Born September 20, 1934 in Rome, Italy, Sophia Scicolone and her younger sister, Maria, were raised by their maternal grandmother in the slums of Pozzuoli, their construction engineer father having refused to divorce his wife and marry the girls’ piano teacher mother.
Encouraged to enter a beauty contest at 14, the young would-be actress was discovered by producer Carlo Ponti who became her mentor and started putting her in films in small roles at the age of 16 where she was alternately billed as Sophia Lazzaro and Scicolone. In 1953, Ponti changed her name to Sophia Loren to broaden her appeal. Loren and Ponti were married by proxy in Mexico in 1957 with lawyers standing in for them as Ponti was not legally divorced from his first wife. The marriage was annulled in 1962 to avoid bigamy charges in Italy. They were remarried in France in 1966 after Ponti obtained a divorce there. They had two sons, Carlo Jr., born in 1968, and Edoardo, born in 1973.
International stardom came for Loren in 1957 with the release of three Hollywood films, Boy on a Dolphin opposite Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb, The Pride and the Passion opposite Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra, and Legend of the Lost opposite John Wayne and Rossano Brazzi. In 1958, she starred opposite Anthony Perkins and Burl Ives in Desire Under the Elms, William Holden and Trevor Howard in The Key, Cary Grant in Houseboat and Anthony Quinn in The Black Orchid, the latter released in 1959.