Some suggested she was looking for a father figure, but she protested that wasn't the case.
Sophia Loren was the first of two daughters born to an Italian actress and an aristocrat who refused to marry their mother and offered them no support. In the days of WWII Sophia's family had little income and lived in poverty in Pozzuoli. Her first step up out of these conditions came when she won a beauty contest at the age of 14. She was one of the finalists and caught the eye of film producer Carlo Ponti. He arranged a contract and began to foster her career in film.
Sophia said she instantly felt safe in Ponti's care, but any other aspect to their friendship was years in the future.
Her beauty became legendary, yet her wet nurse remembered her as "the ugliest child I ever saw in my life." She worked her way into supporting roles and then into leads, winning an Oscar in 1961 for her role in Two Women.
In 1958 Sophia Loren starred with Cary Grant in Houseboat. By this time she was involved in a relationship with Ponti, but he was still married to his first wife and although the marriage was over, they were unable to get a divorce in Italy. Sophia and Carlo went through a marriage ceremony in 1957 in Mexico but it was not officially recognized.
Cary Grant and Sophia Loren had a film presence that sizzled and she was obviously attracted to him. When he proposed to her why then did she choose Ponti? “They were very different men. It was difficult. Cary belonged to another world in America. I felt that I would never fit in there." In any case she chose Ponti and never regretted her decision.
In 1962 divorce was still not recognized in Italy and Ponti and Loren had their Mexican marriage annulled to prevent a charge of bigamy.
In 1965 they lived in France for a time and Ponti was able to get a divorce there. They became French citizens and married the next year, in 1966.
Sophia wanted more than anything else to have a normal family and children, the sort of life she missed in her childhood. But miscarriage followed miscarriage. One doctor told her she'd never have children.
“But then I met this wonderful doctor who realised the miscarriages were coming because of a lack of oestrogen. He gave me oestrogen and I got pregnant.”
Sophia and Carlo had two sons, Carlo Jr. and Edoardo.
An interviewer asked her once the secret to her long marriage. She said the secret was keeping a low profile and not letting celebrity status rule their lives. "Show business is what we do, not what we are," she said.
Carolo Ponti died in 2007 at the age of 95. Asked if she would ever remarry, Sophia said, " Never again. It would be impossible to love anyone else."