This is the story between a photographer and his subject. I must admit, this was the beginning of my fascination with the tasteful beauty of woman, and Sophia set the pre-adolescent standards (1964, I was 7 at the time) for my future selection of women. Need I say, I tried hard, but…!
Powerful, enduring relationships sometimes develop between photographer and subject, and such was most definitely the case with LIFE’s Alfred Eisenstaedt and the luminous Italian movie star Sophia Loren. Over the course of their decades-long friendship, Eisenstaedt would take countless pictures of the Oscar-winning legend — most of which never made it into LIFE magazine, and many of which were never intended for the magazine.“Eisie must have shot thousands of pictures of me,” Loren once told LIFE.com, fondly recalling her camera-toting “shadow.” Here, on the Rome native’s 78th birthday, LIFE.com presents a series of Eisenstaedt’s finest portraits of Loren — many of which were not published in LIFE — made at the very height of her international fame.