Two Women

Two Women (Italian: La ciociara [la tʃoˈtʃaːra], roughly translated as "The Woman from Ciociaria") is a 1960 Italian film directed by Vittorio De Sica. It tells the story of a woman trying to protect her young daughter from the horrors of war. The film stars Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Raf Vallone, Eleonora Brown, Carlo Ninchi, and Andrea Checchi. The film was adapted by De Sica and Cesare Zavattini from the novel of the same name written by Alberto Moravia. The story is fictional, but based on actual events of July 1943 in Rome and rural Lazio, and during what the Italians call the Marocchinate.[3]

Two Women
Directed byVittorio De Sica
Produced byCarlo Ponti
Written byCesare Zavattini
Vittorio De Sica
Based onTwo Women
by Alberto Moravia
StarringSophia Loren
Jean-Paul Belmondo
Raf Vallone
Eleonora Brown
Music byArmando Trovajoli
CinematographyGábor Pogány
Edited byAdriana Novelli
Compagnia Cinematografica Champion
Les Films Marceau
Société Générale de Cinématographie (S.G.C.)
Distributed byTitanus Distribuzione (Italy)
Embassy Pictures (US)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (International)
Release date
  • 22 December 1960 (1960-12-22)
Running time
100 minutes
Box office$3.0 million (US and Canada rentals)[1]
2,024,049 admissions (France)[2]


Cesira (Loren) is a widowed shopkeeper, raising her devoutly religious twelve-year-old daughter, Rosetta (Brown), in Rome during World War II. In July 1943, following the Allied bombing of Rome, mother and daughter flee to Cesira's native Ciociaria, a rural, mountainous province of central Italy. The night before they go, Cesira sleeps with Giovanni (Vallone), a coal dealer in her neighbourhood, who agrees to look after her store in her absence.

After they arrive at Ciociaria, Cesira attracts the attention of Michele (Belmondo), a young local intellectual with communist sympathies. Rosetta sees Michele as a father figure and develops a strong bond with him. Michele is later taken prisoner by German soldiers, who force him to act as a guide through the mountainous terrain.

After the Allies capture Rome, in June 1944, Cesira and Rosetta decide to head back to that city. On the way, the two are gang-raped inside a church by a group of Moroccan Goumiers soldiers attached to the invading Allied Armies in Italy. Rosetta is traumatized, becoming detached and distant from her mother and no longer an innocent child.

When the two manage to find shelter at a neighbouring village, Rosetta disappears during the night, sending Cesira into a panic. She thinks Rosetta has gone to look for Michele, but later finds out that Michele was killed by the Germans. Rosetta returns, having been out with an older boy, who has given her silk stockings, despite her youth. Cesira is outraged and upset, slapping and spanking Rosetta for her behavior, but Rosetta remains unresponsive, emotionally distant. When Cesira informs Rosetta of Michele's death, Rosetta begins to cry like the little girl she had been prior to the rape. The film ends with Cesira comforting the child.



The film was based on a 1957 novel by Alberto Moravia, La ciociara (The Woman From Ciociaria). It was inspired by Moravia's experiences during World War II.

Carlo Ponti bought the film rights along with Marcello Girosi for a reported US$100,000. Sophia Loren was always meant to star and there was some talk that the film might be financed by Paramount, with whom Loren had made a number of movies.[4] Anna Magnani was going to play the lead and Loren was going to be her daughter. George Cukor was going to direct as part of a two-picture deal with Ponti, the other one being Heller in Pink Tights (1960).[5] The film was going to be shot as part of a six-picture deal between Ponti and Paramount.[6]

Cukor and Paramount dropped out. Vittorio De Sica became attached as director. Magnani pulled out, supposedly because she did not want to play Loren's mother, leading to Loren taking Magnani's role, even though the former was only 26 at the time.[7] However, De Sica says it was his decision for Loren to play Magnani's role and cast a younger performer as the daughter "for great poignancy. If, in doing this, we moved away from original line of Moravia, we had better opportunity to stress, to underline, the monstrous impact of war on people. The historical truth is that the great majority of those raped were young girls."[8] In a 2017 interview, Brown stated that Loren protected her from some of the underlying implications of the rape scene in the film, and also stated that director De Sica brought her to tears for the climatic final scene of hearing that Belmondo's character has died, by saying that a telegram had arrived saying that Brown's parents had died in an accident.[9]

Magnani said she was going to do it, "Moravia wanted me, but Ponti got it, and Moravia did not fight. After that, they went through all the roles I'd turned down for Sophia Loren to play."[10] "The book was one of the most beautiful I've ever read", said Loren. "I thought it was worth taking the risk at 25 to play an older woman because the story was so beautiful."[11] Loren later said her performance was inspired by her memories of her mother during the war.[12] She also said she was greatly helped by her experience acting in Desire Under the Elms (1958).[11]

Ponti raised money from France and Italy. French investment was conditional upon a French star being used, which lead to the casting of Jean Paul Belmondo, who had leapt to international fame in Breathless (1960). Belmondo's voice was dubbed into Italian.


