Nationality: Italian. Born: Sofia Villani Scicolone in Rome, 20 September 1934. Family: Married the producer Carlo Ponti, 1957, sons: Carlo Jr. and Eduardo. Career: Began her film career as an extra in Quo Vadis? (produced in 1949), also a model for photographed cartoon strips and appeared in beauty contests; "discovered" by Carlo Ponti; 1957—first American film, The Pride and the Passion; 1988—in TV mini-series Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim. Awards: Best Actress, Venice Festival, for The Black Orchid, 1959; Best Actress Academy Award, Best Actress, Cannes Festival, and Best Foreign Actress, British Academy, for Two Women, 1961; Honorary Oscar, for being "one of the genuine treasures of world cinema who, in a career rich with memorable performances, has added permanent luster to our art form," 1990; created Knight, French Légion d'honneur, 1991; Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, 1994; also eight David Di Donatello Awards. Address: c/o La Concordia Ranch, 1151 Hidden Valley Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91361, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
(as Sofia Scicolone-Lazzaro)
Cuori su mare (Hearts upon the Sea) (Bianchi); Il voto (The Vote) (Bonnard); Le sei mogli di Barbablu' (Bluebeard's Six Wives) (Ludovico); Io sono il capatz (Simonelli); Luci del varietà (Variety Lights) (Fellini)
Quo Vadis? (LeRoy—produced in 1949); Era lui, sì! sì! (It's Him, Yes! Yes!) (Metz); Milano miliardaria (Milana the Millionairess) (Metz); Anna (Lattuada); The Magician in Spite of Himself (Metz); Il sogno di Zorro (The Dream of Zorro) (Soldati); E'arrivato l'accordatore (The Piano Tuner Has Arrived) (Coletti); Lebbra bianca (Trapani)
La favorita (The Favorite) (Barlacchi)
(as Sophia Loren)
White Slave Trade (Comencini)
Aida (Fracassi) (title role); La domenica della buona gente (Good People's Sunday) (Majano); Il paese dei campanelli (The Country of Bells) (Boyer); Pellegrini d'amore (Pilgrim of Love) (Forzano); Carosella napolitano (Neapolitan Carousel) (Giannini) (as Sisina); Ci troviamo in Galleria (We'll Meet in the Gallery) (Bolognini); Tempi nostri (Anatomy of Love) (Blasetti); Due notti con Cleopatra (Two Nights with Cleopatra) (Mattóli) (as Nisca/title role)
Attila flagello di dio (Attila; Attila the Hun) (Francisci) (as Honoria); Un giorno in pretura (A Day in Court) (Steno) (as Anna); "Pizza on Credit" ep. of L'oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples; Every Day's a Holiday) (de Sica) (as the wife); La donna del fiume (Woman of the River) (Soldati) (as Nives Mongolini); Miseria e nobiltà (Poverty andNobility) (Mattóli); Peccato che sia una canaglia (Too Bad She's Bad) (Blasetti) (as Lina)
Il segno di Venere (The Sign of Venus) (Risi) (as Agnese); La bella mugnaia (The Miller's Wife) (Camerini) (as Carmela); Pane, amore, e . . . (Scandal in Sorrento) (Risi) (as Donna Sofia); La fortuna di essere donna (Lucky to Be a Woman) (Blasetti) (as Antoinette)
The Pride and the Passion (Kramer) (as Juana); Boy on a Dolphin (Negulesco) (as Phaedra); Legend of the Lost (Timbuktu) (Hathaway) (as Dita)
Desire under the Elms (Delbert Mann) (as Ana Cabot); Houseboat (Shavelson) (as Cinzia Zaccardi); The Key (Reed) (as Stella)
The Black Orchid (Ritt) (as Rose Bianco); That Kind of Woman (Lumet) (as Kay)
Heller in Pink Tights (Cukor) (as Angela Rossini); It Started in Naples (La baia di Napoli) (Shavelson) (as Lucia Curcio); A Breath of Scandal (Olympia) (Curtiz) (as Princess Olympia); The Millionairess (Asquith) (as Epifania Parerga)
Lo ciociara (Two Women) (de Sica) (as Cesira); El Cid (Anthony Mann) (as Chimene); "La Riffa" ep. of Boccaccio '70 (de Sica) (as Zoe); Madame Sans-Gêne (Madame) (Christian-Jaque) (as Catherine Huebscher/Madame)
Le Couteau dans la plaie (Five Miles to Midnight) (Litvak) (as Lisa Macklin); I sequestrati di Altona (The Condemned of Altona) (de Sica) (as Johanna)
