Sophia Loren's marriage lasted 57 years, and she found a lover and a protector in one person – her beloved husband and father of their two sons, Carlo Ponti. Here are the details of their more than 70 years love story.
Sophia Loren is an Italian actress named by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest female stars of Classical Hollywood cinema.
The movie veteran has only been married to the late Italian film producer Carlo Ponti. Together, the couple welcomed two children, sons Edoardo and Carlo Jr.
STRONG CONNECTION AT FIRST GLANCE
In the book titled “The Northeastern Dictionary of Women’s Biography,” Loren recalled how she and Ponti met, sharing it was love at first sight:
"It was love at first sight for both of us. We met at a beauty contest in Rome when I was 16, and he was on the jury. He saw me sitting at a table with friends and sent me a note asking me to join the contest."
"I did, and I finished second, but the most important thing was that this is how we started to see each other, at first in a friendly way, then it became serious when I was 19… We genuinely loved each other," she continued to explain.
Italian film actress Sophia Loren in a restaurant in France with her husband Carlo Ponti | Photo: Getty Images
Later, when Ponti (22 years older) saw her at another beauty contest, he arranged small parts in low-budget Italian productions. That was when Loren rose to stardom in “The Gold of Naples.”
During that time, she began to have an affair with Ponti, who was married to his first wife Giuliana Fiastri and was already a father of two.
Italian film producer Carlo Ponti kisses his wife, actress Sophia Loren after she received the first Alexander Korda award, naming her 'International Star of the Year', at the world premiere of her new film "Lady L" at The Empire, Leicester square. | Photo: Getty Images
In 1956, she was cast by an American studio to star in "The Pride and the Passion" and found herself deeply attracted to fellow co-star Cary Grant.
Loren was 22 and already romantically linked to Ponti, who later became her future husband. On the other hand, Grant was 52 years old and already in his third marriage when he became infatuated with her.
Actor Cary Grant as Tom Winters and actress Sophia Loren as Cinzia Zaccardi in the film "Houseboat," 1958. | Photo: Getty Images
In an interview with The Sidney Morning Herald, Loren described that period in her life as "strange" because she found it difficult to leave for the US:
“Cary was in love with me and wanted me to marry him, but that would have meant leaving Carlo and creating a huge scandal. I was terribly afraid of what the reaction would have been if I had left Italy.”
Sophia Loren stars with Cary Grant in the United Artists production of "The Pride and The Passion." | Photo: Getty Images
LOREN’S PASSIONATE ROMANCE WITH GRANT
Still, she managed to fly down to Hollywood for the first time, accompanied by Ponti, and although he was still a married man, Loren was glad that leaving her home country gave her and the "River Girl" producer a chance to cohabit. They had been secretly engaged for three years.
Over the next few months, Ponti traveled back and forth between Los Angeles and Rome on business, leaving room for his lover to start seeing Grant again.
According to the starlet, she could not resist Grant – who was 30 years her senior – as he sent her a bouquet of roses daily, wrote intimate letters to her, and even phoned frequently.
Sophia Loren teaches co-star Cary Grant to dance the Flamenco, during the filming of "The Pride and the Passion," 1957. | Photo: Getty Images
“Kiss Them For Me” star Ray Walston, who plays Mac in the 1957 film, revealed Loren “started showing up” at the studio in the evenings to watch the rushes and “you could tell she and Cary were fond of one another.”
In her first volume autobiography, the "Two Women," star recalled that Grant urged that they pray together for guidance about whether to leave their respective partners, writing:
“You’ll be in my prayers. If you think and pray with me, for the same thing and purpose, all will be right and life will be good.”
British-American actor Cary Grant with Italian actress Sophia Loren, his co-star in the movie "Houseboat," 1958. | Photo: Getty Images
In contrast, she was on the verge of marrying Ponti, yet she faced her greatest challenge, set to shape both her personal life and her career.
Nevertheless, Grant was so besotted with Loren that he asked for her hand in marriage. But he later apologized in one of his letters for pressurizing her to wed, writing:
“Forgive me, dear girl. I press you too much. Pray – and so will I – until next week. Goodbye Sophia. Cary.”
Cary Grant and Sophia Loren outside the walls of Avila, Spain, during location filming for "The Pride and the Passion." | Photo: Getty Images
The pair had been co-starring in "The Pride and Passion." People speculated that Grant asked her to marry him while filming, but that was far from being true.
