Bardot and Loren, still sexy at 75

24th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The broody blonde French "sex kitten" and the dark, sultry Italian have marked the decades with their beauty, talent and iconic status in the wave of sexual liberation that marked the 1960s and 1970s.

Paris -- Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren stripped off and pouted with an abandon that took the prudish 50s by storm and their sex goddess image endures even as both turn 75 this week.

The broody blonde French "sex kitten" and the dark, sultry Italian have marked the decades with their beauty, talent and iconic status in the wave of sexual liberation that marked the 1960s and 1970s.

But they have taken distinctly different paths since those early days that shocked a Europe still rebuilding after World War II.

Only three years ago, Loren, then 72, posed semi-nude on a white bed for the 2007 edition of the racy Pirelli calendar -- sharing months with the Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and other much younger celebrities.

The voluptuous Loren, who still sports plunging necklines, said at the time she was thrilled by the experience. "I didn't think they would ask me such a thing," she said, "then thought, what the hell, I am going to do it anyway."

Bardot deliberately left behind the "demon-driven temptress," as she was dubbed in the 1956 film that propelled her to stardom -- first husband Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman, and lives in semi-seclusion passionately devoted to animal rights.

Crusading against bullfights, hunting, and all forms of cruelty to animals, she is rarely seen in public except to press home her campaigns. One such occasion was on her 72nd birthday when she came to Paris to mark her foundations' 20th anniversary, looking every bit her age and walking on crutches to relieve arthritic pain.

She also took a swipe last year at US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for calling herself a pit bull in lipstick. Bardot called Palin a "disgrace to women", saying "no pit bull ... is as dangerous as you are."

Born September 28, 1934, into a well-off Paris home, the French bombshell made it into Elle magazine with the help of family ties when only in her teens and at age 18 starred in a first film, before marrying first husband, Vadim.

Though the first of four marriages lasted only five years, her work with Vadim caused such scandal that B.B., as she was soon known, quickly became an icon of erotica for some, a symbol of liberation for others.

Seeing her sway to a sizzling mambo beat or stretch out in hot sand "will make you gasp and never forget", said the trailer of And God Created Woman.

Bardot, said feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir, "does what she pleases and that is what upsets."

Loren on the other hand, 75 on Sunday, was an illegitimate child raised by a single mother in abject poverty in the war-torn slums outside Naples.

After trying out for beauty contests, she scored a few small roles on screen and at only 16, in 1951, played a young slave girl. That same year she unveiled her breasts, posing nude for the first but very last time.

"When Sophia Loren is naked," she once said, "that is a lot of nakedness."

Commenting once on another Italian bombshell, Gina Lollobrigida, Loren said: "I don't think she's positively mad about me. Because I'm bigger than she? It's possible. Who knows?"

It was in 1953 that Loren's career really took off when she met husband-to-be Carlo Ponti, an already married producer 22 years her senior who later became the father of her two sons and with whom she lived until his death at 94 two years ago.

When they first married, Ponti was charged with bigamy after Italy would not recognise a Mexican divorce from his first wife. He and Loren annulled their marriage but continued living together -- a huge scandal at the time.

Loren worked with great Italian directors including Dino Risi, Vittorio De Sica and Ettore Scola but unlike Bardot, who starred with French legends such as Jean-Luc Godard or Louis Malle, went on to work in Hollywood.

Playing alongside stars such as Clark Gable, Peter Sellers, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra, she scooped an Oscar for Two Women in 1962 and a second in 1991 honouring her entire career.

Amid her 90-odd films -- she plans a biopic on her own life in which she will play her mother -- she co-starred in 13 with fellow Italian Marcello Mastroianni, probably her best-known partner.

It is Mastroianni who in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, a 1964 movie, sits on the bed staring and sweating and roaring with joy as the sex icon peels off her clothes, swinging suspender-belt and stockings.

Their last film together was the 1994 movie by Robert Altman Pret-a-porter.

Bardot, however, took her pretty pout off screen long ago.

Unable to look after her son by a second marriage and unable to cope with life as a celebrity, she resigned from film-making shortly before turning 40 to pose instead on icebergs alongside baby seals as she switched from sex symbol to saviour.

Despite starring in some legendary movies, she told reporters on turning 72 that her animal work was the "most wonderful success of my life."

Married to a former aide of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, she has been prosecuted several times for inciting racial hatred, including writings attacking what she called the "Islamisation" of France.

In the mid-90s Bardot crossed swords with Loren over ads in which the Italian actress appeared in furs.

"Wearing a fur is wearing a cemetery on your back," Bardot wrote.

Loren never responded.

Claire Rosemberg/AFP/Expatica

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