Play this short Sophia video while the blog loads
"...You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sophia Loren walking bare-legged and pregnant on the stony streets of Naples in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow or walking through the war-ravaged Italian countryside while balancing a suitcase on her head in Two Women. It’s like watching all of Italy walking. There’s the Tower of Pisa, there’s the Pitti Palace, there’s the Uffizi … the Gondolas of Venice and Sophia Loren."
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences...
It was a long road for Sophia between the picture on the left and the one on the right. Sometimes the old ways are best and todays' Hollywood stars come in the flavor of the month and disappear just as quickly. It's hard for young people today to appreciate the lifelong commitment to an industry that few come to dominate as thoroughly as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren.
Being a beautiful attractive sensual and very public woman does seem to have a down side. Nobody sees the actual person; they only see the beauty and the image. Sometimes, although very rarely in my experience, the stars align just right and actually produce a truly nice person who remains unaffected by all the Hollywood hoopla of beauty and the sex appeal image. If we had a name for such a circumstance it should be “Sophia”.
Sofia Villani Scicolone (Sophia Loren) is an epic tale of beauty, brutal hardship and love. Carlo Ponti was 37 years old, a financial success and very married with two kids in 1950 when they asked him to be a judge in that beauty contest. Sofia was just 16 when she walked out on the stage in high heels and a bathing suit. They would be together for the next 57 years until Carlo passed away in 2007 at 94.
At just twenty three she had to be a very strong person to resist a marriage proposal from forty three year old mega star Cary Grant when the two starred in “The Pride and the Passion
Sophia, Cary Grant & Frank Sinatra!” in 1957 and instead chose producer Carlo Ponti, 22 years her senior, four inches shorter than she, and still married to his first wife complete with two children.
In these early years of Sophia's career she starred in several charming but forgettable movies which showcased her obvious beauty and sensuality. She was learning her craft and what I remember most about these movies was Sophia's performance in these early vehicles. There was Two Nights With Cleopatra in 1953.
In 1956 Carlo was able to get Sophia the leading role in the American production of a historical romance to be filmed in Spain and directed by Stanley Kramer, The Pride and the Passion
Sophia, Cary Grant & Frank Sinatra!. She would co-star opposite Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. Kramer gave a cocktail party before the start of filming and Sophia was so nervous she changed her dress a half a dozen times. Grant, who had wanted Ava Gardner for the role arrived late, but Sinatra arrived even later.
I found this video well worth watching.
Still Shots from The Pride and The Passion: (Click Here)
Cary Grant teased her when they first met, pretending to mix her up with Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida!, but soon found himself confiding in her about his three unhappy marriages and his early life in London as a hoofer named Archie Leach. They saw each other every night eating dinner in little Spanish restaurants, and soon fell in love. Place your mouse pointer on the above poster and look at Cary Grant's face in the video. Everyone loved the Flamenco dance sequence.
Cary wrote to her anticipating her arrival in the U.S.:
"...It is probably the most important year of your life. Spend it thoughtfully dearface. In these next few months you will create the lasting impressions by which you will be judged and remembered all your life...."
Sophia was still very much involved with Carlo and after filming in Spain and Libya they made their first trip together to good old Hollywood. By then having been secretly engaged for three years. They checked into a fancy suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, then attended a reception in Sophia's honor at Romanoff’s restaurant.
The paparazzi were everywhere and surrounded Sophia. Her party was crashed by Jayne Mansfield wearing a very risqué low-cut dress and Jayne proceeded to have a "wardrobe malfunction" as a publicity stunt trying to upstage Sophia's moment.
Hollywood just did not know what to do with Sophia. Initially perceived as just another busty Italian the battle of boobs ensued at Sophia's reception with Jayne proving there was already an American sex goddess who could fill out any low cut dress and Hollywood's need for this image.
The major studios really did not know what to do with her. Her next effort was a defining moment in her early Hollywood years, Boy On A Dolphin
Director Jean Negulesco with Alan Ladd! (1957). She was cast as Phaedra, a poor sponge diver on the lovely Greek isle of Hydra. As Phaedra climbed out of the water like a Greek goddess onto the fishing boat with clinging blouse, Sophia had arrived...
That picture above still lingers in some College Campuses, but instead of the dorm rooms where they once hung, now they're in the professor's offices. This was in the days when film makers would cut away to a scene of waves breaking or crashing surf to indicate a couple were actually having sex
Anytime they cut to a scene like this, meant SEX!. Sophia herself was raised in Pozzuoli, a small town of fishermen and munitions workers outside of Naples where she endured a brutal youth and terrifying times in WWII during the bombings and resulting starvations.
