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Sophia Loren, Italian Beauty Personified: Then And Now

Entertainment | July 23, 2018

Left: Sophia Loren in 'Boy On A Dolphin' (1957). Right: Loren in 'Madame' (1961). Source: IMDB

Actress Sophia Loren has been regarded as the epitome of Italian beauty for over half a century, a glamorous force in European and Hollywood films alike. Loren is a living reminder of a bygone epoch of filmmaking, having worked numerous times with legendary Italian directors Vittorio de Sica and Federico Fellini; she starred opposite Marcello Mastroianni, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Peter Sellers, Charlton Heston, and many more of the all-time greats.

A Simple Girl From Rome Who Became A Beauty Queen

Left: Sophia Loren in 'The Miller's Beautiful Wife' (1955). Right: Loren in Venice in 1955. Sources: IMDB; Reddit

Loren was born Sofia Villani Scicolone in Rome, Italy, in 1934. Her childhood was spent in southern Italy, in the port town of Pozzuoli, where Italian Naval operations and munitions dumps were frequently bombed by Allied planes during World War II. After the war, Sofia waited tables in her grandmother's pub, where her mother played piano and her sister sang for the American GI clientele.

In 1950, using the name Sofia Lazzaro, she entered the Miss Italia beauty pageant, and won the title of Miss Elegance 1950. She soon embarked on a film career as Socia Lazzaro, notably working a an uncredited extra in the swords-and-sandals epic Quo Vadis (1951). Like any young actor, she paid her dues with small parts -- but the small parts soon gave way to more substantial ones. In 1953, she began working under the name Sophia Loren (to better appeal to American audiences), and won praise for her first leading role, in Aida. Another early highlight was The Gold of Naples (1954), directed by Vittorio de Sica, and in 1954 she shared the screen for the first time with Marcello Mastroianni, who would become a frequent co-star, in Too Bad She's Bad.

Loren was acting a lot -- she had 11 films released in 1954 alone. The volume and quality of her performances, along with her stunning appearance, caught Hollywood's attention.

Hollywood Comes Calling

Left: Sophia Loren in 'Heller In Pink Tights' (1960). Right: Loren in 'Man Of La Mancha' (1972). Source: IMDB

In 1957, Loren began appearing in American movies, with Hollywood leading men -- Alan Ladd in Boy On A Dolphin, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra in The Pride And The Passion, and John Wayne in Legend Of The Lost. She was a verified international phenomenon when she signed a 5-picture contract with Paramount Studios in 1958.

Her astounding rise continued with Houseboat (1958), opposite Cary Grant, Desire Under The Elms (1958), with Anthony PerkinsHeller in Pink Tights (1960), with Anthony Quinn, It Started In Naples (1960), with Clark Gable, and The Millionairess (1960), with Peter Sellers

Sophia Loren, The It Girl Of The Late '50s And Early '60s

Left: Sophia Loren (holding a photo of Marcello Mastroianni) in 'Sunflower' (1970). Center: Loren in 'The Milionairess' (1960). Right: The poster for 'Legend Of The Lost' (1957). Source: IMDB

In just about every case, Loren shared top billing with her leading men, despite being, still, a relative newcomer to Hollywood. And it's hardly surprising that posters gave her the lion's share of the real estate -- it seemed that the way to sell your movie to audiences was to make it really, really clear that Sophia Loren was in it.

A Powerhouse Performance In A Very Serious Movie

Left: Sophia Loren with Anthony Perkins in 'Desire Under The Elms' (1958). Right" Poster for 'Two Women' (1960). Source: IMDB.

Although Loren was a Hollywood and international sex symbol by 1960, she still wanted to prove herself as an actress, and she hadn't abandoned Italian films. In the 1960 release Two Women (La Ciociara), directed by Vittorio de Sica, Loren played a widow trying to protect her 12-year-old daughter from the chaos and danger of World War II. The movie was brutal and tragic, culminating in sexual violence against both female protagonists. Loren's performance was judged the best of the year at the Cannes Film Festival, and in all she won 22 international awards. These included the Academy Award for Best Actress, making her the first actress in a foreign-language film to win the statuette. She was 25 at the time, and had decided not to go to the ceremony for fear of fainting. She was in Rome when she received a call from Cary Grant telling her she'd won.

An Actress Honored Many Times Over

Left: Sophia Loren in 'Arabesque' (1966). Right: Loren in 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' (1963). Source: IMDB

Over the many years of her acting career, she has graced the screen with beauty, talent and self-confidence. Few people can boast such a successful career with so many accomplishments and awards. She won the Golden Globe for "World Film Favorite -- Female" six times between 1964 and 1977, and in 1991 won an honorary Oscar for the sum of her career achievements to date.

Sophia Loren never ceased to “wow” her audiences. It is the consensus of many that men age more gracefully than women. Men tend to look distinguished when their hair starts to go grey. Women, on the other hand, tend to look just plain old, even if they color their hair. Not so of Sophia Loren. She aged gracefully, just as she had done everything else in her life.  

Then and now, Sophia Loren is a beautiful woman in every sense of the word. Check out these photos, which span throughout her career.

It is said that beauty is only skin deep and that real beauty comes from within. In my estimation, this is a true and valid statement. That being the case, Sophia Loren has always been beautiful to look at, yes; and has been the total package with her demeanor, style and personality. Beauty is also said to be in the eye of the beholder. With that statement in mind, which Sophia Loren do you find more appealing… Then or now?  

Tags: Celebrities When They Were Young | Models | Movies In The 1950s | Sophia Loren | Then And Now

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.