Ieri, oggi, e domani (Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow) (de Sica) (as Adelina/Anna/Mara)
The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann) (as Lucilla); Matrimonio all 'italiana (Marriage Italian Style) (de Sica) (as Filomena Marturano)
Judith (Daniel Mann) (title role); Operation Crossbow (The Great Spy Mission; Operazione Crossbow) (Anderson) (as Nora); Lady L (Ustinov) (title role)
Arabesque (Donen) (as Yasmin Azir); A Countess from Hong Kong (Chaplin) (as Natasha)
C'era una volta (More than a Miracle; Cinderella, Italian Style; Happily Ever After) (Rosi) (as Isabella); Questi fantasmi (Ghosts, Italian Style; Three Ghosts) (Castellani) (as Maria)
I girasoli (Sunflower; Les Fleurs du soleil) (de Sica) (as Giovanna)
La moglie del prete (The Priest's Wife) (Risi) (as Valeria Billi); Bianco, rosso e . . . (The White Sister; The Sin) (Lattuada) (as Sister Germana)
La mortadella (Lady Liberty) (Monicelli) (as Maddalena Ciarrapico); Man of La Mancha (Hiller) (as Dulcinea/Aldonza)
Il viaggio (The Voyage; The Journey) (de Sica) (as Adriana De Mauro)
Le testament (Jury of One; The Verdict) (Cayatte) (as Teresa Leoni); Brief Encounter (Bridges—for TV); Poopsie (Gun Moll) (Capitani) (title role)
Una giornata speciale (A Special Day) (Scola) (as Antonietta); The Cassandra Crossing (Cosmatos) (as Jennifer); Angela (Sagal) (title role)
Brass Target (Hough) (as Mara)
Firepower (Winner) (as Adele Tosca); Revenge (Blood Feud) (Wertmüller) (as Titina Paterno); Shimmy Lugano e tarantelle e vino (Wertmüller)
Oopsie Poopsie (Capitani) (as Poopsie); Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (Stuart—for TV) (as herself)
Qualcosa di biondo (Aurora) (Ponzi) (as Aurora)
Courage (Kagan—for TV) (as Marianna Miraldo)
The Fortunate Pilgrim (Cooper—for TV) (as Lucia)
Sobato, Domenica e Lunedi (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) (Wertmüller) (as Rosa Priore)
Ready to Wear (Prêt-a-Porter) (Altman) (as Isabella de la Fontaine)
Grumpier Old Men (Deutch) (as Maria Rigetti)
Soleil (Hanin) (as Madame Titine Lévy)
By LOREN: books—
Eat with Me, London, 1972.
In the Kitchen with Love, Garden City, New York, 1972.
Sophia Loren's Recipes & Memories, New York, 1998.
By LOREN: articles—
"This Is Your Life: Sophia Loren," interview with Alberto Moravia, in Show (Hollywood), September 1962.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 16 August 1984.
Photoplay (London), January 1985.
"Sofia Scicolone," interview with Graham Fuller, in Interview (New York), October 1993.
"Kids!" interview with H.C. Beck, in Interview (New York), January 1996.
On LOREN: books—
Crawley, Tony, The Films of Sophia Loren, London, 1974.
Zec, Donald, Sophia, New York, 1975.
Hotchner, A. E., Sophia: Living and Loving: Her Own Story, New York, 1979.
Shaw, Sam, Sophia Loren in the Camera Eye, New York, 1980.
Degioanni, Bernard, Sophia Loren, Paris, 1984.
Levy, Alan, Forever, Sophia: An Intimate Portrait, New York, 1986.
Moscati, Italo, Sophia Loren: tutto comincio quando al madre di un ragazza di Pozzuoli sogno di diventare Greta Garbo, Venice, 1994.
Harris, Warren G., Sophia Loren: A Biography, West Seneca, 1998.
On LOREN: articles—
Lane, J. F., "Neapolitan Gold," in Films and Filming (London), April 1957.
Current Biography 1959, New York, 1959.
Silke, J. R., "Sophia Loren: Earth Mother," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), February-March 1964.
Noble, Peter, in Screen International (London), 20 September 1980.
Canby, Vincent, "Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni," in The Movie Star, edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 26 April 1984.
Collins, Nancy, "Sophia," in Vanity Fair (New York), January 1991.
James, C., "Sophia Loren Recalls a Beloved Paisan," in New York Times, 4 October 1991.
Film-dienst (Cologne), 12 April 1994.
Grundle, Stephen, "Sophia Loren, Italian Icon," in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (London), August 1995.
Cahiers du Cinema (Paris), March 1996.
