Theirs might not have been the most likely of pairings, but Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti's incredible romance is considered one of the greatest modern love stories.
It was in 1950 while working as a judge on Italy's 'Miss Eleganza' beauty contest that Carlo first set eyes on his future wife. At the time, he was 37 and a married man, while slum-raised Sophia was just 15 years old. But it was love at first sight.
Carlo, the producer behind classic films such as Doctor Zhivago, is credited with preparing Sofia for stardom, arranging for her to study acting and learn English. He also had her change her name from Sofia Scicolone and secured a number of film roles for the young actress.
Seven years later and the couple tied the knot on September 17, 1957. Already separated from his first wife Giuliana, with whom he had a son, the famous film producer obtained a quicky divorce in Mexico and in turn married Sophia by proxy. The newlyweds celebrated at home together with a private dinner and Carlo presented his new bride with her wedding ring.
But the following month Carlo was charged with bigamy when it emerged that the Catholic Church would not recognise their marriage. It took years of courtroom wrangling before he was cleared of the charge. There was nothing for the couple to do but annul their marriage, which they did in 1962.
Speaking about their ill-fated first union, Sophia once said: "I was being threatened with excommunication, with the everlasting fire, and for what reason? I had fallen in love with a man whose own marriage had ended long before… I wanted to be his wife and have his children.
"We had done the best the law would allow to make it official, but they were calling us public sinners. We should have been taking a honeymoon, but all I remember is weeping for hours."
After reaching an extraordinary agreement, Giuliana and the couple, embittered with Italy, moved to France in 1966 and obtained French citizenships allowing Carlo to legally seek a divorce and remarry. And on April 9 of that same year, screen beauty Sophia and her long-term lover were married by the Mayor of Sevres in the Parisian suburb's city hall.
Despite the 20-year age gap between Carlo and his beautiful wife, their unlikely union stood the test of time. The couple welcomed two children together, sons Carlo Jnr and Edoardo, and by the time of the Italian producer's death on January 10, 2007, at the grand age of 94, they had remained together for more than 50 years.
Two years after the death of her beloved husband, with whom she worked frequently throughout her career, Sofia was asked whether she would ever marry again. "No, never again," she replied. "It would be impossible to love anyone else."