In 1957 one photo came to life that became an international sensation. It might be the most famous case of celebrity shade-throwing ever: Sophia Loren casting a sideways glance at Mansfield’s huge cleavage. It became wildly famous for multiple reasons. As you can see, Loren’s expression in the picture alone says a lot.
The story goes that Italian actress Sophia Loren was being welcomed to Hollywood by Paramount Pictures at a dinner party at Romanoff’s restaurant in Beverly Hills. Loren had achieved considerable success in Europe as an actress. She had been the most photographed actor at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.
During that same year, 20th Century-Fox had begun to market American actress Jayne Mansfield as the studio’s “blonde-bombshell” successor to Marilyn Monroe after the success of the 1956 film The Girl Can’t Help It. Mansfield, herself a successful actress with film and Broadway credits as well as having appeared in Playboy Magazine as the Playmate of the Month, was widely known for staging publicity stunts which garnered nationwide attention, such as when her top fell off in a pool while surrounded by journalists.
According to Loren, Mansfield was the last person to arrive at the dinner and walked directly to her table, where she was seated between Loren and her dinner companion Clifton Webb.
Mansfield, wearing a backless satin dress in her signature pink color with a deep, plunging neckline, was photographed at the table during the dinner as Loren looks on at her revealing dress. Mansfield’s dress, which was worn without a bra, appears to expose one of her nipples in some photos.
Overall, Loren was captured in several images staring at Mansfield’s exposed breasts. More than one photographer captured the moment; both Delmar Watson and Joe Shere caught Loren casting a glance from the corners of her eyes at Mansfield’s bust. Shere’s image received world-wide attention, appearing in newspapers and magazines with the word censored hiding the actress’s exposed bosom.
Fearful of public outrage, most Italian newspapers refused to print the wirephotos; Il Giorno and Gazzetta del Popolo printed them after retouching to cover much of Mansfield’s bosom, and only Il Giornale d’Italia printed them uncensored.
In November 2015, Loren described the dinner and incident in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: Paramount had organized a party for me. 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. She sat down. And now, she was barely… Listen. Look at the picture. 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.
Although Loren is frequently asked to autograph a copy of the photograph, she refuses, preferring to separate herself from the incident instead. “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.”
(Photo credit: Life Magazine / Joe Shere / Getty Images / Corbis).