Nationality: Italian. Born: Sofia Villani Scicolone in Rome, 20 September 1934. Family: Married the producer Carlo Ponti, 1957, sons: Carlo Jr. and Eduardo. Career: Began her film career as an extra in Quo Vadis? (produced in 1949), also a model for photographed cartoon strips and appeared in beauty contests; "discovered" by Carlo Ponti; 1957—first American film, The Pride and the Passion ; 1988—in TV mini-series Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim . Awards: Best Actress, Venice Festival, for The Black Orchid , 1959; Best Actress Academy Award, Best Actress, Cannes Festival, and Best Foreign Actress, British Academy, for Two Women , 1961; Honorary Oscar, for being "one of the genuine treasures of world cinema who, in a career rich with memorable performances, has added permanent luster to our art form," 1990; created Knight, French Légion d'honneur, 1991; Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, 1994; also eight David Di Donatello Awards. Address: c/o La Concordia Ranch, 1151 Hidden Valley Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91361, U.S.A.
(as Sofia Scicolone-Lazzaro)
Cuori su mare ( Hearts upon the Sea ) (Bianchi); Il voto ( The Vote ) (Bonnard); Le sei mogli di Barbablu' ( Bluebeard's Six Wives ) (Ludovico); Io sono il capatz (Simonelli); Luci del varietà ( Variety Lights ) (Fellini)
Quo Vadis? (LeRoy—produced in 1949); Era lui, sì! sì! ( It's Him, Yes! Yes! ) (Metz); Milano miliardaria ( Milana the Millionairess ) (Metz); Anna (Lattuada); The Magician in Spite of Himself (Metz); Il sogno di Zorro ( The Dream of Zorro ) (Soldati); E'arrivato l'accordatore ( The Piano Tuner Has Arrived ) (Coletti); Lebbra bianca (Trapani)
La favorita ( The Favorite ) (Barlacchi)
(as Sophia Loren)
White Slave Trade (Comencini)
Aida (Fracassi) (title role); La domenica della buona gente ( Good People's Sunday ) (Majano); Il paese dei campanelli ( The Country of Bells ) (Boyer); Pellegrini d'amore ( Pilgrim of Love ) (Forzano); Carosella napolitano ( Neapolitan Carousel ) (Giannini) (as Sisina); Ci troviamo in Galleria ( We'll Meet in the Gallery ) (Bolognini); Tempi nostri ( Anatomy of Love ) (Blasetti); Due notti con Cleopatra ( Two Nights with Cleopatra ) (Mattóli) (as Nisca/title role)
Attila flagello di dio ( Attila ; Attila the Hun ) (Francisci) (as Honoria); Un giorno in pretura ( A Day in Court ) (Steno) (as Anna); "Pizza on Credit" ep. of L'oro di Napoli ( The Gold of Naples ; Every Day's a Holiday ) (de Sica) (as the wife); La donna del fiume ( Woman of the River ) (Soldati) (as Nives Mongolini); Miseria e nobiltà ( Poverty and
Il segno di Venere ( The Sign of Venus ) (Risi) (as Agnese); La bella mugnaia ( The Miller's Wife ) (Camerini) (as Carmela); Pane, amore, e . . . ( Scandal in Sorrento ) (Risi) (as Donna Sofia); La fortuna di essere donna ( Lucky to Be a Woman ) (Blasetti) (as Antoinette)
The Pride and the Passion (Kramer) (as Juana); Boy on a Dolphin (Negulesco) (as Phaedra); Legend of the Lost ( Timbuktu ) (Hathaway) (as Dita)
Desire under the Elms (Delbert Mann) (as Ana Cabot); Houseboat (Shavelson) (as Cinzia Zaccardi); The Key (Reed) (as Stella)
The Black Orchid (Ritt) (as Rose Bianco); That Kind of Woman (Lumet) (as Kay)
Heller in Pink Tights (Cukor) (as Angela Rossini); It Started in Naples ( La baia di Napoli ) (Shavelson) (as Lucia Curcio); A Breath of Scandal ( Olympia ) (Curtiz) (as Princess Olympia); The Millionairess (Asquith) (as Epifania Parerga)
