September 20, 1934 – Sophia Loren:
“Sex Appeal is Fifty Percent What You’ve Got and Fifty Percent What People Think You’ve Got.“
She is Italy’s Greatest Cinema Icon, an eternal Diva, and she certainly deserves the status of LGBTQ Icon. See if you agree. Sophia Loren‘s exciting life has taken her from being a street kid to becoming one of the planet’s most glamorous film stars. She had the pleasure of enjoying the special company of Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Richard Burton, along with her Italian soulmate Marcello Mastroianni.
Loren’s story plays just like an Italian film, with her extraordinary rise to stardom as a poor teenager discovered and swooped away by a rich, famous film producer who later marries her and helps make her Italy’s greatest export after Chianti.
She was born in Roma as Sofia Costanza Brigida Villani Scicolone, and later changed the spelling of her first name to “ph” and adopted the last name Loren because she found it pretty. She was the daughter of a performer wannabe whose lover, Loren’s father, refused to marry her.
She grew up poor in Pozzuoli, near Napoli. Her mother eventually took her back to Roma, where Loren earned a small income for both by modeling in layouts of pulp magazines and winning prizes in beauty pageants. At one contest in the early 1950s, she was spotted by film producer Carlo Ponti, who found her the first screen roles and then devoted the rest of his own life to her career. Loren and Ponti were married for five decades, until his passing in 2007 at 94 years old.
Loren had no formal acting training. Pushed by her mother, her fabulous career began as a fluke when she met director Vittorio De Sica and told him she had never been offered a single job after going on hundreds of auditions. Loren:
“I said to him, every time I am auditioning, people never hire me because I’m shy. They think my mouth is too wide, nose too long, there’s something wrong with my face. He told me he didn’t want me to audition, this conversation was just fine. I didn’t know what to say to this wonderful man. I nearly fainted on the spot.”
She made The Gold Of Naples (1954) with De Sica and it became her big break as an actor. The same year she did a sweet comedy Eccato Che Sia Una Canaglia (Too Bad She’s Bad), the first of many films which Loren made with her perfectly matched star, Mastroianni. She found steady work and made many films, including Boy On A Dolphin (1957) with little Alan Ladd, Legend Of The Lost (1957) with John Wayne, and The Pride And The Passion (1957) with Grant and Sinatra.
“I have never been beautiful. I’ve never been a beautiful doll. In fact, when I started, people didn’t want to hire me because I wasn’t photogenic.”
Loren starred in De Sica’s Two Women (1960) a stark, gritty story of a mother who is trying to protect her daughter in war ravaged World War II Italy. The pair are gang-raped inside a church as they travel back to their home city following the end of the bombing. Originally cast as the daughter, Loren fought against type to be cast as the mother. It worked out, Loren won Cannes Film Festival‘s Best Performance Award and an Academy Award, the first for a non-English language performance and the first for any Italian. She skipped the ceremony because she was too nervous and discovered she had won via telephone by her friend Cary Grant.
Loren has won a Grammy Award, five Golden Globes (so to speak), a BAFTA Award and a special honorary Academy Award in 1991. In 1995, she received the Academy’s Cecil B. DeMille Lookalike Award for Lifetime Achievement in Film.
She acted only occasionally in the 1980s, turning down the role of Alexis Carrington in the camp television series Dynasty (1981-89). Yet, she agreed to doing 10 episodes of CBS’s Falcon Crest in 1984, but she changed her mind at the last moment and the role went to Gina Lollobrigida, instead.
In 2004, Loren appeared in Peperoni Ripieni E Pesci In Faccia, written and directed by Lina Wertmüller. I know nothing about it, but I wanted to share the title with you. It sounds delicious.
Loren has recorded six albums during her career, including a best-selling collection of comic songs, Peter & Sophia, with Peter Sellers in 1960. They had just worked together on The Millionairess, an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw‘s 1936 play. The album was conceived and produced by The Beatles‘ legendary producer George Martin. It even produced a hit single, Goodness Gracious Me, which was in the Top Ten on the Pop Charts.
Sellers was so infatuated with Loren, he split with his first wife, although Loren has always maintained that their relationship was strictly friendship. In her elegant memoir, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life (2014), she insists that although her affair with Grant was passionate, it was also unconsummated.
Loren posed nearly nude in the annual Pirelli Calendar in 2007. She was 72 years old.