Her name was Sofia Costanza Brigida Villani Sciolone and she was born in Rome, Kingdom of Italy, on September 20, 1934. The world knows the motion picture actress by her stage name, SOPHIA LOREN, and this article is about one critical year in her life, and three motion pictures.
In 1950, 15-years-old Sofia Sciolone, using the name of Sofia Lazzaro, did two things.
The first was representing the Lazio region of Italy in the "Miss Italia" beauty pageant. She won the title of "Miss Elegance"!
The second was enrolling in the "Centro Sperimentale di Cinematographia (known as either, Experimental Film Centre, or the, Italian National Film School)"
Her first on-screen appearance was an uncredited role, still using the name of Sofia Lazzaro, in 1950's, "Totoarzan (Toto Tarzan)". Which was a parody of Edgar Rice Burrough's "Tarzan", starring Italian comedian Toto in the "Tarzan" role, and Sofia as a "Una tarzanide (A Tarzan Aide)".
"Totoarzan" would be followed by another fifteen Italian motion pictures through 1953, as Sofia's roles grew in size, and she was either billed as Sofia Lazzaro, or Sofia Scicolone. During this period, at the age of sixteen, Sofia Lazzaro appeared as "Lygia's Slave", without credit, in her first American made motion picture filmed in Rome, 1951's, "Quo Vadis", starring Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, and Leo Glenn. Two other uncredited actors in the motion picture were, Elizabeth Taylor as a "Christian Prisoner in the Arena", she was vacationing in Rome at the time, and, Christopher Lee as a "Chariot driver". The following year, the future British Horror star would be seen in Burt Lancaster's, "The Crimson Pirate", as "Joseph-the Military Attache".
After Sophia completed, "Africa sotto i mari (Africa Under the Seas)", released on March 20, 1953, for producer Goffredo Lombardo. Lombardo had met with producer Carlo Ponti and both agreed that for her next motion picture, Sofia Lazzaro, would now be, "Sophia Loren, a twist on the name of the popular international Swedish actress, Marta Toren.
In the United States, my reader could not see any of Loren's Italian motion pictures, except 1951's American made, "Quo Vadis". Unless they were either released in subtitled, or dubbed into English language versions at "Art House Move Theaters". The English language version of "Africa sotto i mari", was known as, "Women of the Red Sea", but the picture was only released in the United Kingdom in 1956.
By the end of 1956, Sophia Loren was a major Italian movie actress, and her work was basically shown outside Italy in France and Spain.
Before I go to 1957, I want to mention the Italian epic, "Attia" aka: "Attila, il flagello di Dio (Attila the scourge of God)", released in Italy on December 27, 1954.
The motion picture starred Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn, who spoke fluent Italian, as "Attila". Sophia Loren as "Hororia", and French actor Henri Vidal as "Aetius". There were no plans to release the Italian-French co-production in an English language version when it was made, but after 1957. The motion picture was dubbed into English by the two stars and others, and would be released in the United States and London, England, on May 17, 1958.
The year, 1957, became a pivotal turning point in the motion picture career of Sophia Loren. She would make three feature films, all from the United States, and obtain "International Stardom"! Although, many sites claim that "Stardom" came from her five-film, 1958, contract with "Paramount Pictures".
However, without the successes of the following feature films, the Paramount Executives would never have offered the Italian actress a contract of any size.
BOY ON A DOLPHIN had its world premiere in San Francisco, California, on April 10, 1957.
According to her biographers and some movie critics, this was Sophia Loren's first English speaking motion picture role. However, that may be on a technicality, as my reader will find out.
"Boy on a Dolphin", was the first American film shot in Greece. Exteriors were shot on one of the Saronic Islands, Hydra, with establishing shots in Athens, Rhodes and Delos, but interior scenes were filmed at Cinecitta Studios in Rome.
The motion picture was very loosely based upon a novel by author David Divine of the same name. Initially, novelist Leon Uris, 1953's, "Battle Cry", 1955's, "The Angry Hills", and the year after this picture, 1958's, "Exodus", was to adapt the novel and write the screenplay. I could not locate the reason he was replaced on the project, but apparently Uris never wrote a screenplay.
The screenplay used, was from co-writer, Ivan Moffat. Who in 1956, wrote the screenplays for, the Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger, "Bhowani Junction", the Robert Taylor and Richard Todd, "D-Day, the Sixth of June", and director George Stevens', "Giant", starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean.