* * *
Screen goddesses are rare enough, but celluloid divinities who can act are a breed apart. Although her impoverished beginnings as beauty pageant hopeful held little promise for success, the former Neapolitan dessert became one of the screen's glittering superstars. Enjoying a recent comeback in the stuck-on-itself Ready to Wear and the enjoyable but sitcomish Grumpier Old Men, incandescent Loren demonstrates how devalued cinema stars have become in an era rife with computer-programmed box-office lures (Demi Moore, Meg Ryan) and vapid starlets who would have been bit players in the forties (Sandra Bullock, Sarah Jessica Parker). When Loren sashays across the screen, the years slip by and a property's shortcomings can be overlooked because moviegoers feel they are getting more than their money's worth. With few exceptions (e.g., Susan Sarandon), the current crop of actresses are fast-food vamps who leave one hungry for something more. That tasty something more is called star quality, and Loren had it from her earliest days as amply endowed sex symbol.
In her de Sica comedies, Sophia seemed amused by her own lusciousness, as if she could not believe the foolishness of men trailing after her oregano-scented splendor. Like all transplants to Tinseltown, Loren was vulgarized for American consumption into an all-purpose earth mother. Unlike the other pneumatic wonders of her day (Bardot, Ekberg, Lollobrigida), Loren could do more than stick out her chest. Although her Hollywood output has been denigrated by critics, such a blanket dismissal overlooks tangy romantic comedy pairings with Cary Grant (Houseboat) and Gable (It Started in Naples) in which she holds her own as shining star, not as imported decoration; a competent soap opera, The Black Orchid, illuminated by Loren's dramatic skill; and George Cukor's celebration of frontier spirit and outdoor ham, Heller in Pink Tights, which fuses Sophia's sharp comic timing and technicolored awesomeness.
When Magnani refused to play her mother in Two Women, Loren assumed that role and amazed even her enthusiasts. The first actress ever to win an Oscar for a foreign-language film, Loren deserved that accolade against stiff competition because she embodied the devastation of every displaced soul brought down by war. Deglamorized but still radiant, she was perfectly attuned to de Sica's humanism and was unforgettable in quiet scenes with her traumatized daughter as well as in her shattering aria of denunciation about her child's rape—shouted at passing soldiers who turn a deaf ear.
After that acting triumph, Loren returned to Hollywood as a Star Eminence. As one of the last traditional movie queens, she gracefully enlivened the superior epic, El Cid, stunningly clotheshorsed her way through the spyjinks of Arabesque, and brought enchantment to bear on a beggarman's version of Man of La Mancha, one of the musical genre's last gasps. An inestimable star in English, she is perhaps a finer actress in her native tongue. Having danced a comic-dramatic two-step with Mastroianni in such smash hits as Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, and Marriage Italian Style, she also paired beautifully with him in Scola's A Special Day, as a love-starved fascist-brainwashed housewife enjoying a respite from unhappiness.
Although many of her American projects were drivel, and although her later Italian films are drivel on a smaller budget, nothing can bank those Loren fires. Television has not been fruitful (she did not even play herself persuasively in her own biopic), and in retrospect, one is relieved she did not become a television diva on Dynasty since Joan Collins was their second choice and better suited to the crassness. With so few opportunities encircling her brand of endangered species stardom (consider the twilight years of Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor), one hopes the resurgence of interest in Loren will bring worthy vehicles. What the world needs now, more than love, is a return to bona fide movie stars who take us beyond ourselves and dare us to dream. Since they do not make them like they used to, Loren is too precious a resource for the contemporary cinema to waste.
The acting career of Sophia Loren (born 1934) has covered over 50 years and more than 100 films. Her work has earned virtually every major acting award the international film community has to offer.
Born as Sofia Scicolone on September 20, 1934 in Rome, Italy, she was the illegitimate child of Romilda Villani and Riccardo Scicolone. Sofia grew up in Pozzuoli, near Naples, Italy. Her mother, Sofia, and eventually her sister Maria, lived with her maternal grandparents, aunts and uncles in a two room apartment.
Sofia said "the two big advantages I had at birth were to have been born wise and to have been born in poverty." Her mother's unmarried status lead to a life of poverty. Sofia was so undernourished as a child she was called Sofia Stuzzicadente or "Sofia the toothpick." By all accounts she was a thin, shy, fearful and unattractive girl.
World War II
Sofia recalls the war as a time of cold, starvation and sickness. Her grandfather and uncles worked in a munitions factory which supported the family briefly. The plant, however, was a frequent target of bombings. During bombing raids Sofia remembers hiding in train tunnels but leaving them before the morning trains started.
