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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 11:52 GMT
Obituary: Carlo Ponti

Carlo Ponti
Prolific film producer Ponti was born in northern Italy in 1912

Carlo Ponti's prolific cinema output made him one of the world's leading film producers, but his success was often overshadowed by his marriage to Sophia Loren and his recurring problems with the taxman.

Critically acclaimed films like La Strada, The Cassandra Crossing, Dr. Zhivago and Blowup secured Ponti's reputation as a leading Italian cinematic light.

He began producing films shortly before World War II, and his success continued through six decades of European cinema.

Ponti first glimpsed Sophia Loren in a beauty contest. Although she came second, he gave her a screen test and advanced her career with a succession of low-budget Italian productions.

Legal wrangles

After their wedding in 1957, the glamorous couple faced their first legal challenge.

The Catholic Church refused to grant Ponti a divorce from his first wife, and the producer faced years of courtroom wrangling before he was cleared of bigamy.

Sophia Loren in Two Women
The Ponti-produced Two Women won Loren the best actress Oscar

He and Loren had to have their marriage annulled and their Italian passports sacrificed before finally remarrying in 1966, this time as French citizens.

It was the first of a series of clashes with Italian authorities.

Throughout the late 1970s and early 80s, Ponti was charged with crimes of fraud, embezzlement and the illegal export of currency and art treasures.

Although he was later cleared of nearly all these charges, his villa was impounded at the time, and Ponti sentenced to a jail term and huge fines.

Only his recently acquired French nationality prevented his extradition.

International success

The on-going off-screen drama tended to overshadow Ponti's work as a film producer.

However his achievements ranked alongside Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini, and helped keep the Italian film industry accessible and diversive.

His initial partnership with fellow producer Dino De Laurentis produced films including the influential La Strada (1954), but Ponti branched out on his own in the mid-1950's.

Julie Christie and Omar Sharif in Dr Zhivago
Doctor Zhivago thrust Ponti into the international spotlight
He scored both popular and critical success with a string of international productions, working with directors including Vittorio De Sica and Jean-Luc Godard.

With David Lean, he created the epic Doctor Zhivago in 1965, earning his only Oscar nomination and bringing him to the attention of English-speaking film-goers.

Zabriskie Point, Blood Money and The Cassandra Crossing were some of his later successes.

His passion for film was such that sons Eduardo, Carlo and Alex - the latter by his first marriage - all became involved in the film industry although Carlo Jr later became a conductor.

Like many figures in film, Ponti lived a life of excess - with his prodigious body of work, his native government snapping at his heels and, for more than 40 years, one of the world's great beauties on his arm.

Italian film producer Ponti dies
10 Jan 07 |  Entertainment

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