Boy on a Dolphin (1957): First American Movie Starring Sex Goddess Sophia Loren

boy_on_a_dolphin_posterItalian sex goddess Sophia Loren made her American film debut in 1957, age 23, with this glossy romantic adventure, directed by Jean Negulesco.

Produced by Samuel G. Engel, the film is based upon the script by Ivan Moffat and Dwight Taylor, from the novel by David Divine. It was set and partially shot on the Greek island of Hydra. Filmed in Cinemascope with vivid colors, courtesy of the distinguished Cinematographer Milton R. Krasner, “Boy on a Dolphin” offered many visual pleasures, in addition to gazing at the gorgeous Loren.

Loren plays Phaedra, a female sponge diver, an excuse to display her voluptuous body and sexy curves in tight shorts and skirts. While combing the waters, Phaedra discovers the wreckage of a sunken ship with some fascinating artifacts, including a statue of a boy astride a dolphin. When Phaedra tells her boyfriend Rhif (Jorge Mistral) about the find, he is convinced that the statue is valuable, and he begins making plans to bring it to dry land for sale.


Looking for help, they approach Dr. James Calder (Alan Ladd), an American archeologist working on a project for aboy_on_a_dolphin_1_loren Greek museum. Calder wants the statue but can’t pay for it. He wants Phaedra and Rhif to donate it to his museum as an example of Greek statuary. Greedy, Rhif turns to Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb), a wealthy American art collector intrigued by the statue and other valuables that might be in the ship.

Rhif and Victor make plans to salvage the ship’s contents and send them back to America, for which Rhif is promised handsome fees. But Phaedra finds herself attracted to Calder, especially after she is disgusted by Victor’s blunt offer to make her his mistress. A hot romance ensues, with the couple determined to rescue the ship’s valuables before Rhif and Parmalee can get them.

The love scenes between Sophia Loren and Alan Ladd presented problems for director Negulesco and his crew The boy_on_a_dolphin_6_lorendisparity in heights between the 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) Loren and 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) Ladd created a complicated shoot. Some of their scenes together required him to stand on a box, while another forced a trench to be dug for Loren when the pair walked along the beach. This was way before the public accepted such couples as Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

The sultry theme song often attributed to Julie London (though she did record her own version accompanied only by a guitar) is actually sung by Mary Kay in the movie and is performed over the stunning underwater title sequence:

There’s a tale that they tell of a dolphin

And a boy made of gold.

With the shells and the pearls in the deep,

He has lain many years fast asleep

What they tell of the boy on a dolphin,

Who can say if it’s true?

Should he rise from the depths of the ocean,

Any wish that you wish may come true.

You say “he’s only a statue, and what can a statue achieve?”

And yet, while I’m gazing at you,

My heart tells my head to believe.

If the boy whom the gods have enchanted

Should arise from the sea,

And the wish of my heart could be granted,

I would wish that you loved only me.

Sophia Loren sings “What is this thing they call love” by Tony Maroudas in a duet with a local performer (Tony himself) at an al fresco café.

Hugo Friedhofer’s score was nominated for the Best Music Oscar Award (See below).


Alan Ladd as Dr. James Calder

Clifton Webb as Victor Parmalee

Sophia Loren as Phaedra

Alex Minotis as Milidias Nadapoulos

Jorge Mistral as Rhif

Laurence Naismith as Dr. Hawkins

Piero Giagnoni as Niko

Gertrude Flynn as Miss Dill


Released: May 16, 1957

Running time: 120 minutes

Twentieth Century Fox

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