Moffat's co-writer, was Dwight Taylor. Who had written screenplays starting in 1930, that included the Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire musical's, 1934, "The Gay Divorcee", 1935's, "Top Hat", and 1936's, "Follow the Fleet". Along with the classic film-noir, 1941's, "I Wake Up Screaming", starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature, and Carole Landis.
Like the change in the writer for the screenplay, the director of "Boy on a Dolphin", was originally to have been, Henry Kostner, but he was still completing, "D-Day, the Sixth of June". So, Jean Negulesco was hired, between 1936 and 1944, he only directed short subjects, and would finally direct his first motion picture in1944. That was the film-noir, "The Mask of Dimitrios", starring Sidney Greenstreet and Zachery Scott.
The originally announced stars of the film were Cary Grant, Clifton Webb and Joan Collins. In 1957, Joan Collins had first billing over Richard Burton, in the 20th Century Fox drama, "The Sea Wife". Which was also released in April 1957, and may have been the reason for Collins not having the female lead in "Boy on a Dolphin", and being replaced by Sophia Loren.
Alan Ladd portrayed "Dr. James Calder". Cary Grant had the role, but left just before shooting started. This was possibly tied to his marriage problems, see the next film, and Ladd stepped in. Alan Ladd had just been seen in director Gordon Douglas' post-Civil War Western, "The Big Land", co-starring Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien. The actor followed this feature film with the World War 2 drama, 1958's, "The Deep Six".
Back in 1954, two events were effecting the American motion picture industry, the "House Committee on Un-American Activities, and money in European banks from before the Second World War. To bring those funds back to the United States would have cost the studios major American tax dollars. So, they made films in Europe, like 1951's "Quo Vadis", to avoid the Internal Revenue Service.
Another such motion picture was "The Black Knight", and it starred Alan Ladd as a blacksmith in "King Arthur's" England. There were two other actors that got caught up in similar films, but made in the United States. My article, "Tony Curtis", Alan Ladd, and Robert Wagner Visit King Arthur", may be read at:
Clifton Webb portrayed "Victor Parmalee". Webb was a very versatile actor, he was Waldo Lydecker", in director Otto Preminger's 1944 film-noir, "Laura", starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. He had appeared in a small series of family films as butler, "Mr. Belevedere", starting with 1948's, "Sitting Pretty", co-starring with Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara. Webb, was "March King", "John Philip Sousa", in the 1952, Hollywood biography, "Stars and Stripes Forever", and immediately before this motion picture. Clifton Webb was the real-life, British "Navy Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montague", in 1956's, "The Man Who Never Was". Which is the true story about how the Allies fooled the Germans on the location of the invasion of Sicily.
Sophia Loren portrayed "Phaedra". Loren had just been seen in 1956's, "La fortuna di essere donna (The Luck of Being a Woman)" aka: "What a Woman", co-starring French-American actor, Charles Boyer, and Italian actor, Marcello Mastroianni, who would become her main co-star in several Italian films. "The Luck of Being A Woman" wouldn't be seen in the United States until 1986 in a New York City film festival.
Above, Loren and Mastroianni, below, Loren in "Boy on a Dolphin".
As of this writing, the following link will take my reader to the song performed by Sophia Loren and the "Ghost Vocals" of Marni Nixon. People still think the song was entirely performed by Loren.
For those interested in the singing voice of Deborah Kerr in 1956's, "The King and I", Natalie Wood in 1961's, "West Side Story", and Audrey Hepburn, in 1964's, "My Fair Lady". You will find my article, "Marni Nixon: The Ghost Singer Behind the Actresses", at:
My readers may be familiar with Alan Ladd's height problem in director George Stevens' 1953 Western, "Shane", if not I'll explain. Alan Ladd stood 5 feet 6 inches tall, and Jack Palance stood 6 feet 4 inches. For the classic scene of the two actors meeting at the bar, Jack Palance stood in a hole so Alan Ladd could appear as tall as Palance.
A similar problem occurred in "Boy on a Dolphin", because Sophia Loren was two inches taller than Alan Ladd. In some shots, Ladd was standing on a box and in the scene of the two walking along the beach, Loren was walking in a trench.
That romantic drama's story line is very familiar and predictive, and revolves around sponge diver, "Phaedra", finding a statue of a "Boy on a Dolphin". "Phaedra" works from the boat of her Albanian boyfriend, "Rhif", played by Spanish film actor, Jorge Mistral.
The legend states that the statue, lost for 2,000-years, has magical powers and it's brought to the surface, bringing pride to the City of Hydra..
