A very happy 80th birthday to Sophia Loren, who’s already had quite a year—and it’s only September. She was all over Cannes in May, giving a master class and making the rounds for the premieres of her son Edoardo Ponti’s Human Voice, in which she plays the lead, and the new restoration of Vittorio De Sica‘s Marriage Italian Style (1964), in which she stars alongside Cannes 2014 poster boy Marcello Mastroianni. Both films will screen at AFI Fest in November when, this time around, she gets to be the poster girl. She’ll have a new book out in December, and an exhibition dedicated to her work has opened at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, while another in Rome is displaying 40 portraits shot by Carlo and Maurizio Riccardi.
Philip Pullella for Reuters: “For the 300-page Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – My Life, Loren went into what she called her ‘trunk of memories’ to fish out old pictures, letters and notes from the likes of Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn and Richard Burton, not to mention Italian soul mate Marcello Mastroianni. The result includes plenty of juicy tales, such as how she stopped Marlon Brando‘s physical advances with a fulminating glare and how Grant suggested they should pray to make the right decision when they were falling in love on a film set.” She would, of course, choose producer Carlo Ponti to marry in 1957. “The book reads like a who’s who of world cinema in the past 60 years as it chronicles the life of an illegitimate southern Italian street urchin who became one of the world’s most glamorous film stars.”
John Hecht for the Hollywood Reporter: “Occupying an entire floor in the spacious Soumaya, the temporary exhibit includes Loren’s wardrobe collection, awards, books, movie posters, video clips and what Loren calls her most valuable possession: the Oscar statuette she won for best actress in Two Women . Sporting a red pantsuit and tinted glasses, a misty-eyed Loren said: ‘I’m very moved by this, it’s a beautiful exhibit.'”
The Academy notes that Loren was the “first performer to win an Academy Award for a foreign-language role with Two Women, in which she stars as a strong-willed mother who braves an assault to save her daughter…. Loren grew up in Pozzuoli, her mother’s hometown, during the turbulence of World War II and was even struck by a piece of shrapnel during the frequent bombings of a nearby munitions plant. After the 14-year-old Loren was selected as a finalist in a beauty contest in Naples, her mother enrolled her in a drama school. The family moved to Rome soon after, and Loren and her mother appeared as extras in the 1951 Hollywood epic Quo Vadis. The subsequent two years found her in a string of minor roles in Italian-language films, with her big break coming in The Gold of Naples (1954) for renowned director Vittorio De Sica.”
“Her admirers have been legion from the moment she appeared on-screen,” wrote Sam Kashner in a profile for the March 2012 issue of Vanity Fair:
Richard Burton described her “beautiful brown eyes set in a marvelously vulpine, almost satanic face. Stupendously intelligent. Beat me at Scrabble twice. In English yet. See her move, swaying like rain.” Noël Coward said that she should have been “sculpted in chocolate truffles so the world could devour her.” Peter O’Toole, who played Don Quixote to her Dulcinea in the 1972 movie of Man of La Mancha, said simply, “The more I was with Sophia, the more edible she looked.” … And journalist Pete Hamill, who visited her in Naples on the set of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, wrote, “Her nose is too large, her chin too small. Her feet are the biggest of any movie queen since Greta Garbo. But head her in the direction of a camera, set her Etruscan eyes dancing, and Sophia is one of the most magnificent women in the world.” Lina Wertmüller, who directed Sophia in four films, said recently, “There is Garbo, Dietrich, Monroe—and Sophia. Who else inspires the whole range of feminine charms, from sex to motherhood? Who does not dream of falling asleep in a magical moment on Sophia’s breast?”