The Bride Nobody Kissed—Sophia Loren
The rain had gotten worse through the night and now it slapped hard against the window. Sophia Loren stirred in her bed. Normally she would have popped her eyes open and wondered to herself: What time is it; it must be five or nearly five; I must get up and get ready to go to the studio.
But on this particular morning—Tuesday, September 17, 1957—she did not open her eyes. This was a very special morning in her life and she was half-dreaming a very special dream. And nothing, not the rain, not the studio, nothing was going to spoil it for her now.
It was a beautiful thing, this dream. It was of a wedding morning—her own. Sophia was back home, far away, in Naples. She’d just been awakened, not by rain, but by a ray of golden Italian sunshine that streamed through the tall window and fell onto the bed alongside her and seemed to whisper a warm ‘buon giorno, cara, buon giorno.’
Then the door opened and Maria, her beautiful young sister, had rushed in and plunked herself on the bed alongside Sophia, ruffling up the sunshine with her laughter and her happy bounce, and they’d talked and giggled the way sisters will on such a morning about the big day ahead. And then the door had opened again and in had walked Mama, holding the beautiful white gown and veil Sophia would wear in a little while and warning her daughters in her best mother-of-the-bride fashion that it was time to get up and stop all the confusion, to get dressed and make ready to go to the church. . . .
And then, suddenly, Sophia saw herself carrying a bouquet of white roses and riding through the streets of her native city in the horse-drawn carrozza she had sworn she would ride in ever since she was a kid, from that day during the war when, skinny and half-starved, she had stood on a curb with the other kids in the neighborhood watching that rich, over-plump signorina from the ritzy Via Partenope up on the hill riding to her wedding in the lovely-looking carriage. . . .
And then, suddenly again, though so softly, she heard the giant organ of the Basilica del Carmine, the oldest and most beautiful church in all of Naples, playing the first strains of the Gounod Ava Maria. And she knew now that she was in the church, following her sister in her pale-blue dress down the long aisle; that at the end of the long aisle he stood there waiting for her, to take her hand and to lead her to the altar and to all that would be truly good and beautiful in her life.
The man waiting for her
Her eyes were fixed down, barely noticing the flowers in her hands or the tips of the white satin shoes she was wearing, as she made her way toward him. But she knew, she was certain, that it was Carlo who would be standing there, waiting for her—Carlo Ponti, the man who had discovered her seven years ago, when she was fifteen years old; the man who had pushed her up from the depths of a poverty-stricken, lonely hell to a place near the top of everything, where counts and dukes and big-time industrialists elbowed one another for the privilege of kissing her hand; the man who, people whispered, was too old for her, too fat for her, too short, too everything-wrong, too nothing-right to ever be her husband.
But Sophia didn’t care what anyone thought as she walked down the aisle that morning. She only cared that he would be there when the walk was finished, when she looked up finally, first at the centuries-old crucifix straight aread, then to her right, at the man she would soon marry.
No, Sophia didn’t care what the people whispered.
For this was all that was important to her.
This was the most beautiful part of her beautiful dream. . . .
When Sophia did open her eyes, she opened them slowly.
For a moment, she peered at the door across the room, wondering if maybe by some miracle Maria might not come rushing in through it, then Mama with the gown and veil.
But then she snapped on a light alongside the bed. And that was all it took to make her laugh a sad laugh, as she realized that she was awake and that her dream was over.
Yes, this was September 17, all right—the day of her wedding.
But Sophia was in Hollywood, not Naples; in the bedroom of Bungalow Four at the Bel-Air Hotel. And Maria was in Italy, with their mother.
Sophia reached for the cablegram which had arrived from her beloved the night before, just before she’d gone to sleep.
What it boiled down to was this:
Carlo was having a tough time persuading Italian officials to recognize his divorce from Giuliana, the woman he’d been married to for ten years, and separated from for the past five, and had divorced in Mexico nine days earlier. In fact, the Italian officials had said they did not recognize divorce at all and would certainly never recognize a Mexican divorce.
There was only one thing left for them to do, the cablegram went on—to get married anyway. And soon. Of course, it would have to be done so nobody would know, or suspect. And so arrangements had been made with a judge in Mexico who would marry them by proxy at 12:30 p.m. Of his very day. Then they would be husband and wife. And then, for as long as they could, they would keep their secret—between just themselves and their very best friends—so there would be as little trouble as possible for as long as possible.
“No trouble,” Sophia whispered, sadly now, as she finished re-reading the cablegram and ran her fingers across the blue-inked letters that spelled his name. “No trouble,” she whispered again, thinking only of her loneliness on this day when Carlo should have been there, by her side.
No trouble. For Sophia could not even have imagined the anguish she would know later on this day, her wedding day. . . .
At Paramount Studios later that morning, Sophia hid her nervousness.
