|Sophia Loren (1934-)
This is one woman who knocked your eyes out from the very first time you saw her on the
screen. With teenage hormones flowing freely, I could only wish Sophia made twenty movies a year
back in 1956 was I first saw her in Boy on a Dolphin. Boy. Who cares about dolphins, Alan
Ladd, Cinemascope and Clifton Webb: When Sophia rose out of the water she was a goddess
mermaid claiming her regal place in Hollywood.
After looking down at Alan Ladd or occasionally stubbing her toes on the
box Ladd was standing on during their love scenes, Loren must have been relieved to play opposite
John Wayne in Legend of the Lost. The only thing this clinker proved was that Loren looked
lusty all wet or covered with desert dust. From Wayne the Hollywood powers cast her between Cary
Grant and Frank Sinatra as they hauled a canon up a mountain in The Pride and the Passion.
Thank God for Sophia. Looking at that canon and all those grunting men was pretty much a bore. Not
the best of Grant and Sinatra either. But Sophia managed to look delicious despite the smoke and
I think Loren really showed her stuff in light comedy. Charm came natural to the
statuesque beauty, and that lilting Italian accent did not hurt one iota. She had presence galore
and held you own with some of the screen's most durable leading men. She stood toe to toe with Cary
Grant in Houseboat and and even got away with bing, bang, bonging thru those lush full lips,
"presto presto, do your very besto" or some some such inane lyric. It was good
enough to convince Grant to take a fling, reportedly, both on and off screen. Me? No presto for me.
I just sat glued to my theater seat drooling in my bag of popcorn.
Loren filled up tight-cinched outfits with uncommonly open sexuality.
Every time she appeared on the screen in semi-undress, it must have given the ratings board cause
to pause. Maybe her accent helped accentuate her exotic curve, but oh those curves, and more
curves. Loren held her opposite a number of high profile Hollywood actors. She hit it off with
Clark Gable in It Started in Naples. In two tepid films with opposite Anthony Quinn, Loren
got to show off little more than those beautiful legs, though Heller in Pink Tights was
colorful enough. Loren played blonde in those pink things and it undermined some of primal animal
magnetism. Opposite William Holden in The Key, Loren was able to set off some sexual sparks,
but the script was not exactly mesmerizing. In 1965 Lady L fell flat on it's overproduced
face starring opposite with Paul Newman in what was supposed to be a sexy romp. Marlon Brando was
the man in the 1967 A Countess from Hong Kong, but the comedy failed to ignite despite the
efforts of Charlie Chaplin as director. Chaplin does a delightful turn as a waiter. Arabesque
was one of better Hollywood excursions. She and Gregory Peck made good screen companions under the
stylish direction of Stanley Donen. Not quite up there with Donen's Charade, but solid
entertainment. Playing Dolcinea in the 1972 adaptation of the Dale Wasserman musical Man of La
Mancha, Sophia looked as if she might blow the wan Peter O'Toole away with her hot breath.
Loren never lost her Italian roots. In 1957 she married producer Carlo
Ponti while on location filming Houseboat. Presto, presto, she was actually married by proxy
in Mexico. That's a new one on me. No satellite hook-up either!. Husband Ponti produced several
American movies starring Loren and then brought her back to Italy for her greatest triumph in 1961.
I thought the only reason Sophia Loren could make me cry was because I
couldn't have her, fantasies notwithstanding. Two Women was a Loren revelation. Under the
guidance of Vittorio De Sica, Loren gave an Academy Award winning performance as an Italian mother
who is raped during World War II. It's a heart rending performance, but I must confess I even
prefer Sophia purring regally over a panting Peter Sellers in a minor comedy The Millionairess.
There were some big spectacles along the way. El Cid was pretty
successful, but Loren's sexuality as the Lady Chimene was restrained by the good and noble Rodrigo
Diaz de Bivar played by Charlton Heston. In Fall of the Roman Empire, covering the same
period as Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Loren was a breathtaking Lucilla to Christopher
Plummer's Commodus. No Maximus in sight in the Anthony Mann directed film.
Back in Italy, there were several high profile successes produced by hubby
Ponti. Boccaccio '70 was a big omnibus film starring Sophia in one story. In Yesterday,
Today and Tomorrow, reunited with her Two Women director Vittorio De Sica, she played three
roles in the trio of stories linked together in one film. In Marriage Italian Style, again
under De Sica, Loren teamed with Marcello Mastroianni for same fine sexy comedy.
Loren's film career all but disappeared in the late seventies. She remained a
high profile glamorous international personality, but the majority of her work was on television.
The few films were not especially notable.
Sophia Loren could never be called a
conventional beauty. Exotic, yes. But her big, almond shaped eyes, a lusty brown with a hint of sea
green, were amazing. Her nose wasn't a pert turned up chiseled protrusion. Her mouth was probably
too big and her lips maybe a touch prominent. But the sum of those features is hard to adequately
describe. Earthiness exuded from her every breath. I won't get into the beautifully proportioned
amply appointed body. As recently as the 1994 Robert Altman film
Prêt à Porter, Sophia curled my toes while Marcello Mastroianni chased her around a bed. Memories
of adolescent adoration were rekindled by those magnificent legs, as well as other assets. And she
was the best thing about Grumpier Old Men, the 1995 comedy in which she co-starred with
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Sophia Loren can still take my
breath away (I wish she could take my breadth away!). This women has retained her original aspect
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