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Sophia Loren is hardly part of an unknown Italy. This most famous Italian movie actress, with close to 100 appearances, also has the honour of being the subject (not just object) of adoration by men from all countries and walks of life from the relatively young to the aged who can still remember.

For many, Sophia Loren ranks as the perfect woman. And many understand in their hearts Sophia’s famous quote: “Sex appeal is fifty percent what you’ve got and fifty percent what people think you’ve got.”

So who is The Woman from Ciociaria? She started life as a book by Alberto Moravia in 1957 and then became a film directed by Vittorio De Sica and produced by Carlo Ponti in 1960, starring Sophia in which she played a widow in Ciociaria, towards the end of the second world war, trying to protect her daughter.

Not your classical sensual movie starring a beautiful lady, but a somewhat tragic and real to life movie in which our heroine proved her acting talents to the world. The film became the first non-English language production to be awarded an acting Oscar for Sophia’s performance. Yet nearly uniformly, English speakers do not know ‘La Ciociara’ – the film was retitled ambiguously ‘Two Women’ for American audiences.

Sophia Loren was the actress of choice for many movies starring the heroes of the silver screen, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando etc etc etc. Her opportunities to find a lover on the screen seemed endless, yet it is granted that from the late 50’s her love life revolved nearly exclusively around Carlo Ponti. Did this reflect her Neapolitan heritage? It certainly wasn’t an arrangement driven by financial insecurity or lack of suitors and Sellers.

Sophia seems to be a pragmatist: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti” is surely unnecessarily humble, as I know of no other southern Italian lady who can claim such success with this favourite repast and we hold her following quote to be a truism that she is proving: ”You have to be born a sex symbol. You don’t become one. If you’re born with it, you’ll have it even when you’re 100 years old”.

Certainly, Sophia’s view that: “A woman’s dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view” is a challenge that most men would have been thrilled to test with sensual wire cutters.

Sophia Loren showed her timeless permanence as an actress some 28 years after La Ciociara, when she starred as Cesira again in a television remake. Now just 82, the lady carries her age with magnificence and Sophia is a positive reflection of her declaration that:

“I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.”

(This article has been updated and reproduced under licence from Energitismo Limited)

Gavin Tulloch

Scienziato e poeta. Ama la chimica, il vino, le donne e l’opera, ma non sappiamo in quale ordine