Sophia Loren – Beauty of a Timeless Icon!
Sensual, beautiful, enigmatic – all these adjectives are less to describe the timeless and iconic beauty of Sophia Loren. Today marks her 77th birthday. The beautiful siren, Sophia Loren, was among the most successful international stars who belonged to the postwar era; not only she made her mark as a sex symbol, but she garnered several accolades and critical acclaim. This is a rare achievement afforded by most of her foreign-born contemporaries. Read on to discover the rise of the beautiful actress – from the impoverished background to the pinnacle of success and fame!
The enigmatic actress has appeared in more than 70 films since 1950. She has acted with some of the biggest names in the international cinema. She also made history in the world of cinema when she became the first person to ever win an Oscar for a foreign film – La Ciociara (Two Women) in 1961! It was not an easy task to break into the international arena!
Back to Childhood – Breaking out of Poverty
Born as Sofia Scicolone in Rome on 20th September 1934, she and her single mother survived in abject poverty. She was brought up in the war-savaged slums of Naples. At the mere age of 14, young Sofia started entering various beauty pageants held locally, later becoming a model. She appeared in many uncredited bits in films.
After winning in a beauty pageant held in Rome, Sofia was signed by producer Carlo Ponti to a film contract. He began grooming her for fame and stardom by recruiting drama coaches. He even casted her in small roles for movies, including casting in the 1951 smash hit Anna, under the screen name “Sofia Lazzaro.”
A Star is Born!
For her first larger role in La Favorita (1952), Ponti subsequently changed her name to Sophia Loren. In the following year’s La Tratta Delle Bianche, Sophia fetched third billing after Elenora Rossi-Drago and Silvana Pampanini.
By the mid fifties, Sophia was a star in Italy. She also made her presence felt as being one of the sexiest women. Her 1955 film, Attila Flagello di Dio was an exception, co-starring Anthony Quinn, which was well-received internationally. However, very few of her films were internationally distributed. Even after re-cutting and dubbing, her films gained poor reviews.
Receiving Critical Acclaim!
Loren was singled out and noticed for the strength of her performance as a Neapolitan shopkeeper as she managed to surprise several critics who had dismissed her as just another bombshell!
This led to a mass distribution of her 1955 film, La Donna del Fiume, in both Britain and the United States along with several other projects. Loren, eventually, emerged as a true international star and Ponti thought that she is ready to make her presence felt in Hollywood.
Sophia tentatively moved into the English-language domain with few films shot in Europe, including 1957’s The Pride and the Passion (starring Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra) and Boy on a Dolphin (starring opposite Alan Ladd).
A Scandalous Wedding!
In 1957, Sophia and Ponti married in Mexico. Their wedding created a furor and labeled a national scandal in the Catholic predominated Italy as Ponti was already married once before. Their marriage initiated a series of legal complications – one famous Italian Catholic magazine even advised readers to completely boycott all Loren’s films.
Ponti, in the meantime, teamed up with Paramount for a 4 film contract for Sophia. This contract began with the 1958 film, Desire Under the Elms. While her film career was riding an all-time high, her marriage was dealt a blow when she and Ponti were to have their marriage annulled by Italian law in 1962.
Ponti and Loren became French citizens in 1966 and were eventually legally married. She and Ponti welcomed their first son, Carlo Jr., in 1969 who went on to become a successful conductor and pianist. Their second son, Edoardo, was born in 1973 and became a filmmaker.
One-Way Ticket to Fame
Her acting skills and prowess blossomed in Hollywood as she won the Best Actress honors for her role in The Black Orchid, a Martin Ritt’s drama in the 1959 Venice Film Festival. But, she failed to draw audience and her next film, Heller in Pink Tights (a George Cukor’s idiosyncratic Western), failed to remedy.
The first commercial breakthrough for Loren was the 1960 rom-com “It Started in Naples” (opposite Clark Gable). However, Paramount was not happy with her work and decided to cut her loose. They lost faith in her star power.
Sophia then traveled to Britain to act in Anthony Asquith’s film, The Millonairess. After returning back to Italy, she again teamed up with de Sica for La Ciociara, which was a wartime drama. She starred as a widowed mother and the movie won widespread acclaim.
One Woman, One Star!
Her gut wrenching performance fetched an Academy Award. Hence, she became the first foreign-language actor to win the Best Actress award. She was even honored at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
After her win, Loren went through a low phase in her career. Nevertheless, she remained a major talent. This led her to win a Golden Globe award in 1969 as the world’s most popular actress. She made many movies subsequently but she was unable to create any magic at the box office. In honor of her lengthy career, Loren was also honored with a special Oscar in 1991.
She later released her cookbook, Sophia Loren’s Recipes and Memories, which became a bestseller in 1998. Her recent ventures into films include 2011’s Francesca e Nunziata. Also, she collaborated with her son Edorado as director for Between Strangers, which was premiered at the 2002 Venice Film Festival.
Sophia has achieved a lot over the course of her film career which she put on hold only to raise her children. She dared to live her dreams and soar high. She celebrated each moment of her life!
She once famously said “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Happy 77th Birthday, Sophia Loren! You will always remain the “quintessential beautiful brunette” for millions across the world!