As usual, she arrived all smiles, kidded with the old gateman as he parked her car; with the make-up man and the costume girls as they tried hard to deglamorize her for her role as a maid in Houseboat, the picture she was then working on; with Cary Grant, her co-star and, of course, with her three most adoring fans.
The little ones
The fans were three of the children working in the picture. And on this particular morning they were excited.
“Aunt Sophie,” one of them cried out as the three of them went rushing up to her. “We want to be the first ones to wish you a Happy Birthday.”
“What?” Sophia asked, trying to pat all their heads at the same time.
“Yes,” another said, taking over. “We heard yesterday that today was your birthday.”
Sophia shook her head. “You are wrong,” she said “E venerdi. It is Friday, the twentieth of September.”
She couldn’t imagine what was wrong until she saw the children’s faces drop, as one. Then she knew.
“Tell me,” she said to one of them, a little girl, standing, sadly, alongside her. “What is that you are hiding behind you?”
“Just a little box of cookies,” the girl said.
“For me?” Sophia asked.
“Well,” the little girl said, “we chipped in for the stuff yesterday and I made the cookies for you last night because I thought today was your birthday. But it’s not. . . . And they’ll be all stale by Friday.”
Sophia got down on her knees and took the box from the little girl’s hand. “How pretty it is wrapped,” she said. “May I open it?”
The girl nodded.
“Ohhhhhh, ma come sono belle . . . how beautiful they are,” Sophia said when she saw them—big, uneven mounds of cake specked with chocolate pieces straight from a giant-sized Hershey bar.
She looked at the children’s faces and thought for a moment.
A special holiday
“Hear now,” she said. “On Friday I will bring you all a big birthday cake and we will eat it all together, all right? But for now why don’t I take this present from you and just make believe that today is a holiday for me and that you have given it to me for that holiday.”
“Like the Fourth of July?” one of them asked.
“Or like it was some kind of big anniversary in Italy?” asked the other.
“Or like it was a secret celebration—only for you?” the little girl chimed in, a touch of delighted mystery in her voice.
“Like that,” Sophia said, nodding.
Then she saw that Mel Shavelson, the director, was ready to start his camera rolling.
“We better go,” she whispered to the children, kissing them all and shooing them off. “Our boss is waiting.”
With a signal to the assistant director, she begged off for a minute in order to rush to her trailer-type dressing room and leave the cookies there.
Then she rushed to the set again, to begin the morning’s work. . . .
Sophia was back in her dressing room a little after noon, moments after the break for lunch was called. For the past hour she’d found it harder and harder to control her nervousness and she wanted, desperately now, to be alone.
She sat down and looked around the tiny room. If this were Italy and it were my wedding day and there were no trouble, she thought, how many people there would be, how much laughter there would be.
She picked up a phone and ordered lunch from the commissary.
The young boy who brought it a few minutes later smiled. “This is the first time you’re not eating in the dining room with everybody else,” he said.
Sophia nodded. “I have a tiny headache,” she said. “I will be all right.”
She stared at the tray after the boy left—at the cottage cheese salad, the small glass of white wine, the piece of plain pound cake, her usual light lunch.
She sighed. No, she didn’t feel like eating.
Then she looked down at her watch.
It was twenty minutes after twelve.
“In ten minutes,” she thought.
Getting it over with
She could see it now, half-smiling as she visualized what was going on a thousand miles away at this moment, in a quiet judge’s office somewhere in sprawling Mexico City, the judge wiping his glasses and getting ready to read the wedding speech, the two lawyers who would stand in for the bride and groom tweaking their mustaches—Sophia was certain they would both have large, black mustachios.
“I wonder,” Sophia thought, still smiling, “if one will give the other a ring?”
Then, suddenly, it dawned on her.
She had no ring. In a few minutes she would be a bride—and she had no ring.
“L’anello di Mama . . . Mama’s ring,” she said aloud, remembering the wedding band her mother had given her once, telling her to wear it on her right hand. “I just have a feeling that someday it might bring you luck,” her mother had said, “that you might be able to use it for something someday.”
“L’anello,” Sophia said again now.
That was it! She would wear the ring her mother had given her.
She looked down at her right hand.
No, it was not there. Of course, it was not there. She wore it all the time, yes; but she could not wear it while she was shooting a scene in a picture, naturally.
She reached for the purse. As she did, she looked down at her watch. It was two minutes before 12:30 already.
“Quick,” she told herself as she searched.
Finally, she found it.
She looked at the watch again.
It was 12:29.
For a full minute she remained rigid, waiting for the second hand to finish its final time ’round.
Then, finally, it was 12:30.
She slipped the ring onto the fourth finger of her left hand.
“I do, Carlo, I do”
And then, closing her eyes, imagining that she was kneeling at the altar, that a priest of her faith had just asked if she, Sophia, took Carlo to be her lawful wedded husband, to love him, honor and obey him, forever—she nodded and whispered, “I do, Carlo, I do.”
