Sophia Loren, Italian Beauty Personified: Then And Now

By | July 23, 2018

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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

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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.