#ClassicFilmReading - Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren

When I chose the books I wanted to read for my first ever Summer Reading Challenge, I knew I wanted to focus on some of the biggest actresses of the golden age of Hollywood; and I knew I had to include a few I'm not very familiar with. 

Enter Sophia Loren. 

I'd seen a handful of her films before reading her autobiography (The Key; The Millionairess; Two Women; Marriage, Italian Style; Lady L; and Arabesque) but didn't know much about her life, and I purposely wanted to go into reading without having read her Wikipedia page or IMDb entry. 

I loved reading about Sophia's life from Sophia herself. Hers is a Cinderella story if ever there was one: plucked from obscurity in post-war Italy to become one of the country's biggest stars, who then conquered Hollywood and won an Oscar (that she was too nervous to accept in person) within a few years after arriving in California; and who spent her life with the man she loved, surrounded by the children she adored, living the life she wanted. 

She writes so effusively about Italy and its people, the food, the landscapes, the regions, that I really want to take a trip there and see the Italy that Sophia writes so passionately about. I also need to get my hands on her cookbooks! 

Perhaps it's all wrapped up in her sense of family? Reading her autobiography, I really feel like I'm reading about a regular woman. Though acting has been her life, really, it seems almost relegated to the side as she talks about the people who mattered most to her. I feel like I know Mammina and her sister, Maria. I know how much she loved Carlo and Carlo Jr and Edoardo; it's evident the love she has for family triumphs everything else.

One thing I love about celebrity autobiographies, as I'm sure most people do, is when the author writes about the other celebrities they know. Sophia Loren is particularly unrestrained when talking about the actors and actresses she knew, despite, by her own admission, being particularly reserved and unwilling to allow people into her inner circle easily.

Here are a few of my favourite celebrity anecdotes.

On Cary Grant (with whom she had an affair): "Cary and I would talk about our dreams, which weren't about fame or wealth—which he already had, along with the respect and the love of the whole world—but about our more intimate dreams, which many took for granted: the miracle of a house, a person with whom to laugh and share one’s life. ‘What kind of house would you like? Do you care for dogs? What names would you choose for your child?’ I was charmed by his words, but I always stayed one step back. I didn’t want to, and couldn’t, raise his hopes.”

On that infamous Jayne Mansfield photo: "She sat next to me at the table and started talking—it was like a volcano erupting. As she got more and more worked up, suddenly I found one of her breasts in my plate. I looked up at her, terrified. She barely noticed, regained her composure, and left. One especially quick reporter took a picture of the scene, and the image went around the world. I refused to autograph it." 

On her neighbour, Audrey Hepburn: "To get to their house, we had to walk along a trail surrounded on both sides by the peaceful, silent snow. It was like being in a fairy tale. The chalet was very beautiful luminous, all decorated in white, set on a hill overlooking the lake. Audrey was all dressed in white, too, as was the table, on which she'd placed a few flowers and a lot of candles. It was a lot of elegance."

On Marcello Mastroianni: "Marcello, Marcello... My race for the sun would never have been as vivid or as richly satisfying without Marcello Mastroianni. His gentle gaze, his kind smile have always accompanied me, offering me a sense of security, joy, and so many other emotions." 

On Marilyn Monroe's death: "That death, so untimely, so ambiguous, caused me terrible distress. And it got me thinking. I thought about the meaning of beauty, about loneliness, about the need to feel love that's hidden in the heart of each and every one of us. I remembered Marilyn's seductive smile veiled with sadness. It wasn't enough to be the most beautiful woman in the world to be happy... The world is a cruel place, nourished by and satisfied with appearances, rarely concerned about what lies beneath the surface. This is why it's up to each of us to keep any fairy tale anchored to real life, so that we never forget who we are, where we come from." 

On Paul Newman: "Paul Newman...was gentle and sensitive, rather shy, but at peace with himself. He was as handsome as can be, with those eyes that gave him a great screen presence. He was very fortunate to have had a long, peaceful, fulfilling marriage, which always kept him rooted in real life. He never put on airs, never blamed others for his own problems. He knew himself very well." 

On Omar Sharif: "Omar was full of life, overflowing with ideas. We had been born on the opposite shores of the Mediterranean, so we shared a love of the same fragrances, the colors, the wit." 

[About Sophia and Omar: they once had their mothers cook their eggplants for both families as a competition to see who had the best recipe. Their mothers, Italian and Egyptian, became close friends as a result of their cooking adventures.]

On Peter O'Toole: "An extraordinary actor, Peter had an uncontainable, nonconformist intelligence. He was as funny as a great comedian and as intense as a character in a tragedy... When Edo came into the world on January 6, 1973, as beautiful as any baby can be, my Don Quixote came to see me with an extraordinary ostrich egg, signed: 'With all my love, Peter.' I kept it on my nightstand for a long time, the surreal memory of a dear, eccentric friend." 

I'd definitely recommend Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren!

Up next for the Classic Film Reading Challenge: Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland


  1. Your excerpt of Sophia's comments on her famous friends as well as your own thoughts on her autobiography have really piqued my interest in reading it! Thanks for sharing.


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