"I can't bear being seen naked. I'm not exactly a tiny woman. When Sophia Loren is naked, this is a lot of nakedness." Sophia Loren
Italian movie star and international sex symbol Sophia Loren was tossed toward stardom after winning an Oscar for portraying Cesira, a sultry single mother raped by two soldiers, in Vittorio De Sica's Italian wartime drama Two Women (a.k.a. La Ciociara, 1960). A celebrated actress since the 1950s, Loren has acted in such films as The Pride and the Passion (1957, with Frank Sinatra), The Black Orchid (1958), The Millionairess (1960), It Started in Naples (1960, with Clark Gable), El Cid (1961, with Charlton Heston), Marriage Italian-Style (1964) and Man of La Mancha (1972), as well as Prêt-à-Porter (1994) and Grumpier Old Men (1995). More recent, she appeared in the Canadian miniseries Lives of the Saints and in the European film Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers (a.k.a. Peperoni ripieni e pesci in faccia).
"A woman's dress should be like a barbed wire fence... serving its purpose without obstructing the view." Sophia Loren
The wife of Italian film producer Carlo Ponti and close friend of the late British actor Cary Grant, Sophia Loren received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994 and a Honorary Academy Award in 1991. Also frequently called the "Italian Marilyn Monroe," Loren, who stands 5' 8 inches tall and possesses the measurements 38C-24-38 (self-described - 1955, and from Edith Head- 1957), 36D-24-37 3/4 (at age 50 - 1985), was listed as one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the world (1991) and made the 10 best-dressed list (September 20, 1999).
Childhood and Family:
"The two big advantages I had at birth were to have been born wise and to have been born in poverty." Sophia Loren
In Rome, Italy, Sofia Villani Scicolone was born on September 20, 1934, to parents Riccardo Scicolone (refused to marry her mother) and Romilda Villani (artist, actress; born in 1910; died on May 9, 1991). Along with sister Anna Maria Scicolone (former husband Romano Mussolini, third son of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini), shortly before the outbreak of World War II, four-year-old Sofia followed her mother to the war-torn slums of Naples called Pozzuoli, the most frequent Italian target of the bombing campaigns. She grew up in poverty and her mother made a living for her family by playing piano in local worn out cafes. When Sofia was a schoolgirl, she was very thin and received the nicknames "Stuzzicadente" (toothpick) and "Stechetto" (stick) from her school peers.
"I was so skinny, they gave me the nickname stechetto - the stick. I was tall, thin, ugly and dark like an Arab girl. I looked strange. All eyes. No flesh on my bones." Sophia Loren
While joining a beauty pageant at age 15 (in 1951), Sofia met one of the contest judges, 24 years her senior, future husband Carlo Ponti (producer; born on December 11, 1912). The couple decided to get married in 1957, but it was annulled in 1962 because Ponti's divorce from his previous wife was not valid. The pair renewed the wedding vows legally in France in 1966 and had two sons, Carlo Ponti Jr. (conductor, pianist; born in 1969) and Edoardo Ponti (screenwriter, director, producer, actor; born in 1973).
"A mother has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child." Sophia Loren
The Black Orchid
"I am an actress. A star and an actress are two different things." Sophia Loren
14-year-old Sophia Loren went to Rome to try her luck in modeling. She joined "The Queen of the Sea" beauty pageant and was selected as one of twelve runners-up "Princesses of the Sea," among more than 200 contestants. In the early 1950s, she landed her first acting job as an extra in films like Cuori sul mare (a.k.a. Hearts at Sea, first appearance with Marcello Mastroianna) and Milano miliardaria. Under the name of Sofia Lazzaro, Sophia also appeared with mother Romilda in the films Bluebeard's Six Wives and Quo Vadis (1951). Meanwhile, she continued her modeling career by posing for printed ads and taking tempting photo shots.
Sophia placed second in the Miss Rome beauty contest in 1951 and encountered one of the event's judges, film producer Carlo Ponti, who would also become her husband. Subsequently, she was given a tiny part in the big hit Anna (1951) and won her first leading role as Leonora in Cesare Barlacchi's La Favorita (1952). After signing a contract with Carlo Ponti and changing her name to Sophia Loren, she costarred with Silvana Pampanini and Eleanora Rossi Drago in Luigi Comencini's Tratta delle bianche, La (a.k.a. Girls Marked Danger, 1953).
