Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

Her most spectacular and often controversial one has been her off-screen marriage to producer Carlo Ponti. They've been together more than forty years. He is 21 years older than her and there have always been stories of other men. He was married when they met and as Italy did not recognise divorce they were forced into a Mexican divorce and marriage by proxy in 1957. They were branded as 'public sinners' and threatened with arrest for bigamy. Only when Ponti became a French citizen and secured a French divorce in 1966 was their marriage officially pronounced legal.

The year they married 'The Pride and The Passion' in which Loren co-starred with Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra was released. During filming -- and before her marriage -- Loren had an affair with Cary Grant. He was 52.

'When I met Cary I was 23. He had been my dream since I was a little girl -- tall, handsome, charming, funny, gentle. Of course Carlo and Cary had nothing in common but I loved them both.'

She turned down Grant's proposal of marriage because Ponti's divorce came through and they were able to marry. If circumstances had been different?' Yes, I would have married Cary Grant.'

Of her other supposed high-profile romance with Peter Sellers who co-starred with her in 'The Millionairess' in 1961 she says:' We were never lovers. I have made pictures with Marcello Mastroianni, Clark Gable, William Holden, Alan Ladd -- lots of fascinating men -- but they can't all be lovers. It's gossip. Peter Sellers was a great personality and I adored him but lovers -- no.'

She's philosophical about what could be seen as public attempts to wreck her marriage: the gossip columns, the sleazy stories:' I don't resent it. I don't even like to talk about it. It seems to me so natural to be married and to stay married. I think if you find the right person to be with you have to stick to it even though sometimes you may have moments of depression and unhappiness. But that all passes. What stays is the affection you have. I think you have to try to swallow sometimes the bitter things.

'Most of the time I don't forget but I forgive. I am quite a fatalist. I am Neapolitan and I look at life with a kind of optimistic eye.'

Her sons are living evidence of her optimism. She suffered two miscarriages before doctors told her she would never have children. 'I was convinced that it was not true because I believe if I really put my energies into something it happens. When I became pregnant I spent the whole nine months -- both times -- in bed. Maybe that's my strength -- I really go all the way.The lowest point in my life was when I lost my two unborn children - I didn't want that again.

'As a mother I feel very vulnerable. We live in a dangerous world but I try to keep my fears to myself. I never show them to the children because that's not the right attitude. I think you have to give your children confidence in life,in people, society and in the world today.'

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