Italy was devastated following the end of the war. Food, jobs and money were scarce, particularly for unmarried mothers. One way women could make money was by participating in beauty pageants. Sofia, who had blossomed from 'the toothpick' into a lovely teenager entered such a pageant as a teenager and was a finalist. After this contest, Sofia's mother learned extras were needed for the film Quo Vadis. Hoping for employment, her mother packed their belongings and headed for Rome.
The Movies-Bit Parts
Sofia and her mother were hired as extras for Quo Vadis. When the film was over they were unemployed. Her mother headed back home but Sofia remained in Rome. During the early 1950s she secured work modelling for fumetti magazines. Comic-like, these magazines used actual photographs. The dialogue bubbles were called fumetti-hence the popular name.
Fumettis were quite popular throughout Italy and Sofia was in demand. She used this recognition to get bit parts in movies. Under her real name she made eight films. One director suggested she change her name to Sofia Lazzaro, which she did for three films.
Carlo Ponti and His Influence
Sofia's luck changed due to an encounter at a night club holding a Miss Rome contest. A stranger asked her to enter the contest but she refused. The stranger returned a second time and told Sofia one of the judges, Carlo Ponti, suggested she enter. She entered the contest and won second prize. More important she also won a screen test with Ponti, one of Italy's leading film directors.
Ponti gave her bit parts in films, believing there was something worthwhile there. Borrowing Marta Toren's last name, she changed the spelling of her first and her last name to Sophia Loren. She quickly made several films while taking drama lessons.
The Big Break
In 1953, producers were filming Aida with Gina Lollobrigida. The concept was to have a beautiful actress lip-synch the opera's arias which would be performed by one of Italy most famous opera singers, Renata Tebaldi. Lollobrigida backed out when she learned about the lip synching. Ponti suggested Loren as a replacement. Appearing completely painted black, Loren made the film.
Her success in Aida lead Loren to parts in nine films that year. One was Anatomy of Love which co-starred Marcello Mastroianni and Vittorio De Sica, two men she would successfully continue to work with over time. By the mid-1950s Loren had established herself as an Italian sex symbol. Loren once commented, "Sex-appeal is 50 percent what you've got and 50 percent what people think you've got."
Sex Symbol to Serious Actress
In 1954 Loren again teamed up with De Sica for The Gold of Naples. This time de Sica was directing the film. Sam Shaw, in Sophia Loren: In the Camera Eye, noted "De Sica taught her [Loren] the craft of acting. Secrets of interpretation, restraint. It took a director like him to get the talent out of her." Loren agreed, claiming "the second man of my life is Vittorio De Sica."
De Sica once stated to an interviewer, "She was created differently, behaved differently, affected me differently from any woman I have known. I looked at that face, those unbelievable eyes, and I saw it all as a miracle." He considered her "the essential Italian woman." Loren had a box-office success when she teamed up with Mastroianni, in Too Bad She's Bad, with De Sica directing. In The Films of Sophia Loren, Tom Crawley noted Too Bad She's Bad was the "genesis of the most successful partnership in Italian movies." Loren explained this success, "The three of us were united in a kind of complicity that the Neapolitans always have among themselves. The same sense of humor, the same rhythms, the same philosophies of life, the same natural cynicism. All three of us did our roles instinctively."
The Marriage Scandal
In 1957 Loren appeared in her first English-speaking film, The Pride and the Passion, with Cary Grant. Despite the fact that Grant was married, romance was rumored between the stars. This concerned Ponti, who was Loren's agent and manager. Ponti, despite a wife and two children, was also in love with Loren. From all accounts it seemed Loren was also in love with Ponti. "What nobody could understand then and still can't is the extraordinary power of the man, " Loren once claimed in an interview.
This relationship was troublesome in Italy which did not recognize divorce. Loren found herself embroiled in a scandal, when Ponti obtained a Mexican divorce from his wife. Loren and Ponti were married by proxy in Mexico on September 17, 1957. The Vatican refused to recognize the divorce and subsequent marriage and labeled the couple public sinners. After a hearing, warrants were issued for Carlo (as a bigamist) and Loren (as a concubine).
Hollywood at Last
Loren's first Hollywood film was the 1958 Desire Under the Elms. During this year she worked with Peter Sellers in another film from which they recorded an album. One single from the album "Goodness Gracious Me" topped the charts in England.
