About Anna Magnani, Iconic Women Of Italian Cinema

Anna Magnani

Although there are so many talented actresses and amazing personalities in the Italian film industry, there will never be another like Anna Magnani

Anna Magnani, born in Rome in 1908, was one of the main characters of the Italian film industry. During her whole career, she played a wide range of unforgettable, powerful strong women. Also, she was critically acclaimed and won many important prizes, including the Oscar for her role in “The Rose Tattoo” (1955). Furthermore, she was a trendsetter and one of the first faces of gossip, due to her story with the famous Italian director Roberto Rossellini. 

Most of all, Anna was a unique woman able to twist both the audience and the critics, thanks to her flawless acting performances and profound roles. She was also an unconventional beauty, far from being the typical and stereotyped image of the American film actress of that time. And that’s exactly what turned her into a world-famous icon.

Anna “nannarella” Magnani.

Anna lived with passion and did the same on set. She mainly played strong lower-class women with solid attitude and moral values. During her life, she worked with remarkable Italian figures such as Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. All these great collaborations gave her the chance to show her highest actorial talent and to produce sublime works.

Therefore, I must mention some of her most famous movies. Firstly, “Bellissima” (1951), directed by Visconti himself, one of the greatest Italian directors of all time, in which she played a stubborn mother — Maddalena — who wanted to help her daughter Maria to become a movie star. If you have seen this movie, you just can’t forget Anna’s intense facial expression as she looks at those who rejected her baby girl.

Another remarkable work is “L’Amore” (1948), directed by another great name of Italian cinema, Roberto Rossellini. In this movie, Anna “Nannina” co-stars with Federico Fellini himself playing the role of a homeless man. L’Amore is a long film divided into two parts with an atypical plot, as it displays only three characters in the normal flow of their daily life. The connection between the two parts is represented by the dramatic and intense role of Anna.

The third movie that should be higlighted when we talk about Anna Magnani is “Pelle di Serpente” (1960), with the irreplaceable Marlon Brando. Here, he plays a mysterious and fascinating man called Valentin Xavier. He’s a wandered musician desired by two women who try to seduce him: One of them is Lady, played by Anna.

Last but not least, we should talk about the symbol of the Italian Neorealism movement, “Rome, Open City” (1945), again by Rossellini. The movie is a true cinematic masterpiece, where Anna showed the best dramatic performance of her entire carreer. Rome, Open City showed a dramatic period of Italian history dealing with the Resistance and the Fascist dictatorship. Anna played the role of Pina, an Italian woman who did not accept to comply with the rules imposed by the regimen. She became thus the symbol of the Italian Resistance. Who could forget the scene where Pina runs and dies after a shotgun: she managed to look so real and absolutely tragic, so much that this moment will always be considered the symbol of Italian Realism.

A scene from “Rome, Open City”

Beyond Italian cinema

Anna played in 1955 the main role along with Burt Lancaster in the film adaptation ofThe Rose Tattooby Tennessee William. It was an American production, but the director wanted Anna so much to build the main role around her. Thanks to this interpretation, she won the Academy Awards for Best Actress and the divine Anna was acclaimed and remembered everywhere in the world.

Anna, the essence of Rome and Italy

Due to her strong connection with the Italian capital, Anna was nicknamed “La Lupa” (the she-wolf), with reference to the Romolus and Remus myth. Nowadays, she is still considered the perfect symbol of Roman women and of Rome itself. In many ways, she showed her profound and lifelong boundary to her beloved city. For this reason, sometimes she’s still called “Mamma Roma”, like the dramatic movie written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1962, in which she played a prostitute called Roma, who wanted to change her life and to allow his son Ettore a decent life. The movie displayed a suburban area of Rome and, more generally, the poor conditions of the Italian proletariat from back then.

Anna’s immense heritage.

What about her makes most an impression, is the image of a strong, independent and stubborn woman who, at the same time, is definitely delicate and beautiful. She was dramatic, tragic and intense at the same time. Her magnetic face and deep dark eyes will always be impressed in our minds. Although there are so many talented actresses and amazing personalities in the Italian movie industry — Sophia Loren, Virna Lisi, Monica Vitti and Claudia Cardinale to name a few — there will never be another like Anna Magnani. No one can be like her, for sure. She had those magnetic eyes, beautiful facial expressions and a unique way to act that imprint on the viewer’s head. Few women in cinema touched so many hearts thanks to their performances.

Nowadays she’s still a model for many actresses, including the great Meryl Streep. Indeed, the Hollywood queen declared in one interview that her major example was Anna Magnani, perfect performer and timeless diva. We can thus understand why she will be loved forever in Italy and abroad.

Anna Magnani
Anna Magnani