“Sophia Loren, aside from being extremely beautiful physically, is one of the most exciting, witty women on this planet.”
Tippi Hendren, costar in A Countess from Hong Kong
Sophia Loren did two notorious things in her life. The first was to have a romance with Cary Grant, one that elicited a proposal of marriage. She declined, leaving him in despair. The second scandal is more significant. Loren carried on a long-time affair with married producer Carlo Ponti, one that led to an eventual marriage with admirable longevity but was nonetheless quite shocking in its time. Loren met Ponti when she was only fourteen years old. He was twenty-two years her senior. Initially he provided her with professional advice and friendship but it didn’t take long for their relationship to blossom into romance. Divorce was not yet legal in Italy and Rome was having none of their liaison. Hollywood provided a welcome refuge and Mexico a ‘legal’ means of marrying,yet one that branded Ponti a bigamist in his home country. The couple opted to become French citizens, with the Italian producer finally obtaining an elusive divorce, allowing for their longed-for marriage. The addition of children, and later grandchildren, only made it that much sweeter.
If Loren had any further dalliances with her co-stars, a stunning array of men that included Gregory Peck, Clark Gable, William Holden, Peter Sellers and Richard Burton, among others, she hasn’t breathed a word of it. However such speculation seems doubtful. Her lifelong love affair with Ponti appears to be one of several constants in her life, the others being her creativity, her love of family, and the simple joi de vivre of being Sophia Loren.
Sophia Loren: Movie Star Italian Style by Cindy De La Hoz conveys this joy for living nicely. A photographic journey through the actor’s life and movies, it stuns with literally hundreds of gorgeous photos, the majority in the glorious technicolor of many of her films. A breezy biography fills in the specifics of Loren’s life beginning with childhood struggles of living in war-torn Italy and continuing to the present day. Almost two-thirds of this coffee table worthy book consists of a synopsis of each of her films, providing the Loren aficionado with a comprehensive compendium of her work. This is especially helpful as many of her films, even those that have been translated from the original Italian, remain in limited distribution. Her most familiar Hollywood successes are highlighted too including Houseboat, It Happened in Naples, Arabesque and The Millionairess.
Yet Loren differs from many of her Hollywood peers due to her significant contribution to Italian cinema. For her portrayal of a mother trapped in WWII Italy in a gritty, heartbreaking turn in Two Women (1960), she became the first actor to win an Oscar for a foreign language performance. She has won five special Golden Globes, mostly for World Film Favorite. Her partnership with fellow countryman Marcello Mastroianni was the kind of rare collaboration that is seen only with the likes of Tracy and Hepburn, Powell and Loy, and Allen and Keaton. The duo made an impressive seventeen movies together, working with Italian luminaries such as director Vittorio de Sica and producer Ponti, lifting Italian filmmaking to new heights of popularity and artistry. She is considered Italy’s most celebrated female actor of all time.
Truly an international movie star, Loren is known for her staggering beauty, yet she has an acting legacy that spans over six decades. That this is not widely known in not the fault of the star but rather the overwhelming seductiveness of her presentation and the breadth of her film catalogue, one that crosses continents. Loren is an iconic sex symbol, an actor whose curvaceous presence signifies sexual nuance and allure the moment she enters a scene. Her statuesque beauty perfectly fit her debut era, one marked by swing dresses that celebrated the female form. Just as America was tiring of the blonde bombshell, along came Loren, with an exotic mystique enhanced by big brown almond eyes and voluptuous lips and hips.
If there is one quibble with the book it is that it ends too soon. Loren is described as possessing incredible warmth, vitality and an enduring presence that is rare among female performers who too often are not permitted to age gracefully or choose to bow out of their own accord. One hungers for more of Sophia the woman, the survivor. What is clear is that her apparent pragmatism, emotional stability and business acumen are additional assets that have contributed to her longevity and her mystique.
Loren remains riveting when attending red carpet events. She has shown a remarkable ability to retain her beauty and to age with stunning grace. The many quotes from Sophia regarding her life philosophies, experiences in filmmaker and from those who have worked with her are a treat in this new work. The book ends with a final quote from Loren speaking to a belief that has served her well:
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
She may yet gift us with future endeavors springing from her own overflowing creative spirit.
De La Hoz’s new pictorial biography is a glorious introduction for newcomers to Loren’s life and career that should also prove satisfying to devoted fans due to its respectful treatment and multitude of photographs. It is a worthy addition to the field and to any film lover’s collection. I am quite pleased to add it to mine.
Thank you to Running Press/Turner Classic Movies for providing me with an advance review copy of this lovely book. It is available for Pre-Order through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Shop TCM or your favorite bookseller. This book will be available on September 26, 2017 in Hardcover or E-Book.
This post is the fourth in the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge hosted by Raquel Stecher of Out of the Past. For more book reviews please check her blog throughout the summer!!