Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren; one of the last major surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema.

Sofia  Villani Scicolone, known professionally as Sophia Loren, was born on 20 September 1934 in Rome, Italy. Her father, a construction engineer of noble descent, refused to marry her mother, a piano teacher and an aspiring actress. He left her and the children to fend for themselves.  This treatment by him impacted the family both financially and emotionally.  Even when the children grew up, the family never kept in touch. In fact, Sophia just met her father three times during her entire lifetime, the last of which was at his deathbed in 1976. Though she forgave him, she could never forget his abandonment of her mother.

Sophia has a sister and two paternal half-brothers.  Since the father abandoned them, Sophia’s maternal grandmother took over. Her childhood was spent in her grandmother’s house near Naples, where she lived with her mother and sister. Life wasn’t easy, with money being a huge constraint. Sophia had to wait on tables in a pub opened by her grandmother to support the family at one time.

She began her acting career at the age of sixteen in 1950 after taking part in a beauty pageant. She only got minor parts to begin with, but in 1956 she signed a five-picture contract with Paramount, which launched her international career. Her movies from that time include ‘The Pride and the Passion’, ‘Houseboat’, ‘It Started in Naples.’, and ‘A Countess from Hongkong.’

Carlo Ponti, her husband, changed her name to Sophia Loren to appeal to a wider audience.

During the 60s, she was one of the most popular actors in the world, starring in films in the US and Europe with the leading actors of that time.

She reached the pinnacle of her career in 1964 when she received $1 million to appear in the movie’ The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

But once she became a mother in 1968, her career started to take a back seat though she never gave it up altogether.  She was seen in movies like ‘The Voyage’, ‘The Cassandra Crossing’ and ‘A Special Day’ during the 70s.

The decade of the 80s saw her making even fewer film appearances though she continued to dazzle her fans with some great performances.

Amongst the several parts she played, a noteworthy one is the one where

She portrayed herself and her mother in a made-for-television biopic adaptation of her autobiography, Sophia Loren: Her Own Story. This was in 1980.

She was the first female celebrity to launch her own perfume in 1981, followed by an eyewear brand, ‘Sophia’.

Her claim to fame also includes an 18-day prison sentence on tax evasion charges in 1982, though it didn’t even make a dent in her popularity.

Apart from acting in block bursters, Sophia has also recorded more than two dozen songs in her career, including a best-selling album of comedic songs with Peter Sellers.

The song ‘Where do you go to my lovely’ by Peter Sarstedt is said to have been inspired by her.

The 90s were a lot about awards and acknowledgements, including the Academy Honorary Award and the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award and a few movies like ‘Grumpier Old Men’.

In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.

In 1999, THE American Film Institute named her among the greatest female stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.

In 2001 she received a Special Grand Prix of the Americas Award at the Montreal World Film Festival.

During the 90s and 2000s, she was pretty selective about her films. She ventured into various areas of business, including cookbooks, eyewear, jewellery and perfume.

Amongst the films, there was one ‘Between Strangers’, directed by her son Edoardo.

In 2009 after a gap of five years from the sets, she starred in Rob Marshall’s film version of ‘Nine’ based on the Broadway musical.

In 2010 she played her own mother in a two-part Italian television mini-series.

Though professionally, she met success very early on, which stayed with her; she had her set of trials and tribulations on the personal front.

She first met her future husband Carlo Ponti in 1950 when she was 15, and he was 37. He was already married though he had been separated from his wife for a long time. They fell in love and wanted to marry each other but couldn’t as Ponti was not legally divorced.  However, somehow, they managed to marry each other in 1957. The marriage had to be annulled in 1962 to escape bigamy charges though they continued to live together, and then in 1966,  finally they were allowed to marry after Ponti got a divorce. She remained married to him until he died in 2002. The couple had two sons.

An enormously admired and celebrated actor, she has won several awards in a career spanning over six decades.

She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the movie ‘Two Women’ in 1961, making her the first actor to win an Oscar for a foreign-language performance. She has won awards ranging from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, a BAFTA award,  Laurel Award, to name just a few.

In 2014, Loren’s memoir ‘ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: My Life was published.Now living in Geneva, she continues to see the world as a place full of beauty.

She says about herself,’ I always think positively. It is very rare that you will find me in a mood that is sad or melancholic.’

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