Born in a charity ward for unwed mothers in Rome on September 20,1934 in a very Catholic country resulted in many a childhood taunt for being illegitimate. Her mother, Romilda Villani
I could only find this one pic of her mother! was herself a proud beauty who had returned in shame with her illegitimate child to live with her family in Pozzuoli. They moved in with Romilda's parents, plus an aunt and two uncles. Romilda had another child (Maria
Sophia and her sister Maria!) shortly thereafter with Riccardo Scicolone who refused to marry her or allow his named to be used for the newborn Maria (Sophia's younger sister). Eight people shared the small apartment and Sophia never slept in a bed with less than three family members until she left Pozzuoli.
A defining moment for Sophia's early years in Hollywood
I personally saw Boy On A Dolphin on the big screen in 1958 and while the movie itself never made the "A" list, Sophia's scenes made every red blooded American boy want to move to post war Italy and meet a nice fiery Italian girl and swim in the crystal clear water with the sun on your skin. She was Aphrodite in the flesh.
By the middle of the war (1942) they were starving, living on rationed bread, hiding from the air raids at night in dark rat infested train tunnels full of "...sickness, laughter, drunkenness, death and childbirth..." to quote from her biography (Sophia, Living and Loving: Her Own Story).
Her mother Romilda Villani
I could only find this one pic of her mother! bore a distinct resemblance to Greta Garbo and people would often ask for her autograph mistaking her for Greta. When Romilda won a Greta Garbo lookalike contest at the age of 17, the prize was a screen test at MGM studios in Culver City California, but her mother refused to let her go, convinced she would be killed in America. Romilda's mother truly believed Rudolph Valentino had been murdered in America by the Black Hand (Mafia). So now Romilda would put all her hopes and dreams on her first born child, a gawky, skinny, sullen, unattractive girl until the age of fourteen when almost overnight everything changed.
Post war Italy in 1948, the G.I.’s were mostly gone but suddenly Sofia starting hearing appreciative wolf whistles when she walked down the street. Romilda entered Sofia in her first beauty contest: "Queen Of The Sea and Her Twelve Princesses". Having no gown for her to wear, Sofia's grandmother pulled down one of the pink curtains in the living room and hand made an evening gown. I wonder if this is where they got Scarlett's scene in Gone With The Wind.
Being a resourceful mother, Romilda put two coats of white paint on Sofia's scuffed black shoes to match her gown. There were more than 200 entrants to the contest with real gowns, jewels and flowers. When Sofia's turn came to glide across the stage in front of the judges, the stars aligned in the heavens just so, and with immense dignity took her first steps on the journey to becoming a worldwide phenomenon treasured by millions all around the world.
Sofia was indeed chosen as one of the 12 Princesses and won $35 dollars, several rolls of wallpaper and most important a ticket to Rome. From that moment on Romilda dedicated herself to Sofia's interests and career. "...everything I dreamed of for myself has happened to Sophia, I live in her image...". It was the ticket to Rome that changed everything. She found work as a model and appeared in the Italian form of a comic-strip styled soap opera that ran in newspapers and magazines.
Sogno, one of the magazines she worked for changed her name to Sofia Lazzaro, which they considered to have more dignity than Scicolone. Sofia used her first movie earnings to buy her father's name for her illegitimate sister. In front of a notary Romilda paid him one million Lire (about $1,500) for the right to use his name and ease the embarassment and shame of illegitimacy for her sister./ ===== Sogno Series =========== //>
Sofia was soon to be renamed again by the producer of a low budget "B" movie entitled Africa Under The Seas
Africa under The Seas! wanting something "...not so Italian..." with the non-Italian spelling of Sophia and the last name of Loren, inspred by a popular Swedish actress of the time named Märta Torén. It would be another long eight years before her next name changes was recognized Mrs. Carlo Ponti...
When they first met Carlo Ponti was a 38 year old married father of two. Characterized as an intellectual man having studied law in Milan and negotiated contracts in his fathers' law practice prior to becoming a movie producer. Taking Dino De Laurentis as a partner, Carlo had already discovered Gina Lollobrigida and produced more than twenty films. Carlo first noticed Sofia sitting in the audience of the beauty contest in which he was a judge and invited her to his office for a screen test.
