Sophia Loren: glamorous, seductive, exotic. However, as Signora Loren reveals in her new memoir Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, beyond her great beauty rests self-awareness and down-to-earth simplicity. Readers expecting a glossy, ghost-written movie-star “autobiography” will be shocked at how “normal” Loren truly is. Inspired by a box of treasured trinkets and notes discovered over Christmas, Loren writes from her heart in this captivating yet honest memoir. From her children’s drawings to notes from cinema’s greatest stars and directors, it is clear that Loren’s life has been guided by truth, hard work, and valuing the few truly good people in one’s life that make it all worthwhile.
Loren’s life began in difficult circumstances: her mother had unrequited dreams of movie-stardom and conducted an affair with a man who would never marry her. Loren’s childhood was also marred by the colossal Second World War. Often not having enough to eat, this destitute childhood became formative for Loren, who would revisit the experience for films such as Two Women and A Special Day. Against odds, Loren grew up from a tiny “stuzzicadenti” (toothpick) to a curvaceous, beautiful teenager. Through pageants, Sophia gained notoriety and began participating as an extra in Italian film although at first her unusual features and height confused directors. Through years of hard work, dedication, and versatility, Loren became Italy’s reigning sex symbol. Yet her difficult upbringing gave her the sensitivity and depth to go beyond the bubbly, captivating persona. Loren became an international acting legend due to stunning dramatic incarnations, such as that her Oscar-winning performance of a haunting and astonishingly mature middle-aged mother in Two Women despite being only in her twenties. Among my personal favourites as a classical baritone are Loren’s operatic encounters, personifying Donizetti’s La Favorita and the great Renata Tebaldi in Aida on film.
Loren’s memoir traces her life mostly chronologically through personal memories and recollections. Each chapter is inspired by an object or piece of writing from her collection, leading her into the memories, relationships, and people of her life. Despite being only a teenager when she met him, Loren fell in love with film producer Carlo Ponti, who shared a life together until Ponti’s death. Even through the string of handsome leading men that Loren collaborated with, such as Cary Grant, who very nearly stole her heart, Loren’s heart lay grounded in her moral compass, developed through her tough upbringing. Loren so desperately wanted the normalcy she missed as a child, but her love with Ponti was dogged by legal difficulties, such as Ponti being accused of bigamy and Loren voluntarily going to jail for 17 days. Loren’s desire for children was also plagued with miscarriage. However, through hormone replacement therapy and years of legal struggling, Loren finally achieved a family life that she craved for her whole life. Professionally, Loren’s great memories revolve around her close Italian filmmakers and co-stars, such as director Vittorio De Sica and actor MarcelloMastroianni, frequent co-stars that accentuated her Neapolitan spirit in memorable films such as The Gold of Naples and Marriage Italian Style, which captured her effortless elegance and Italian charm. Loren candidly describes the truly human moments that defined her, beyond her impressive filmography of over 100 movies. She suffered a horrific break-in at a hotel that made her realize that the only precious jewels she would from then on would be her “son’s embrace”. She witnessed her parents and dear husband’s deaths and suffered postpartum depression and anxiety-induced psychosomatic issues while filming.
However, despite her many struggles and successes, Loren’s charm and zest for life are captured beautifully in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. From beating Richard Burton at Scrabble and meeting a delightful aging Charlie Chaplin to watching her grandchildren excitedly hear her in Cars 2, Sophia’s life, like her career, is full of juxtapositions of great luxury and charming simplicity. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is a book about memory, youth, aging, and staying present. As the book closes, we learn to see Signora Sofia Loren as all that she is: a meatball-making Italian Nonna, an autograph-signing Oscar and Grammy winner, and an octogenarian whose past laurels only signify the inner beauty residing within. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is a unique, entertaining, and moving memoir that can only offer a tiny sliver of insight into the complex, alluring, and eternally enigmatic Sophia Loren. Brava!
Mike Fan is a Chinese-Canadian classical baritone. Mike plays five instruments and speaks three languages (with a few in progress). He holds degrees in piano performance and biomedical science, but it was obvious from an early age that music would win out. On the literary side, Mike wrote 365 sonnets in his teens and writes for his poetry blog someturbidnight.blogspot.ca. Follow @MikeZFan for Mike's adventures, musical and otherwise.