Loren set the record straight during an interview with Radio Times, stating it would be impossible for the English native to propose while they worked closely together on set:
“Cary Grant was a handsome man and a wonderful actor, but he didn’t propose.”
Veteran stars Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in a scene from the movie "Houseboat" in 1958. | Photo: Getty Images
Moreover, she said she was way too young to have any clear ideas about love and relationships at the time. When the film's shooting ended, so did their romance because she chose Ponti.
Loren and Ponti wed in France in 1966 and remained married until his death in January 2007. “Carlo was Italian, he belonged to my world, and Cary Grant did not. I know it was the right thing to do for me,” she said.
Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti photographed at their New York hotel after receiving the good news that his first wife was given a French divorce, enabling them to get married. | Photo: Getty Images
BIGAMY TRIAL & HEARTBREAKING MISCARRIAGES
Even though she ended up with Ponti, their marriage had its fair share of ups and downs. Their union caused havoc legally as it resulted in a trial for bigamy.
It led to the couple being uncomfortable responding to questions about their marital status, with Loren stating that it upset them both having to talk about it:
"My husband, that is, my former husband, I mean my fiancé … well, you know Carlos – and I don't want to discuss this matter because it only upsets us."
Carlo Ponti, Italian movies producer and Sophia Loren, Italian actress, his wife during the Cannes Festival, 1966. | Photo: Getty Images
At the time, lawyers had promised the long-awaited outcome in the trial for bigamy of twice-married Ponti and once-married Loren. They even faced one to five years in jail but did not plan on attending their trial because they did not attend their wedding either, which took place in Juarez, Mexico.
However, the pair's homeland regarded their marriage as invalid. So did the couple only because Ponti was still married, so going through the ceremony was considered illegal and therefore bigamous.
Sophia Loren with her husband, Carlo Ponti, before boarding jet plane at Idlewild Airport for the West Coast. | Photo: Getty Images
As for the duo, the nuptials were invalid because there were no witnesses, and bigamy became impossible since the ceremony was not binding.
Ponti’s divorce from his first wife was another factor because Italy did not recognize it, though Mexico did. Fiastri, who wed Ponti in 1946, not only brought the bigamy charges against him, but she also firmly requested the courts not to proceed with the bigamy prosecution. But they eventually ended up divorcing.
Meanwhile, after surviving prison for tax evasion, Loren longed to be a mother and revealed that the urge started when she was 29. Coincidentally, she started having pregnancy symptoms while playing the mother of seven in a film shot in Naples.
Sophia Loren lays on a bed wearing a blue turtleneck sweater while an unidentified man stands behind her in November 1964, London, England. | Photo: Getty Images
She disregarded the symptoms, thinking it was because "I was playing a mother and identifying so much with my role." When she went to see a doctor and had tests done, they returned negative.
It was not long after her dream of being pregnant came true, and Loren was ecstatic, happier than she ever was before. But her woes were far from over. "The following days were among the saddest and darkest of my life," she said.
Sophia Loren with sad gaze as she interprets Filomena Marturano in a scene from the movie "Marriage Italian Style," in Naples, 1964. | Photo: Getty Images
The “Houseboat” star could tell something was wrong and opted to go and see a doctor who reassured her and advised her not to travel by car.
She later headed to Milan by train for her movie's following location, and unfortunately, her first scene took place in an entire stage car mounted on a hydraulic arm to simulate the bumps. Loren said the experience was much worse than a real car.
That first night in Milan, she felt what she described as "a terrible pain." As Loren got into the hotel lift, she almost fainted and later ended up in the hospital, where she learned that she had miscarried.
Hollywood starlet Sophia Loren crying with clasped hands, on the set of the "Two Women," 1960. | Photo: Getty Images
Four years later, she fell pregnant again while making “More Than A Miracle.” This time, she was more prepared, and at the first signs, she called Ponti to tell him the good news:
"This time, I'm going to be careful. I don't want to take any risks."
According to Loren, a little voice inside her head told her that history would repeat itself. The first sign of trouble came when she experienced immense pain at home while with Basilio (a friend) as Ponti was in London for work.
Sophia Loren as (Sofia Villani Scicolone) screaming in despair in the film "Two Women," 1960. | Photo: Getty Images
Basilio called the doctor, but the professional was not bothered by the sense of urgency, saying Loren had nothing to worry about. Despite the ill advice, Loren and pal rushed to the hospital and ran into the doctor, who was heading out to a cocktail party.