Released in the U.S. as Woman Of The Red Sea!
The cameraman had a difficult time with her distinctive features, her nose was too long, her hips too wide, etc.. She was advised to get a nose job and lose some weight, and she steadfastly refused. In spite of her looks being criticised by the camerman, Carlo's sensitive intuition of her potential was correct. They fell in love and Carlo assumed a role as father figure, lover, mentor and eventually husband and business manager in Sophia's life and career./ ============== BIOGRAPHY ============ //>
At nineteen she became Carlo's secret lover and mistress as he was still married to General Fiastri's daughter Giuliana Fiastri. They were meeting in secret and mother Romilda feared Sophia would disgrace herself just as she had done. In later years Sophia would come to realize she had "...married her father..." yet a profund and enduring love had truly blossomed between these two. Some people are just meant to be together. Couples like that go through all the same hardships all the rest of us do, but the difference is that one or the other never quit fighting for the relationship, even in the hardest of times or confronting the biggest obstacles (opinion).
1954 enter Vittorio De Sica, dashing leading man in the 20s & 30s and accomplished director for such greats as The Bicycle Thief, one of my favorites and also Umberto D. showing the travails of post war Italy. Vittorio insisted on casting Sophia in The Gold Of Naples
A very young Sophia!. Vittorio was charmed and became Sophia's one man acting coach, Sophia blossomed playing an overripe pizza vendor.
Under Vittorio's expert tutelage all shy awkwardness fell away and her sensuous walk, expressive laughter, explosive passions, impatience, sorrow and joy came to the screen as Sophia reaveled who she was./ ===== Image Selector ==== //>
Carlo was of the opinion that Sophia was just too strong a presence to be playing opposite most American leading men. She dominated the character. By now she had played opposite Alan Ladd, William Holden, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins and an aging Clark Gable.
Once again the stars aligned just right and now Cary Grant took the stage in Houseboat (1958). Playing the role of Tom Winston, a widower, trying to understand and raise his three precocious children alone.
He gets a little unexpected help from Cinzia (Sophia Loren), when the children decide she is be the new maid. She is actually an Italian socialite trying to get away from her wealthy overprotective father.
The fiery chemistry between these two was obvious to everyone and Sophia’s earthy comedic performance was the perfect counter point to Cary’s sophistication. It was a major hit with audiences everywhere. Sophia had arrived and she was magnificent...
Watch the clip above or the entire movie on Youtube right now for $3.00 (CLICK HERE)
After watching the movie (Houseboat), Carlo decided he better do something or he may well lose Sophia. Cary was sending her flowers every day and made sure his intentions were clear for all to see. I would imagine being pursued by Cary Grant was somewhat daunting for Sophia, and would certainly be motivation for any rival suitors.
Sophia’s choice would have been to give up everything, friends, family and even her native soil to marry fabulous Cary Grant, who would ultimately be married five times. Time has shown she obviously made the right choice to stay with the man "who brung her" to the show. She always said "...I know it was the right thing to do, for me...".
Carlo had been working in the background to obtain a divorce from Giuliana. Syndicated Columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner Louella Parsons (A William Randolp Hearst publication) published a bit of news that Sophia read one morning while staying in their bungalow at the Bel Air Hotel. Carlo had finally obtained a divorce in Ciudad Juarez Mexico, and two lawyers had stood in for Carlo and Sophia at a wedding ceremony so they had now been legally married by proxy. Of course getting very Catholic Italy to recognize the divorce and subsequent marriage was another matter entirely.
Fate had an ironic hand yet to play. Cary publically congratulated Sophia kissing her on both cheeks and the only scene left to be filmed to complete the movie Houseboat was of course the wedding scene between Cary's character of Tom Winston and Sophia's character of Cinzia Zaccardi. Sophia dressed all in white the two great actors were married, on-screen at least.
L'Osservatore della Domenica, the weekly publication of The Holy See quickly condemed the marriage citing cannon law and the marriage of an anonymous "...young, beautiful Italian film actress..." was illegal and it would be, instead of a marriage be a concubinage. The couple was threatened with excommunication by the Pope and should they cohabitate the "...husband..." would be declared a bigamist. Although condemned as public sinners Sophia was not a devout religious Catholic but would later remark it was the saddest day of her life. How could she return home?
In 1962, five years after their Mexican marriage Carlo's lawyers concluded the Mexican proxy marriage was not technically "legal" as no witnesses were present at the ceremony.
