Sophia Loren on Jayne Mansfield’s Girls

On her first visit to America, Sophia Loren gets an eyeful of, um, culture shock.

On her first visit to America in 1957, Sophia Loren gets, um, culture shock.

 

Sophia Loren’s sidelong glance at Jayne Mansfield’s proud cleavage is ubiquitous on classic movie blogs. Over the past few years, I have seen this picture reproduced on dozens of sites.

The picture seems to tell a simple story.

Sophia Loren (b. Sofia Scicolone, 1934), an international star whose cleavage was also a prominent onscreen asset, looks askance at Jayne Mansfield’s generous display.

In Sophia Loren’s memoir Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life, she fills us in on the back story of this amusing photograph.

On April 6, 1957, I boarded an SAS flight to Los Angeles along with my sister, Maria. The tears ran down my face as I hugged my mother, who accompanied us as far as the stairs leading up to the stairs leading up to the plane.

“Mammina, you’ll see, I’ll be fine, and you will be too. We’ll write to each other, I’ll call  you every day, statte accuorta (take care of yourself.).”

It was our first big separation. I was making a leap in the dark, into a celluloid world in another country, from which I didn’t know what to expect. I was leaving the Pizza Girl, the Fishmonger, [film roles] and a piece of my life behind. I was now an international actress , but one tiny part of me was still a girl venturing into the unknown.

Snip!

My first Hollywood appointment was in fact a cocktail party organized by Paramount at Romanoff’s, a famous Beverly Hills restaurant popular with the stars. In my honor they’d given everything a Mediterranean touch, with that slightly childish American way of transforming and reshaping reality. Everyone was there. I was the phenomenon of the moment, the person everyone wanted to meet, at the event, not to be missed. I looked in one direction and there was Gary Cooper—so handsome he left one breathless—I looked in another direction and there was Barbara Stanwyck, smiling, and if I looked out the window I could see Fred Astaire chatting with Gene Kelly. Mamma Mia!

At that moment, Jayne Mansfield arrived. The crowd of guests parted to let her through as she headed straight for my table. She moved forward swaying on her heels, perhaps not completely sober, with something grand and imperious about each step she took. She knew that everyone had their eyes on her, and how could anyone not gape at her neckline, which was more than generous. It was as if she were saying: “Here comes Jayne Mansfield. The Blond Bombshell!” She sat next to me at the table and started talking—it was like a volcano erupting. As she got more and more worked up, suddenly I found one of her breasts in my plate. I looked up at her, terrified. She barely noticed, regained her composure, and left. One especially quick reporter [Joe Shere] took a picture of the scene, and the image went around the world. I refused to autograph it. Hidden behind Hollywood’s enchanted kingdom were some coarse and grotesque sides, which I refused to have anything to do with.

Hollywood was, indeed, an enchanted kingdom for Loren. During the 1960s, Loren, one of the most popular actresses in the world at the time, made films in the United States and Europe. In 1961, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her wrenching performance in Two Women. In 1964, she received $1 million to appear in the dreary The Fall of the Roman Empire. In 1965, she received a second Academy Award nomination for her performance in the delightful comedy Marriage Italian Style. In 1991, Loren received the Academy Honorary Award for her contributions to world cinema and was declared “one of the world cinema’s treasures.”

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3 Comments

  1. Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    This picture, I think, lends credence to the fallout.
    https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7006/6720817893_0474f48d73_b.jpg

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  2. CJReott
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Nice story but don’t believe it for a minute. She was jealously checking out the competition. The very idea that Jane’s breast was “in her plate” is nonsense. Look at the eyes.

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  3. Bill Brandt
    Posted August 20, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Romanoff’s was also a favorite of Humphrey Bogart. I read somewhere that Mansfield deliberately arrived late to get more attention.

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