Italian-born French film actress and international sex symbol of the 1960s and 1970s. She was appointed Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur in 1991, the same year that she received a special Academy Award for her lifetime achievement.
Born into poverty in Rome, Sofia Scicolone was raised in the slums of Naples. In her teens she began to enter beauty competitions and by the time she was fifteen had met the man who was to groom her for stardom and become her future husband, Italian producer Carlo Ponti (1910– ).
She began her film career inauspiciously as an extra in Quo Vadis (made 1949, released 1951). By 1953, however, she was appearing in the title role of Aïda and subsequently attracted considerable attention for La donna del fiume (1955; Woman of the River). After making several other Italian films she went to the USA, where she appeared in such films as Boy on a Dolphin (1957), The Black Orchid (1959), for which she received a Venice Festival Award, and That Kind of Woman (1959). Her range has extended from the comedy of Anthony Asquith's The Millionairess (1960) with Peter Sellers to the award-winning dramatic performance of La ciociara (1961; Two Women). For the latter she won, among other honours, Academy, Cannes Festival, and British Film Awards. She also received a Moscow Festival Award for Marriage Italian Style (1964). Subsequent films included Man of La Mancha (1972), The Cassandra Crossing (1977), and Firepower (1979). A biography, Sophia – Living and Loving: Her Own Story, was published in 1979. Charges of tax evasion resulted in her spending a widely publicized month in prison in 1982. After a period of retirement she returned to the screen in Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (1990) and Prêt à porter (1994).
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).