film “Two Women”, directed by Vittorio De Sica, had the nomination
for the Oscar 1962. She was not present
in the event of allocation of the statues, she was among the winners likely,
but she had no illusions. Generally American or British actresses were awarded.
Instead this was a magical evening for Sofia Scicolone, Pozzuoli, the Sophia
Loren that we all know. She was proclaimed winner of the Oscar for Best
Actress. The movie had had in Italy the symbolic importance of ending the
post-war period and begin the economic boom of the sixties. Vittorio De Sica,
with the dramatic story of Cesira, played by Loren, and her daughter Rosetta,
played by a very young Eleonora Brown, was able to report in the film that
Alberto Moravia had told in the novel, the adventures of a people, between the
Ciociaria, Molise and the province of Caserta, facing the Germans and allies
that fought around Cassino.
Sofia Scicolone, aka Sofia Lazzari, later changed to Sophia Loren, was born in Rome on September 20, 1934. The mother Romilda Villani, a Neapolitan piano teacher with a passion for cinema, was in Rome since worked as an extra actress in Cinecittà. Romilda Villani was very alike to the star at the time, Greta Garbo. She was also invited to Hollywood to act as a stand-in of the “star”. She did not go to the United States because the family was against and because in that time she was in Sofia pregnant. Father Riccardo Scicolone was an engineer, scion of a noble and wealthy Sicilian family. He had a relationship with ups and downs with the beautiful Romilda. Riccardo Scicolone legitimated the little Sofia but not married Romilda, for the opposition of his father, the Marquis Scicolone Murillo. Romilda moved into the family home of Pozzuoli due to the economic difficulties encountered in order to grow her baby.
Riccardo Scicolone, who was interested in real estate investments, continued his love affair with Romilda. In 1938, Villani gave birth to a second daughter of Richard, Maria, but it was not legitimated by the father.
Sophia spent her childhood in Pozzuoli, in the house of her maternal grandparents, in a small building located next to the amphitheater Roman of Pozzuoli. The guardians of the monument, which were in friendship with her grandfather, allowed to Sofia and her little friends to play inside the amphitheater. During war Pozzuoli was a military target, the subject of repeated bombing of the Allied air forces. During one of these raids the little Sophia was wounded to her chin by a bomb splinter. This matter convinced her family to move to Naples, with relatives. Immediately after the war Romilda opened a small pub in the house of Pozzuoli. Romilda played the piano, little Maria, who had a fine voice, sang, while Sofia waited tables in the pub which was attended by the US military stationed in the vicinity.
In 1950 Sofia moved with her mother to Rome to try
to enter the world of cinema. In that same year she participated in the Miss
Italy contest where she won the title of Miss Elegance. The father, who did not
agree to her daughter’s career in show business, presented a complaint to the
Police authority, stating that the apartment, where Romilda Villani lived with
her daughter, were a place of prostitution activities. It fizzled out because
the inspector who performed the investigation was immediately aware of the
Sofia began to be cast in bit parts in several films. She also took part in the radio program “Rosso e Nero” did by Corrado. In 1951 she met the film producer Carlo Ponti that after auditioning for a movie script, fell in love with Sofia, although he was already married. Sofia began his career in cinema with the help of Ponti with stage name Sofia Lazzaro, then replaced by Sophia Loren, a similar name of Nordic dive who were huge at that time.
She participated in the film “Two Nights with Cleopatra” (1953, directed by Mario Mattioli) where she played the role of Cleopatra. She played a role in the movie-musical “Carosello Napoletano” of Ettore Giannini. She was part of a beautiful pizza maker who loses a precious ring kneading a pizza, in the film “The Gold of Naples” 1954, directed by Vittorio De Sica. Sophia recited for the first time with Marcello Mastroianni, a taxi driver victim of Lina (Sophia Loren) who drags him into a series of grotesque adventures in “Too Bad She’s Bad”, based on the story of Moravia “fanatic”, directed by Alessandro Blasetti. The series of three films “Pane, amore e” were marked by professional rivalry that ensued between the two Italian stars of the time, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida. “Bread, Love and Dreams” in 1953 and “Bread, Love and Jealousy” of 1954 were shot by Vittorio De Sica and a very young Gina Lollobrigida, while “Bread, Love and…” was produced in 1955 with De Sica, in part of local police commander of Sorrento, and Sophia Loren at the fishwife Sofia.
Her sister Maria, after finishing elementary school in Pozzuoli, a guest in the home of the grandparents, joined her mother and sister in Rome. The mother refused to enroll her daughter in middle school because she feared that the fact of having his surname Villani, being not recognized by her father Scicolone, could jeopardize the nascent her sister’s artistic life.
One day Riccardo Scicolone put forward a request for a large sum of money to the daughter Sofia since, due to incorrect speculation, was in great economic difficulty. Sofia agreed to give him the money required provided that he legally legitimated her sister Maria. Only after the legitimate act and acquisition of her father surname Maria continued her studies, being able to finally fulfill his dream of graduating in Literature.
In 1957 Carlo Ponti, obtained a divorce from his
wife, married Sophia Loren. The couple was accused of bigamy as divorce, that
Ponti had obtained in Mexico, was not legitimated in Italy. The two went to
live in Paris obtaining French citizenship. Ponti married Loren in 1966. The
new marriage was transcribed in Italian register as French citizens. Sophia had
two children with Carlo, the first born in 1968, was called Carlo Jr., The
second, born in 1973, was registered with the name of Eduardo.
