Sophia Loren and Edoardo Ponti’s movie “Between Strangers” currently is running on Italian Sky, and also is appearing in America on the Women’s Entertainment channel. Here are a few scenes that appear to be relevant to the question of whether Sophia gave up a daughter she named Maria for adoption in Naples, in January 1964:
Sophia as Olivia crumples up her charcoal drawing, tosses it away, a look of anguish on her face. Max, the gardener, tries to console her. He takes her to his greenhouse and offers her a drink of berry liquor.
“Yesterday,” Max says, “I saw this light in your eyes. And I felt…I felt finally I’m seeing the real Olivia. That light. That’s how it always should be for you. That’s what you deserve.”
Olivia looks at Max coldly.
“You don’t know what I deserve,” she says. Then she turns, walks away.
* * *
John, Olivia’s invalid husband, calls her into the room to see what is on TV. It’s a news interview of Amanda Trent, a famous sculptor, who as a child was sent from one foster home to another. She’s asked about how it felt not having real parents.
“When you have no roots,” Amanda replies, “you’re always searching for an identity. And as a child I found mine through my dreams.”
“Can you tell us about those dreams?” the interviewer asks.
“Well, I had two big ones. First, I wanted to be adopted.”
“Which at seven came true for you.”
“Yes, indeed it did. I’m very lucky. I have wonderful parents.”
“And the second dream?”
“I always wanted to be an artist and live in Florence.”
Olivia turns to John. “She’s my daughter. The artist Amanda Trent. We were just kids, you know? When my father found out about it, that was it. He locked me in my room. All I have of my baby was her first cry. Then my father took her away from my arms. Gave her up for adoption.”
John angrily says, “Olivia, this joke is over.”
“It’s not a joke,” Olivia replies. “It’s my baby.”
* * *
Later, in another meeting with Max, Olivia says: “You don’t know how I felt holding my daughter in my arms. If only I didn’t let her go that day.” She pauses. “My father didn’t take my daughter away from me, Max. I gave her up myself.”
“Olivia, you were only a child,” Max says.
“I could have held on tighter. You can’t imagine what a strong and beautiful woman she is now.”
“Where do you think she got it from? Hmmm? Where do you think she got it from?”
* * *
Now, as a novelist I see this as extraordinarily fertile ground for speculation. Especially the admission Olivia makes that she lied earlier that her father was responsible for giving up her daughter for adoption.
In real life Sophia could have married any number of co-stars her age who fell in love with her, Cary Grant and Clark Gable among them. Yet she chose Carlo Ponti, a man 20 years her senior.
On one of her fan websites, Sophia doesn’t hesitate to explain her penchant for older men in wholly Freudian terms:
"I needed a father. I needed a husband. I was adopted by Carlo and I married my father."
[Source: http://www.geocities.com/loren_sophia/bio.html ]
Much less of a speculative stretch is what's cited in my compilation of the "circumstantial case." Which is to say that Sophia obviously has a great interest in advancing the writing and directing career of Edoardo. She gave her son input for the screenplay. And she knew that drawing upon personal experience would be useful in her giving a powerful and convincing performance.
Playing the role of Olivia also can be seen as an oblique expression of Sophia’s guilt and longing to reconnect with her daughter.
Here is a URL for a site that has links to reviews of “Between Strangers.”