"Phaedra" wants to sell the statue to the highest bidder, against the wishes of the other residents of Hydra, who want to keep the statue in the city. Enter, ""Dr. James Calder", an honest archeologist, who wants to give the statue to the Greek authorities, and "Victor Paramlee", an unscrupulous profit minded seller of historic artifacts he acquires by any means.
Both men now attempt to get "Phaedra's" cooperation in their plans for the statue.
In the end, the residents of Hydra are happy with the outcome, "Phaedra" is in the arms of "Dr. Calder", and, "Victor Paramlee" sets sail in his yacht for Monte Carlo.
If one believes the following piece of publicity actually contains what Ed Sullivan thought of Sophia Loren. He was wrong, and she did not get an "Academy Award" nomination for "Boy on a Dolphin". Only the musical score by Hugo Friedhofer was nominated and lost to Malcolm Arnold for "The Bridge on the River Kwai".
THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION released July 10, 1957.
"The Gun" is set during the Napoleonic War in Spain. It follows Spanish and Portuguese partisans and their British allies, against the French in the Peninsular War, and makes a great subject for an epic Hollywood motion picture. Stanley Kramer had husband and wife screenwriters, Edward and Edna Anhalt, known for the Richard Widmark, 1950, "Panic in the Streets", directed by Elia Kazen, and, his own, 1955, "Not as a Stranger", starring Olivia de Havilland, Frank Sinatra, and Robert Mitchum, write the screenplay.
Director Stanley Kramer's last feature was that medical drama, "Not as a Stranger", and he would follow this picture with the original, 1958, "The Defiant Ones", starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.
Cary Grant portrayed "Captain Antony Trumbull, Royal Navy". Grant had just been seen in Alfred Hitchcock's, 1955, "To Catch a Thief", co-starring Grace Kelly. He would follow this picture co-starring with Deborah Kerr in 1957's, "An Affair to Remember".
Frank Sinatra portrayed "Miguel". Sinatra had produced and starred in the 1956 Western, "Johnny Concho". The film wasn't the success he had hoped for, but is looked upon by some film historians as a minor attack on McCarthyism and a variation of 1952's, "High Noon".
"Johnny Concho" is a favorite of mine, and so are two other of Sinatra's dramatic films, "The Man with the Golden Arm", and, "The Joker is Wild". My article, "Frank Sinatra: Three Dramatic Motion Picture Roles", is at:
The film was shot in Spain, and opens with the French army, on the Spanish Peninsula, being pursued by the Spanish army. The cannon is slowing down their retreat and the commander orders it pushed off a cliff, so they can escape.
At "Miguel's" side is his girlfriend, "Juana", as he cannot read, but she can. "Miguel" has her read "Trumbull's" orders and "Miguel" asks if the other wants to see the cannon?
They next reach a river and have to build a raft with control lines of hundreds of people to be able to float the cannon to the other side, but it breaks loose pulling people into the water. As the cannon's raft moves in the river's current, it enters the rapids, people run after it on both sides of the river, the cannon crashes into the muddy bank on the side they needed it.
Now, "The Gun", finally reaches the outskirts of the fortified City of Avila, and "General Jouvet" gets his first view of those that oppose him.
"Trumbull" begins his attack on the walls and as they crumble, the Spanish Guerilla's run through the French cannon bombardment to free the people of Avila and drive off the French invaders.
"The Pride and the Passion" ends with a long shot of "Royal Navy Ordinance Captain Anthony Trumbull" leading a group of guerillas pulling the cannon toward the sea and the waiting British ship.
Like many motion pictures and television programs of the 1950's and 1960's, "Dell Comics" released a comic book version of the motion picture that I bought at the time.
There were two marriages on-the-rocks and one romance associated with filming "The Pride and the Passion". All had, not only tabloids in the United States, but Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom running front page gossip stories.
The first was the reason Frank Sinatra agreed to be in the Stanley Kramer motion picture at all. He was having marital problems with his wife actress Ava Gardner. Gardner was in Spain and Europe to film the Ernest Hemmingway story, "The Sun Also Rises", with co-stars Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn. When Sinatra realized there was no chance of a reconciliation, he asked Kramer to cut his role and speed up filming his scenes. Stanley Kramer agreed and the tabloid rumor mills kept going, leaving questions on how that agreement effected the original screenplay.
