- Loren, Sophia
- (1934-)(Born Sofia Villani Scicolone.)Actress. The most nationally celebrated and internationally renowned Italian actress of the postwar period, Loren was born illegitimately in Rome and grew up in one of the poorer quarters of Naples, where her mother had taken refuge at the beginning of World War II. After the war she and her mother both returned to Rome with hopes of a career in the movies. Under the name of Sofia Lazzaro she posed for magazines and photoromances before being runner-up in a beauty contest where her looks caught the attention of film producer Carlo Ponti, who soon became both her mentor and her husband. Alternatively under the names Scicolone and Lazzaro, she appeared in small parts in a dozen films made at Cinecitta in the early 1950s before being induced by veteran Italian producer Gustavo Lombardo to change her name to Sophia Loren.She was soon playing more substantial roles and even graduated to the lead in minor films such as Mario Mattoli's Due notti con Cleopatra (Two Nights with Cleopatra, 1953), in which she played both the Queen of the Nile and her lookalike slave girl, opposite the up-and-coming Alberto Sordi. By 1954 she had begun to make her mark in quality films like Vittorio De Sica's L'oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples, 1954) and a year later substituted for Gina Lollobrigida in the third of the extremely popular Pane e amore films, Pane, amore e . . . (Scandal in Sorrento, 1955). By this time she was also frequently being paired with Marcello Mastroianni in films such as Alessandro Blasetti's Peccato che sia una canaglia (Too Bad She's Bad, 1955) and Mario Camerini's La bella mugnaia (The Miller's Beautiful Wife, 1955). Thus, in a few years she had taken her place, alongside the reigning Lollobrigida, as one of the two leading ladies of the Italian silver screen.At this point Ponti, with whom Loren was now living, decided she was ready for a career in Hollywood. In her first American film, Stanley Kramer's The Pride and the Passion (1957), Loren shared star billing with Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. In the host of films that followed, among them Legend of the Lost (1957), Boy on a Dolphin (1957), Desire under the Elms (1958), Black Orchid (1958), House-boat (1958), and Heller in Pink Tights (1960), she appeared with all of Hollywood's leading men, including John Wayne, Alan Ladd, William Holden, and Anthony Quinn. Having become a celebrity as well as a star in the United States, Loren returned to Italy, where she achieved her first great critical triumph playing the role of the mother in De Sica's La Ciociara (Two Women, 1960), a part that originally had been earmarked for Anna Magnani. Her brilliant performance in the demanding role earned her worldwide acclaim and a plethora of awards, including the Nastro d'argento at home, Best Actress at Cannes, and the first Academy Award given to an actress in a foreign-language film. In the following years she continued to alternate between appearing in big-budget Hollywood and international spectaculars and working in Italy, mostly with De Sica, who, in films such as Ieri, oggi e domani (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 1963) and Matrimonio all'italiana (Marriage Italian Style, 1964), continued to pair her with Marcello Mastroianni. Many of the roles that she undertook in international productions, such as Peter Ustinov's Lady L (1965) or Charles Chaplin's A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), successfully promoted her as an icon of feminine glamour and beauty but seldom exploited her true strengths as an actress. These would only really return to the fore in Ettore Scola's Una giornata particolare (A Special Day, 1977), where she again appeared with Mastroianni in a moving performance that earned her both the Nastro d'argento and the David di Donatello.Although her international reputation for beauty and glamour continued to flourish, her image in Italy was considerably tarnished in the late 1970s by allegations of and then a conviction for tax fraud. She subsequently largely withdrew from the cinema and during the 1980s appeared only as the mother in a number of television mini series and in Dino Risi's television version of La ciociara (Running Away, 1988). Loren returned triumphantly to the big screen at the beginning of the 1990s in Lina Wertmuller's Sabato, domenica e lunedi (Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 1990), a film which, as the adaptation of a stage play by Eduardo De Filippo, brought her back to her Neapolitan roots. This was followed by a cameo appearance and a final reunion with Mastroianni in Robert Altman's satire of the fashion industry, Pret-a-Porter (Ready to Wear, 1994), where she was able to reprise her famous striptease from Ieri, oggi e domani to great effect. After playing the much more difficult role of a Jewish mother of five living in Algiers during World War II in Roger Hanin's Soleil (Sun, 1997), she worked again with Wertmuller in the made-for-tele-vision Francesca e Nunziata (2001) before giving a very touching performance as an older woman in Between Strangers (2002), a Canadian production directed by her son Edoardo.Having already been showered with numerous prizes and awards, in 1990 she received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. In 1998 at the Venice Festival she was awarded the Golden Lion for her entire career.
Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.