Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Sophia's Sign of Venus, 1955

Its been fun catching up with those early Sophia Loren films, from before she went into American films in the mid-50s. I loved SCANDAL IN SORRENTO (PANE, AMORE E ...) recently, a delicious comedy with her friend and mentor Vittorio De Sica, and there's that marvellous dance number they do .... (see below), LUCKY TO BE A WOMAN was fun too, with Charles Boyer, and now we have THE SIGN OF VENUS (IL SEGNO DI VENERE), another 1955 comedy from director Dino Risi, with De Sica again and Raf Vallone, plus Alberto Sordi and a super supporting cast. Five years later De Sica directed her to the Best Actress Oscar (first in a foreign language, TWO WOMEN). 

As I have said before about Sophia (80 now but still out making appearances) she really has one of the greatest international careers, from starting off as an extra on QUO VADIS in 1950 to headlining her own spectaculars a decade later - she has equal billing with Heston in EL CID, filmed in 1960, and led the cast in FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE in 1964. She and Marilyn Monroe began about the same time: bit parts in 1950 and breaking through in 1953. She worked non-stop throughout the '50s and '60s. Those early ones are fascinating now though: that bit part in Silvana Mangano's ANNA, and WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC. 1954 was particularly busy for her: WOMAN OF THE RIVER where the young me first noticed her, ATTILA, and that delicious comedy TOO BAD SHE'S BAD, that first pairing with Marcello and Vittorio, who also directed her in his GOLD OF NAPLES in '54. 
By 1957 she was in America, in her early twenties, (after BOY ON A DOLPHIN and LEGEND OF THE LOST) with those early films we liked: HOUSEBOAT with Grant, THE BLACK ORCHID with Quinn, and back in Naples for IT STARTED IN NAPLES with Gable, among the many she did then. Then it was THE KEY and THE MILLIONAIRESS both filmed in England,  before back to Europe for more hits .... 
THE SIGN OF VENUS is a pleasing comedy about a woman, Cesira (Franca Valleri) who tries to get a husband any way she can.
 We watch her struggle, while her more glamorous and vivacious cousin (Sophia) gets all the attention from various men without any trouble at all. Vittorio de Sica as an old, poor poet also has some funny scenes. It is not really a happy ending though, but life is like that.
 What is fascinating is seeing the talented young Loren just waiting to go further and be even more sensational, she is only about 21 here. 
We like her latest autobiograhy too, as per review, where she shares her mementos and memories of Grant, Burton, O'Toole, Marcello and the others as she looks back at it all, particularly those early days in the Italian cinema of the Fifties. 
Sky Arts television screens a new documentary on her tonight: DISCOVERING SOPHIA LOREN, to go with their recent ones on Katharine and Audrey Hepburn. 
Left: My 1979 Sophia autograph - yes I met her too, when she packed out Selfridges for her (then) book signing. 


  1. Martin Bradley1 April 2015 at 18:04

    I loved the documentary but reading your blog I realize just how few of her early films I've seen.

  2. Well you know Italian cinema doesn't have to be all Fellini or Antonioni or Visconti masterpieces (though we like those too) - the popular Italian cinema is just as much fun, watching Gina or Sophia, Monica or Claudia in their comedies and dramas .... bring them on. I now like those early Mauro Bolognini films, as per label.

  3. Check out De Sica's GOLD OF NAPLES, 1954 - or BOCCACCIO 70 from 1962, or LE BAMBOLE or LE FATE.