By the mid-1960s, Derek’s interest had shifted behind the camera; first as a still photographer and later as a feature producer. His first effort in this regard, a racy potboiler called “Nightmare in the Sun” (1965), starred his wife, as a femme fatale who plots with Derek’s hitchhiker to murder her elderly husband (Arthur O’Connell). Co-starring such disparate talents as Robert Duvall, Aldo Ray and Sammy Davis, Jr. and co-directed by character actor Marc Lawrence, the film was supposed to feature Andress in a nude scene, but reportedly, Derek balked at the last minute. However, Derek shot a layout with Andress for an issue of Playboy the same year of the film’s release, a tradition he would repeat with each successive, blonde bombshell spouse.

The Blue Max (1966)

Notable for her gravity defying towell, Miss Andress is the living embodiment of a dangerous woman in this first World War blockbuster. (See \George Peppard commentary\)



A tastefully photographed gallery and rather pleasing on the eye! She really is quite ridiculously broad shouldered for a woman but carries it off with aplomb.


A rather limited website and difficult to see how it could be more extensive; nevertheless the film posters are evocative of a bygone era.


Urula on the Dame Edna show in 1989 and confirmation that she can lampoon herself. Her interview can be located a 3.14.


Ursula in Zurich after completing work on the Bond spoof “Casino Royale”, and further evidence of her multilingual abilities.


A French interview from 1965.