I have been watching some of those early Lorens lately - from BEFORE she went into international and American films: TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA (when she was 19 in '53), ATTILA, TOO BAD SHE'S BAD (left) - a delicious '54 comedy where she is conman Vittorio's chatterbox daughter and Marcello is the dim taxi-driver who gets involved with them, it is sheer joy), WOMAN OF THE RIVER - which I liked so much when I saw it as a kid (see labels for reviews), and now finally, the missing link has become available, the 1954 GOLD OF NAPLES - directed by De Sica with Silvana Mangano and Sophia, who was just rising to stardom here. I shall be looking forward to seeing that shortly, review to follow. We also now have found copies of SCANDAL IN SORRENTO, LUCKY TO BE A WOMAN and THE SIGN OF VENUS, all during her busy years 1954 and 55.
Sophia was still only 23 when so-starring with the likes of Alan Ladd (BOY ON A DOLPHIN), John Wayne (LEGEND OF THE LOST), etc. Her 10 American films from 1957-60 are mainly fluff but HOUSEBOAT with Grant, THE BLACK ORCHID and the Cukor western HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS all have their charms. She is more animated back in Italy, Naples to be precise, with Clark Gable in IT STARTED IN NAPLES [his second last film] with Vittorio in support - then in 1960 came the international hit of TWO WOMEN - Vittorio directs, Belmondo is in support and Loren at 25 plays the mother of a 14 year old daughter, gets the Academy Award (the first actress to do so in a foreign language) and goes on to those other interesting European films as well as headlining epics like FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE or OPERATION CROSSBOW. The De Sica ones are rather choice though: YESTERDAY TODAY AND TOMORROW in '64, I particularly like the Naples story where she is the endlessly pregnant wife of Marcello, being pregnant keeps her out of jail, until poor Marcello cannot perform any more. MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE in 1965 is terrific as well, from the great Italian play "Filumena". SUNFLOWER in 1970, set partly in Russia, though was a return to old-fashioned melodrama and just did not work at all and was very dated in that interesting period of cinema pushing new boundaries.
De Sica also popped up in other Loren vehicles such as THE MILLIONAIRESS as he continued acting in various movies like THE MONTE CARLO STORY (1957 with Dietrich), NERO'S LOST WEEKEND with Alberto Sordi, Brigitte Bardot and Gloria Swanson (more on this next week) and various movies like THE ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS and ANDY WARHOL'S DRACULA. Like that other larger than life director who also acted John Huston, Vittorio needed to work to fund his lavish gambling habit. His last big commercial success as director though was the 1971 THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINI from the Giorgio Bassani novel. His last directing effort with Loren (and Richard Burton) THE VOYAGE in 1974 was also a return to old fashioned cinema and did not seem to be released for a long time, a dvd was finally issued a couple of years ago here in the UK.
Marcello's LA LOI in '59 has been a recent discovery of mine (as per review) and then of course he began his long Fellini assocation. He and Sophia had one last co-starring outing as part of Altman's not entirely successful PRET-A-PORTER (left) in '94. Vittorio died in 1974, and Marcello in 1996; Sophia now 76 and looking as sensational as ever will hopefully have a few more good roles, after the damp squib that was NINE. It is one of the great international careers, comparable to Taylor's.
Here's an interesting snippit: Back in 1961 when EL CID first opened in New York they wanted to have Heston as sole name above the title (this was after BEN HUR of course) but Loren's contract guaranteed equal billing, it went to court (I remember reading about in the papers) and the first ads had to be pulled to give her equal billing - which probably didn't endear her to Heston then!