Childhood & Early Life
Anna Magnani was born on March 7, 1908 in PortaPia in Rome, Italy. In all probability, her father was an Italian from Calabria region; but some also say that he was an Egyptian by birth. Anna did not know his name and had never met him.
Her mother Marina Magnani was married in Egypt but came back to Rome before Anna was born. She later left Anna in the care of her own mother and did not return.
As a child Anna was frail and plain. She was brought up by her maternal grandmother in the slum district of Rome. She provided her with love and care. Yet, Anna felt forlorn and befriended street kids, who were often rough and tough.
Her grandparents enrolled her at a French Convent school in Rome. Here, she learnt to play the piano and also to speak French. The Nuns in the school used to enact Christmas plays and young Anna watched them with fascination. Soon she also developed a passion for acting.
When she turned 17, Anna joined Eleonora Duse Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She supported her education by singing at nightclubs and cabarets.
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It is possible that Anna Magnani started her career as a singer of traditional Roman folk songs. Later she switched to stage acting. In 1926, she joined an acting company and toured all over Italy with them. Next in 1927, they went to Argentina for the same purpose.
In the same year, Anna Magnani took part in a silent cinema called ‘Scampolo’. Her next chance came in 1934, when she was offered the role of Anna, la suaamantein ‘The Blind Woman of Sorrento’ (Italian:Lacieca di Sorrento). After that, she had to wait until 1941 for her next major role.
Meanwhile, she kept on playing small roles in a number of films. Some of these movies include 'Tempo massimo' (1934); 'Quei due' (1935); 'Cavalleria (1936); 'Trenta secondi d'amore' (1936); 'La principessa Tarakanova (1938)) and 'Unalampada all finestra' (1940).
Finally in 1941, she was selected as the second female lead in Vittorio de Sica’s ‘Teresa Venerdì’ (Friday Theresa). From then onwards, she continued playing significant roles in a number of films. 'La fuggitiva' in 1941 and 'La fortunaviene dal cielo' in 1942 were two such films.
In 1943, Anna was offered interesting roles in several films. Some of them were 'Finalmente soli'; 'L'ultimacarrozzella' (The Last Wagon); 'Gliassidellarisata'; 'Campo de' fiori' (The Peddler and the Lady); 'La vita è bella' and 'L'avventura di Annabella (Annabella's Adventure)'.
Her next major film, ‘Roma, cittàaperta’ (Rome, Open City, 1945), directed by Roberto Rossellini, brought her international fame. In this film she portrayed the role of a woman, who died while trying to save her husband in the last days of Nazi occupation in Italy. Her tormenting death scene left every spectator stunned.
The year 1946 was another significant one in the life of Anna Magnani. In this year she had six films released. They were 'Abbasso la ricchezza!', 'Il bandito', 'Avanti a luitremavatutta Roma', 'Lo sconosciuto di San Marino' and 'Un uomoritorna'.
From then onwards Anna Magnani acted in number of successful films such as Luigi Zampa’s'L'onorevole ' (1947); Rossellini’s ‘The Human Voice’ and ‘The Miracle’ of ‘La more’ series (1948); William Dieterie‘Volcano’ (1950);Luchino Visconti's ‘Bellissima’ (1951) and Jean Renoir's ‘Le Carrossed'or’ (The Golden Coach, 1953) .
However, it was ‘Rose Tattoo’, which brought her the Oscar. This 1955 film was based on the play by Tennessee Williams. It was her first Hollywood movie in which she spoke English.
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’Wild is the Wind’ and ‘SuorLetizia’ (1957), ’NellaCitta' L'Inferno’(1958), ‘The Fugitive’ (1959), ‘Mamma Roma’ (1962), The ‘Secret of Santa Vittoria’ (1969), ‘Correval'anno di grazia 1870’ (1971) and ‘Roma’ (1972) are few other successful movies in which she had excelled as an actress. Among them, she played herself in the last mentioned film.
Other than these, Anna Magnani had acted in many other films. In her long career she had worked with many renowned screenwriters and directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Tennessee Williams, Pier Paolo Paosolini, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Jean Renior and Sidney Lumet.
Awards & Achievements
For ‘The Rose Tattoo’, Anna Magnani won five awards. This includes Academy Award for Best Actress; BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role; Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama; National Board of Review Award for Best Actress and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.
For ‘Rome, Open City’ she won National Board of Review Award for Best Actress and Nastrod'Argento for Best Supporting Actress.
For 'L'onorevole Angelina' Anna won Nastrod'Argento for Best Actress and Volpi Cup.
For ‘L’amore’, ‘Bellissima’ and 'SuorLetizia' she got Nastrod'Argento for Best Actress.
For 'Wild is the Wind'she received Silver Bear for Best Actress and David di Donatello for Best Actress. In addition, she received three nominations for this film; they were Academy Awards for Best Actress, BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture.
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'For Nellacittàl'inferno', Anna Magnani received David di Donatello Award for Best Actress, Grollad'Oro Best Actress and SantJordi Awards Best Performance in a Foreign Film. Besides, she received nomination for Nastrod'Argento for Best Actress.
For ‘Correval'anno di grazia 1870’ she won Italian Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.
Personal Life & Legacy
Anna Magnani had great faith in astrology and numerology. She also claimed to be a Clairvoyant and maintained that she could gain information through extra sensory perception. She had a volatile temper that might have come in the way of a permanent relationship.
In 1935, Anna Magnani married film director Goffredo Alessandrini. The marriage did not last long. The couple separated in 1942; but their marriage was annulled much later in 1950. They did not have any issue.
She had a brief relation with Massimo Serato, an Italian actor and had a son by him. He was born on October 29, 1942 and was named Cellino (Luca). Unfortunately, the child contracted polio when he was eighteen months old. Anna sent him to clinic in Switzerland for treatment; but he could never recover fully. His daughter Olivia Magnani is now a famous actress.
Later in 1944, Anna had a relationship with film director Roberto Rossellini. It too did not last long. Later Rossellini married Ingrid Bergman.However, they remained friend for life.
Anna Magnani died in 1973 in Rome from pancreatic cancer. She was then 65 years old. Her son Luca and her friend Roberto Rossellini were there at her deathbed. A huge crowd gathered at her funeral, which was held at Rossellini’s family mausoleum. Later, her body was interred in the Cimitero Comunale of San FeliceCirceo.
Anna was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.
Anna Magnani was one of the few actresses, who did not receive her Oscar Award in person. Although she was nominated for her role in ‘The Rose Tattoo’, she was sure that she would not get it. When a journalist rang up to give her the news she was not easily convinced and thought it was a joke.
Magnani starred in ‘Volcano’ just to compete with Roberto Rossellini’s ‘Stromboli’. He had earlier offered the role to her; but once the screenplay was complete he signed Ingrid Bergman. The two films were of similar type and were shot in the same location. Journalists could feel the rivalry on the sets.