There is even a pizza carrying her name: Sophia Loren is one of the most famous screen legends of the last century. She starred alongside Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, John Wayne and Clark Gable.
In her memoirs, she wrote that she had the right to call herself ”Margravine“. Her father was of noble descent. Nevertheless, Loren spent her childhood in modest circumstances. During World War II, it was about mere survival for Sophia Loren and her family. She processed her war experiences in the 1960 film Two Women.
In 1950, Sophia Loren met her future patron Carlo Ponti, now considered one of the most famous Italian film producers. At first Sophia Loren played some smaller roles until Carlo Ponti devoted himself to her: On his initiative, his discovery Sofia Villani Scicolone called herself Sophia Loren from now on. Loren played her first major role in the opera film Aida (1953).
Her role in the film The Gold of Naples (1954) is considered the breakthrough of the film actress. The film was directed by Vittorio de Sica, with whom Loren worked repeatedly throughout her career.
After more successful films in Italy, the opportunity arose for Sophia Loren to go to Hollywood: In The Pride and the Passion (1957), Sophia Loren stood in front of a Hollywood camera for the first time. Loren played here alongside Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra.
It was the comedy Houseboat (1958) with Cary Grant that made Sophia Loren famous among US audiences.
Sophia Loren scored her next success with the comedy It Started in Naples (1960) – this time alongside Clark Gable.
For the film Two Women (1960), Sophia Loren received an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role: There was hardly any other film into which Sophia Loren could put so many of her own life experiences. It was very unusual at the time for a non-American actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
The film is about a mother (played by Sophia Loren) trying to save her twelve-year-old daughter from the horrors of war. It is not without reason that Loren was able to portray this role so convincingly: Her own life experiences during World War II predestined her for the role.
Famous film partners
During the 1960s, Sophia Loren was at the peak of her acting career: she was one of the most famous actresses in the world and was a drawing card in all the productions she starred in. Particular highlights during the 1960s were the monumental film The Fall of the Roman Empire (1963) and A Countess of Hong Kong (1967): A Countess of Hong Kong was Charlie Chaplin’s last film and also his only color film. In addition to Sophia Loren, it starred Marlon Brando, Tippi Hedren and Margaret Rutherford.
In Italian productions from this period, Sophia Loren often played together with the Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni: the two made a dream couple on the screen.
After Sophia Loren became a mother at the end of the sixties, she starred mainly in Italian films. In 1974, for example, she played a leading role in the last film directed by Vittorio de Sica: In The Voyage (1974), Sophia Loren starred alongside Richard Burton.
It was the end of Vittorio de Sica’s career and at the same time the end of a great collaboration: Sophia Loren celebrated some of her greatest film successes with Vittorio de Sica.
A multi-faceted actress
Since 1950, Sophia Loren has appeared in over one hundred films: She played alongside numerous cinema legends such as Cary Grant and Clark Gable. In 1994 Sophia Loren received the 2,000 star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 1962 Academy Award for the film Two Women remained her only Academy Award.
In the course of her career, Sophia Loren did not only play dramatic roles: with the British comedian Peter Sellers, she starred in The Millionairess in 1960 – an adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s play of the same name.
Whether drama or comedy, to this day Sophia Loren remains one of the most multifaceted actresses of the twentieth century.
Simon von Ludwig
Main sources: “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life”, Atria Books (Sophia Loren’s memoirs) among others