The Academy’s Tribute to Sophia Loren: Love Fest For a Goddess




Billy and Sophia banter (Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

The 50th anniversary of Sophia Loren’s first Academy Award win for her role in Vittorio DeSica’s “Two Women” was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate one of the world’s most talented and beautiful artists of all time. After all, it was the first time in history the Best Actress award was given to someone in a foreign language film and she was only 25 at the time. It was a great excuse the Academy gave to lure the mythic lady back to Hollywood from her home in Europe, complete with an entourage of friends and family. The Academy created a well-put- together program of film clips spanning her whole career and tidbits about her life. An extra thrill was Sophia’s pick of a host, the always funny and charming Billy Crystal. Those of us lucky enough to score a ticket to the sold out Goldwyn Theatre, were in heaven.

Loving sons give mom a kiss (Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Many of us fans have had Sophia Loren in our lives for our whole lives. She never fails to awe us with her sexiness, beauty and her talent.  Every guy would desire her and every girl would emulate her.  Today at the age of 76, she continues to be a sex symbol and exude charisma.  Billy Crystal said he once asked her how she got to be a sex symbol, and she said, “I owe it to spaghetti!” And yet we continue to learn more about her not only in her artistry but also her loveliness as a person.


Love affair with oscar ( Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Her 13 comedies with the dashing and hilarious Marcello Mastrioanni are unstoppable. (If only he were still with us and could have been there too!) First clip up was from the uproarious, “Marriage Italian Style.”  They were truly originals and I believe there is no comedy duo as sexy, charming and funny. Move over Lucy and Desi.

As Sophia herself said later in the evening, it was the wonderful Italian cinema that taught her to be an actress.  Her dramatic roles such as that in “Two Women” are at the very heights of drama and continue to move audiences to tears.  We were also treated to clips from two lesser known dramas, De Sica’s “Sunflower,” from 1970 about a war widow searching for her missing husband in Russia, and “Between Strangers” ( 2002) a film written and directed by her son Eduardo Ponti, in which she is a forlorn mother who seeks out the daughter she was coerced into giving up as a baby.  That clip alone moved me more than most films I have ever seen. When Eduardo spoke to the audience about his mother, he himself broke up as he recalled all the attributes she has both on and off stage. There is really no one like Sophia.  She can do everything.

John Travolta is a big fan ( Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Christian DeSica, the great master Vittorio DeSica’s  son, came to honor her and sing her praises. Sophia made 14 films with Vittorio within a 20 year period, and he is known as one of the very top Italian filmmakers of all time.  Christian told us that Sophia was like a daughter to his father, that they were “united like a cappuccino, the milk and the coffee—there is no separation.”

In a video message from Roberto Benigni, he regaled Sophia as the symbol for Italy itself and compared her luminosity to the sun.  He ended his greeting by singing her the traditional Italian tune of “O Sole Mio” as “oh Sophia Loren….”

We were also treated to clips with American stars Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Cary Grant, and Anthony Perkins, who comprise only a fraction of a long list of her leading men.

In 1990 he Academy presented Loren with its Honorary Award and it was declared that she is a “genuine treasure” of world cinema and has added “permanent luster to our art form.” As recently as 2009 Sophia was nominated again for her for her supporting role in “Nine,” directed by Rob Marshall, who happily contributed his remarks to the tribute.

Billy and Rob Marshall schmooze with the diva (Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

When we finally got to meet Ms. Loren on stage, she was as humble and gracious as everyone told us. She was almost overwhelmed by the applause wanted to share the honors and praise with her deceased husband, producer Carlo Ponti who she says believed in her when she didn’t believe in herself. Carlo discovered her when she was only 15, a poor girl from a small town near Naples, when she came in second in a beauty contest. As Billy Crystal quipped, “Who on earth came in first?”


A very gracious and grateful honoree (Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.)



Georja Umano is an actress, comedienne and animal advocate.

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