She won her first Oscar for 1961’s Two Women, the first performer to win for acting in a foreign language. Then in 1991, the Academy decided she needed another Oscar and gave her an Honorary Award. Apparently, still wanting to demonstrate their love, the Academy in association with Cinecitta Luce gave Loren another tribute Wednesday night in front of a packed house at their Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. Ostensibly in honor of the 50th anniversary of that first Oscar, the beautifully produced program covered her entire career through clips and reminiscences of friends and colleagues that was also significant for another reason: it also brought eight-time Oscar show M.C. Billy Crystal back into a hosting mode for the Academy, and to say he killed would be an understatement. Loren personally asked for Billy, whom she first met at that 1991 ceremony where she got that second Oscar.
After opening with a clip from 1964’s Marriage Italian Style, Crystal came out punching with a hilarious intro all in broken Italian. Then he praised the guest of honor (sitting in the front row next to son Edoardo Ponti). “Just thinking about her beauty can keep a traffic controller awake at night,” he joked. “Bin Laden’s last words were, ‘I can’t believe I am gonna miss Wednesday night!’ “Among his other bon mots: “She could live next door to you and you would never know she was there, even if you were the Pakistani military.” Or: “Miss Loren and I had a hot affair for years. She didn’t know it of course … when I met her I was amazed she didn’t have a staple in the middle of her chest.”