Rossano Brazzi, the Italian actor who made it big in Hollywood as the star of the 1958 classic "South Pacific," is dead at age 78.

Brazzi died Saturday in a Rome hospital from an undisclosed virus that affected his nervous system.Brazzi, who also directed films, appeared in more than 200 movies, most of them shot in the United States.

His first Hollywood appearance was in "Little Women" (1949). But it was "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954), featuring Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart, that established him in the roles of handsome heartbreaker and aristocrat.

Another 1954 hit was "Three Coins in the Fountain."

"Rossano Brazzi will certainly be remembered as one of the few Italian actors known in America as well," Carlo Verdone, an Italian actor and director, was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency AGI.

"Brazzi belonged to that group of Italian actors who in the 1950s had characterized the cinema of the `handsome but capable,' " Verdone said, adding, however, "they conquered the public above all for their male charm."

In the late 1960s, the Bologna native resettled in Italy to work in television and cinema, but he never enjoyed the success he had won making Hollywood films.