The second was the troubled marriage of Cary Grant to actress and writer, Betsy Drake, she had co-starred in two of his movies. Their marriage would still last another five-years, but one of their problems took place during the filming of "The Pride and the Passion".
This was the alleged affair between Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, with speculation he planned on divorcing Drake. However, Sophia Loren married her mentor and agent Carlo Ponti later in 1957. That marriage would be annulled in 1962, but the two would remarry in 1966, and stay married until his death in 2007.
Both Cary Grant and Sophia Loren were reunited the following year for the 1958 comedy, "Houseboat".
The 22-years-old Italian actress had now played opposite, Alan Ladd, Clifton Webb, Cary Grant, and, Frank Sinatra, in the same year. Yet, there was one more American leading man to come, before 1957 was concluded.
WAYNE TANGLES WITH LOREN
"Legend of the Lost" was only released five months after "The Pride and the Passion", but both John Wayne's "Batjac Productions" and distributor "United Artists", felt Sophia Loren was now a major audience draw in the United States. The motion picture was a co-production with Italy and the means of acquiring Wayne's two co-stars. American producer Henry Hathaway's co-producer was Libyan Robert Haggiag and the motion picture was filmed in both Rome and the Libyan desert.
"Legend of the Lost" was also directed by Henry Hathaway. Hathaway had started directing in 1930, for actor Tyrone Power, he directed both "Johnny Apollo", and, "Brigham Young", in 1940, but over his career. Henry Hathaway would also direct John Wayne in, 1941's, "The Shepard of the Hills", 1960's, "North to Alaska", 1964's, "Circus World", 1965's, "The Sons of Katie Elder", and, 1969's, "True Grit",
The screenplay came from two screenplay writers:
Robert Presnell, Jr., the third, "Jack the Ripper", movie, the first was from Alfred Hitchcock, based upon author Marie Belloc Lowndes' classic, "The Lodger", "Man in the Attic", starring Jack Palance, but Presnell was mainly a television writer.
The other writer was anything but a television writer. Ben Hecht had co-written the 1928 play "The Front Page", which was made into many motion pictures over the years and even a television series. He co-wrote the screenplay for director Howard Hawks' original 1932, "Scarface". His other work included, 1934, "Viva Villa!", 1939's, "Gunga Din", the Christmas classic, 1939's, "It's a Wonderful World", he contributed to "Gone with the Wind", wrote Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 "Spellbound", and 1946, "Notorious". Along with the classic film-noir introducing Richard Widmark as an emotionless killer, 1947's, "Kiss of Death", and, Kirk Douglas', Italian language, 1954, "Ulysses".
John Wayne portrayed "Joe January". Wayne was just in director John Ford's,1957, "The Wings of Eagles", co-starring Maureen O'Hara. He would follow this feature with director John Huston's 1958, "The Barbarian and the Geisha".
John Wayne was always attempting to change his Cowboy persona to prove he could really act. Both the aforementioned "Circus World", and, "The Barbarian and the Geisha", are two films in his quest to prove he wasn't just a Cowboy, and are part of my article, "John Wayne: Four Gutsy Role Choices", at:
Sophia Loren portrayed "Dita".
"Legend of the Lost" is about a hunt for a missing father and a treasure located somewhere in the vast Sahara Desert.
"Joe January" is the best guide for travelers wanting to see the Sahara. "Dita" is a girl of the streets, although the word prostitute is never used, of Timbuktu and always a throne in the side of "January". "Paul Bonnard" is a religious zealot looking for his father, or is it the treasure the missing father may have found?
Mix these three together and my reader has the entire storyline for the motion picture.
"Paul" comes to Timbuktu, at the entrance to the Sahara, to find a guide to take him into the desert, and the local Prefect, "Dukas", played by Kurt Kaznar, suggests "Joe January". The two go in search of "Joe", and this introduces to the audience "Bonnard's" extreme religious beliefs.
After not locating "January", "Paul" starts to return to his hotel, but pickpocket "Dita" expertly steals from him and this introduces her to the audience.
As the two start to leave Timbuktu, "Dita" asks to go along, but "Joe" chases her away once more.
"Joe" and "Dita", on foot, go after "Paul" and find him unconscious from dehydration. "Joe' and "Dita" now dig for water, after noticing the spot the pack animals are digging at , but "Paul" regains consciousness, sees them, buries the treasure, attacks "Joe" from behind with a knife, but "Dita" shoots and kills him. Near death, "Joe" and "Dita" see an Arab caravan and will be rescued.
There's a slight problem with locations in the plot: