55 years ago, Claudia Cardinale exclusively told our magazine about the existence of her hidden son … With Retro Match, follow the news in the archives of Paris Match.
His smile was bright, the sky cleared. In April 1967, Claudia Cardinale, angry, however, seemed relieved. The Italian press has just released stolen photos and a birth certificate. Belle du Guépard is the mother of an eight-year-old boy. Her secret is revealed, but she can love him openly. It was Match and his friend Benno Graziani who she decided to tell everything. First, to restore a few truths: yes, she hid her existence; no, she never left him. Patrick is the fruit of an adventure without a future, a “mistake in Tunisia,” she said. That’s why “Yama” remained a secret even for a child: “My son thought I was his older sister.”
It will take Claudia Cardinale another 30 years to banish all the ghosts of her youth. In her autobiography in 1995, the actress manages to tell the truth: Patrick was born not from intrigue, but from rape. About the deadly grip of an older man on the teenager she was, and whom she gave up with the beginning of the last violence, abortion. Claudia was not 20 years old. Franco Cristaldi, the producer who will make her a star, advised her to hide the child for her career. Cristaldi will adopt a child, “marry” his actress without telling her … In 1974, Claudia Cardinale will open a long-term happiness with her companion Pasquale Squittieri, to finally create a happy family with their daughter Claudia and Patrick.
Here is an interview with Claudia Cardinale, published in Paris Match in 1967.
Discover Retro Match, news through the Match archive …
Paris Match № 942, April 29, 1967
Exclusive, Claudia confesses to our reporter: “My son thought I was his older sister”
Written by Gilbert Graziani, photographs by Francois Granion
The storm is over. Claudia returned home with her son. She hid with friends in the countryside, “on the side of Milan.” Still upset, she confesses in a hesitant voice: “We told so many lies … My son was never abandoned … He always lived with us … He just believed that my parents were his family and I was his older sister … At the moment he is very emotional, everything is new for him. He no longer understands very well. I would especially like to be left alone now. In Rome they are so poisonous. He was born in London. He is eight and a half years old. I worked in Italy until the penultimate month of his birth. I made three films in these difficult conditions … including Golub … Nobody noticed anything. Then I really had to stop everything. I was lonely and desperate, but I didn’t want to give up my child. I went to England and went to school to study English. Until the day before his birth, I was in class …
Ten days later I returned to Rome with a child in my arms. For the first six months, Yama was brought up in the countryside; then he came to live with my family until he was four and a half years old. People who came to us never knew who he was. But we did not hide it. At first we thought it was our younger brother or the maid’s son, who was very attached to us.
“Sweat” was always very shy and did not dare to show any flashes of tenderness. He called me “Totte” because he couldn’t say “Claude.” He also could not pronounce his name “Patrick”. He said “Song”. And this nickname stuck to him. Now he calls me “Claude”. He’s not used to saying “mom.” It was for him that I did not want to tell the truth. My career or my marriage to Franco never influenced this decision. I was always afraid that he would be tormented by learning the secret of his birth as a child and that it would cause him problems … he is so sensitive … I was waiting for the right moment for him to study smoothly and without frustration.
He learned the truth little by little and very tenderly from the rector of his college and from his father, who always advised me. When I was five, I sent Pete to Naples, to college, to Our Lady of Mercy. This is a French college. He spoke it very well, because at home we still speak French … Now he still understands it, but he doesn’t speak anymore … On the other hand, he has a terrible Neapolitan accent … He always came home for the weekend, and my parents moved to Naples to be with him. I always refused long-term contracts abroad because of the “Pit”, people did not understand why and doubled prices … But I could not agree and could not give them good reasons.
In the end, many friends knew about it, but friendship played a role, and I could keep it a secret for almost nine years. A mystery that was also a daily nightmare. I really led a double life … and even a triple one, because I had to hide my commitment to Franco, who was still married … Fortunately, it was over. I understand how horrible those years were. Only now am I breathing. I’m fired. The first carelessness about my son probably came from his nanny … She always thought he was Franco’s son. His real father? I left him long before the Pit was born. It was in Tunisia, and it was a mistake. I understood this immediately.
At the time, I had a contract with VIDES, Franco’s film company. After seven months and three films, I went to him and asked him to terminate his contract. Naturally, he did not understand why and laughed and asked me if I was expecting a child. He was very surprised when I told him “yes”. At that time my parents did not know, only my sister. They didn’t notice anything! Franco asked me why I was not marrying my father, and I told him that I had decided not to see him again. He decided to help me, although there was never anything between us. Only two years later we fell in love. He was already legally divorced from his wife, but he wanted it annulled, and we still had to hide.
We went with the “baby” to the village to look for a nanny. We pretended to be married, but I couldn’t call him “Franco” or use familiarity. In front of the nurse, I called him M. Cristaldi, and he pushed me, saying: “Good God … try …”
It is still funny that Franco, whom I did not know, was the first to whom I confessed the truth … Such a fate … Today he is my husband …
My marriage was completely unplanned. I was in New York with my sister. He came and told me, “We are getting married. We went to Atlanta, Georgia, with my sister and her husband. It was raining in the streams. We were not required to have an identity card. We had to repeat a long text in English after the magistrate. We were so moved that we stuttered. We did not understand what we were saying. The only thing I remember is that there a woman is not obliged to obey her husband … that’s for sure. Now it’s over. I want to live in peace between my son and my husband … ”
Claudia smiles, the nightmare is over. The wisest and most secret star of Italy is now his wife and mother. Franco Cristaldi and “Pit”, holding hands, come for her. All of them have to go and look at the private football field that Franco is setting up on his estate, by the pool, a few hundred meters from the house of his wife Claudia Cristaldi.
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