September 14, 2004

Sophia Loren Turns 70 -- That's Right, 70!

ROME - Italians got a break from a steady stream of bad news about
terrorism and taxes Monday, to be reminded that screen siren Sophia
Loren had turned 70. That's right, 70!

The diva who started life as an illegitimate child in southern Italy
went on to win an Oscar and became a living legend and a symbol of
post-war Italy.

She is believed to be celebrating the birthday quietly with her family.

But Italians will get to see her acting talents Monday night with the
screening of a made-for-television film about an immigrant family set
in Umbria and Canada.

Corriere della Sera newspaper put the birthday on its front page, as
if to remind Italians that some of the Dolce Vita, or sweet life, was
left in a world dominated by bad news.

Italy's largest mainstream newspaper said it all: "Happy Birthday,
Sophia -- legend for a generation."

In fact, for Italians, Loren's birthday is not just an ordinary
anniversary or commemoration but a bittersweet reminder that the
post-war boom times she epitomized at the height of her fame no longer

The fact that Corriere used only her first name was not casual. She is
the only woman in Italy who is universally known by her first name.
When someone says Sophia on television, it can only mean "La Loren."

Loren has outlived many of her film contemporaries from the days when
Rome was known as the Hollywood on the Tiber because it was a major
production center and magnet for the jet set.

Directors Federico Fellini and Vittorio de Sica are dead, as is
Marcello Mastroianni, who was her leading man in many movies.

She shot to fame with an Oscar for best actress in De Sica's
neo-realistic classic Two Women in 1961, a film set in World War II in
which she proved that she was not just a pretty face.

It would be 38 years before another Italian would win an Oscar for a
starring role. Roberto Benigni clinched it in 1998 for his performance
in La Vita e' Bella (Life is Beautiful). Fittingly, it was Loren who
handed him the statue in Hollywood.

And, even though everyone agrees that Loren played many more serious
roles, news bulletins treated Italians to clips of perhaps her most
famous scene: a striptease for a howling Mastroianni in De Sica's
"Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" in 1963.

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