In 1953, moviegoers remembered 19-year-old Loren playing a dual role, as both the sultry Queen of Cleopatra and that of beautiful slave girl Nisca in Mario Mattoli's comedy Due notti con Cleopatra (a.k.a. Two Nights with Cleopatra, 1953), then portraying the title role of Aida in Clemente Fracassi's musical film with the same name. In the next year, Vittorio De Sica cast her in his novel-based comedy film, The Gold of Naples (a.k.a. Oro di Napoli, L', Pizze a credito segment). She followed it up with the starring role in Alessandro Blasetti's comedy Peccato che sia una canaglia (a.k.a. Too Bad She's Bad, 1955) and as a peasant shop girl turned coveted model and actress in Fortuna di essere donna, La (a.k.a. Lucky to Be a Woman, 1956).
Loren knocked on Hollywood's door by playing the supporting role of Phaedra in Jean Negulesco's adaptation of David Divine's novel, the melodrama Boy on a Dolphin (1957, with Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb). In the same year, she won her first Hollywood significant role as Frank Sinatra's sultry mistress Juana in Stanley Kramer's adventure film, based on the novel by C.S. Forester, The Pride and the Passion (also starring Cary Grant). She also played sultry prostitute Dita in Henry Hathaway's western Legend of the Lost (also in 1957, opposite John Wayne).
1958 saw Loren as Anna in Delbert Mann's moody adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill tragedy, the Oscar nominated Desire Under The Elms (also starring Anthony Perkins and Burl Ives). That same year, she acted in Carol Reed's grim WWII drama, adopted from Jan de Hartog's novel, The Key, playing Stella, a young woman fixated on the death of a tugboat captain lover.
Loren gathered praise at both the Venice Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival for brilliantly portraying Anthony Quinn's love interest, widower Rose Bianco, in Martin Ritt's tale of bittersweet romance, The Black Orchid (1958). Meanwhile, she reunited with Cary Grant to play a lovely Italian maid who tries to get away from her overprotective father in Melville Shavelson's family comedy Houseboat (1958) and became George Sanders' mistress, Kay, in Sidney Lumet's dramatic comedy That Kind of Woman (1959, also with Barbara Nichols).
Entering the 1960s, Loren starred as the world's richest woman, Epifania Parerga, in Anthony Asquith's film version of George Bernard Shaw's play, the comedy The Millionairess (costarring Peter Sellers) and as ringleader Angela Rossini in George Cukor's comedy, inspired by Louis L'Amour's novel, Heller in Pink Tights (rejoined with Anthony Quinn). She also worked with Clark Gable in Melville Shavelson's Oscar nominated comedy It Started in Naples and portrayed Princess Olympia, an old-world princess romanced by an American industrialist, in Michael Curtiz's A Breath of Scandal (opposite John Gavin and Maurice Chevalier).
The portrayal of Cesira, a single mother with a daughter who was raped by two soldiers, in Vittorio De Sica's WWII drama film based on Alberto Moravia's novel, Two Women (a.k.a. Ciociara, La, 1960), was probably Loren's most glorious role. It netted her an Academy Award for Best Actress and subsequently launched her name into international superstardom. After her victory, Loren was handed a role, costarring with Charlton Heston, in the highly praised Anthony Mann's epic film El Cid (1961).
Loren spent the next years in Europe, playing a role in Boccaccio '70 (1962, segment "La riffa") and the title role of a woman who uses her looks to climb the social ladder in Napoleonic France in Christian-Jaque's remake of the 1925 Madame Sans-Gene (1962). After starring in Vittorio De Sica's Sequestrati di Altona, I ( a.k.a. The Condemned of Altona), she rejoined with Anthony Perkins as his sexy European wife in Anatole Litvak's Couteau dans la plaie, Le (a.k.a. Five Miles to Midnight, both in 1962). She also played Adelina Sbaratti/Anna Molteni/Mara, a wealthy socialite, a black marketer and a beautiful prostitute, in Vittorio De Sica's hit comedy Ieri, oggi, domani (a.k.a. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 1963).
Back in Hollywood, Loren reunited with Anthony Mann to star with Stephen Boyd in the dramatic film The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). She was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe award for portraying Filumena Marturano, a woman who has an affair with a successful businessman (played by Marcello Mastroianni), in Vittorio De Sica's version of Eduardo De Filippo's play, Marriage Italian-Style (a.k.a. Matrimonio all'italiana, 1964). Subsequently, she was seen in the UK costarring with George Peppard in Michael Anderson's war drama film Operation Crossbow (1965), and played the titular role of Lady L. (also in 1965), an elegant, elderly lady, in Peter Ustinov's screen adaptation of Romain Gary's popular novel with the same title.
