Anna Magnani Says Au Revoir to Town

“Maybe I will come back in October,” Anna Magnani said, shortly before departing here after the completion of The Rose Tattoo.


The Rose Tattoo, Anna Magnani on set

Hollywood, January, 1955

Many an actress may say that she has a devoted her life to art, rather than to money, but there’s only one whose co-workers have come forward to say they believe her.

The actress is Italy’s Anna Magnani, and the co-workers are at Paramount studios where Miss Magnani is making her Hollywood debut in The Rose Tattoo.

With Miss Magnani, it was agreed, a total lack of vanity permits her to dedicate herself completely to the role she is portraying. She rejects the usual makeup and doesn’t worry about camera angles, studio employers have learned.

The net result has been something of a surprise to personnel on the Hal Wallis production in VistaVision, especially to its director, Daniel Mann.

“Never — on stage or screen — have I seen an actress who trows herself into a part so completely that she loses all thought of herself,” Mann said. “She’s never conscious of how she looks, or thinks like how the camera angle hits her. The average actress will let a thought creep into her mind about her gestures or delivery but not Magnani. She loses herself in the character she’s playing.”

In one scene she smeared dirt on her face, wouldn’t let her hair be combed and personally selected ill-fitting slips and unattractive dresses.

In scenes where she is supposed to present Latin charm, Miss Magnani went all out in comparison. She wore an attractive dress, her hair was put up, and even some lipstick was added. For her this was nearly a revolution. For most Hollywood actresses it would be the same as no makeup.

“Maybe I will come back in October,” Anna Magnani said, shortly before departing here after the completion of The Rose Tattoo.

“I ask him (Wallis) something and he is happy to give me that I ask,” Italy’s greatest female star continued. One of her requests was for a 10 a.m. starting tome. She got it. In Europe, it seems, shooting begins at noon and then “goes on without stopping. I think is much better.”

I asked if Serafina, her Gulf Coast dressmaker role in Tattoo, was close to the Italian and Miss Magnani retorted, “She IS Italian woman — Sicilian, even stronger, more passionate than Italian.” And she reminded me that Tennessee Williams wrote his play originally with her in mind.

“I begin to learn English three years ago, for The Golden Coach. But role was so little compared to this I have to start all over again, three months before I come to America.”

Her best part? “I can’t tell dis. I love all parts even if didn’t come out, I like to play comical, too. Bellissima was comical, also tragical.” Tragical, of course, were Open City and The Miracle, her famous imports. An episode in We Women, not yet shown here, is comical, being based on her own experience with a taxi driver who insisted on collecting extra fare for her “tiny little lap dog.” Starred in other episodes are Isa Miranda, Alida Valli and Ingrid Bergman.

Miss Magnani, divorced from Film Director Goffredo Alessandrini, spoke tenderly of her 12-year-old son, a victim of polio.

“He likes pictures; he has little movie camera,” she said. “Now he wants projector. He writes, ‘Don’t be too tired.’ I’m so happy cause for him I am so beautiful. No one has told me I am beautiful as my son has.”

The boy is able to walk, but “not so good.” It is “too late” for Warm Springs, but Miss Magnani would like to bring him over to American doctors next time she comes. “They are doing here such wonderful operations.”

American audiences she found very intelligent, very sensitive. And Hollywood is “not so different” from Europe: “They have everything for to make a good picture in this country—why not!” But “Desiree was an insult;” she felt “so sorry” for Marlon Brando, a great artist in On the Waterfront.

Would she like to make a film with him?

The black eyes and white teeth flashed a smile: “Si!”

Anna Magnani: I like to be free, I want to be alone

“What is age?” she quipped, “If a woman is interesting, then she is interesting to a man at any age.”

Anna Magnani & Burt Lancaster, The Rose Tattoo
Anna Magnani & Burt Lancaster, The Rose Tattoo, publicity still.

Hollywood, California, January 1955

The impulsive Anna Magnani has completed Rose Tattoo and leaves for Italy next week. She’ll be gone but no forgotten. She has to return to Italy to do an independent picture called Grace, but she is coming back in October.
Her return to Hollywood is not because che is interested in living here or making motion pictures. She wants to bring her 12-year-old son, Luca, back with her for therapy to overcome the last effects of the little boy’s polio. She’ll enroll him in school here, and, of course, will make another picture.

Italian actress disclosed today she is living off with carrots and water in a last-ditch effort to achieve that American school girl figure.

“I want to be thin,” she confessed in her swank Beverly Hills hotel suite. “It is my dream
I am eating hardly nothing, not even spaghetti.”

Anna, who has picked up quite a bit of Yankee slang since her arrival in Hollywood three months ago, insists she is going to lose 10 pounds “or bust.” She now weighs 125 pounds.

