Sophia Loren

Biography of Sophia Loren Italian actress, winner of some 50 international awards, including two Oscars.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation

She is considered one of the great stars of the cinema. She has been a candidate for the Golden Globes several times.

In 1999, the American Film Institute declared her one of the greatest performers of all time.

Sophia Loren is one of the last surviving legends of classic Hollywood cinema.

She is the only living actress on the American Film Institute’s select list.

Childhood and family life of Sophia Loren

Sophia Villani Scicolone, with the stage name Sophia Loren, was born in Rome on September 20, 1934.

Rome
Capitol Square, at the top of the Capital Hill. Credit: Bernhart Jeff. Wikimedia

Her mother, Romilda Villani, was an actress and piano teacher.

Her father, Riccardo Scicolone, was an architect.

Mr. Scicolone did not want to know anything about the girl, or about the mother. He avoided marriage and went off with another woman.

Sophia Loren had a bitter memory of her father. Hence, she always harbored in her childish soul the desire to feel protected.

This great actress was a great woman who was born wise and talented.

She dedicated all her ambition from a very young age to Pozzuoli, to get out of misery as soon as possible with her mother, in those bitter years of World War II.

Sophia Loren during World War II

During the Second World War, Sophia’s mother and her sister Anna Maria went to live in Pozzuoli, near Naples, with her maternal grandmother.

Sophia, lived in Pozzuoli until she was seventeen years old.

Pozzuoli
Pozzuoli is a municipality of the city of Naples. It has about 80,000 inhabitants. Credit: Wikipedia

Sophia’s mother, Mrs. Romilda Villani, earned her living playing the piano in a tavern frequented by the US military.

Sophia devoted all her effort to get out of poverty as soon as possible, along with her mother. She never lost her fiery Neapolitan temperament.

As Sophia Loren wrote in her autobiography: “I prayed to God that my mother did not come to pick me up at school: her exaggerated beauty made me feel ashamed. She was too blonde, too tall, and most of all, she was not married. On the other hand, I was dark and very thin. They called me stick ”.

That woman, Romilda Villani, had cherished the dream of one day becoming a celluloid star.

But, the fantasy had vanished when she became a single mother and was forced to raise the family.

However, she turned to her daughter Sophia. She encouraged her to appear for tests and competitions and accompanied her everywhere.

Sophia Loren’s career beginnings

At the age of 15, almost 16, Sophia had a spectacular physique and was exuding sympathy and talkativeness through every pore.

Her mother and her friends encouraged her to participate in beauty pageants.

In 1949, she won the title of “Princess of the Sea“; and in 1950, those of ” Mermaid of the Adriatic”.

Sophia Loren
A young Sophia Loren poses for the Miss Italia pageant. Credit: Wikimedia

Also in 1950, at the age of 16, she presented herself as a candidate for “Miss Italy“.

It was the first time that the development of the contest was broadcast by radio.

One of the jurors was Carlo Ponti, a film producer; Carlo Ponti was 37 years old.

Sophia Loren was second in the contest and received the “Miss elegance” award; but it was the first in the heart of Carlo Ponti.

Carlo Ponti
Film impresario Carlo Ponti produced more than 150 films. Among them, Doctor Zhivago. Credit: web biography.com

Sophia Loren had the protection of Carlo Ponti

With the encouragement and protection of Carlo Ponti, Sophia began her acting career in weekly photo novels.

She introduced herself as Sophia Villani or Sophia Lazzaro.

Knowing that she was the owner of an exceptional body, she gave herself to the study of interpretation; although without renouncing its natural fieryness and tear.

In Naples, she received theatrical training and began playing small roles in Italian films.

In 1951, the movie “Quo Vadis” was being filmed in Rome. Sophia and her mother managed to participate in it, as extras.

Sophia took off as a great actress in the 1950s

Sophia’s career began to take off in 1954 when she met Vittorio De Sica and Marcello Mastroianni.

She was included in the group of Italian beauties who brought mischief and sensitivity to Italian neorealism films.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the stunning beauty and anatomy of Sophia Loren dazzled the movie world.

She always knew how to stay in an enviable state, without her being able to attribute it to a specific diet.

In the mid-1950s, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn met in Spain. Three adorable beauties, but with very different features.

Sophia Loren is also contemporary with Carmen Sevilla and Liv Ullman.

Since 1950, the relationship with Ponti was rather filial: he advised and guided her.