Carlo finally came to an agreement with his wife with respect to divorce but in Italy of course it would never be sanctioned so he and his entire family (including Miss Sophia) moved to France so they could be legally divorced. The Tabloids were relentless in their pursuit of the Italian Goddess. Here's a sample...
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For Page # 7 CLICK HERE
Paramount had bought the film rights to Alberto Moravia’s wartime novel with Carlo Ponti as producer, George Cukor to direct and Anna Magnani as the star playing Cesira the widowed mother of an eighteen year old daughter. Both mother and daughter are brutally raped in in a bombed out church by Moroccan soldiers.
With Sophia at five eight inches tall Anna Magnani protested that Sophia was too tall to play her daughter and didn’t want to be continually looking up at her. Anna decided to withdraw from the project joking that Sophia should play the mother, not the daughter. George Cukor also withdrew when he heard Anna Magnani had relinquished the role of Cesira.
The stars once again aligned in the heavens and now talented director Vittorio De Sica arrived to take the project in hand and have the story modified to suit Sophia's age. She would now play a thirty year old mother, with a daughter of thirteen. It was a star crossed moment that would change everyone’s life. Sophia commented later that “…I owe my career to the magnificent Anna Magnani
I owe my career to Anna Magnani!…”.
Sophia understood the role of Cesira, like so many others in Italy she remembered the bombings
Movie Clip from WWII !, the nights in the tunnels, the starvation and brutality. She also remembered how her own mother had protected her as the terrifying events of WW II whirled around them in unbelievable horror. Sophia was playing her mother Romilda in the war years. She would later comment: “…before I made Two Women, I was a performer. Afterward, I was an actress…”.
Although inspired by her mother's courage during the war years, she credits Vittorio with giving her the bravery to relive those terrifying events surrounded by death and destruction. Sophia says "...when you see the film, when I throw the stone and I kneel down and cry in anguish, even if you don't know what the film is about, you cry...".
This was indeed a seminal moment in Sophia's career and development as an actor. She was riveting as Cesira. Much of the rest of the world having lived through WW II themselves, agreed. IMDB lists over 4,500 titles of movies released in the 1960-1961 time frame. The competition for an Academy Award of any kind during this period was overwhelming. Take a look at some of the fabulous movies released during that time, here are all 4,500+ titles: ( CLICK HERE).
For the first time in the history of The Oscars, the winner was starring in a foreign language film: Miss Sophia Loren for her performance as Cesira in "Two Women". Never in her wildest dreams did Sophia believe she had a serious chance at winning, and so did not attend the ceremony. Burt Lancaster was the presenter that year and he looks as surprised as everyone else. (CLICK HERE) You cannot be a moviephile unless you have seen this powerful performance by a person truly in pursuit of excellence in acting. Sophia has arrived..
By Director Vittorio De Sica and starring Sophia Loren: TWO WOMEN (1960)
Still Shots from Two Women (Click Here)
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Also filmed in 1960 and released in 1961 was a comedy entitled “The Millionairess
Sophia and Peter Sellers!” directed by Anthony Asquith and starring Sophia opposite Peter Sellers playing a doctor in which the couple cannot marry until they meet conditions set-up by their respective parents. Peter was overwhelmed with Sophia’s charms both on and off the screen and as the creative imaginative mind will sometimes do, became obsessed with Sophia.
"The song 'Goodness Gracious Me' was written by David Lee and Herbert Kretzmer and was conceived as a way to publicise the release of the 1960 film The Millionairess, in which Loren played a spoilt, rich socialite who woos a reluctant Indian doctor, played by Sellers.
In real life the roles were entirely reversed. The north London radio comedian and star of The Goon Show had quickly became fixated with Loren and began to reject family life with his wife, the former actress Anne Howe. His obsessional behaviour, which was repeated soon afterwards in a fantasy affair he conducted with Princess Margaret, made a lasting impact on his life. When he made a film with his second wife, Britt Ekland, he put her in a black wig and complained that she wasn't acting like Loren.
At the end of his life Sellers spoke of his regrets about this period. Talking to his son Michael at his chalet in Gstaad after suffering several heart attacks, he confessed his sorrow over the infatuation with Loren.
His first wife has also recently recalled with pain her former husband's reaction to meeting Loren. 'He became besotted with her. He then treated me as his mother... it got very difficult,' she has said.
