Isabel Sarli  

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"Argentine pop icon and sex symbol Isabel Sarli, whose sexploitation films made alongside Armando Bó are celebrated for their camp tone." --Sholem Stein

"In 1968 and 1969, the duo [Isabel Sarli and Armando Bó] gets their best (something like Sgt. pepper era for the Beatles) and produced their three masterpieces: Carne (1968), Fuego (1969) and Fiebre (1970), three films that are unique in the world, three films that influenced John Waters big time and were a clear precedent to his revolutionary work, three film that are, to me, the closer that Argentinian cinema got to a national cinema style, but in Argentina Bo was forbidden and imprisoned many times for obscenity. Fiebre is an amazing piece of experimental film-making. The idea is "Isabel (or her character, its the same) falls in love with a horse."" --Patricio García Martinez via imdb

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Hilda Isabel Gorrindo Sarli (9 July 1935 – 25 June 2019), nicknamed Coca, was an Argentine actress and glamour model, known for starring in several sexploitation films by Armando Bó, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. She began her career as a model and beauty queen, becoming Miss Argentina and reaching the semi-finalis of Miss Universe 1955. She was discovered by Bó in 1956 and made her acting debut the following year with Thunder Among the Leaves, in which a controversial nude scene featuring Sarli made it the first film to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema.

As the muse and protagonist of Bó's films, Sarli became the quintessential sex symbol of her country and a popular figure worldwide. With Bó's death in 1981, Sarli virtually retired from acting. Since the 1990s, her films have been revalued for its camp and kitsch content and are recognised as cult classics. She is considered a gay and pop icon.


Early career

Hilda Isabel Sarli Gorrindo Tito was born in Concordia, Entre Ríos Province, into a very poor family, as one of the daughters of Antonio Gorrindo and María Elena Sarli. Her father left the family when she was 3 years old. Those he had left behind, including Isabel and her mother, then moved to Buenos Aires. Her youngest sibling, and only brother, died at the age of five. Although, years later, her father tried to contact her, angrily she refused.

Sarli trained to become a secretary and, upon completing this training, started working for a publicity agency to support her mother. Then she was offered to work as a model, at which she proved to be so successful that she ended up resigning from her secretarial work. She won an award as the "most photographed model".

Contrary to what is known, she was nicknamed "Coca" by her mother.


In June 1956, she met Armando Bo on a TV show, who later offered her the opportunity to star in El trueno entre las hojas (Thunder in the Leaves). Bo convinced Sarli to be naked in a scene in which she bathed in a lake, though she had previously been told she would wear a flesh-colored body stocking. Also, though Bo likewise told Sarli they would shoot from afar, the camera had magnification. The film became the first to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema. She went on to become an international Latin American star and made international headlines for the nude scene. She appeared in Time, Life, and Playboy Magazines, the first Argentinian actress to accomplish that feat. Bo and Sarli became lovers and she became the primary star of his films till his death in 1981. During this time, Sarli refused many offers to work with another director, with the exception of Leopoldo Torre Nilsson on Setenta veces siete (The Female: Seventy Times Seven) and Dirk DeVilliers on The Virgin Goddess, her only English film.

The films were controversial at the time and most of them were banned, but this ban led them to be even more successful. Films like Fuego (1969) and Fiebre (1970) reached the American and European markets.

She received offers to work in the United States with Robert Aldrich, along with two offers extended to her from England, to appear in the Hammer Film production The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll and the American co-productionThe Guns of Navarone, but she declined them. However Isabel often worked in Latin America, although always under Bo's direction: she made La diosa impura in México, Lujuria tropical in Venezuela, Desnuda en la arena in Panamá, La burrerita de Ypacaraí in Paraguay, and Favela and La leona in Brazil.

After Bo's death in 1981, Sarli retired from the cinema industry altogether but came back in the mid-90s for Jorge Polaco's picaresque film, La dama regresa (1996). The film was inspired largely by her life and her public image, serving as an homage of sorts. In 2009 she teamed once more with Polaco in Arroz con leche for a bit part.

In 2011 she starred in the movie Mis días con Gloria, where she acted out a character based on herself. The film was her first major role since La dama regresa in 1996. In a radio interview, Sarli said the film had not gone well because of the poor promotion it had received.

Personal life

Before meeting Bo, Sarli was married to Ralph Heinlein and later divorced. Bo and Sarli never married, contrary to the popular belief. She has two adopted children, Martin and Isabelita, who was her goddaughter. As of June 2016, she and her daughter Isabelita were living in Martinez, Buenos Aires.


