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Sophia Loren's husband Carlo Ponti passes away

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The husband of legendary screen beauty Sophia Loren has passed away peacefully at the age of 94. Italian film producer Caro Ponti, who discovered his wife's talents when she was a teenager, died on Tuesday night in a hospital in Switzerland, with Sophia and his children by his side.

Carlo's film career spanned 50 years, including such well-known classics as La Strada, Blow Up and The Cassandra Crossing and a 1966 Oscar nomination for producing Doctor Zhivago. He married Sophia, then 22 and almost 25 years his junior, by proxy in Mexico in 1957, with two male attorneys taking their places.

The union was annulled, however, because the Catholic church in Italy would not let him divorce his first wife Guilana, meaning he was still officially married. The couple eventually moved to France where Carlo gained French citizenship, which allowed him to divorce and remarry Sophia in 1966. They went on to have two sons, Carlo Ponti Jr, a music director, and film director Edoardo Ponti. He also had a son, producer Alex Ponti, from his first marriage.

"If you find the right person you have to stick to it," said Sophia two years ago. "He has been a pillar all of my life."

Milan-born Carlo first came across the sultry star when he was judging a beauty competition and she was a 15-year-old contestant. Grooming her for stardom, he changed her name and arranged acting and English lessons. His efforts resulted in Sophia becoming one of the most famous actresses of all time.

Photo: ©
Carlo was famous not only for his film producing career but also for discovering actress Sophia Loren, who would later become his wife Photo: © AFP
Photo: ©
The Italian producer made a name for himself in the movie business with classics such as Doctor Zhivago. He died peacefully on Tuesday night after spending ten days in a Swiss hospital with pulmonary complicationsPhoto: © Rex