Television producer Marino Katschmaryk unearthed a contact sheet of unseen photographs at an auction and immediately recognised their significance. Taken by one of the era's foremost celebrity photographers, Richi Howell, they were judged too casual and unstarry for publication at the time. 'Loren looks fantastic, of course,' said Katschmaryk, who plans a London gallery exhibition of the photographs. 'But the pictures are bittersweet for anyone who knows about Sellers' private life. His [then] five-year-old daughter Sarah remembers asking if her father still loved them. Sellers replied: "Of course I do, darling, just not as much as Sophia Loren".'
From Biographer, Writer and Journalist Douglas Thompson...
...Of her other supposed high-profile romance with Peter Sellers who co-starred with her in 'The Millionairess' in 1961 Sophia says:' We were never lovers. I have made pictures with Marcello Mastroianni, Clark Gable, William Holden, Alan Ladd -- lots of fascinating men -- but they can't all be lovers. It's gossip. Peter Sellers was a great personality and I adored him but lovers -- no.'
She's philosophical about what could be seen as public attempts to wreck her marriage: the gossip columns, the sleazy stories:' I don't resent it. I don't even like to talk about it. It seems to me so natural to be married and to stay married. I think if you find the right person to be with you have to stick to it even though sometimes you may have moments of depression and unhappiness. But that all passes. What stays is the affection you have. I think you have to try to swallow sometimes the bitter things..."
Appearing together for over 40 years and dozens of films came Marcello Mastroianni teamed with Sophia Loren. He was a great talent and a very lucky man. I don't know how many times he got to kiss Sophia
Lucky Marcello! in all those films but if I were Carlo, I'd keep an eye on that! Of course Marcello and Sophia
Sophia and Marcello became one of the GREAT Film Couples! became one of the GREAT screen couples like Tracy & Hepburn, Astaire & Rogers, William Powell & Myrna Loy with a world wide following. They were like a brother and sister off screen, saving there passions for the camera.
Marcello was married only once in 1950 and remained legally married (although seperated) for his entire life. He had a child with his long time lover in the 1970's actress Catherine Deneuve, and even lived with actress Faye Dunaway for a couple of years after the seperation from his wife in the early 1960s. Marcello had become a major international celebrity, starring in such films as Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960)
Marcello and Anita in the fountain! with Anita Ekberg, and many others. He was one of only three actors to have been twice awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.
When Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni and Vittorio De Sica teamed up on a project, you knew magic was about to happen and so it was in 1963 with Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. De Sica had a genius for bringing out the actor's comedic gifts. This film contains the sweetest and most famous striptease in film history.
Sophia plays the role of Mara, a call girl
A fabulous Sophia! with a heart off gold, and Marcello assumes the character of Augusto, a hedonistic rich man's son. Augusto sits fully dressed on her bed, a pop song playing music on the record player, while Mara begins to slowly, playfully strip off her clothes. Mara's negligee slips to the floor and she steps out of it never taking her eyes off Augusto. Finally down to her teddy, stockings and garter, she raises a leg onto the bed and begins to peel off her silk stockings. Agusto, sitting on the bed with his hands tucked under his chin lets out a howl of pure joy and anticipation....
Years later, the stunning Sophia was to re-enact this very same scene at sixty years old (1994) when Robert Altman cast Sophia and Marcello in Prêt-à-Porter. Sophia was just as beautiful and wonderful as she had been all those years ago, only the outcome was different. So instead of a howl of joy and anticipation, Marcello being seventy years old in 1994, falls asleep as Sophia does her fabulous striptease. Marcello would pass away just two years later. Here just below is a scene by scene comparison of the critical scene in the two films. On the left is Sophia at 29 years old, on the right is Sophia, looking just as sexy at 60 years old.
Here are a couple of more photos taken in 1994....
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In 1960 the couple began to restore a 16th century villa in Marino, in the Alban hills, about 13 miles from Rome. Described in Vanity Fair’s March 2012 edition as:
“…painted chalk red and set among 18 acres of rolling lawns, manicured hedges, fig trees and waterfalls, with a riding stable, a aqueduct, a tennis court and orchard and pool…”
Carlo and Sophia spent $2 million in 1960 dollars to restore this fabulous villa. The following photos were taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in June of 1964 for LIFE Magazine. Here are the originals in the BOX and most are quite large. Feel free to d’load any or all…Sample photo from the BOX below (Click Pic to Enlarge):
Here is a link to the BOX Eisenstaedt House Photos (CLICK HERE)