But, while filming “The Woman from the River” in 1954, everything changed.

It was a melodrama co-produced by Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentiis. Sophia was the protagonist.

During that shoot, Carlo and Sophia became convinced that they were deeply in love.

Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren when filming ” The Woman from the River”. Credit: web hoycinema.abc.es

Sophia Loren in love with Carlo Ponti

From 1955 they were united, accepting in advance that they could hardly marry in Italy, where divorce was prohibited; and Carlo Ponti was still legally married with two children.

Two years later, Sophia Loren was chosen to star in “Pride and Passion” (with Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra), a magnificent epic film produced and directed in 1957 by Stanley Kramer.

The filming was done in Segovia, El Escorial, Ávila, the port of Pico, Torrelaguna and Santiago de Compostela.

Tens of thousands of Spanish extras performed during the filming.

At the end of the film, after the cast list, they are thanked for their work; one of them was Adolfo Suárez, who later became the First President of Democracy in Spain.

Sophie Loren
Sophia Loren on the set of “Pride and Passion”. Credit: web larevistadevaldemoro.com

Cary Grant, fell in love with Sophia and insisted on making her his. He made her see that she would be better off living in Hollywood; of course, by his side.

It seems that Cary Grant thought that Sophia was a poor lover of producer Carlo Ponti.

Of course, Sophia gave him more than clearly her emphatic refusal.

Sophia Loren married Carlo Ponti, in Mexico

Carlo Ponti, upon learning of the actor’s harassment, decided to accelerate his betrothal with Sophia Loren and arranged a wedding with her in Mexico

They married in September 1957, although this marriage was not valid in Italy, where he was considered a bigamist.

Sophie and Carlo Ponti
Marriage of Sophia Loren with Carlo Ponti. Credit: web vogue.es

Sophia Loren was always faithful to Carlo Ponti. They had two sons, Carlo Ponti Jr. and Edoardo Ponti.

The greatest hits of Sophia Loren

In those years, the actress signed a contract for five films, with Paramount Studios. Among her works from this time are:

  • Wish under the elms“, 1958 American film, romantic drama. Sophia Loren and Anthony Perkins, before he was typecast forever in the role of sinister character in Psycho.
  • Floating home“. 1958 American romantic film. A lawyer (Cary Grant) and his three children live in a houseboat with the daughter of a conductor (Sophia Loren) as a maid.
  • The Cheyenne Gunman“. American comedy film, Western (1960). Director: George Cukor. Sophia Loren shared the limelight with Anthony Quinn.

Sophia Loren earned the appreciation and admiration of viewers, especially in Italian films, where she spoke in her native language and acted with typical Italian expressiveness.

Movies she starred in from 1960

Starting in the 1960s, she worked as historical figures, especially in films shot in co-production.

In 1960, her performance in “Two Women”, a film directed by Vittorio de Sica according to a story by Alberto Moravia, took a decisive turn in her career.

For her performance in this film, Sophia Loren won the Oscar for best actress. One of her co-stars was Jean Paul Belmondo.

In the epic film “The Cid” produced in 1961 by Samuel Bronston and directed by Anthony Mann, Sophia Loren performed superbly with Charlton Heston and an outstanding cast of actors.

The film deals with the life of the Castilian warrior Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. Sophia played Doña Jimena, the courageous wife of the Cid Campeador.

The Cid
Shooting in Peñíscola, Spain, of the epic film “The Cid”. Credit: web peñiscoladecine.com

On different occasions, she visited Spain. She always behaved with journalists with sympathy and understanding.

She never suffered from any complex when she appeared with her husband, Carlo Ponti, who physically reached a little above her waist.

And neither did he give the impression of feeling diminished by her side.

It turned out to be a very close couple throughout the more than fifty years that they were together.

The Fall of the Roman Empire” is an American film from 1964. It was directed by Anthony Mann. Sophia Loren was accompanied by great figures on the screen: Stephen Boyd, Christopher Plummer, Alec Guinness, James Mason, Anthony Quayle, Omar Sharif and Mel Ferrer.

The film failed at the box office, but was awarded the Golden Globe award for best music.

Italian marriage” (1964), was the second of the three films directed by Vittorio De Sica that had as its protagonists the highly successful film couple formed by Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.

Sophia Loren was nominated for an Oscar for best actress. And the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

In 1965, directed by Peter Ustinov, Sophia Loren starred with Paul Newman and David Niven in the film “Lady L“.

