Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cinematic Venus: Sophia Loren in Boy on a Dolphin

One of the very first films we saw on colour television was Boy on a Dolphin (1957).   This Greek-set drama was the first film that introduced Sophia Loren to American and British audiences and the director takes every opportunity to display her abundant charms.

Loren (an Italian of course) plays Phaedra, a Greek sponge diver, who discovers an ancient statue of a boy on a dolphin at the bottom of the sea.  Of course a number of others want to possess the statue for their own nefarious reasons.

Loren  will have to choose between her shifty Albanian boyfriend and heroic Alan Ladd (a late replacement for Cary Grant who wanted to spend time with his wife, Betsy Drake, who had just survived the sinking of the Italian liner Andrea Doria).  Loren had just shot The Pride and the Passion (1957) (Boy on a Dolphin was released first, however) with Grant and there were rumours of an affair, as his marriage with Drake was under stress.  The producers were hoping to exploit this relationship.

We saw this film when we were about eight or nine on our uncle's new colour TV.   Colour TVs were very unusual in the late sixties in Britain; largely because you had to pay over £300 for one,  We were struck by two things: The splendid location photography and the excellent music by Hugo Friedhofer (which was nominated for an Oscar).

One thing we weren't struck by at that age, sadly, was the luminous Loren in her American film debut.  She had just turned twenty-two when filming began and was more delicious than a plate of meze.  This picture became a popular poster and really launched her as a sex symbol, understandably.

Her opening scenes, when she swims underwater and emerges from the sea onto her boyfriend's boat displayed her principal assets most enticingly and, indeed, daringly, for a US film at the time.

Director Jean Negulesco designed Loren's outfit for this scene and based it on the clothes worn by Japanese pearl fishing girls.  He had ensured that the top half of her costume was double-lined to prevent trouble from the censors but Loren's perky anatomy unexpectedly overcame that.

The director and most of the crew had worked on the successful film Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), which had been shot on location in Rome.  Twentieth Century Fox had hoped for a similarly popular European-set drama. Despite Miss Loren's abundant charms and the location shooting, largely on Hydra, the film was not a big hit, however.

Part of the reason was the total lack of chemistry between the stars.  Alan Ladd, barely spoke to Loren during the production, possibly annoyed that at 5'6" she was taller than him.  He insisted that she walk in a trench or stood in a hole during their scenes together.  Ladd was also rumoured to have become addicted to ouzo during the shoot.

The real annoyance for Ladd, however, was that the director gave more and more screen time to Loren, not surprisingly, and Ladd later complained that all anyone saw of him was the back of his head!  To be fair who could compete with such a siren?

Fortunately, after many years of being unavailable the film has just been re-released on DVD in Britain.

The film was largely shot on the island of Hydra; the only Greek island that doesn't allow cars or motorbikes.  


  1. A reminder of how gorgeous she was.

  2. Triple P,

    An excellent feature on a timeless beauty. Can I suggest an occasional series on screen icons of yesteryear; the list is endless, Bardot, Moreau, Deneuve, Adjani, Huppert, Ardant, Muti, Lollobrigida, Vitti, Cardinale, Christie, Bisset, Bergen, etc.

  3. I've got a Bardot feature in preparation but there are some excellent suggestions here. Ornella Muti? Yes please!

  4. Triple P,

    Somehow I knew the wonderful Ornella Muti would excite you; very definitely a sensuous

  5. Triple P,

    Beautiful woman, great feature!

    Here is a challenge - you seem a real connoisseur of female beauty - who do you think was/is the most beautiful woman who ever lived?

    1. Now that is a challenge! I just looked at my files of actresses and came up with about five. Next I have to do that with models. Then Playboy Playmates etc.

      This could well be a whole post!

      I can guess one thing and that is that she will probably have brown eyes and black hair (despite my fondness for redheads!)