Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren
= Early Life = Sophia was born Sofia Villani Scicolone at the Clinica Regina Margherita, Rome, on September 20, 1934 to Riccardo Scicolone and Romilda Villiani. Riccardo refused to marry Romilda, leaving Romilda, a piano teacher and aspiring actress without support.


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Sofia Villani Scicolone
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= Early Life = Sophia was born Sofia Villani Scicolone at the Clinica Regina Margherita, Rome, on September 20, 1934 to Riccardo Scicolone and Romilda Villiani. Riccardo refused to marry Romilda, leaving Romilda, a piano teacher and aspiring actress without support. Romilda, Sofia and sister Maria returned to Pozzuoli, near Naples to live with Sofia's grandmother in order to survive. She would eventually change her name to Sophia Loren.

During WWII the harbor and munitions plant in Pozzuoli were a frequent bombing target. During one raid, as Sophia ran to the shelter she was struck by shrapnel and wounded in the chin. Subsequently the family moved to Naples and begged distant relatives to take them in.

After the war, Sophia and her family returned to Pozzuoli. Grandmother Luisa opened their living room as a pub selling homemade cherry liquor. Romilda played the piano, Maria sang and the shy Sophia waited tables and washed dishes. The place was very popular with the American GI's stationed nearby.

When she was 14 years old Sophia entered a beauty contest in Naples and, while not winning, was selected as one of the finalists. Later she enrolled in acting class and was selected as an extra in the Mervyn LeRoy film, Quo Vadis, thus launching her career as motion picture actress.

= Career = By the late 1950s, Loren's star had begun to rise in Hollywood, with films such as 1957's Boy on a Dolphin and The Pride and the Passion in which she co-starred with Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. Grant, reportedly, fell so deeply in love with Loren that he ardently proposed marriage, despite her obvious loyalty to Carlo Ponti and Grant's own union with actress and writer Betsy Drake. It is possible that Loren had an affair with Grant but how serious their relationship was is now known only to her. Stargazers and celebrity biographers consider the putative Loren-Grant romance to be one of the more mysterious and elusive romantic involvements in Hollywood history. In a very brief time she was the most famous Italian actress in the world.

Loren became an international film star with a five-picture contract with Paramount Studios. Among her films at this time: Desire Under the Elms with Anthony Perkins, based upon the Eugene O'Neill play; Houseboat, a romantic comedy co-starring Cary Grant; and George Cukor's Heller in Pink Tights in which she appeared with blonde hair (a wig) for the first time. Loren demonstrated considerable dramatic skills and attracted respect as a dramatic and comedic actress, especially in Italian projects where she could express herself more freely, although she acquired great proficiency in English.

In 1960, her acclaimed performance in Vittorio De Sica's Two Women earned many awards, including the Cannes, Venice and Berlin Film Festivals' best performance prizes. Her performance was also awarded an Academy Award for Best Actress, the first major Academy Award for a non-English-language performance. Initially, the stark, gritty story of a mother and daughter surviving in war-torn Italy was to cast Anna Magnani as Sophia's mother. Negotiations, perhaps due to billing, broke down and the screenplay was rewritten to make Sophia the mother; Eleonora Brown portrayed the daughter.

Belying the typical portrayal of the beautiful actress as vacuous and emptyheaded, Loren was known for her sharp wit and insight. One of her most frequently-quoted sayings is her quip about her famously-voluptuous figure: "Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti."

During the 1960s Loren was one of the most popular actresses in the world, and she continued to make films in both the U.S. and Europe, acting with leading male stars. In 1964, her career reached its zenith when she received $1 million to act in The Fall of the Roman Empire.

Among her best-known films of this period are The Millionairess (1960) with Peter Sellers, Vittorio De Sica’s triptych Ieri, oggi, domani (1963) with Marcello Mastroianni, Peter Ustinov's Lady L (1965) with Paul Newman, the 1966 classic Arabesque with Gregory Peck, and Charlie Chaplin's final film, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) with Marlon Brando.

Despite the failure of many of her films to generate sales at the box office, she has an impressive roster of credits and work with famous co-stars. Invariably, she has turned in a charming performance and worn some of the most lavish costumes ever created for the movies. Some of her most attractive performances include A Breath of Scandal (1960), Madame Sans-Gêne (1962), Heller in Pink Tights (1960) and More Than A Miracle (1967).

= Musical Career = Loren also recorded well over two dozen songs throughout her career, including a best-selling album of comedic songs with Peter Sellers; reportedly, she had to fend off his romantic advances. It was partly owing to Sellers' infatuation with Loren that he split with his first wife, Anne Howe. Loren has made it clear to numerous biographers that Sellers' affections were reciprocated only platonically. This collaboration was covered in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers where actress Sonia Aquino portrayed Loren. It is said that the song Where do you go to (My Lovely) by Peter Sarstedt was inspired by Sophia Loren.

= Later Career =

Once she achieved motherhood, Loren worked less. She moved into her 40's and 50's with roles in films including the last De Sica movie, The Voyage, with Richard Burton and Ettore Scola's A Special Day with Mastroianni.

In 1980, she portrayed herself, as well as her mother, in a made-for-television biopic adaptation of her autobiography. Actresses, Ritza Brown and Chiara Ferrari played Loren at younger ages. She made headlines in 1982 when she served an 18-day prison sentence in Italy on tax evasion charges, a fact that didn't damage her career or popularity.

In her 60s, Loren became selective about choosing her films and ventured into various areas of business, including cook books,[ eyewear], jewelry and perfume. She also made well-received appearances in Robert Altman's Ready to Wear and the 1995 comedy Grumpier Old Men playing a femme fatale opposite Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

In 1991, Loren received an honorary Academy Award for her contribution to world cinema and was declared "one of the world cinema's treasures."

Sophia Loren on the Web

Sophia Loren by Alfred Eisenstaedt, Italy, 1961 | Retronaut All images by Alfred Eisenstaedt ... Thank you to LIFE Archive.

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