You’ve seen the photo. The black-and-white snap from 1957 shows two glamorous women, actors Jayne Mansfield and Sophia Loren. The blonde Mansfield, wearing a low-cut dress that shows off her ample cleavage, smiles at the camera. Meanwhile, Loren, who is seated next to Mansfield at the table, appears to be shooting some serious side-eye at the other woman. Though decades old, the picture remains one of the most recognizable celebrity photos of all time. But what’s the real story behind the image?
Jayne Mansfield was invited to a party honoring Sophia Loren
In 1957, the Italian actor Loren — who most recently appeared in the 2020 Netflix release The Life Ahead — had just signed a contract with Paramount. The studio threw a party in her honor, and Mansfield was on the guest list. At the time, Mansfield was being marketed as a new blonde bombshell in the mold of Marilyn Monroe and had landed starring roles in The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Though Loren was the guest of honor, Mansfield made a grand entrance.
“Paramount had organized a party for me,” the then 80-year-old Loren recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 2014. “All of cinema was there, it was incredible. And then comes in Jayne Mansfield, the last one to come. For me, that was when it got amazing.”
“She came right for my table. She knew everyone was watching,” the Marriage Italian Style actor said.
Sophia Loren reveals exactly what she was thinking
In the interview, Loren confirmed that her expression basically captured exactly what she was thinking in the moment.
“She sat down. And now, she was barely… Listen. Look at the picture,” she said. “Where are my eyes? I’m staring at her nipples because I am afraid they are about to come onto my plate. In my face you can see the fear. I’m so frightened that everything in her dress is going to blow — BOOM! — and spill all over the table.”
Though there are a number of photos of the two actors from that night, it’s the famous side-eye image that really captured Loren’s experience of the event, she said.
“Well, there may be other photos, but this is the picture. This is the one that shows how it was. This is the only picture,” she said.
Why Sophia Loren refuses to sign the famous photo
Loren is well aware of how famous the photo of her and Mansfield is. But she told Entertainment Weekly that when fans ask her to autograph it, she refuses.
“I never do,” Loren said. “I don’t want to have anything to do with that. And also out of respect for Jayne Mansfield because she’s not with us anymore.” (Mansfield died in a car accident in 1967.)
Jayne Mansfield was more than a sex symbol, says daughter Mariska Hargitay
Mansfield’s curvy figure made her a midcentury sex symbol, but she was more than her va-va-voom appearance, according to her daughter Mariska Hargitay.
“My mother was this amazing, beautiful, glamorous sex symbol — but people didn’t know that she played the violin and had a 160 IQ and had five kids and loved dogs,” the Law & Order: SVU star told People in 2018. “She was just so ahead of her time. She was an inspiration, she had this appetite for life, and I think I share that with her.”