In 2007 Argentinian film critic Diego Curubeto made the documentary Carne sobre carne – Intimidades de Isabel Sarli (Flesh on Flesh - Isabel Sarli's Personal Matters), with the collaboration of Isabel, Argentinian actor Gastón Pauls and Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia. It is a well-received homage that includes deleted scenes from her films, censored material, rehearsals, anecdotes and interviews.

On 12 October 2012, it was reported that the Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had named Sarli as Argentine Ambassador of Popular Culture. The Boletín Oficial de la República Argentina, under Decree 1876/2012, stated:

[...] Isabel Sarli is considered a true representative of the national culture, as much for her acting skills in films as for being considered a popular icon of her day and an emblematic figure of Argentine cinema.

In 2010, the movie Fuego premiered at the Lincoln Center in New York, where it was shown with English subtitles. It was about this premiere that Time Magazine's critic, Richard Corliss, wrote the review described above.

The phrase "What do you want from me?", erroneously taken from the movie "CARNE", has become a catchphrase in Argentina. In fact, the phrase was used in the movie "... And the devil created the men"

Film director John Waters has said that Isabel Sarli's movies had inspired some of his own films. In April 2018, John Waters presented 'Fuego' in Argentina and met Sarli


Year Title Role
1958 El trueno entre las hojas Flavia Forkel
1959 Sabaleros Angela
1960 India Ansisé
1960 ...Y el demonio creó a los hombres
1961 Favela
1962 La burrerita de Ypacaraí
1962 The Female: Seventy Times Seven Cora / Laura
1964 La leona
1964 La diosa impura Laura
1964 Lujuria tropical
1965 La mujer del zapatero
1966 La tentación desnuda Sandra Quesada
1966 Los días calientes
1967 La señora del intendente Flor Tetis
1968 Fuego Laura
1968 Carne Delicia
1968 La mujer de mi padre Eva
1969 Éxtasis tropical Monica
1969 Desnuda en la arena Alicia
1969 Embrujada Ansisé
1972 Fiebre
1973 Furia infernal Barbara
1974 Intimidades de una cualquiera María
1974 El sexo y el amor
1977 Una mariposa en la noche Yvonne
1979 El último amor en Tierra del Fuego
1979 Insaciable
1980 Una viuda descocada Flor Tetis Soutién de Gambetta
1996 La dama regresa
2007 Carne sobre carne Herself (archive material)
2009 Arroz con leche Cameo
2010 Parapolicial negro, apuntes para una prehistoria de la AAA Herself (interviewed)
2010 Mis días con Gloria Gloria Saten

Google Books research notes (June 2016)

Searching for "Isabel Sarli" and "sexploitation":

"Generally boring sexploitation film about one of those favorite characters in male reveries, a nymphomaniac. Alas, she marries, but la tormented into the arms of other men, another woman, and eventual tragedy." --[on Fuego] in Cue - Volume 40, Issues 1-13 - Page 67 (1971)
"MUHAIR" Isabel Sarli breasting her way through further south-of-the-border sexploitation affairs. Argentine-made (subtitled) strictly for sex ballyhoo markets. Rating [X], There's never been a nudie movie queen more amply endowed than Argentina's Isabel Sarli who simply has to shed her clothing to make things like story and characterization seem irrelevant." --Film Bulletin - Volume 39 (1970)
"Woman and Temptation is zero as art, but the talents of the buxom Isabel Sarli make this a top sexploiter entry . ... even judged against other sexploitation stars, an unbelievably sexy woman, or (2) she repels sexual interest because she is a ..." --Filmfacts - Volume 12 (1969)

Searching for "sexploitation" and "Latsploitation":

"While we cannot claim that Sarli's films would adhere to a feminist agenda, evidence shows that Sarli's increasingly aggressive roles and performance mark a significant change in her career." --Latsploitation, Exploitation Cinemas, and Latin America (2009) by Victoria Ruétalo, ‎Dolores Tierney
"Latsploitation embraces the Argentine 'sexploitation' films of Armando Bo and Isabel Sarli, the Brazilian pornochanchada subgenre, and Ecuador's ultra low-budget 'hitmen' films. By far the largest producer in the region, however, is *Mexico—giving rise to the term mexploitation." --A Dictionary of Film Studies (2012), Annette Kuhn, ‎Guy Westwell
"... (2009) “Temptations: Isabel Sarli Exposed.” In V. Ruétalo and D. Tierney (eds.), Latsploitation, Exploitation Cinemas and Latin America. New York/London: Routledge, pp. 201– 214." --The Routledge Companion to Latin American Cinema (2017) by Marvin D'Lugo, ‎Ana M. López, ‎Laura Podalsky

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Isabel Sarli" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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