Moira Orfei (born Miranda Orfei) has become an Italian pop-culture icon. A member of the most famous circus family in Italy, she competes in fame with any Italian music or movie legend. She is undoubtedly the only circus owner in the world who could get away (for forty years, no less!) with advertising her circus using posters that prominently displayed only her head shot and her first name. Much of her reputation is due to her long movie career, which coincided with the golden age of Italian cinema. But it is also due to the quality of her circus. The daughter of Riccardo Orfei, she was born in the family living trailer on December 21, 1931, in Codriopo, Italy. Moira is the cousin of actress Liana Orfei. As a child, Moira was trained in all the basic circus disciplines. In 1960—without ever leaving the circus—she launched a movie career. Ultimately, she appeared in nearly forty films, including popular Italian comedies and a host of internationally successful Italian productions based on mythological themes, such as the Hercules, Atlas, and Samson series. Among her films was one Euro-western, “The Two Sergeants of General Custer” (1965). In 1961, she married the acrobatic dancer Walter Nones. A year later, they formed a company with the Austrian Swoboda sisters (of the Medrano Swoboda circus) and began a long career as circus owners and directors. A year after that, the Orfeis and the Swobodas parted ways. Moira and Walter went on to create their own Circo Moira Orfei, which quickly drew attention, both for the elegance of its productions and its infrastructures and, above all, for the high quality of its acts. Moira and Walter launched the monumental Circus on Ice in 1969. It was easily the most sophisticated circus-on-ice show ever undertaken; it had both a circus ring and a skating rink, and the show included elaborate set changes, a huge variety of costumes, and an international cast of circus and variety megastars. During this period, Moira's elephant presentations made her a legend, while Walter became an excellent lion trainer. Today we celebrate Moira Orfei’s 80th birthday.
Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1946 I have a BA degree in American History from Cal St. Northridge. I've been researching the American West and western films since the early 1980s and visiting filming sites in Spain and the U.S.A. Elected a member of the Spaghetti Western Hall of Fame 2010.