Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Sophia Loren Story

Well, actually, it is not my Sophia Loren story, but rather my Grandfather Darling's story of a chance encounter with the beautiful and talented actress.

Sophia Loren in 1958
Publicity still for "Houseboat" released that year
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

In 1958 my grandfather retired from a long and satisfying career as the minister of a large and robust protestant congregation in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.  As a retirement gift the church gave him and my grandmother a six-week, all-expenses-paid vacation in Europe that included round-trip first-class passage on the S.S. United States, the fastest and most luxurious American ocean liner on the seas at the time.

The S.S. United States (bottom) and its sister ship, the S.S. America (top),
passing each other in New York Harbor in the 1950s
Image courtesy of City Noise

The S.S. United States' passenger list included a number of notables during my grandparents' voyages, including the young actress Sophia Loren on the outbound trip from New York.  In 1958 Miss Loren had already become a glittering superstar.  Her presence on the ship created a sensation among the passengers and crew.

Sophia Loren in 1958
Publicity still for "Houseboat"
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

One afternoon, while my grandfather was strolling the liner's decks, he paused at the railing to gaze out over the Atlantic Ocean.  As he stood there he reflected on his life leading up to the voyage and how fortunate he felt to be standing there, looking out to sea and forward to his retirement.

Grandfather Darling in 1956
Photographed for the Detroit Free Press
Image courtesy of GSL

My grandfather became aware of the presence of a woman standing near him, also gazing out at the ocean.  He turned to look at her and she turned to meet his gaze, and smiled.  It was Sophia Loren.

"How beautiful it is to see the sea like this, is it not?" she asked him.

"Yes it is," he responded, "it is lovely."

"We are fortunate, no?"

"There are none so fortunate as I, Miss Loren," my grandfather answered, "to have the pleasure of sharing this view at this moment with a lady as beautiful as you."

Sophia Loren in 1958
Publicity still for "Houseboat"
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

She laughed, touched his arm, and said, "You are too kind, thank you."

He responded, "Thank you, Miss Loren, you have made this old man's day."

She smiled again, turned, and started to walk away.  As she did so she looked back at him, smiled once more, and said, "No, sir, it is you who have made mine.  Thank you."

My grandfather told me this charming story one day over lunch when I was a teenager.  I had completely forgotten it until only several months ago, when I had lunch with a cousin of mine who reminded me of it.

19 comments:

  1. Wow! What a story! Beautiful post R!

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  2. Great anecdote. Sadly, the majestic ship you mention is rusting at anchor here in the harbor in Philadelphia.

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    1. Hello MLS, I must visit it, then, when I am next in Philadelphia! Thank you, Reggie

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  3. Wonderful story Reggie and you obviously have inherited Grandfather Darling's gift for enhancing life's simple pleasures by sharing them with family, friends, or new acquaintances. By the way, who is the brass bust of next to Grandfather Darling?...looks like it could be a young Mark Twain?

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    1. Hello GSL, Thank you for your comment, and thank you-again-for sending me the photograph of my Grandfather Darling used in this post! The bronze bust is of Albert Schweitzer, a mentor, friend, and spiritual inspiration to my grandfather. I believe the bust was a gift to him from Schweitzer himself. Thank you, Reggie

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    2. I thought the same, that Reggie clearly shares his grandfather's gift for the turn of phrase.

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  4. A delightful story! What a gracious gentleman your grandfather was and how lovely Ms. Loren's response to him. And how nice of you, Reggie, to share this with us.

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  5. Reggie:

    What a great story! I can see the family resemblance too....

    Off to Philadelphia on Saturday for a wedding on the Main Line...taking your lead from the Bmore/DC trip and staying at the Four Seasons with Mrs. Mink and The Boys. Going to take a look at the United States, which is berthed on the east side of the city....in fact just today bought a new book about the architect of the SSUS..."A Man and His Ship."

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  6. Awwww! What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  7. What a wonderfully sweet story! Sophia Loren-such an epic beauty. I do believe she must be my very favourite of all those beautiful stars from eras past.
    My mother had a chance encounter with a gorgeous movie star herself in the 1950's. She was shopping in Dublin's most elegant department store (the equivalent of Bergdorf's let's say) and to her horror, she tripped and fell. A hand reached down to help her and she recalls looking up into the most handsome face she'd ever seen (she had not met my father yet :) )
    It was Rock Hudson!!
    Needless to say, a moment relived and retold many times!

    Best,
    SP

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  8. I restored a Federal upstate and never had so much fun. Had a St Bernard instead of a pug but... I can see why you enjoy my blog... I'm loving yours! I guess we are kindred spirits.

    A great story... what a day it must have been for your gramps.

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  9. Reggie what an adventure it must have been for your grandfather to meet Miss Loren. This is a wonderful story.

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena
    2012 Artists Series

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  10. Absolutely delicious! If only twitter and blogging were around then. (Actually better they were not.) Such class....a real star.
    Cheers,
    Loi

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  11. The America and the United States were such beautiful streamlined ships.

    I have only travelled on the more utilitarian P&O Oriana and the Arcadia in 1961. I was 3 and have a few very small memories of these boats.

    There are photos of me and my younger sister winning prizes at a fancy dress competition.

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  12. What a lovely, charming story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  13. What a delightful story! Thank you for sharing it with us all.

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  14. Oh that is just wonderful. Humility and beauty? Well she had it all and what a heady experience for a Presbyter!

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