Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Night with Sophia Loren

TCM serves up a great Italian dish around dinner time.  Sophia Loren takes the Turner Classic Movies spotlight at 8pm Eastern/5p Pacific on Tuesday, April 21st.  Love me some Sophia Loren.  So did my parents.  I believe I got some of my earliest reading lessons in the back seat of the family car when Mom and Dad took us to the drive-in so they could see the new subtitled movie starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.  (Note to Hollywood:  Yes.  Black people do pay see to subtitled foreign films.)  Sophia Loren's face on a great big Los Angeles drive-in movie screen was the stuff that dreams are made of.  And her acting skills were just as marvelous.
The TCM salute kicks off with the premiere of HUMAN VOICE (La Voce Humana).  This is a short feature, under one hour, based on a famous Jean Cocteau play for actresses.  It's a monologue.  A woman is on the phone talking to her lover for the last time.  She's lost him to another woman.  This 2014 production was directed by the son of the late Carlo Ponti.  Edoardo Ponti's mother is Sophia Loren, Mrs. Ponti to the famed Italian film producer for 40 years.  When I was a little boy, my mother watched another one of her favorite actress perform The Human Voice in a one-hour network TV special.  A court order could not have budged Mom from the living room as she sat glued to the TV watching Ingrid Bergman on ABC perform Cocteau's piece in a 1966 telecast.

Loren received a 1991 Honorary Academy Award for her body of work.  And what a body!  Her performance in Vittorio De Sica's World War II drama, Two Women, proved that she had more than just a delicious figure.  She could act too.
She played a poor single mother bravely trying to shield her daughter from the horrors of war.  For her work in Two Women, Loren won the Oscar for Best Actress of 1961.
In 1961, movie audiences also saw Sophia as the leading lady in El Cid, an epic historical drama co-starring Charlton Heston.  It was a big hit at the box office.

De Sica's Two Women is one of the films TCM will air tonight.  Another one is Marriage Italian Style, co-starring Marcello Mastroianni and also directed by Vittorio De Sica.

There is a Sophia Loren movie that I don't believe is in the TCM library, but I sure would love to see it.  Sophia Loren, the first actor to win an Oscar for a performance in a foreign language film, teamed up with another Italian talent, Lina Wertmüller, the first woman to get an Oscar nomination for Best Director.  Wertmüller was in the 1976 Best Director Academy Awards category for Seven Beauties.  She directed Sophia Loren in the 2004 feature Too Much Romance...It's Time for Stuffed Peppers.

How could you not want to see a film with a title like that?
I read that, in it, Loren and F. Murray Abraham play a senior married couple whose marriage hits a crisis in Wertmüller's comedy-drama.  Children and grandchildren add to the story's chaos.  Abraham was the Best Actor Oscar winner for 1984's Amadeus and he starred in last year's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Sophia Loren started in Italian films and then America fell in love with her as she starred opposite some of Hollywood's top leading men -- Clark Gable, Cary Grant, John Wayne, William Holden, Alan Ladd, Anthony Quinn, Paul Newman and Tab Hunter.

I lived in the Midwest after I graduated from college, and I used to listen to Roy Leonard's radio show on WGN out of Chicago every Saturday morning.  One day, Sophia Loren was his special in-studio guest.  There was a trivia contest.  My fingers were fast.  I dialed in and I had the correct answer to the movie trivia question.  Not only did I get to speak to Sophia Loren, I won two tickets to see Frank Sinatra in concert in Chicago.  Sinatra, another Sophia Loren movie co-star.  What a morning!  What a concert!

To see what else is in the Sophia Loren salute on TV tonight, go here:  TCM.com.

Ciao.




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