“Food shared with love satisfies the palate, brings connection to one another and delivers joy to the heart."

Sophia Loren – World’s Most Beloved Cinema Goddess Honored with a Motion Picture Academy Tribute Hosted By Billy Crystal

Oscar®-winning actress Sophia Loren looking stunning on the red carpet for her Academy Tribute at the Samuel Goldwyn

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science tribute to Sophia Loren, hosted by Billy Crystal at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, was a moving event filled with laughter, tears and love for the world’s most beloved Italian film goddess. An audience of a thousand attendees enjoyed the beautiful evening of film clips, photos and personal remarks from friends, family and colleagues plus an intimate Q&A with the legendary star who continues to be a stunning woman of beauty and talent at age 76.

The Academy put together the tribute along with the help of CineCitta Luce from Italy to mark the 50-year anniversary Sophia Loren’s first Oscar®. In 1961, she broke tradition to earn the first Academy-Award ever presented to a lead performer in a non-English speaking role for Two Women. Then in 1990, the academy presented an Honorary Oscar® to Sophia acknowledging her as being “one of the genuine treasures of world cinema.”

TV Host, Author and Greco-Roman Actress - Cynthia Daddona of RomancingTheTable.com® in Beverly Hills at the Academy Tribute honoring Sophia Loren

Sophia, has been and still is an inspiration to me. She grew up in the slums of a small Italian village near Naples. My grandfather was also born in a small village near Naples. While growing up Sophia was so thin she was nicknamed the “stick.” As a young girl, I too, was teased for being thin and told I had “chicken legs.” I am of Greco-Roman descent and when I told my Italian aunt I still remember her saying “Don’t worry Cinzia, they used to call Sophia Loren a “toothpick” and look at her now! You too will blossom.” My aunt was right because a year later I did. Sophia inspired me to celebrate my feminine beauty, performing talents in TV and Film and cooking Mediterranean food with love. Today, I celebrate many of these topics by hosting RomancingTheTable.com® – a celebration of life, love, food, film and wisdom.
One of my most cherished cookbooks is Sophia Loren’s Recipes and Memories cookbook that includes family recipes and memories from her life and acting career. To me, Sophia represents a magnificent Mediterranean goddess of grace, beauty, talent and passion for life that is timeless. I completely agree with her quote that sums it up: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

The Cover to Sophia's Recipes and Memories Cookbook (published in 1998)

Opening the tribute was former Academy President Sid Ganis, who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing in the past. He introduced the Billy Crystal, the host for the evening, as someone who appreciated “feminine beauty” as much as he did. Crystal, an eight-time Oscar® Show host, kept the audience laughing when he opened with a rapid fire Italian and English description of Sophia’s beauty. He then described the time he first met Sophia, which was after he hosted the Oscars® in 1991. Billy said when he was 13, Sophia was his first true love even though she didn’t know it. Sophia had requested Billy to be the host of her tribute. Billy did an impersonation of how Sophia called him “Billeee” in her velvety Italian accent. His impression brought lots of laughs along with his other jokes of the evening that included “Just thinking of Sophia’s beauty could help keep an air traffic controller awake at night!”

Oscar®-Winning Actress Sophia Loren with Comedian, Actor and Eight-Time Oscar® Host Billy Crystal during an Academy Tribute to her

The tribute continued with a love fest of comments about Sophia’s beauty and acting talent along with recollections of the first time colleagues and friends ever saw her. Christian De Sica, said he would always remember seeing Sophia for the first time when he visited the set film of It Started in Naples and she was dancing and singing the song “Americano.” The film starred Clark Gable and Christian’s father Vittorio, who was an actor before becoming a director. Vittorio De Sica went on to direct Sophia toward her first Oscar® in Two Women, then in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, winner of the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award, and also in Marriage Italian Style with Marcello Mastroianni for which Sophia received her second Oscar® nomination. Christian described the collaboration between his father Vittorio and Sophia as “the milk and coffee that creates a perfect cappuccino.”

John Travolta commented that: “Some delicious things came out of Italy and the most delicious was Sophia!” When he saw Sophia for the first time on Houseboat with Cary Grant he said: “I was vibrating from the waist down and I got chills that were multiplying!” The admiration continued with comments from Rob Marshall who directed Sophia in the film Nine.

