Famed producer, husband

Carlo Ponti, the Italian producer of films such as La Strada, Doctor Zhivago and Blowup and the longtime husband of actress Sophia Loren, whom he discovered as a teenager, has died. He was 94.

Mr. Ponti, who had been hospitalized for about 10 days with pulmonary complications, died Tuesday at a hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, his family said in a statement yesterday.


Mr. Ponti was a producer on more than 140 movies, including La Strada, Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt and Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup, Zabriskie Point and The Passenger.

The Mr. Ponti and David Lean-produced Doctor Zhivago, director Lean's epic 1965 romantic-drama, received an Oscar nomination for best picture.


Mr. Ponti also produced Vittorio De Sica's Two Women, a 1960 Italian World War II drama that earned Ms. Loren an Oscar for best actress.

Mr. Ponti was born on Dec. 11, 1912, in Magenta, Italy, an industrial town not far from Milan. He met Ms. Loren in Rome in 1951 when he was one of the judges for the finals of the Miss Rome beauty contest. Seated on the judges' platform, Mr. Ponti spotted the 16-year-old Ms. Loren in the front row with friends.

In time, Mr. Ponti and Ms. Loren began to quietly see each other.

In 1955, Mr. Ponti gave her a ring with a small diamond. But Mr. Ponti was married and the father of two children. He had married Giuliana Fiastri in 1946.

Although his wife reportedly was willing to cooperate, Italy did not recognize divorce.

In 1957, Mr. Ponti's lawyers obtained a divorce for him in Mexico, and then stood in for Mr. Ponti and Ms. Loren in a proxy ceremony before a Mexican judge.

But less than a month later, the Vatican's official newspaper denounced the marriage as illegal and branded the newlyweds public sinners. After years of legal wrangling, Mr. Ponti and Ms. Loren renounced their Italian citizenship and became citizens of France, where Mr. Ponti was able to obtain a divorce and marry Ms. Loren again in 1966.

Mr. Ponti and Ms. Loren had two children, Carlo Ponti Jr., the music director and conductor of the San Bernardino (Calif.) Symphony Orchestra; and Edoardo, a filmmaker. He also had two children from his first marriage, Guendolina and Alexander.


Dennis McLellan writes for the Los Angeles Times