Carlo Ponti, Sr., Italian film producer, Died at 94

  Actor, Business

Carlo Ponti, Sr. died on the 10th of January 2007 at the age of 94; he was an Italian film producer.

Born in Magenta, Lombardy on the 11th of December 1912 and studied law at the University of Milan, he joined his father’s law firm in Milan and became involved in the film business through negotiating contracts.

Ponti attempted to establish a film industry in Milan in 1940 and produced Mario Soldati’s Piccolo Mondo Antico there, starring Alida Valli, in her first notable role.

The film dealt with the Italian struggle against the Austrians for the inclusion of north-eastern Italy into the Kingdom of Italy during the Risorgimento.

In 1946, he married Giuliana Fiastri. While serving as a judge in a beauty contest around 1950, Ponti met a minor actress named Sofia Lazzaro.

He subsequently cast her in films such as Anna (1951).

In 1952, his friend Goffredo Lombardo, head of production at Titanus, changed Lazzaro’s name to Sophia Loren.

Ponti co-produced several films in Hollywood starring Loren, establishing her fame, although most were box-office failures.

In 1960, he and Loren returned to Italy and when summoned to court, denied being married.

In 1962, they had the marriage annulled, after which Ponti arranged with his first wife, Giuliana, that the three of them move to France (which at that time allowed divorce) and become French citizens.

In 1965, Giuliana Ponti divorced her husband, allowing Ponti to marry Loren in 1966 in a civil wedding in Sèvres.

The controversy surrounding his first marriage to Sophia Loren, was that he was still legally married to his first wife Giuliana Fiastri at that time in the eyes of Cathoilc Italy, even though they had already divorced by 1957.

In order to marry Loren he obtained a divorce in Mexico where they also got married by proxy, but this was not recognized back in Italy where Ponti was condemned and told he would be charged with bigamy should he return.

Thus Ponti and Loren lived in exile in the States for a while until matters could be resolved.

In the end the solution was for all three: Ponti, Loren and his ex-wife Fiastri to adopt French citizenship so that he and Fiastri could be legally divorced, and he and Loren could be legally married.

He had met Sophia Loren a few years earlier.

She was a model using the name Sofia Lazzaro; he was a judge in the Miss Rome beauty pageant.

Ms. Loren, whose birth name was Sofia Scicolone, was sitting in the front row with friends.

He sent someone over to ask if she wanted to be a contestant. Mr. Ponti’s survivors include his wife; their sons, Carlo Jr. and Edoardo, and two children from his previous marriage, Guendalina and Alexander.

In the 2002 interview with the Swiss newspaper, he acknowledged that his life had been largely defined for many people by his association with Ms. Loren.

People magazine 18 years earlier told how that relationship had gradually transcended its steamy early years.