BOOKS AND ARTS OCTOBER 3, 1960
As they do with governments, countries usually get the film stars they deserve. Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren, each of whom now appears in a film comedy well-tailored for her, are good examples. To see both in one week, as I did, is inescapably to compare them not only as women and actresses but as national evocations. Although each lady has a big international audience, each seems to represent what her compatriots, male and female, consider desirable in woman.
Miss Loren, as she often tells us in her American films with flashing eyes and hand Hung toward heaven, is "Eetahlian." Which is not to say that you can see anyone like her in Italy. But she embodies what might be called the travel-poster virtues. In her, as in the travel literature, no defects are apparent.
In Miss Loren there is no murderous hate of the poor by the rich: no time-hallowed vulgarity: no neurotically exaggerated fear of sickness and death. What is Sophia, who is she? She is sunlight, she is hearty warmth, she is great contentment with Simple Things, she is song and laughing dance, she is freehearted love that yet is never depraved. The wonder is that, although she could not possibly exist, there she is: existing. She is not fake.
On the other hand no one can ever believe that Miss Monroe really exists. She is a figment, carefully synthesized by her own shrewd mind and those of her advisers. And it is curious that while Miss Loren embodies Italian strengths, Miss Monroe seems to have been devised to embody American weaknesses. No flawless Juno this, but, in the tradition of Jean Harlow, lots of flesh and not too fussy. A hushed, unreal voice made for dark back-seats of cars. Not a mate but a protectorate. A girl to wheedle up against you and ask
By Stanley Kauffman