Sophia Loren was born Sofia Villani Scicolone on September 20, 1934 in Italy’s capital city , Rome. Sophia was the illegitimate child of Riccardo Scicolone and Romilda Villiani. Riccardo was an engineer and her mother was a piano teacher and aspiring actress. Riccardo refused to marry Romilda, leaving Romilda a single mother and in abject poverty and Romilda was advised to abandon Sophia. however, Romilda and Sophia, moved to Sophia’s grandmother in Pozzuoli, near Naples and managed to survive.
Pozzuoli was targetted reguarly by Allied bombers during WWII as there was an munitions factory located there and during one of the raids at the age of six, Sophia was injured by shrapnel. The bombing forced the family to evacuate to Naples, wher Sophia witnessed the horrors fo war.
After the war, the fortunes of the family turned as they returned to Pozzuoli and used there living room as a bar for the stationed nearby Americaan GI’s. The place became very popular and quickly became a success. Sophia had at this time started visiting the Teatro Sachino, Pozzuoli theatre, and become fasinated with Hollywood’s superstars. She decided what she wanted to become.
However, Sophia was always considered an gangly and awkward child (earning the nickname – Toothpick), but seemingly overnight at about 14 she changed into a beautiful young woman.Romilda, noticing this, decided to enter her into a beauty contest in Naples, called the ‘Queen of the Sea’. Sophia didn’t win the first prize but became one of the Princesses. Encouraged by this Romilda, enrolled her for acting classes, and they moved to Rome. They were both hired as extra’s in the film Mervyn LeRoy film, Quo Vadis. Unfortunately, Maria, sophia’s sister, who had stayed in Pozzuoli got sick and Romilda had to return home, leaving Sophia at the age of 16 to survive for herself. sophia found small role parts in Hearts Upon the Sea, The Vote, Bluebeards’s Six Wives and Io Sono il Capatz. Sophia got her a break when she entered the Miss Roma contest, and was spotted by the famous film-producer Carlo Ponti. She got second in the contest, but more importantly got a screen test with Ponti. The screen tests were unsuccessful.
Sophia, in spite of the failed screen tests, got a large role in the film Africa under Water, the film wasn’t a success but her big breakthrough was very close. When the female lead for a production of Verdi’s Aida, Sophia went for it and got it. The role was a non-singing role, and her voice was sung by Renata Tebaldi. The film won acclaim and won Sophia a one year contract with Carlo Ponti. She starred in many movies during the 12 month contract and was approached by Vittorio de Sica to play a part in his film The Gold of Naples. Carlo also cast her in the Woman of the River. In 1954 she starred in Alessandro Blasetti’s Too Bad She’s Bad opposite Marcello Mastroianni, and again in the 1955 The Miller’s Wife.
Carlo wanted her to progress to English speaking roles and gave her an english tutor, the reward was soon coming as American director Stanley Kramer wanted her for the lead in The Pride and The Passion, starring opposite Hollywood legends Carry Grant and Frank Sinatra. Grant was dubious about Loren to start with but once on set he fell in love and actually proposed. However, Sophia had been in a relantionship with Carlo, who was married. Carlo wife had agreed to end the marriage, but the Catholic church refused to grant a divorce. They arranged a divorce in Mexico and Carlo married Sophia. Sophia’s career went from strength to strength, staring with John Wayne in Legend Of The Lost and again with Cary Grant in Houseboat. There followed a string of further successes The Key, with William Holden and Trevor Howard; It Started In Naples, with Clark Gable and de Sica; The Millionairess, with Peter Sellers; and The Black Orchid and Heller In Pink Tights, both of which co-starred Anthony Quinn.
Sophia’s crowning glory was when she won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role as the mother in the De Sica film Two Women . Sophia Loren had become the first actress ever to win a Best Actress Award for a foreign film. Sophia Loren was now at the height of her career and earned a staggering $1 million for her role in The Fall of the Roman Empire. She went on to make dozens of more successful films, however privately she had being struggling to have children, and had tragically mis-carried twice. But with the help of a Swiss fertility specialist she became a mother twice with two sons, Carlo,Jr and Edoardo.
In 1991 Sophia recieved an Honorary Academy Award for her lifetime contribution to the world of cinema.