Over the next years Loren worked on ten films. Two of the most important were El Cid and Two Women. El Cid with Charlton Heston is probably the largest grossing film of Loren's career. Two Women achieved greater importance in Loren's life. Loren received numerous Best Actress awards, including an Academy Award for her depiction of a mother struggling during war. This was the first Academy Award ever given to a foreign actress in a foreign language film.
In 1963 the Pontis were charged with public bigamy and their marriage was annulled. Hoping to resolve this problem, the Pontis moved to France where they became citizens. In 1965 the French court granted a divorce to Giuliana, Ponti's wife. On April 9, 1967 Loren remarried Ponti in a small French civil wedding.
While Loren enjoyed a successful career, she also attempted to become pregnant. She suffered two miscarriages after which she underwent a series of tests. When Loren again became pregnant her doctor ordered complete bed rest. On December 28, 1968, Hubert Leoni Carlo Ponti, Jr. (known as Cipi), was born. Loren had spent almost the entire pregnancy in bed.
Five years later on January 1, 1973, Eduardo Ponti arrived. Again several months of bed rest were ordered by her physician. Despite the lengthy confinements, Loren was overjoyed. In a Good Housekeeping interview with Heather Kirby, Loren claimed childbirth "is something women are born for, the continuation of life." During this period an Italian appellate court also dismissed all bigamy charges against Ponti.
The early to mid-1970s proved to be a very productive time for Loren. She made ten films and wrote a cookbook, In the Kitchen with Love, published in 1972. Unfortunately these good times were not destined to last.
On February 8, 1977, Italian police searched the Pontis' private home and business offices. The government believed Ponti was guilty of income tax evasion, the misuse of government subsidies, and the illegal export of Italian funds. A warrant was issued for Ponti's arrest. Loren was charged as an accomplice.
In 1979 the government tried the couple, in absentia. Ponti was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, and fined 22 billion lire (about 24 million dollars). Loren was acquitted. Ponti was eventually cleared of all charges in 1987.
Loren continued making films, but she also began other endeavors. She published Sophia: Living and Loving, her own story, written with A.E. Hotchner. She also moved into marketing when she became the first female celebrity with her own perfume. "Sophia" a combination of jasmine and roses was manufactured by Coty. In 1981 she partnered with Zyloware to market the Sophia Loren Eyewear collection.
Loren was asked to be the first female grand marshall of the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York City, a parade celebrating Italian-Americans, which she did in 1984. She also published her second book, Sophia Loren on Women and Beauty.
All these activities were interrupted by legal problems. A tax court sentenced Loren to a 30 days jail term for income tax evasion on a 1966 filing. Loren promised to return once work obligations were completed. She began the sentence May 19, 1982. She served 17 days at a women's prison and was paroled early.
Since the mid-1980s Loren has continued making films, shifting towards television movies. She used her celebrity status on behalf of charity projects such as the Statue of Liberty, protecting Greco-Roman ruins and drought-relief work for Somalian refugees.
In 1991, she received a Special Academy Award, for as the Academy noted, being "one of the genuine treasures of world cinema who, in a career rich with memorable performances, has added permanent luster to our art form." Sadly though, Loren also experienced a great loss with the death of her mother that year. In an interview, Loren said "I think when a mother dies the whole world collapses because she's the anchor that you don't have anymore."
After turning 60 in 1994, Loren received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star and numerous lifetime achievement awards. Entertainment Weekly selected her as one of The 100 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time in 1996. She appeared in Pret-a-Porter (Ready to Wear), which marked her fifteenth and final pairing with Mastroianni, who died shortly after.
Fans seemed to agree with Sam Shaw when he stated, "Whatever she does on screen is right. She can do ordinary pictures; and still she remains an international superstar, still she grows as a human being." With accolades like this Sophia Loren will be a presence for sometime to come.
Crawley, Tony, The Films of Sophia Loren, Citadel Press, 1976.
Harris, Warren G. Sophia Loren, Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Shaw, Sam, Sophia Loren: In the Camera Eye, Exeter Books, 1979.
Art News, March 23, 1998.
Chicago Tribune, October 7, 1990.
Esquire, August 1994.
Good Housekeeping, August 1994.
Houston Chronicle, February 2, 1994.
New York Times, August 18, 1983; August 25, 1984.
Orange County Register, February 19, 1994.
People, March 11, 1988.
San Diego Union-Tribune, July 8, 1988.
Washington Post, May 20, 1982.
"Sophia Loren, " CelebSite,http://www.celebsite.com (March 25, 1998).
"Contemporary Authors-Sophia Loren, " http://galenet.gale.com (March 24, 1998).
"The Epitome of Woman … Sophia Loren, " http://www.spyderempire.com/sophia (March 25, 1998).