The voluptuous Sophia Loren was among the most successful international stars of the postwar era -- not only did she rise to fame as a sex symbol, but she also won a measure of critical acclaim rarely afforded most of her foreign-born contemporaries. Born Sofia Scicolone in Rome on September 20, 1934, she and her single mother lived in abject poverty in the war-torn slums of Naples; at the age of 14 she began entering area beauty contests, later becoming a model and appearing in a number of uncredited bit parts in films. After winning a beauty contest in Rome, Loren was signed to a film contract by producer Carlo Ponti, who began grooming her for stardom by recruiting drama coaches and casting her in small movie roles, including an appearance in the 1951 smash Anna, under the name "Sofia Lazzaro." For 1952's La Favorita, her first larger ...
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