Before he left, he gave her a strong sedative and claimed it was a passing crisis while advising her to sleep. But the contractions got worse, and Loren said she felt like she was in labor, but still, the doctor did not do anything. When the pain suddenly stopped at 4 am, "I knew it was all over," she noted.
History making Oscar winner Sophia Loren in a scene of "Five Miles to Midnight," 1962. | Photo: Getty Images
The hospital called the doctor, and it took him two hours to get there. Upon arrival, he told her: “Signora, you no doubt have excellent hips, and you’re a beautiful woman, but you will never have a child.” Of the hurtful remarks by the doctor, Loren expressed:
"His scathing words dashed all my hopes, making me feel powerless, barren, and deeply inadequate."
Even though she tried putting up a brave face for her significant other, she could tell how devastated Ponti was, and at that moment, she let herself go and cried her heart out.
Sophia Loren lies in a hospital bed in a maternity clinic holding her newborn son Carlo junior with her husband Carlo Ponti standing beside the bed on January 4,1969 in Geneva, Switzerland. | Photo: Getty Images
A MOM OF TWO & MOTHERHOOD
But her despair later turned to joy when she and Ponti welcomed their first son together, Carlo Jr., in December 1968. The now 54-year-old is an internationally acclaimed conductor.
Carlo Jr. has worked with orchestras worldwide, and per his website, he has performed across several continents, including Vancouver, Cape Town, and Budapest.
Sophia Loren and her son Carlo Ponti Jr. during the European Cultural Award 'Taurus' at Vienna State Opera on October 20, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. | Photo: Getty Images
Meanwhile, the couple’s second son Edoardo arrived in January 1973 and followed in his father’s footsteps by working in the film industry as a movie director.
He came to the US to study his craft, earning two degrees from the University of Southern California. The 49-year-old previously directed several performances from Hollywood's A-Listers, including his iconic mother.
Edoardo Ponti and Sophia Loren attend the 66th David Di Donatello 2021 prize ceremony photocall on May 11, 2021 in Rome, Italy. | Photo: Getty Images
When Loren became a mom for the first time, she described the wholesome feeling she felt when she held her oldest son in her arms:
“The greatest, sweetest, most indescribable joy I had ever experienced. I was completely overcome with emotion when I held him in my arms.”
After having her firstborn, she thought life could not get any better. "But Edo doubled my happiness. It was, I realized, one of those unfathomable mysteries of motherhood," said Loren.
LOSING THE LOVE OF HER LIFE
Apart from being a proud mom, Loren revealed she struggled when asked about losing her husband years later during a CBS interview in 2009. News correspondent Jim Axelrod asked her how she was adjusting to life without Ponti, and she paused for a moment before getting emotional.
Ponti died at age 94, and his wife said that it had not sunk in for her at the time of his passing because she still had not come to the full realization that he was gone forever.
Seven-time Golden Globe Award winner Sophia Loren in a car with her husband, Carlo Ponti waving at the crowd in 1960. | Photo: Getty Images
Only a few years later, she faced some difficult decisions concerning her life and career, and it dawned on her that he was no longer there. She has since immersed herself in work to distract her from her reality.
In a candid interview with Vanity Fair in February 2012, Loren said that Ponti is one missing piece in her life while explaining that living without him does not get any easier:
“It doesn’t get any easier. I miss Carlo very much, my husband. You can’t have everything at the same time. That’s life.”
Sophia Loren looks on during the DeRucci Grand Opening Party at Cologne Flora on January 19, 2015 in Cologne, Germany. | Photo: Getty Images
At 87, Loren does not allow her age to hold her back. The seven-time Golden Globe award winner now stars in the 2020 Netflix drama “The Life Ahead.”
It was her first feature debut since a TV movie over ten years ago, but the legendary film star still prioritizes her family above all else. However, she still combines both her passions as the movie's co-writer and the director is her youngest son Edoardo.
Sophia Loren attends the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 11th Annual Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on October 27, 2019 in Hollywood, California. | Photo: Getty Images
The project is their third collaboration, and she plays an Italian Holocaust survivor known as Madame Rosa. The film's message of tolerance drew Loren back into acting, but her need for personal connection has made her choosy about her projects.
In a phone interview, Loren told The New York Times that she slowed down in making movies ever since her children were born. It was not because she did not love her work, but she wanted to know more about her family. She stopped taking on roles altogether and told herself that she would catch up later.
"I stopped making films for a long time but was very happy because I saw my children grow up, get married, and have their children," Loren explained.
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