“It all started out so beautifully that night, it was so much fun, that none of us expected that anything awful would happen—as it did,” said a close friend of Sophia’s recently. She was one of the few friends the actress had called and asked to come over to the hotel to hear something special.
“I remember we got to the Bel-Air at about eight o’clock,” she went on. “Sophia looked radiant.
“Carlo would be phoning in a little while, she said then, but meanwhile we would sit around and drink some champagne, she said.
“So we did—and it was wonderful. I could imagine what Sophia had been through earlier, being so alone, not being able to tell anybody that the biggest thing in her life had happened, that she had become a bride. But she’d obviously gotten over any anxieties she’d had by this time. And she was, as I said, radiant.
“Well, it must have been a little less than an hour later when the telephone rang.
“Sophia jumped up. ‘This must be Carlo,’ she said, ‘calling from Switzerland.’
“She rushed for the phone, picked it up and nodded. ‘Yes,’ she said, smiling, ‘the operator says it is Europe calling.’
“She didn’t smile for long, though. Because it wasn’t Carlo who was calling from Switzerland, but an agent of Sophia’s calling from Rome.
“It was obvious from the beginning that he was telling her that word of the wedding had leaked out already, that the Italian press had already come out with stories about it, scathing stories.
“ ‘Tell them I do not care what they say,’ we heard Sophia tell him. ‘Tell them we did not commit a crime. . . . Tell them that Carlo and I are married, yes, and that we plan to have five, six, seven children!’
“She hung up and turned around. She was crying. And the next day we would know exactly why, when we read the reports from Rome: the Church denouncing her and Carlo as public sinners, one official stating that ‘they cannot receive the sacraments until they have repaired the scandal,’ another advising everyone to ban her pictures from this date on, ‘to ignore Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, remembering them only in prayers for their redemption’—still another telling them in no uncertain terms ever to return to Italy, because they were not, would never be, welcome again.”
The friend remembers then how she and the others decided that the party was over and that it was time to leave.
They said their goodbyes, she remembers and Sophia was walking silently toward the door with them when the phone rang again.
For a moment Sophia seemed dazed, as if everything that had happened that day, that had just been said to her on the phone, was unreal, like the wedding dream she had dreamed earlier, like a scene from a movie she had seen once, a long time ago.
But then, the friend remembers, slowly, a smile began to show through her tears and she listened to the phone ring a few more times and then her smile grew broader and happier and she wiped away the tears, unashamed, with the back of her hand.
“You will all excuse me,” she said, very proudly, “but now I must go back and talk to my husband.”
When MODERN SCREEN spoke to Sophia the other day, she and her Carlo had been married for a little more than seven months. And, good to report, many of the problems of those early days had begun to iron out and Sophia—working now on Black Orchid, with Anthony Quinn—seemed happy to take a little time out and talk about her life with Carlo since that day last September.
The happy time
“I give thanks,” she said, “that we have been able to be together most of the time. Carlo came to be with me shortly after the wedding by proxy and I do not think we have been separated more than a couple of days since. Even now, here in Hollywood, he is with me.
“Of course, I must work hard all day on the picture and Carlo works hard on many production details. But at night, when we are finished, we go back to the hotel and then it is just the two of us. There are stories that at the hotel I do all the cooking for Carlo and me. I wish this were true, because I like to cook. But unfortunately it is only sometimes that I do get to the stove. Why? Well, as I said, it is tiring working all day at the studio. And second, I am from the south of Italy and Carlo is from the north and we fight sometimes about the different styles of food we are used to. Me, from the south, I like much tomato sauce and spice. But Carlo, from the north, he likes more the plain food, not too much seasoned or with too much tomatoes.
“Anyway, after dinner—no matter who cooks it, me or the maid—we both go into the living room and we sit and relax. Many people say we do not go out much at night, as if that were something bad. But I say why should we? For us, it is just fun to sit around our apartment and talk. Or listen to our records—we like Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and now Johnny Mathis, too, the best. Or to watch television. That is one of our favorite things, to watch the TV. We have a color set we rented and sometimes we have great fun turning the dials and making the faces on the screen turn all red or all green. Especially when it is somebody we do not like too much, we enjoy watching them in green.
“And then, after a few hours, we go to bed and before we fall asleep we always talk about what we will do when Saturday and Sunday comes and we do not have to work. Sometimes I tell Carlo that on Saturday I will start to be a real wife, to press his shirts and things like that. . . .”
She shrugged a hearty Neopolitan shrug and looked down at her wedding band, a new one Carlo had brought from Europe.
“. . . So far I have not been able to do things like that,” she went on, simply. “But I want very much to learn how to be a good wife. Because I have a very good husband. And for this I thank God, very much.”
Sophia’s in Paramount’s DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS. Watch for her in Paramount’s HOUSEBOAT and Columbia’s THE KEY.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JUNE 1958