Arabesque” was an intrigue film directed by Stanley Donen in 1966 and starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren. It is considered a psychedelic version of Charade (1963) and with very Hitchcook overtones.

Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti remarried

In 1966, Sophia and Carlo Ponti formalized their French nationality and married in Paris.

These circumstances forced them to change their residence and leave Italy.

Sophie Loren
Sophia Loren in “The Countess of Hong Kong”. Credit: web abc.es

The Countess of Hong Kong” is a 1967 British film, belonging to the genre of comedy.

It was the last one directed by Charles Chaplin, the only one in color and one of two in which she is not featured in a lead role.

The main actors are: Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Tippi Hedren and Sydney Chaplin (Chaplin’s second son).

The two fleeting appearances of Chaplin are the last images of the great actor, in movies for the cinema.

Sophia Loren, according to her husband, had long wanted to be a mother.

Thanks to the care of Dr. Watteville, a famous gynecologist from Geneva, she gave birth to her first son, Carlo, in 1968 and Edoardo, in 1973.

Sophia Loren in the 1970s

In 1972, Sophia Loren worked with Peter O’Toole on “Man from La Mancha”, a film adaptation of the musical of the same name.

The plot is based on the story that Miguel de Cervantes tells about Don Quixote in a prison, while waiting for an audience with the Spanish Inquisition

In 1976, Sophia Loren was the protagonist of “The Cassandra Bridge“. It is a dramatic and catastrophic film. It was also titled “Panic on the Bridge“.

Accompanying Sophia Loren were: Richard Harris, Ava Gardner, Nicole Dressler, Burt Lancaster and Martin Sheen.

A Private Day” was a 1977 film by Italian director Ettore Scola, awarded the 1978 Golden Globe Award. Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.

It tells the story of how two neighbors live who did not know each other until then, the parade of the Italian armed forces in honor of Adolf Hitler’s visit to Rome.

It clearly reflects the success of fascism in transforming private lives to add them to a national destiny.

Sophia Loren received the award for the best female lead role.

Sophie and Mastroiani
Sophia Loren in the movie “A particular day”. Credit: web senscine.com

Subsequently, Sophia Loren spaced her appearances in the cinema, and devoted herself fully to taking care of her children.

She turned down important roles, both in film and in the already fledgling famous television series.

During the peak years, other suitors, apart from the Cary Grant case, wanted to have some love “affair” with her.

To all of them, Sophia Loren stopped their feet.

Even Marcello Mastroianni was only “a good friend” of the Italian faithful to her husband and attentive to staying united with Carlo Ponti and their children.

Sophia Loren always kept in mind that before her film commitments there was her role as wife and mother. And she never regretted it.

Autobiographical series and prison

In 1980, Sophia Loren acted as herself and her mother in the biographical telefilm “Sophia Loren” directed by Mel Stuart.

The film was based on the autobiographical book entitled “Sophia: Her Own Story“.

Her name appeared on the covers around the world in 1982 for extra artistic reasons, as she received an 18-day jail sentence for tax evasion.

Sophia Loren in the 1990s

In 1991 Loren received an Honorary Oscar for her contribution to the film industry.

Three years later, she returned to the cinema to participate in the film “Prêt-à-Porter“, by Robert Altman, where she once again shared the scene with Marcello Mastroianni.

The magnificent main cast was completed by: Julia Roberts, Tim Robbins, Kim Basinger, Lauren Bacall and Tracy Ullman.

Her performance earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination in the category of best supporting actress.

Her next film work was in the 1995 comedy “Discord on Demand,” in which she starred alongside Ann-Margret, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

This film achieved considerable box office success.

In that same year, the actress received a new award in recognition of her pre-professional career, the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Sophia Loren in the 21st century

Later she appeared in Italian productions such as “Francesca e Nunziata” (2001) and “Peperoni ripieni e pesci in faccia” (2004).

In 2007, Carlo Ponti passed away. Sophia Loren dedicated herself to following her children’s work, accepting roles of lesser rank in European cinema, attending galas, writing her memoirs and some other cookbooks.

The documentary directed by Massimo Ferrari and entitled “Sophia: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” includes exclusive interviews with Sophia Loren and with some figures of international cinema.

In 2013, Sophia Loren worked on an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s play “The Human Voice”, a short film that was directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, who was now 40 years old.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation

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