Sophia Loren (b. 1934)

Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren is an Italian actress, renowned for her great beauty, who has had a 50 year film career, making over 100 movies. She is an instantly recognisable international celebrity and has achieved the status of Hollywood screen legend. She won a Best Actress Academy Award for 'Two Women' in 1960.

She was named number 21 on The American Film Institute's list of 50 Greatest Screen Legends.


She was born Sofia Villani Scicolone on Sept. 20, 1934, in Rome. Her father was an engineer who refused to marry her mother even after they had a second child together. Her mother, Romilda, an aspiring actress was left to fend for herself without his support. She moved to stay with Loren's grandmother in Pozzuoli, a suburb of Naples where Sofia and her sister, Maria, were brought up in great poverty. Pozzuoli was a frequent target of Allied bombers during the war and Sofia's family often went hungry.

Partly because of this, as a young girl Sofia was extremely thin and had the nickname, "toothpick". She more than made up for this as a young teenager when she developed her curvy figure. Her mother, ambitious for her shapely fourteen year old daughter, entered her in a local beauty contest in 1949. She came second and was able to go to Rome the following year to enter the Miss Italia Beauty Contest. She did not know it then but her journey to fame and fortune had begun.

Young Actress

One of the judges of the Miss Italia contest was film producer Carlo Ponti, an important member of Europe's filmmaking elite. He took notice of the beautiful, charismatic girl and began to help to launch her acting career.

Still only fifteen years old, Sofia began taking drama lessons and soon appeared in walk on roles in numerous minor Italian films. Her first role was uncredited in 'Tototarzan ' in 1950 and in the same year she worked for the first time with Marcello Mastroianni on 'Cuori sul mare'. Her first important role was in 'La Favorita' in 1952 and all her appearances until 1953 were either uncredited, using the name Sofia Lazzaro or under her real name Sofia Scicolone.

She first used her now famous name in 1953 in 'La domenica della buona gente'. The name was suggested by producer Goffredo Lombardo and was styled on the name of Swedish actress Marta Torén who had starred in 'Sirocco' the previous year with Humphrey Bogart.

Sophia received critical acclaim for her performance in Verdi's 'Aida' in 1953 after which she was offered and signed a production contract with Ponti. She was becoming well known and after her performance in Vittorio De Sica's 'Gold of Naples' in 1954 she became a star name in Italy.

Hollywood Actress

Sophia continued making films in Italy for 3 years and began to study English before making the move to America. She was now given starring roles as in 'Too Bad She's Bad' and 'The Miller's Wife' ('La Bella Mugnaia') both in 1955 and both co-starring Marcello Mastroianni. For two years Sophia honed her craft, appearing in numerous fairly average films each year but performing well in them, such as 'Scandal in Sorrento' in 1955 and 'What a Woman'!' the following year.

In 1957 she played opposite established Hollywood leading man, Alan Ladd in 'Boy on a Dolphin' after which she made the move to America and signed a 5 year contract with Paramount Studios. Her first Hollywood film was 'The Pride and the Passion' with Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant, which was one of the top American. box office successes of the year.

Sophia was now a fully fledged Hollywood star. She appeared in several high quality films such as the hit comedy 'Houseboat' in 1958 and 'It Started in Naples' in 1960 and her undoubted acting talent was recognised after she played in 'Two Women' (La Ciociara) in 1960, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Actress, the first artist to win such an award for a performance in a foreign-language. The director was Vittorio De Sica, the highly influential filmmaker, with whom Sophia collaborated eight times in all.

International Star

Sophia rapidly became internationally famous and remained one of the best known film stars in the world for the next two decades. Major successes included 'El Cid' in 1961, 'The Fall of the Roman Empire' in 1964, 'Arabesque' co-starring Gregory Peck in 1966, 'Man of La Mancha' in 1972 and 'The Cassandra Crossing' in 1976, all of which were made in America. She also made some high quality movies in Europe such as 'Marriage Italian Style' in 1964 for which she was nominated again for the Best Actress Oscar, Peter Ustinov's 'Lady L' in 1965 with Paul Newman and 'A Special Day' in 1977. Less successful was the British production 'A Countess from Hong Kong' in 1967, co-starring Marlon Brando,and directed by Hollywood legend, Charles Chaplin.