There were also taped video messages from Tom Hanks, Director Lina Wertmuller with Giancarlo Gianninni from Italy and a passionate Roberto Benigni who sang praise to her by changing the lyrics of O Sole Mio to O Sole Sophia. In 1998, Sophia presented an Oscar to Roberto Benigni for his role in Life is Beautiful and he will always be remember for walking across the back of chairs of the audience to express his passionate joy. Italian Model/Actress Jo Champa, who helped produced the event, said “Thank you from all of the women you have empowered by inspiring us to dream big.” Her son Eduardo Conti said that beyond his mother’s timeless beauty and talent is a mixture of “courage and humility” which gave her the strength to leave her small village in Italy. He was tearful as he said Sophia continues to inspire us all. Eduardo directed his mother in the 2002 film Between Strangers. Her son Carlo Ponti Jr. was also in the audience.

Sophia being kissed by her two sons Carlo Ponti Jr., (left) and Edoardo Ponti (right) on the red carpet at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Tribute honoring her in Beverly Hills, California

The audience enjoyed film clips from Sophia’s varied films along with home movie footage from the sets of It Started in Naples and Boy on A Dolphin which was filmed in Greece (Hydra, Athens, Rhodes and Delos). Crystal introduced the home video footage with humor by saying “Now you will see Sophia at the Parthenon, which is the real one and not the restaurant in Culver City.”

Sophia’s versatile talent of being able to act in dramatic, comedic and romantic films led her to star alongside top leading men. Her most frequent co-star was Marcello Mastroianni who she starred with in 13 films. They included Marriage Italian Style, Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, A Special Day (winner of the Foreign Language Film Academy Award) which were produced by Sophia’s husband Carlo Ponti who also produced Dr. Zhivago. Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia also appeared together in a spoof of her famous strip scene in (Pret a Porter) by Robert Altman. Other leading men included Cary Grant (Houseboat), Clark Gable (It Started in Naples), Charlton Heston (El Cid), Gregory Peck (Arabesque), Marlon Brando (A Countess from Hong Kong directed by Charlie Chaplin), Paul Newman (Lady L), Anthony Quinn (Attila), Peter O’Toole (Man of La Mancha) and Richard Burton (The Voyage). In her personal life, Sophia’s long marriage to producer Carlo Ponti not only gave life to wonderful screen collaborations but also to her two sons Carlo Jr. and Edoardo.

When the stunning Sophia took the stage she received a standing ovation. “Words can not describe my emotions right now. I am so grateful to the Academy and all my friends who shared their words. It is hard to imagine 50 years have passed since the first Oscar® came to my home, an event that changed my life completely. It helped me believe in myself, encouraged me and gave me opportunities that pushed my artistic boundaries.” Sophia said the tribute was as much for her as it was for husband Producer Carlo Ponti who discovered her at a beauty contest at age 14. “My husband not only gave me the courage to follow my passion but also believed in me when I didn’t.” (Carlo passed away in 2007 at the age of 94. They were married for 54 years.)

View the Academy’s Videos of the tribute here

During the Q&A – Billy Crystal helped put an emotional Sophia at ease with his humor by asking her, “I hear there isn’t any good pizza in Los Angeles – where do you go to get a good slice?” Sophia was at first quiet and then laughed. Billy garnered another laugh when he reminded her “You wanted me to be the MC!” And when Sophia mentioned that she only placed second in a beauty pageant – he quipped with disbelief: “What kind of beauty contest was that?” He also asked Sophia: “Can you believe its been so long and that people loved you the first time they saw you?” She commented: “ I was born for this – when I don’t work for a year or two, I don’t feel well. We all need to do what we were born to do!”

She ended the inspiring evening by saying “I hope to see you in another 50 years to celebrate my 100th year anniversary. God bless you all!” To Sophia I say – Grazie Mille Sophia! (A thousand thanks in Italian) We hope to see you again too. You have blessed us all with your talent, beauty and wisdom and may God continue to bless you and your family!

— Cynthia Daddona www.RomancingTheTable.com

Blog Lifestyle , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts

Comments are closed.