Joseph E. Levine agreed to buy US release rights after watching only nine minutes of the film.[13] "I bet Sophia she'd win the Oscar and I nursed that film like a baby", Levine later said.[14] He showed the film in every city that a member of the Academy jury lived and promoted it assiduously. "That showed foreign films could get big audiences if promoted with flair", said Levine.[14]

The movie was among the 30 most popular films at the French box office that year.[15]


The film won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Sophia Loren. The film was heavily promoted by its North American distributor, Joseph E. Levine.[16] This was the first time an acting Oscar had been given for a non-English-speaking performance, although she made the English dubbing for her role herself. Loren was too nervous to attend the ceremony and elected to stay in Rome instead. Greer Garson accepted the award on Loren's behalf.

Loren also won the award for Best Actress at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival.[17] Loren won 22 international awards for Two Women.


La Ciociara was remade for television in 1988. It was adapted by Diana Gould, Lidia Ravera, Dino Risi, and Bernardino Zapponi. It was directed by Risi, and starred Loren, Robert Loggia, Leonardo Ferrantini, Dario Ghirardi, and Sydney Penny. An opera, La Ciociara, in a re-write by scenario writer Luca Rossi, with music composed by Marco Tutino, received its premiere at San Francisco Opera,[18] and a European premiere at Teatro Lirico, Cagliari.[19]


  1. "Tracking the Players". Variety. January 18, 1993. p. 36.
  2. "Box office information for Jean Paul Belmondo films", Box Office Story
  3. 1952: Il caso delle “marocchinate” al Parlamento Accessed 9 December 2017
  4. Pryor, Thomas (13 May 1958). "JAPANESE MOVIE WILL BE ADAPTED: Alciona, U. S. Concern, to Make 'Magnificent 7' -- Moravia Novel Eyed". New York Times. p. 26.
  5. "FILM EVENTS: Cukor to Direct Loren". Los Angeles Times. 4 June 1958. p. C8.
  6. Pryor, Thomas (6 February 1959). "PRODUCERS PLAN 6 PICTURES BY '61: Ponti and Girosi Will Work With Paramount -- Studio Plans Consolidation". New York Times. p. 21.
  7. Small, Pauline (2009). Sophia Loren: Moulding the Star. Intellect Books. p. 77.
  8. Scheuer, Philip K. (27 Nov 1961). "De Sica Would Dig for 'Deepest Layer': Ace 'Two Women' Director Says Realism Still Dominant". Los Angeles Times. p. C15.
  9. Scotti, Paolo (2017-11-04). "La piccola "Ciociara" torna al cinema". Il Giornale. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  10. Shivasrome, Mark (29 Sep 1968). "In the Beginning There Was Magnani. Then Came Loren. 'Ecco!'". New York Times. p. D17.
  11. von Faber, Karin (27 Oct 1974). "Positively Sophia: Sophia Loren talks about movies, her husband and children, being 40, and the power of positive thinking". Chicago Tribune. p. h56.
  12. "The actress wins an Oscar--and a name". Chicago Tribune. 21 March 1979. p. b1.
  13. Schumach, Murray (9 Nov 1961). "MOVIE PRODUCER SELLS THE PUBLIC: Joseph E. Levine Believes in Extravagant Openings". New York Times. p. 39.
  14. Rosenthal, Donna (5 July 1987). "Self-Made Mogul Hangs On: Joseph E. Levine, 82, Is Still Wheeling and Dealing". Los Angeles Times. p. K23.
  15. "1961 Box Office". Box Office Story.
  16. "Joseph E. Levine", Wikipedia, 2019-10-03, retrieved 2019-10-12
  17. "Festival de Cannes: Two Women". Retrieved 2009-02-20.
  18. Two Women (La Ciociara) - premiered at San Francisco Opera - Composer: Marco Tutino Accessed 9 December 2017
  19. "Cagliari, prima europea de La Ciociara Compositore Tutino, una storia di cui si parla poco" at Accessed 13 December 2017
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