Lo ciociara ( Two Women ) (de Sica) (as Cesira); El Cid (Anthony Mann) (as Chimene); "La Riffa" ep. of Boccaccio '70 (de Sica) (as Zoe); Madame Sans-Gêne ( Madame ) (Christian-Jaque) (as Catherine Huebscher/Madame)
Le Couteau dans la plaie ( Five Miles to Midnight ) (Litvak) (as Lisa Macklin); I sequestrati di Altona ( The Condemned of Altona ) (de Sica) (as Johanna)
Ieri, oggi, e domani ( Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow ) (de Sica) (as Adelina/Anna/Mara)
The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann) (as Lucilla); Matrimonio all 'italiana ( Marriage Italian Style ) (de Sica) (as Filomena Marturano)
Judith (Daniel Mann) (title role); Operation Crossbow ( The Great Spy Mission ; Operazione Crossbow ) (Anderson) (as Nora); Lady L (Ustinov) (title role)
Arabesque (Donen) (as Yasmin Azir); A Countess from Hong Kong (Chaplin) (as Natasha)
C'era una volta ( More than a Miracle ; Cinderella, Italian Style ; Happily Ever After ) (Rosi) (as Isabella); Questi fantasmi ( Ghosts, Italian Style ; Three Ghosts ) (Castellani) (as Maria)
I girasoli ( Sunflower ; Les Fleurs du soleil ) (de Sica) (as Giovanna)
La moglie del prete ( The Priest's Wife ) (Risi) (as Valeria Billi); Bianco, rosso e . . . ( The White Sister ; The Sin ) (Lattuada) (as Sister Germana)
La mortadella ( Lady Liberty ) (Monicelli) (as Maddalena Ciarrapico); Man of La Mancha (Hiller) (as Dulcinea/Aldonza)
Il viaggio ( The Voyage ; The Journey ) (de Sica) (as Adriana De Mauro)
Le testament ( Jury of One ; The Verdict ) (Cayatte) (as Teresa Leoni); Brief Encounter (Bridges—for TV); Poopsie ( Gun Moll ) (Capitani) (title role)
Una giornata speciale ( A Special Day ) (Scola) (as Antonietta); The Cassandra Crossing (Cosmatos) (as Jennifer); Angela (Sagal) (title role)
Brass Target (Hough) (as Mara)
Firepower (Winner) (as Adele Tosca); Revenge ( Blood Feud ) (Wertmüller) (as Titina Paterno); Shimmy Lugano e tarantelle e vino (Wertmüller)
Oopsie Poopsie (Capitani) (as Poopsie); Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (Stuart—for TV) (as herself)
Qualcosa di biondo ( Aurora ) (Ponzi) (as Aurora)
Courage (Kagan—for TV) (as Marianna Miraldo)
The Fortunate Pilgrim (Cooper—for TV) (as Lucia)
Sobato, Domenica e Lunedi ( Saturday, Sunday and Monday ) (Wertmüller) (as Rosa Priore)
Ready to Wear ( Prêt-a-Porter ) (Altman) (as Isabella de la Fontaine)
Grumpier Old Men (Deutch) (as Maria Rigetti)
Soleil (Hanin) (as Madame Titine Lévy)
Eat with Me , London, 1972.
In the Kitchen with Love , Garden City, New York, 1972.
Sophia Loren's Recipes & Memories , New York, 1998.
"This Is Your Life: Sophia Loren," interview with Alberto Moravia, in Show (Hollywood), September 1962.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 16 August 1984.
Photoplay (London), January 1985.
"Sofia Scicolone," interview with Graham Fuller, in Interview (New York), October 1993.
"Kids!" interview with H.C. Beck, in Interview (New York), January 1996.
Crawley, Tony, The Films of Sophia Loren , London, 1974.
Zec, Donald, Sophia , New York, 1975.
Hotchner, A. E., Sophia: Living and Loving: Her Own Story , New York, 1979.
Shaw, Sam, Sophia Loren in the Camera Eye , New York, 1980.
Degioanni, Bernard, Sophia Loren , Paris, 1984.
Levy, Alan, Forever, Sophia: An Intimate Portrait , New York, 1986.
Moscati, Italo, Sophia Loren: tutto comincio quando al madre di un ragazza di Pozzuoli sogno di diventare Greta Garbo , Venice, 1994.
Harris, Warren G., Sophia Loren: A Biography , West Seneca, 1998.
