A Salute To Sophia Loren

One of the sexiest movie celebrities ever turns 77 today, and she's still hot! For decades, Sophia Loren has been enthralling us all with a sexy sophistication that's characteristically Italian (unlike, say, the icy beauty of the French star CatherineDeneuve.) Off-screen, she's considerably tamer than the tumultuous characters she's played on screen. Here are some things you might not know about her:

A World War II Ordeal

During World War II in the Naples suburb of Pozzuoli, she was struck by shrapnel from an Allied raid. The injury, to her chin, was not serious.

The Older Man

She met her future husband, movie producer Carlo Ponti, when she was 15 and he was 37. He helped her take acting classes.

The Name Change

Her birth name was Sofia Scicolone, but for her first two movies ("La Favorita" in 1953 and "Aida" in 1953) she used the name Sofia Lazzaro.

A Meteoric Rise

Just five years after her first appearance in movies, she had become a respected actress thanks to movies including "Desire Under The Elms." (There were also some lesser efforts like "El Cid" with Charlton Heston, at left.) But an even more notable success came in 1960, when she played a down-at-the-heels Italian mother in "Two Women." She won an Oscar. It was the first time an actress in a foreign-language film won an Academy Award.

She Was Married Twice To One Man

She was married to Ponti from 1957 to 1962, when the marriage was annulled so Ponti could get a divorce and escape charges of bigamy. They were married again in 1966 and remained husband and wife until Ponti died in 2007. In 2009, she said in an interview that she would never again marry. "It would be impossible to love anybody else."

She Was A Stay-At-Home Mom

She and Ponti had two sons, Edoardo (left) and Carlo Ponti Jr. Loren left the movie world for several years to raise them.

Italian Classics

Her constant costar over the years was Marcello Mastroianni. The two made 14 movies together, including the classics "Love, Italian Style" and "La Dolce Vita." Their last appearance came in 1994's "Pret-a-Porter," two years before his death.

She Could Have Been Alexis

Along with Elizabeth Taylor and Raquel Welch, she was considered for the role of Alexis Carrington in the 1980s prime time soap opera "Dynasty." Joan Collins eventually got the role.

She's Great In The Kitchen

Loren is famous for loving pasta, and she's written two best-selling Italian cookbooks.

Striking Poses

Although you'll never see paparazzi photos of her every week, Loren gets out when she wants to; left, she poses at a benefit with Martha Stewart. And she's remained top of mind for other reasons: In 2007, at the age of 72, she posed nearly nude for the Pirelli calendar, a limited edition "girly calendar" that's given by the Pirelli company, a giant tire manufacturer, to celebrity VIPs. The calendar consists of only celebrities, among them Gisele Bundchen and Penelope Cruz.

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