The Italian film Signor Robinson debuted 40 years ago and was the box-office leader in 1976 and one of the most successful films ever made, watched by more than 52 million people.
The key to its great success was not only its gripping plot, but also the actors who played the main roles – the Italian comedian Paolo Villaggio and the exotic beauty Zeudi Araya, a native of Ethiopia. She has been called Robinson’s most beautiful girlfriend and one of the most enigmatic movie stars. Where did she disappear to after her triumph and what is she doing now.
Zeudi Araya was born in Ethiopia in 1951 to a prominent politician’s family. Her uncle was a diplomat and Ethiopian ambassador to Italy in the 1960s and 1970s. The name “Zeudi” means “royal crown,” and at 18, the girl became the titular queen and got her crown – she won the beauty contest “Miss Ethiopia 1969.” After that she began acting in commercials, and in the early 1970s she moved to Italy.
In Rome she continued her career as a model, starring in commercials, and then she began to be invited to film shoots. In 1971 she made her film debut. At first, during the first three years of her film career Zeudi starred in erotic comedies of Italian director Luigi Scattini. Exotic beauty appeared on the screens naked, than infuriated his father – for the daughter of a politician, it was just unacceptable!
In 1976 Zeudi starred in the film that brought her worldwide popularity – “Signor Robinson”. The film was one of the film versions based on the novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, although it had very little to do with the literary source – it was rather a parody of all films about Robinson, made in the genre of adventure comedy. The action was transported to the 1970s.
Zeudi played the role of the aborigine of the island, where the protagonist, the textile magnate Roberto, found himself after being shipwrecked. On the island, he found himself in the position of Robinson and was forced to find his own food. The only person he met there was a beautiful dark-skinned girl, whom he named Friday.
In this film, Zeudi again appeared on the screen almost naked, and her dazzling beauty, natural looseness and disarming smile forced viewers, especially males, to re-watch the film in cinemas several times.
Zeudi Araya then went on to star in Italian films, starring in the Neapolitan Detective and in the thriller Day First. In 1983 the actress married the Italian film producer Franco Cristaldi (he had previously been married to the famous Claudia Cardinale) and starred in several of his films. Franco was 27 years older than his wife. He was very fond of her and took care of her film career.
After her husband’s death in 1992 Zeudi ended her acting career, but she did not give up on the world of cinema. Since the 1990s and to this day, Zeudi Araya has been a film and television producer, continuing her husband’s work with his film company. She later married filmmaker Massimo Spano and acted as producer of his films. In 1995 the couple had a son, Michelangelo.
These days, the actress and producer is active in public life, helps build a TV and film career for young talents, and devotes all her free time to her family.