The voluptuous Sophia Loren was among the most successful international stars of the postwar era; not only did she rise to fame as a sex symbol, but she also won a measure of critical acclaim rarely afforded most of her foreign-born contemporaries. Born Sofia Scicolone in Rome on September 20, , she and her single mother lived in abject poverty in the war-torn slums of Naples. At the age of 14, she began entering area beauty contests, later becoming a model and appearing in a number of uncredited bit parts in films. After winning a beauty contest in Rome, Loren was signed to a film contract by producer Carlo Ponti, who began grooming her for stardom by recruiting drama coaches and casting her in small movie roles, including an appearance in the smash Anna, under the name "Sofia Lazzaro. By the mid-'50s, Loren was a star in Italy as well as a major sex symbol, but with the exception of 's Attila Flagello di Dio, co-starring Anthony Quinn, few of her pictures were distributed internationally. That changed with Vittorio de Sica's L'Oro di Napoli, which was recut and dubbed for foreign sale, resulting in poor reviews.