Italian actress Mariangela Melato has died at the age of 71.

The Flash Gordon star passed away in hospital in Rome on Friday (11Jan13) following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Starting out her career on stage in Milan, she went on to strike up a successful collaboration with Casino Royale star Giancarlo Giannini and director Lina Wertmuller, who cast the pair in his critically-acclaimed films The Seduction of Mimi and Love and Anarchy.

They also teamed up for the original 1974 version of Swept Away, which was remade by Guy Ritchie and his ex-wife Madonna, who took on Melato's role as a shipwrecked aristocrat, in 2002.

Melato went on to play Ming the Merciless' right-hand woman General Kala in camp 1980 classic Flash Gordon, and also starred alongside Ryan O'Neal in the comedy So Fine in 1981.

Melato concentrated on Tv work in Italy in her later years.