Sophia Loren

“Sex appeal is fifty percent what you've got and fifty percent what people think you've got.”

Sophia Loren, Italian actress, 1934-present

Sophia Loren is one of the greatest actresses of the silver screen of all time, gaining star status in her native Italy, as well as in North America. Over her 60-year career and 90-plus films, she has won more than 50 awards including two Oscars, one of which was the first time the best actress award went to a foreign film. Loren continues to act in her 80s, most recently starring in The Life Ahead, from her son, the acclaimed director Eduardo Ponti. She was (and still is) a statuesque beauty, known for her trademark almond-shaped eyes, full lips, and magnetic personality. She has said that she had two strokes of luck in life: being born wise, and being born poor.

Born in Naples to a working-class family, Loren and her single mother lived with her grandparents in an apartment. During the war, they converted their living room to a G.I. bar, and Loren  bussed tables. But despite humble beginnings,  her rise to fame would be meteoric. Discovered in a beauty contest at the age of 15 by the powerful movie producer Carlo Ponti, he would take her under his wing, whisking her off to Rome to lunch a career as an actress. Because Italian law did not recognize divorce, Ponti became a French citizen so that they could be wed in Paris in 1957. During that era, Loren was a regular on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, and began getting noticed in Hollywood for her performances in films of the Italian New Wave. Her first crossover film, in which she spoke English, was 1957s The Boy and the Dolphin in which she plays a deep sea diver. Her most famous film is the war epic The Pride and the Passion, playing opposite Frank Sinatra. She was also good in comedic roles, such as in The Houseboat with Cary Grant. Although the leading men of the day were besotted by her, and despite their 22 year age difference, she remained loyal to Ponti.

The couple had difficulty conceiving, but Loren desperately wanted to become a mother so she sought treatment in Switzerland and they would have two sons. She focussed on her family after that, but still found time to launch a perfume, becoming the first actress ever to do so. In 1991 The Academy Awards gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award and she appeared in the celebrity-studded 1994 Robert Altman comedy, Ready to Wear. Always quick with a bon mot, at age 72 she famously said she owed her figure to spaghetti.

Loren and Ponti were married for 50 years until his death; he gave her a single red rose every day of their marriage.


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