During the rest of the 1960s, Loren added to her acting resume such roles as that of Alan Badel's alluring but mysterious mistress Yasmin in Stanley Donen's drama thriller, based on Gordon Cotler's novel, Arabesque (1966) and Marlon Brando's love interest in Charles Chaplin's last film, the comedy A Countess from Hong Kong (1967). Afterwards, she went back to Europe to star in C'era una volta... (More Than a Miracle, 1967) and in Questi fantasmi (Ghosts - Italian Style, 1968).
After playing roles in Girasoli, I (a.k.a. Sunflower, 1970), Mortadella, La (a.k.a. Lady Liberty, 1971), Moglie del prete, La (a.k.a. The Priest's Wife, 1971) and Bianco, rosso e... (a.k.a. The Sin, 1972), Loren played Peter O'Toole's perfect lady who is actually a down-trodden whore, in Arthur Hiller's Oscar nominated musical Man of La Mancha (1972). In the next years, she played a role in Vittorio DeSica's last film, Il viaggio (a.k.a. The Voyage, 1974) and debuted on American television in a remake of the 1945 classic film, directed by David Lean, Brief Encounter (also in 1974). Afterward, she teamed with Richard Harris, Ava Gardner and Martin Sheen to play passengers on a luxury express train carrying a highly infectious plague virus in George P. Cosmatos' thriller The Cassandra Crossing (1976) and rejoined with late Oscar winning actor Marcello Mastroianni, to portray a lonely dreary housewife befriended by a homosexual neighbor in Ettore Scola's Giornata particolare, Una (a.k.a. A Special Day, 1977). She then played the title role of Angela (1978), a woman having an affair with a much younger man, who turns out to be her own son, in Boris Sagal's dramatic film with the same name.
At the end of the 1970s, Loren became revengeful wife Titina Paterno, whose husband was murdered by the Sicilian Mafia, in Lina Wertmüller's thriller Fatto di sangue fra due uomini per causa di una vedova - si sospettano moventi politici (a.k.a. Blood Feud, 1978). She also shared the screen with John Cassavetes and George Kennedy in John Hough's version of Frederick Nolan's novel, Brass Target (1979), and worked with James Coburn, O J Simpson and Eli Wallach in Michael Winner's big hit Firepower (1979). Meanwhile, Loren was nominated for a World Film Favorite and a Golden Globe Award in 1977 and released her autobiography, Sophia: Living and Loving, in 1979. The book was later made into a movie titled Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (1980, aired on NBC).
An Honorary Oscar, "One of the Genuine Treasures of World Cinema," was presented to Sophia Loren in 1980. She did not frequently appear on screen during the 1980s, but instead enjoyed spending her time with her sons and writing a beauty book, as well as launching her own perfume line. She returned in 1984 with her son Edoardo Ponti in his acting debut in Maurizio Ponzi's family drama Qualcosa di biondo (a.k.a. Aurora) and appeared on the small screen two years later, starring as a mother and an undercover agent for the DEA who battles the drug trade, in the TV movie Courage. Still on television, Loren could be seen as a mother with a young daughter who travels on a dangerous journey to her childhood village, in the screen version of Alberto Moravia's novel, Ciociara, La (a.k.a. Running Away, 1988).
Loren received an Academy Honorary Award in 1991 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. She worked with Marcello Mastroianni for the last time, in her first Hollywood film since 1978, in Robert Altman's seductive comedy Ready To Wear (a.k.a. Prêt-à-Porter, 1994, also with Tim Robbins, Julia Roberts, Tracey Ullman and Kim Basinger), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe award. She then co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in Howard Deutch's hit comedy Grumpier Old Men (1995) and returned to her home country to star as a mother of five children in Roger Hanin's Soleil (1997). In the next year, she released a best-selling cookbook, Sophia Loren's Recipes and Memories, and had to be hospitalized for heart arrhythmia.
In 2002, Loren starred in her son Edoardo Ponti's directed film Between Strangers. She went to Canada in 2004 to star in Jerry Ciccoritti's miniseries, adopted from the novel by Nino Ricci, "Lives of the Saints" and continued acting in her country in Lina Wertmüller's drama comedy Peperoni ripieni e pesci in faccia ( a.k.a. Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers, 2004).
"After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It's better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." Sophia Loren