Picks and Pans Review: Sophia Loren
She was born Sofia Scicolone in fascist Italy in 1934, the bastard child of a torrid affair that lasted only weeks. A poor, skinny girl, she was scorned and ridiculed by schoolmates, who called her stuzzicadente (toothpick). Before she hit her teens, Sofia dreamed of becoming a nun. Then she erupted into full-bodied womanhood ("Instead of growing up, you're growing out," her grandfather remarked), decided to become a film actress and met producer Carlo Ponti, 24 years her senior—the father figure she had always longed for. The renamed Sophia Loren became his muse and mistress and, in 1957, his wife. Her passionate acting earned an Oscar in 1961, for Two Women, yet she has said, "Without Ponti, I am nothing."
Without his subject's cooperation, Harris, author of workmanlike biographies of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, has essentially compiled a filmography—from her 1952 major movie debut to 1995's Grumpier Old Men—leavened with gossip about her marriage and leading men: Grant and Peter Sellers were hopelessly smitten, but there was no love lost with John Wayne, Paul Newman or Marlon Brando (who rudely said Loren's breath smelled like a dinosaur's). Harris also leers quite a lot over Loren's cleavage and the costumes designed to show it off. In the end, while we are given plenty of information, her character remains opaque. But Loren does at least reveal how, at 63, she remains a beauty after all these years. "I have no regrets," she once said. "Regret only makes wrinkles." (Simon & Schuster, $25)