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She detests gin and drinks white wine, uses a double-edged safety razor to shave her legs, cheats (okay, ""bluffs"") at poker, is proud of her bosom (which she had overhauled in 1981), and reads Neruda's poetry ""in the original Spanish."" If these and similar revelations about the life and times of Loren interest you, Forever, Sophia may be your cup of espresso. Otherwise, you may feel the actress, who has been acclaimed for her extraordinary comedic and dramatic talents as well as for her beauty, deserves something better than this ""Trivia, Italian-Style"" treatment. Since meeting the Neapolitan Oscar-winner for the first time in 1969, Levy has turned Loren-watching into something of a cottage industry. He assures his readers that, although ""unauthorized,"" his biography will reveal a side of Sophia previously unexplored, thanks to his privileged position as confidant and friend. Truth to tell, the coverage of the years before their fateful encounter merely recycles already familiar fanazine ""facts""--illegitimacy, impoverished childhood, demeaning beauty contests, bit parts, gradually larger roles, stardom, then a variety of troubles with rival actresses, the Church, the State and Mother Nature herself. Just another trek through Hedda and Louella country. The descriptions of Loren's ""life-with-Levy"" years are not much better. We are treated to cozy interviews adeux in luxurious settings, Levy always attentive, Loren invariably gracious. There are ""at-home"" glimpses of Sophia, husband Carlo Ponti and their two sons, pursued by papparazzi, menaced by maniacs, be-ringed with bodyguards. The oft-told tale of the star's encounter with jewel thieves in a midtown Manhattan hotel is repeated; her efforts to maintain full-term pregnancies explained once again. One gets the impression that, in Levy's case at least, Loren's ""friends and confidants"" were intrusted only with ""secrets"" that already had appeared in People magazine. Intriguingly, the author's attitude toward his subject seems to shift from spaniel to spiteful once his narrative reaches March, 1978. At that time, Levy apparently didn't take the hint when his calls to Loren went unanswered. He showed up unannounced at an Austrian hotel where she was billeted during the filming of something called Brass Target. Though Levy attempts to put the best face possible on the situation, Signora Ponti was, one feels, ""not amused."" From this point on, no more interviews are reported, only complaints about ""cannibalistic"" fellow journalists, rumors of divorce, speculations about ""affairs,"" supposedly titillating tittletattle. Basta!

Pub Date: May 19th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's