Born near Milan in 1912, Ponti studied law before becoming a film producer in the 1930's. He is responsible for film masterpieces such as Federico Fellini's La Strada, Vittorio De Sica's Bocaccio, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up and David Lean's Dr. Zhivago.
Ponti's repertoire includes over 150 film productions - in his early career he produced serious films by directors such as Pietro Germi (Lost Youth), and Luigi Zampa (A Yank in Rome).
In 1950 he began to work alongside Dino De Laurentiis but the pair split in 1957 to produce films independently. While partners they produced films by directors who would achieve international reputations such as Roberto Rossellini (Europa '51) and Federico Fellini (La Strada).
Many of Ponti's films from the 1960s were Franco Italian pictures - he worked with Jean-Luc Goddard, Michelangelo Antonioni, (Blow-Up, Zabriskie Point, and The Passenger), Agnes Varda, Claude Chabrol, Vittorio De Sica, and Roman Polanski - during this period few major directors did not work under his tutelage.
In addition the massive body of films he produced, Ponti is arguably better known as the driving force behind the career of his wife, actress Sophia Loren. The two met when she was a 15 year old ingenue. Ponti was 25 years her senior. Their ensuing relationship created scandal as they tried to marry via proxy in Mexico in 1957 only to find Italy's stringent catholic laws did not recognize the marriage.
Ponti was slapped with charges of bigamy and in order to obtain a divorce from Giuliana Fiastri, his first wife, the trio became French citizens. Ponti officially married Loren in France in 1966.
Although often beleaguered by legal troubles in different periods of his life (he was in trouble with the Italian government regarding illegal currency transfers in the 1970's) Ponti produced major films by major directors and helped bring Italian and French films international recognition. His influence as a producer of Italian films was second only to that of De Laurentiis, and Ponti's is a lasting contribution to international cinema.
Carlo Ponti is survived by his wife Loren and three sons Carlo Jr., Alex and Eduardo. Loren released a simple press statement including the note 'Carlo's life was dedicated to cinema and he was surrounded by the affection of his family.'