Sophia Loren became an international star. In Hollywood she shot some films with Cary Grant: “Pride and Passion” in 1957, directed by Henry Hathaway, and “Houseboat” (1958). She also was the star of “Black Orchid”, filmed in 1958 with Anthony Perkins, and “It Started in Naples” of 1960 with Clark Gable.
She was accompanied by her sister Maria to Hollywood who had some success as a singer. Maria sang with Frank Sinatra, she recorded two discs, participated in numerous American television broadcasts, also exhibiting her skill as a cook. In 1962 Maria Scicolone was married with jazz pianist, composer and painter Romano Mussolini, the fourth child of Benito Mussolini, with whom she had two daughters, Alessandra and Elisabetta. She wrote three books, two involving cooking and recipes, and the last “La mia casa è piena di specchi” is the story of her life and that of her mother and sister.
In 1960 the return to Italy of Loren coincided with the preparation of the film “Two Women” based on a novel by Alberto Moravia. The part of the protagonist Cesira was destined to Anna Magnani, the talented Roman actress and dramatic. The first director designated for Film, George Cukor, did Sophia Loren in the role of Rosetta, daughter of Cesira. Anna Magnani, expert actress of movie, disputed immediately the improbable role of Loren in the part of her daughter. Laughingly she said that it was impossible to shoot the dramatic scene of the rape of a teenager, as Moravia had told, with a 28 years old Sophia. Evidently the considerations of Anna Magnani had to be plausible if the producer Carlo Ponti substituted the director for Vittorio De Sica. The role of Cesira mother was of Sophia with De Sica director. Rosetta, the daughter of Cesira, was interpreted by the teenager Eleanor Brown, American father and Neapolitan mother. Jean-Paul Belmondo played the partisan Michele. The film became an immediate success. It won the Cannes Film Festival, the David of Donatello, the Silver Ribbon. Sophia Loren won an Oscar in 1962 with this film as best actress, surpassing by a small margin Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
Her favorite director was Vittorio De Sica. Sophia, after “Two Women”, shot with him “The Condemned of Altona” in 1962. In 1963 she had the lead role in “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” directed by De Sica, with whom she won the David of Donatello. Then another masterpiece, with which she earned an Oscar nomination, was “Marriage Italian Style” in 1964, directed by Vittorio De Sica and Marcello Mastroianni lead actor. The film, a remake of the one movie shot by Eduardo and Titina De Filippo in 1951 with the original title “Filumena Marturano”, was the film version of the play by Eduardo. The Sophia’s interpretation kept up of unsurpassed Titina De Filippo. In 1970 “Sunflowers” was the penultimate film shot with De Sica, the last was “The Journey” in 1974. Male protagonist “Sunflowers” was Marcello Mastroianni. The film tells the adventure of Joan (Sophia Loren) who goes in Soviet Russia in search of her husband, a missing soldier of the ARMIR. She finds him in a small town in the middle of the steppe. He lives with a young Russian with whom he had a child.
The seventies saw a slowdown in the actress’s
career, due to its two maternity. In 1977 she participated in the film “A
day special” by Ettore Scola, always alongside Marcello Mastroianni,
winning his sixth David di Donatello.
At the end of the seventies she was accused of tax evasion, ten billion lire exported illegally in Switzerland. She was sentenced to one month in prison. In 1982 Sophia Loren returned spontaneously in Italy and introduced herself to the Caserta women’s prison to serve the sentence which had been condemned. She spent 17 days in jail after refusing to granting pardon by the President of the Republic Sandro Pertini, who did not want to give the impression of a favorable treatment. After many years the Supreme Court has recognized the innocence of Loren in the export of capital affair and blames it to his accountant. The actress was acquitted from the charges in 2013.
In 1983 she participated in the production for American television “Her own story”, in which he recounts her life. Any productions of RAI were attended by Sophia Loren. The best known are “Mother Courage” in 1986, the eponymous miniseries of the film “Two Women” in 1989, “Saturday, Sunday and Monday” directed by Lina Wertmuller in 1990. The last RAI production was “My house is full of mirrors “of 2010, based on the novel of her sister Maria Scicolone, which tells the life of Romilda Villani, played by Sophia, of Sophia Loren and her sister Maria Scicolone.
In 1990 Sophia Loren won an unexpected, and well deserved, Oscar for her career. In his acceptance speech she quoted her beloved director Vittorio De Sica, to have had an important part in her artistic life. In her career Sophia Loren won, in addition to two Academy Awards, nine David of Donatello awards, three Silver Ribbons, two Globi d’Oro, one Volpi Cup and one Leon d’Oro at the Venice film, one Cannes Festival and five Golden Globe.
Since 2007, Loren lives in Geneva, after having lived for 30 years in Los Angeles. She moved to the United States, leaving her “Villa Sara” of Marino, in the province of Rome, for the fiscal-legal problems had by her and her husband in the late ’70s. In 2007, shortly after she moved to Geneva, her husband Carlo Ponti died. He was 95 years old.
(Photo at the top: Sophia Loren e GIacomo Furia in L’oro di Napoli di Vittorio De Sica, 1954)