Oscar season is upon us and with it comes the discussion of film legends who never won an Academy Award. While on this topic, it is important to acknowledge how many great producers are ignored by Oscar due to the fact that foreign films are rarely nominated for Best Picture. Carlo Ponti was such a great producer, and with his death today, he misses the opportunity of ever receiving an Academy Award, even a lifetime achievement honor.

Ponti is not well known, but he should be. Aside from the fact that he discovered Sophia Loren, whose film career he jump-started and who he married (twice -- kind of), he also produced films for many of the masters of cinema, including Antonioni (Blow Up; Zabriskie Point; The Passenger), Fellini (La Strada), de Sica (basically any of his starring Loren), Demy (Lola), Godard (A Woman is a Woman; The Riflemen; Contempt), Polanski (What?), Melville (Le Doulos; The Forgiven Sinner), Forman (The Fireman's Ball), Varda (Cléo from 5 to 7) and Lean (Doctor Zhivago). Some of his films were nominated for the foreign language Oscar, and a couple won the award, but Ponti was only nominated once, for Zhivago, in the Best Picture category (which is oftentimes considered the Best Producer category). Of course, he did get to help his wife win an Oscar, at least -- for de Sica's Two Women. Ponti had a long-time partnership with Dino De Laurentiis, who is probably more familiar to movie fans. One of the last films they worked on as partners was Mario Camerini'sUlysses, which I think is interesting because Ponti later produced Contempt, Godard's masterpiece about the making of a similarly epic movie also based on The Odyssey. As I read up on Ponti's career, I had hoped to find out that Ponti had some kind of self-referential, parodic intentions in his involvement. Unfortunately the only trivia I discovered was that Godard was unhappy with Ponti's work on the film.

Regardless of what Godard thought, however, it is certain that Ponti helped to make some of the finest films ever made.
categories Cinematical