From the Stacks: Sophia Loren visits the Panama Canal in 1980

As we continue to re-process the collections, we continually come across fascinating objects and images. Check out these photographs we found commemorating Sophia Loren’s visit to the Panama Canal in 1980!


The Italian actress earned several major awards throughout her career, including an Academy Award for Best Actress. While we don’t know the nature of her visit, we know that the Panama Canal was a frequent publicity stop for a multitude of public figures and celebrities.

At the 2018 Panama Canal Society Reunion, we’ll be focusing on Popular Culture in the Panama Canal Zone! Make sure to attend this exciting event at Orlando World Center Marriott on June 27 – July 1, 2018.

Do you remember any celebrity visits to the Panama Canal Zone? How do you think you experienced popular culture differently from people in the United States at the same time?


  • Robert Dryja

    You may want to check your records in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth arrived as a young lady on her yaught. You also may check for a man who wanted to be the first person from India to swim the Panama Canal. He swam on Gatun Lake but was not allowed to swim through the locks where he could have been pulled downward as a lock emptied of water.

  • Carol Meyer

    Prince Charles also visited at least once and Henry Stockwell has a photo of his hand holding a bird which had been mist netted on Pipeline Road. There was a long standing ornithological study at one of the old hunt camps with Earth Watch. And of course there were repeated visits from cast members of “General Hospital”, the soap watched by many in the Zone. I think Chris Robinson from GH had actually been required to come cheer the troops as part of an IRS arrangement. I once saw John Wayne at the Union Club. He owned at least one shrimp boat in Panama.

    • Fred Sill

      Sophia, as expected, caused quite a stir. The purpose of the visit, apparently, was for her husband and longtime manager, the Italian producer Carlo Ponti, to interest Panama in letting him create a major film production facility in the former Albrook airforce base, converting hangers into sound stages. A “Panama Hollywood”, as it were. The first production would be a film version of David McCullough’s “The Path Between the Seas” — starring Sophia, of course. Meetings with the head of government at the time, Omar Torrijos, were said to have fizzled when he (Torrijos) found out that Panama would be expected to foot most of the multi-million dollar costs.

      A few other Hollywood celebrities over the years were Irene Dunne, Lana Turner, Tyrone Power, and Cesar Romero. Going back even further were Mark Twain, and the French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who both took the railroad (this was pre-Canal time). Later, the Russian ballerina, Ana Pavlova passed through, and even performed for canal employees on a stage set up on Pier 18, in the port area.

      Charles Lindbergh flew down to Panama in 1927 in the “Spirit of St. Louis”, to inaugurate airmail service. It was a huge event. Actually, he had been on the isthmus in 1914, when he was ten years old. His mother had brought him to see the final stages of the construction.

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