Sophia Loren & Carlo Ponti’s 57-Year Love Story Began at 1st Sight Yet He Had Another Family

Sophia Loren’s marriage lasted 57 years, and she found a lover and a protector in one person – her beloved husband and father of their two sons, Carlo Ponti. Here are the details of their more than 70 years love story.

Sophia Loren is an Italian actress named by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest female stars of Classical Hollywood cinema.

The movie veteran has only been married to the late Italian film producer Carlo Ponti. Together, the couple welcomed two children, sons Edoardo and Carlo Jr.

In the book titled “The Northeastern Dictionary of Women’s Biography,” Loren recalled how she and Ponti met, sharing it was love at first sight:

“It was love at first sight for both of us. We met at a beauty contest in Rome when I was 16, and he was on the jury. He saw me sitting at a table with friends and sent me a note asking me to join the contest.”

“I did, and I finished second, but the most important thing was that this is how we started to see each other, at first in a friendly way, then it became serious when I was 19… We genuinely loved each other,” she continued to explain.

Later, when Ponti (22 years older) saw her at another beauty contest, he arranged small parts in low-budget Italian productions. That was when Loren rose to stardom in “The Gold of Naples.”

Italian film producer Carlo Ponti kisses his wife, actress Sophia Loren after she received the first Alexander Korda award, naming her 'International Star of the Year', at the world premiere of her new film "Lady L" at The Empire, Leicester square. | Source: Getty Images

During that time, she began to have an affair with Ponti, who was married to his first wife Giuliana Fiastri and was already a father of two.

In 1956, she was cast by an American studio to star in “The Pride and the Passion” and found herself deeply attracted to fellow co-star Cary Grant.

Loren was 22 and already romantically linked to Ponti, who later became her future husband. On the other hand, Grant was 52 years old and already in his third marriage when he became infatuated with her.

In an interview with The Sidney Morning Herald, Loren described that period in her life as “strange” because she found it difficult to leave for the US:

“Cary was in love with me and wanted me to marry him, but that would have meant leaving Carlo and creating a huge scandal. I was terribly afraid of what the reaction would have been if I had left Italy.”

Still, she managed to fly down to Hollywood for the first time, accompanied by Ponti, and although he was still a married man, Loren was glad that leaving her home country gave her and the “River Girl” producer a chance to cohabit. They had been secretly engaged for three years.

Over the next few months, Ponti traveled back and forth between Los Angeles and Rome on business, leaving room for his lover to start seeing Grant again.

According to the starlet, she could not resist Grant – who was 30 years her senior – as he sent her a bouquet of roses daily, wrote intimate letters to her, and even phoned frequently.

Sophia Loren teaches co-star Cary Grant to dance the Flamenco, during the filming of "The Pride and the Passion," 1957. | Source: Getty Images

“Kiss Them For Me” star Ray Walston, who plays Mac in the 1957 film, revealed Loren “started showing up” at the studio in the evenings to watch the rushes and “you could tell she and Cary were fond of one another.”

In her first volume autobiography, the “Two Women,” star recalled that Grant urged that they pray together for guidance about whether to leave their respective partners, writing:

“You’ll be in my prayers. If you think and pray with me, for the same thing and purpose, all will be right and life will be good.”

In contrast, she was on the verge of marrying Ponti, yet she faced her greatest challenge, set to shape both her personal life and her career.

Nevertheless, Grant was so besotted with Loren that he asked for her hand in marriage. But he later apologized in one of his letters for pressurizing her to wed, writing:

“Forgive me, dear girl. I press you too much. Pray – and so will I – until next week. Goodbye Sophia. Cary.”

The pair had been co-starring in “The Pride and Passion.” People speculated that Grant asked her to marry him while filming, but that was far from being true.

Loren set the record straight during an interview with Radio Times, stating it would be impossible for the English native to propose while they worked closely together on set:

“Cary Grant was a handsome man and a wonderful actor, but he didn’t propose.”

Veteran stars Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in a scene from the movie "Houseboat" in 1958. | Source: Getty Images

Moreover, she said she was way too young to have any clear ideas about love and relationships at the time. When the film’s shooting ended, so did their romance because she chose Ponti.

Loren and Ponti wed in France in 1966 and remained married until his death in January 2007. “Carlo was Italian, he belonged to my world, and Cary Grant did not. I know it was the right thing to do for me,” she said.

Even though she ended up with Ponti, their marriage had its fair share of ups and downs. Their union caused havoc legally as it resulted in a trial for bigamy.

It led to the couple being uncomfortable responding to questions about their marital status, with Loren stating that it upset them both having to talk about it:

“My husband, that is, my former husband, I mean my fiancé … well, you know Carlos – and I don’t want to discuss this matter because it only upsets us.”

At the time, lawyers had promised the long-awaited outcome in the trial for bigamy of twice-married Ponti and once-married Loren. They even faced one to five years in jail but did not plan on attending their trial because they did not attend their wedding either, which took place in Juarez, Mexico.

However, the pair’s homeland regarded their marriage as invalid. So did the couple only because Ponti was still married, so going through the ceremony was considered illegal and therefore bigamous.

Sophia Loren with her husband, Carlo Ponti, before boarding jet plane at Idlewild Airport for the West Coast. | Source: Getty Images

As for the duo, the nuptials were invalid because there were no witnesses, and bigamy became impossible since the ceremony was not binding.

Ponti’s divorce from his first wife was another factor because Italy did not recognize it, though Mexico did. Fiastri, who wed Ponti in 1946, not only brought the bigamy charges against him, but she also firmly requested the courts not to proceed with the bigamy prosecution. But they eventually ended up divorcing.