original name Sofia Villani Scicolone
( 1934 – )
September 20, 1934, Rome, Italy) Italian film actress who rose
above her poverty-stricken origins in postwar Naples to become
universally recognized as one of Italy's most beautiful women
and its most famous movie star.
working in the cinema, Sofia Scicolone changed her name to Sofia
Lazzaro for work in the foto-romanzo, popular pulp magazines
that used still photographs to depict romantic stories. Her first
film role was as an extra, one of many slave girls in the American
production of Quo Vadis? (1951). Under the tutelage of producer
Carlo Ponti (her future husband), Sofia Scicolone was transformed
into Sophia Loren. Her career was launched in a series of low-budget
comedies before she attracted critical and popular attention
with Aida (1953), in which she lip-synched the singing of Renata
Tebaldi in the title role.
beauty often overshadowed her enormous talents as an actress,
but her earthy charisma is evident even in such early works as
Vittorio De Sica's L'oro di Napoli (1954; The Gold of Naples).
With Ponti's help, Loren increased her international visibility
by appearing in Hollywood films opposite such major stars as
Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Alan Ladd, William Holden,
and Paul Newman. Such exposure was undoubtedly instrumental in
helping her win an Oscar for best actress in De Sica's La ciociara
(1961; Two Women), in which she delivered a powerful performance
as the courageous mother of a teenage girl during World War II.
other De Sica films showcased her comic talents and paired her
with another Italian film icon, Marcello Mastroianni: Ieri, oggi,
domani (1963; Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow), a film that earned
an Oscar for best foreign film; and Matrimonio all'italiana (1964;
Marriage, Italian Style). The best performance of her late career,
again with Mastroianni, was for director Ettore Scola in Una
giornata particolare (1977, A Special Day). Loren's subsequent
work included the television movie Courage (1986) and the feature
films Prêt-à-Porter (1994), which was directed by
Robert Altman, and the musical Nine (2009).
recognition for Loren's distinguished acting career includes
a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1991 and a career Golden Lion
from the Venice Film Festival in 1998. She also made headlines
in the 1990s for her strong defense of animal rights.
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