New York, May 17, 1953
Anna Magnani came, saw and conquered New York, leaving behind an impression of a tremendously vital personality. She is now back in Italy, but an aura of the great Magnani remains here on Bellissima, Anna‘s latest starring picture, which had its first American exhibition at the Trans-Lux 60th Street Theatre yesterday. It is being released by Italian Films Export Company.
Bellissima was written and designed to display Anna‘s virtuosity as an actress. In it, she runs the gamut of emotional histrionics as a determined mother whose frantic efforts to have the world acknowledge her little ugly-duckling of a daughter as a beautiful and accomplished child bring her only tears and near-heartbreak.
The idea conceived by Cesare Zavattini is a fine subject for satire but, like most Italian directors, Luchino Visconti has a fancy for crowding the screen with shrieking, hysterical people, so, some of the finer points of the story are lost in scenes that develop into sheer bedlam. This is Italian realism, no doubt, but it is hard on the nerves of an American audience.
In spite of the noise and hysteria that run rampant through the picture, Anna gives a fine and affecting performance of a woman obsessed by the idea that her homely, ungainly daughter, Maria, is so beautiful and graceful that she is destined to become a famous child star of the screen. She fights her way into a movie studio, after a call for a child actress has been broadcast, and keeps on fighting to have Maria given consideration by the director of the picture. Everything she does to improve Maria’s looks and posture turns out disastrously, and the final humiliation comes when she makes her way into a screening room, where her daughter’s test is on display, and discovers that the child’s picture has sent the director and his cohorts into hysterical laughter.
Anna dominates the picture, but not to the extent that the other performers are completely overshadowed. The child is well represented on the screen by an appealing youngster, Tina Apicella, Gastone Renzelli is good in his first screen role, as the child ‘s father and Anna‘s husband, Walter Chiari plays an unscrupulous actor effectively and Alessandro Blasetti and Tecla Scarano help to make Bellissima into a touching and amusing film.