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biography & background
by Stuart McCarthy
Full Name: Sophia Francesca Bianco (formerly Casadonte)
Breed/Gender: Ibizan Hound/Female.
Date of Birth: 11 September, 1911.
Place of Birth: Como, Italy to Giuseppe Casadonte & Olivia Medsano.
Occupation: Racing pilot, aircraft designer and part-time Hollywood actress.
Background: Sophia Casadonte was born into a wealthy, middle-class Italian family. Her father, Giuseppe, was an avid flying enthusiast and aeronautical engineer, who worked for the Savoia-Marchetti company. Young Sophia took a keen interest in her father's work. She would quite often pay her father regular visits at his workshop in the family home. It was during this time that Sophia learned the trade she was to achieve success in, later on in life.
There were occasions where Giuseppe would often take his beloved daughter up on flights in his homemade two-seater plane. In 1928, at the age of seventeen, Sophia designed and built (with a helping hand from her father) her first-ever competition plane, the 'Aquila' (Eagle) which she entered in the Schneider Trophy race the following year, and came in second place. Her lucrative career as a racing pilot got off to a 'flying start'.
In the summer of 1930, Giuseppe was offered a well-paid job at the Caproni-Campini plant in Milan. As a result, the Casadonte family had to uproot to set up home near the city. One advantage of this was that Giuseppe had, by then, gained such a well-deserved reputation as an innovative aeronautical engineer, designer and aerodynamicist, that he was appointed as head of Caproni-Campini's design & research department. He even played a key role in the CC1 jet-plane programme. Guiseppe also acted as his daughter's mentor. He taught her everything he knew about aircraft design.
Throughout the early 1930s, Sophia really began to make a name for herself as an accomplished racing pilot. It was while she was participating in an air-race in America in 1934, that she attracted the attention of the powerful Hollywood mogul, Anton Steinberg (who also happened to be one of the financial backers of the race). Steinberg was looking for a prime candidate to attend an audition for the part of the lead actress in his upcoming feature film, "Winged Marauders" (1934).
Mr. Steinberg was so taken in by Sophia's looks and charm, he offered her the opportunity to audition for the lead female part in his film. Little did Sophia know that her life was about to take a rather surprising turn.
Fortunately, Sophia had a natural flair for drama and an adventurous spirit. This stood her in good stead. She managed to make the grade out of a hundred hopefuls and was given the part.
During the filming of "Winged Marauders", another man was to come into Sophia's life—namely Hollywood heart-throb, Federico 'Freddy' Bianco, who was the lead actor in the film.
He and Sophia starred together in a number of block-busting adventure films made for Steinberg pictures from the medieval adventure "The Lady In Silk" (1935), to the historical drama "The Black Queen" (1936) and the "O'Rourke's Avengers" serial (1937).
They also both starred in the romantic adventure, "Donnelly of Tangiers" (1938), the screwball comedy, "Hetty Gets Her Man" (1939) and the swash-buckling pirate adventure, "Rose of the High Seas"—a Technicolor extravaganza which was one of the biggest box-office smashes of 1940!!!
This marked the beginning of Sophia's rise to the status of being one of Hollywood's leading ladies. She went on to win the hearts and admiration of the American movie-going public, yet, in spite of all this, Sophia always maintained strong ties with her family back home in Italy.
All this, however, had not dampened her enthusiasm for competition flying.
Freddy and Sophia developed a very close relationship during their time working together. It wasn't long before the happy couple started courting. It was while in the middle of filming "O'Rourke's Avengers" that Freddy finally proposed to Sophia. Naturally, she said 'yes'.
They finally tied the knot on October 15th, 1937 (a day before the premiere of "O'Rourke's Avengers") at a lavish ceremony held at St. Monica's Catholic Church, in Los Angeles. Their producer, Anton Steinberg, was, in a way, rather like a father figure to Sophia. He helped to organize the ceremony, and even went as far as to buy the both of them a new, custom-built Packard Phaeton car as a wedding present!!
Even Sophia's family and relatives were flown over to America from Italy specially to attend this momentous occasion. The Biancos' fairytale marriage was front page news all over the nation! It seemed as if fortune had smiled upon Sophia.
However, a black cloud was to appear on the horizon of Sophia's life. Her father Giuseppe, who was a devoted pacifist, was very outspoken in his profound dislike for the Fascist regime. He formed a small group of anti-Fascist protesters who called themselves the 'Milanese People's Front' who engaged in a series of public demonstrations. Understandably, this ruffled the feathers of some of the inner party members of Mussolini's government.
Disaster struck on July 25th, 1939, when Giuseppe set off on a round-the-world record flight. Around a day later, Giuseppe, along with his plane, disappeared in suspicious circumstances somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
It is commonly believed that some irate inner party members arranged to have him assassinated, as they felt that he had become a major threat to the party. Unfortunately, no evidence has yet shown up to confirm these claims.
Not long after, Sophia's family (her mother, Olivia, along with the rest of the Casadonte clan) fled Italy for a new life in the States, where they set up home in Beverly Hills.
Although devastated upon hearing the news of her father's mysterious disappearance, Sophia has never given up in looking for her father, in the hope that they will both be re-united someday.
More recently, Sophia has been throwing herself into her work and has recently been spending a lot of her time embarking on an extended tour of the South Pacific, and competing in numerous air-races and shows with her sleek, black-and-gold racer seaplane, the 'Belladonna'.
Sophia and her husband are currently working on their next feature film and own three luxury properties situated in Beverly Hills, the Yucatan and Maui.