Lane, J. F., "Neapolitan Gold," in Films and Filming (London), April 1957.
Current Biography 1959 , New York, 1959.
Silke, J. R., "Sophia Loren: Earth Mother," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), February-March 1964.
Noble, Peter, in Screen International (London), 20 September 1980.
Canby, Vincent, "Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni," in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 26 April 1984.
Collins, Nancy, "Sophia," in Vanity Fair (New York), January 1991.
James, C., "Sophia Loren Recalls a Beloved Paisan," in New York Times , 4 October 1991.
Film-dienst (Cologne), 12 April 1994.
Grundle, Stephen, "Sophia Loren, Italian Icon," in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (London), August 1995.
Cahiers du Cinema (Paris), March 1996.
* * *
Screen goddesses are rare enough, but celluloid divinities who can act are a breed apart. Although her impoverished beginnings as beauty pageant hopeful held little promise for success, the former Neapolitan dessert became one of the screen's glittering superstars. Enjoying a recent comeback in the stuck-on-itself Ready to Wear and the enjoyable but sitcomish Grumpier Old Men , incandescent Loren demonstrates how devalued cinema stars have become in an era rife with computer-programmed box-office lures (Demi Moore, Meg Ryan) and vapid starlets who would have been bit players in the forties (Sandra Bullock, Sarah Jessica Parker). When Loren sashays across the screen, the years slip by and a property's shortcomings can be overlooked because moviegoers feel they are getting more than their money's worth. With few exceptions (e.g., Susan Sarandon), the current crop of actresses are fast-food vamps who leave one hungry for something more. That tasty something more is called star quality, and Loren had it from her earliest days as amply endowed sex symbol.
In her de Sica comedies, Sophia seemed amused by her own lusciousness, as if she could not believe the foolishness of men trailing after her oregano-scented splendor. Like all transplants to Tinseltown, Loren was vulgarized for American consumption into an all-purpose earth mother. Unlike the other pneumatic wonders of her day (Bardot, Ekberg, Lollobrigida), Loren could do more than stick out her chest. Although her Hollywood output has been denigrated by critics, such a blanket dismissal overlooks tangy romantic comedy pairings with Cary Grant ( Houseboat ) and Gable ( It Started in Naples ) in which she holds her own as shining star, not as imported decoration; a competent soap opera, The Black Orchid , illuminated by Loren's dramatic skill; and George Cukor's celebration of frontier spirit and outdoor ham, Heller in Pink Tights , which fuses Sophia's sharp comic timing and technicolored awesomeness.
When Magnani refused to play her mother in Two Women , Loren assumed that role and amazed even her enthusiasts. The first actress ever to win an Oscar for a foreign-language film, Loren deserved that accolade against stiff competition because she embodied the devastation of every displaced soul brought down by war. Deglamorized but still radiant, she was perfectly attuned to de Sica's humanism and was unforgettable in quiet scenes with her traumatized daughter as well as in her shattering aria of denunciation about her child's rape—shouted at passing soldiers who turn a deaf ear.
After that acting triumph, Loren returned to Hollywood as a Star Eminence. As one of the last traditional movie queens, she gracefully enlivened the superior epic, El Cid , stunningly clotheshorsed her way through the spyjinks of Arabesque , and brought enchantment to bear on a beggarman's version of Man of La Mancha , one of the musical genre's last gasps. An inestimable star in English, she is perhaps a finer actress in her native tongue. Having danced a comic-dramatic two-step with Mastroianni in such smash hits as Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow , and Marriage Italian Style , she also paired beautifully with him in Scola's A Special Day , as a love-starved fascist-brainwashed housewife enjoying a respite from unhappiness.
Although many of her American projects were drivel, and although her later Italian films are drivel on a smaller budget, nothing can bank those Loren fires. Television has not been fruitful (she did not even play herself persuasively in her own biopic), and in retrospect, one is relieved she did not become a television diva on Dynasty since Joan Collins was their second choice and better suited to the crassness. With so few opportunities encircling her brand of endangered species stardom (consider the twilight years of Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor), one hopes the resurgence of interest in Loren will bring worthy vehicles. What the world needs now, more than love, is a return to bona fide movie stars who take us beyond ourselves and dare us to dream. Since they do not make them like they used to, Loren is too precious a resource for the contemporary cinema to waste.