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December 26, 2020

Anna Magnani: The Eternal Soul of Italian Cinema

Born 1908 in Rome, Italian actress Anna Magnani was widely regarded as one of the greatest actresses of Italian and World cinema, she was known for her explosive acting and earthy, real life portrayals of characters.


After meeting director Goffredo Alessandrini, Magnani received her first screen role in La cieca di Sorrento (The Blind Woman of Sorrento) (1934) and later achieved international fame in Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945), considered the first significant movie to launch the Italian neorealism movement in cinema. As an actress, she became recognized for her dynamic and forceful portrayals of “earthy lower-class women” in such films as L'Amore (1948), Bellissima (1951), The Rose Tattoo (1955), The Fugitive Kind (1960) and Mamma Roma (1962).

Magnani was referred to as “La Lupa,” the “perennial toast of Rome” and a “living she-wolf symbol” of the cinema. Time magazine described her personality as “fiery”, and drama critic Harold Clurman said her acting was “volcanic”. In the realm of Italian cinema, she was “passionate, fearless, and exciting,” an actress that film historian Barry Monush calls “the volcanic earth mother of all Italian cinema.” Director Roberto Rossellini called her “the greatest acting genius since Eleonora Duse.”

Playwright Tennessee Williams became an admirer of her acting and wrote The Rose Tattoo (1951) specifically for her to star in, a role for which she received an Academy Award for Best Actress, becoming the first Italian ever to win an Oscar.

As early as 1950, Life magazine had already stated that Magnani was “one of the most impressive actresses since Garbo”. She died in 1973 at the age of 65 in Rome from pancreatic cancer.

Take a look at these vintage photos to see portrait of Anna Magnani from between the 1930s and 1960s.












































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