“I knew immediately she was someone remarkable. Something played off her that gave her a kind of illumination.” Carlo Ponti.
It was an unlikely match. But then, the great ones usually are.
Born to a single mother in the charity ward of a Roman hospital, Sofia Villani Scicolone started out with little chance of success.
Her father, a construction engineer of noble descent refused to marry her mother. One would think that would have ended the relationship in 1934, but, alas no. Sofia would have a sister, Maria four years later.
Fascist Italy was the target of Allied bombing in World War II, and Sofia was injured running for shelter during a bombing raid. The family abruptly moved to Naples. When that didn’t work out, they headed to Pozzuoli where her mother opened a cantina in their living room. Mamma played the piano, Maria sang, and Sofia waited tables and did the dishes.
The place was very popular with American GIs once Italy was occupied.
Beautiful, young Sofia told stories later on of advances and her successful efforts to fight them off.
In 1950, fate played a different hand. Carlo Ponti an already famous Italian film producer with more than 20 films to his credit subbed as a judge at the Miss Eleganza beauty contest in Rome.
From the moment he saw her, he was done. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. Millions of men over time would feel the same way.
Sofia admitted to an unlikely attraction as well. He was older, he wasn’t handsome, but there was something there.
And there was something in the way.
Ponti was still married to his first wife.
For Sofia, the role of the other woman was out of the question. Her strict and conservative upbringing wouldn’t allow her to break the rules she’d learned at her grandmother’s knee.
Ponti didn’t give UP.
Realizing that even without a “relationship,” Sofia was movie gold, Carlo took her under his wing, changed her name to Sofia Loren, and launched a career we’ve all enjoyed.
After casting Loren in Anna and other films, Ponti went to Mexico, got a divorce and married Loren by proxy.
Ponti had married Giuliana Fiastri in 1946 and the couple had two children. They were separated but still married as divorce was out of the question in Italy.
He was warned not to return to Italy as he would be charged with bigamy and Loren would be charge with concubinage.
Really, I was stunned too!
The church threw the book at them. Threatened with excommunication and everlasting fire, Loren was devastated. “I had fallen in love with a man whose own marriage had ended long before. I wanted to be his wife and have his children. We had done the best the law would allow…but they were calling us public sinners. We should have been taking a honeymoon, but all I remember is weeping for hours,” Loren told the sea of reporters who followed her everywhere!
After having their Mexican marriage annulled to keep from going to an Italian jail, the couple moved to France taking along the first Mrs. Ponti.
All three became French citizens, Giuliana divorced Carlo, Carlo married Sofia, after which the couple moved to Switzerland.
It was 1966, and it had taken 16 years for Carlo to make Sofia Mrs. Carlo Ponti.
In 2007, after 50 years together, Carlo, at the age of 94, and after a 10 day struggle during which Sofia never left his side, quietly died.
The unlikely match of someone remarkable and the Italian film producer is the stuff Hollywood is made of. Funny how that worked out, isn’t it?