Later Career

After 1979, Sophia put her movie career on hold in order to give time to raising her young family. She released her autobiography in the same year entitled "Sophia Loren: Living and Loving".

During the 1980s, Sophia made no feature films but appeared in several television movies beginning with 'Sophia Loren: Her Own Story' in 1980 in which she played her mother as well as herself. She continued with 'Qualcosa di biondo' in 1984 and the mini-series 'The Fortunate Pilgrim' in 1988.

Sophia was awarded an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 1990 and since then has made sporadic movie appearances including 'Ready to Wear'(Pret a Porter) in 1994, and the hit comedy 'Grumpier Old Men' in 1995, starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret. In 2009, after a long break from the screen, Sophia starred in 'Nine' with Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Kate Hudson and Nicole Kidman. In 2011 she voiced for the Disney/Pixar film 'Cars 2'.


Unusually for Hollywood actresses, Sophia has had only one husband, and a happy and secure family life. She has never been regarded as promiscuous, although, as a beautiful, highly intelligent woman she has had many male admirers.
Carlo Ponti
She first met Carlo Ponti in 1950 when he was one of the judges at the Miss Italia beauty contest. He was already married with two children and 23 years her senior. He became her mentor and protector and the couple gradually fell in love. In 1957 Ponti obtained a "quickie" Mexican divorce from his first wife and married Sophia by proxy (a wedding in which one or both of the principals are not physically present). This later caused the couple great problems in their homeland as Italy did not recognize divorce and considered Ponti to be a bigamist. To make matters worse, the Vatican threatened them with excommunication.

They took steps to have the marriage annulled in 1962 and in 1965 Ponti was divorced by his first wife, which allowed he and Sophia to marry legally in 1966. They went on to have two children and have a happy secure marriage which ended with Ponti's death at the age of 94 in 2007.
Cary Grant
At the time of her 1957 marriage to Ponti, Sophia's life grew extremely complicated as she was involved with Hollywood leading man, Cary Grant. She had met Grant on the set of 'Houseboat' in 1957 and the pair had dated for a while. Grant became besotted, vowing to divorce his wife and marry her. When Sophia opted for the father figure of Ponti instead of him, Grant was devastated and took a long time to recover.

Sophia Loren Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Actress … Two Women (La Ciociara) (1960)
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Actress … Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio all'italiana) (1964)

Sophia Loren Filmography

Tototarzan (uncredited)
Le sei mogli di Barbablù (as Sofia Lazzaro)
Cuori sul mare (as Sofia Scicolone)
Il voto (as Sofia Scicolone)
Lebbra bianca
Io sono il capataz (as Sofia Scicolone)
Milano miliardaria (as Sofia Scicolone)
Quo Vadis (uncredited)
Il mago per forza (as Sofia Scicolone)
Il padrone del vapore (as Sofia Lazzaro)
Era lui, sì, sì! (as Sofia Lazzaro)
Anna (uncredited)
La favorita (as Sofia Lazzaro)
The Dream of Zorro (as Sofia Scicolone)
La tratta delle bianche (as Sofia Lazzaro)
The Piano Tuner Has Arrived(as Sofia Lazzaro)
La domenica della buona gente
Woman of the Red Sea
Ci troviamo in galleria
Town of Bells
A Day in Court
Two Nights with Cleopatra
A Slice of Life
Neapolitan Fantasy
Miseria e nobiltà
Pilgrim of Love
The Gold of Naples
The River Girl
Too Bad She's Bad
Il segno di Venere
The Miller's Wife
Scandal in Sorrento
What a Woman!
Boy on a Dolphin
The Pride and the Passion
Legend of the Lost
Desire Under the Elms
The Key
The Black Orchid
That Kind of Woman
Heller in Pink Tights
A Breath of Scandal
It Started in Naples
The Millionairess
Two Women
El Cid
Boccaccio '70
The Condemned of Altona
Five Miles to Midnight
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
The Fall of the Roman Empire
Marriage Italian Style
Operation Crossbow
Lady L
A Countess from Hong Kong
More Than a Miracle
Ghosts, Italian Style