Like No Other
While on assignment in Rome in the mid 50s, I was assigned to photograph the promising young Italian actress, Sophia Loren. She was still living at home, & when I arrived for our 10:30AM appointment, I was greeted by her mother, who offered me coffee, as I would have to wait for the 21-year old Sophia, still sleeping.
It got to be well after 11AM and still no Sophia. Finally, in halting English, her mother said, "The lazy thing! Go tell her that you're here. Go in there and throw her out of bed." I opened the bedroom door very slowly and stepped into the room. As I approached the bed, I could see that Sophia was wearing a very flimsy nightgown. I sat on the edge of the bed feeling more than a bit uncomfortable, and said, "Sophia ...Sophia, wake up. Ciao! Let's go! We have to do the photographs." She finally sat up, a mass of tousled hair . Even so, she was devastatingly beautiful.
By the time she dressed & has something to eat, the sun was too strong to do the photos, and we would have to wail till late afternoon for a nice light. Fortunately, the delay offered me time to come up with this idea for the shoot: Sophia had done a film the year before in which she played a street vendor. I asked her to put on a peasant blouse & skirt, got some oranges, and took her to the great "Fontana di Trevi". At my suggestion, she sat on the fountain and began playfully washing the oranges.
In the middle of the shoot, two policemen approached on horseback; I knew we would be told to leave. But before they could say or do anything, Sophia had spotted them, splashed in the water, bent over, lifted her skirt a bit higher, and shouted, "Ciao!" to the officers. They were dumbstruck; even the horses were taken with the moment and began to move about nervously. Finally, after enjoying the sight of Sophia in a wet blouse for another minute or two, the policemen smiled, saluted, and rode off.
That evening during dinner, Sophia told me, "I will learn good English. I will learn to speak better than Gina (Lollobrigida) and be a great actress in America and everywhere!". Some years later, when she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in "Two Women", I remembered what she had said that summer night in Rome.