Sophia Loren turned 80 on Saturday -- a landmark birthday feted across Italy with celebrations of the beauty and talent of the country's revered cinema icon.
She just released a memoir titled "Yesterday, today and tomorrow." It is full of anecdotes detailing, for example, how enamoured Cary Grant was of her, and how she once resisted Marlon Brando's amorous advances by hissing at him like an angry cat.
The illegitimate daughter of an actress, Loren is adored in her homeland for that kind of feistiness -- as well as for her triumph over extremely humble origins, her acting talent and for her voluptuous curves.
Born on Sept. 20, 1934, to an unwed mother from a poor family in pre-war Italy, her early life was a far cry from the movie diva she was destined to become.
After barely surviving the devastation that befell her town during WWII (she still has a scar on her chin from the bombings), Sophia tapped her real-life experiences to play a young widow struggling to save her child in war-torn Italy in Vittorio De Sica's 1960 film Two Women.
The film became an international success, and earned Loren an Oscar for her work – the first for Best Actress for a non-English-speaking role.
"Everything you see I owe to spaghetti." (If only spaghetti looked so good on the rest of us).
The first movie I saw Sophia in was "Boy on a Dolphin." I was a very naive teenager but when she rose from the waves with that wet dress clinging to every curve, I knew that Aphrodite had reincarnated and was now among us.
Only Sophia could take a role where she went from prostitute to wife and imbue it with humor, sexuality and pathos. She brought the same qualities to every role that she played and in even the cheesiest parts, there was a gleam in those eyes that said "I know what I am doing here. Do you?"
Buon compleanno Sophia!