Oscar Artists: Ponti, Carlo–Seminal Producer (Doctor Zhivago) Dies at 94

Jan 10, 2007–Carlo Ponti, the prolific Italian producer of classics such as “Dr. Zhivago,” “Blow Up,” and “Two Women,” which won his wife Sophia Loren the Best Actress Oscar, died in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday. He was 94.

Ponti made movies for over six decades in Italy, France, the UK and Hollywood, generating more than 150 feature films, often daring, risky, and experimentl ones.

Among those are: Fellini’s “La Strada,” Jean-Luc Godard’s “A Woman Is a Woman” and Andy Warhol’s “Flesh for Frankenstein” as well as more commercial fare like David Lean’s “Zhivago,” for which he was Oscar-nominated in 1966, and disaster movie “The Cassandra Crossing.”

Collaborating with Michelangelo Antonioni, Ponti made besides “Blow Up,” “Zabriskie Point” and the Jack Nicholson-starrer “The Passenger.”

Born in Magenta, near Milan, on Dec. 11, 1913, Ponti studied law and started out as a practicing lawyer before mounting his first film production, Mario Soldati’s period-piece “Piccolo Mondo Antico,” starring Alida Valli, in 1941.

After working with some of the best Italian directors of the day during the 1940s he partnered with Dino De Laurentiis in 1950, a collaboration which spawned some high-profile pics of that period, including King Vidor’s “War and Peace,” on which Ponti served as executive producer, before the pact dissolved in 1957.

Ponti spotted Loren when, as a 15-year-old, she took part in a beauty contest of which he was a judge. At 37, he was 22 years her senior, a father and mentor figure. He was instrumental for launching Loren’s career, paying for her acting and English lessons, changing her name from Sofia Lazzaro, and generally grooming Loren for the international stardom she attained with her 1961 Oscar for Vittorio De Sica’s “Two Women” (a role originally planned for Anna Magnani).

They married in Mexico when she was 22, in 1957. But that marriage was later annulled after Ponti, who had been previously married, ran into complictions with the Catholic Church and Italy’s divorce laws.

Ponti and Loren remarried in 1966 and have two children, Carlo Jr., an orchestra conductor, and Edoardo, a director, who has made a number of films with his mom.

Ponti had been admitted to a Geneva hospital about 10 days ago for pulmonary complications. He died on Wed, Jan 9.