“I never think too much about my figure before I come to this country, but now I am sure my shape is too continental, ” she said.

Other dream girls with continental contours include Gina Lollobrigida and Silvana Mangano, but actress Magnani thinks the ideal figure of all time belonged to the late platinum blonde, Jean Harlow.

“I should have a figure like that,” she nodded, “That was the most beautiful ever on the screen”.

So far as one can tell, this new desire to be thin is the only major change that has come over Anna Magnani since she arrived in Hollywood in co-star in Hal Wallis, The Rose Tattoo.

The Italian star was wearing the same casual clothes, the same un-hairdo and the same no-makeup.

“Just a little soap and water and a dab of powder, that’s alla any woman needs,” she said.

A friend who dropped by to say hello explained at this point that Paramount photographers practically had to force her to put on makeup for a series of glamour shots needed for publicity purposes.

The female figure is not the only subject Magnani has definite ideas about. She’s against marriage because it “is like a prison.”

“I like to be free.” she said, and like another famed thespian, added:

“I want to be alone.”

Anna may want to be alone, but she remains one of the most admired and sought after women. Although she is in her mid-40s, she flits madly about in a powerful racing car and often dances until dawn like the original 10-year-old skip-rope kid.

She has definite ideas about age, too.

“What is age?” she quipped, “If a woman is interesting, then she is interesting to a man at any age.”

New York Makes a Hit With Anna Magnani

I like your New York. I would like to come back to this country when I could be free to be free.

Anna Magnani New York April 1953

New York, April 1953

“I love your skyscrapers they are like stretching tentacles, pleading for the sky,” said the world’s highest paid actress.

Then Anna Magnani of Italy leaned back in bed and took a thoughtful puff on her cigar. So I leaned back, too—in a chair by the bed—and took a puff on the cigar she had given me.

It actually is called a cigarillo—a slender plastic-tipped cigar no larger than a king-size cigarette and popular with both men and women in parts of Europe. Anna likes them, but smokes inly two or three a week. “They are sento to me by my favorite admirer—my son, Luca,” she explained. Luca, who is 11, is in school in Switzerland.

Anna, who recently completed an Italian film called Bellissima, was so worn out by her first five days in America that when I called at her hotel suite she decided to be interviewed in bed.

She wore yellow pajamas trimmed in blue. She has a long midnight mane, framing a face od Roman gold, and as she learned back against the pillow she looked like a tawny, well-fed lioness—violence in repose.

“First, I interview you,” said Anna, “You like Italian women?”


That ender her interview. So I took up the questioning.

“Do you like American men?”

“I would like to marry one and find out. ”

If she does, he’ll be a lucky fellow, Anna is reported to get $125,000 a picture, plus $1000 a day overtime, and the Italian income tax is hardly even the nuisance that a sales tax is in this country. One American spaghetti manufacturer is said to have phoned her and asked what she would want to indorse his product.

“Oh, about $50,000,” said Anna.

The startled manufacturer murmured, “Wrong number,” and hung up.

Anna is willing to make a film here, even at financial sacrifice.

“It depends on the artistic freedom I would have,” she said. “With me freedom is everything. I must be free.”

A gleam came into her eyes—which look like two BB pellets or spots of black caviar sunk in amber pools. She is a temperamental as Tallulah Bankhead.

“I like your New York,” she said. “It has more personality than Paris. Rome lets herself be loved like a woman. But New York is fascinating, because it is so big and violent like… like… some men.
“But it is so noisy. Two pigeons on the ledge works me up this morning quarrelling. They were husband and wife. He was jealous. She must have betrayed him.”

Anna lives in a five-room penthouse built on an old palace in Rome. She says she prefers small towns, because she has a fear of distance and bigness, but loves to prowl cities at night.

“At night a city is free to live for itself,” she explained. “But in the daytime a city only works for the people in it.”

As I started to leave, Anna exploded like a volcano. She leaped to her feet, bounced up and down on the bed, shook hands, pulled a hank of her black hair across her face to make e Hitlerian mustache, and broke out in laughter.

Twisting her luxuriant hair is one of her child-like mannerisms. I asked her why she did.

“It keeps me company,” she said. “Goodby. They make me do too many things. Some time I would like to come back to this country when I could be free to be free.”

Hal Boyle

Inside Production: The Rose Tattoo

There are no rules for making a picture. A director has to embrace all intelligent approaches.

Hal Wallis, Anna Magnani and Daniel Mann

January 1955

“It is a director’s job to translate life into screen terms,” explained Daniel Mann at Paramount, where he is currently directing The Rose Tattoo, for producer Hal Wallis.

Mann, along with other top Hollywood directors, has helped bring about the return of the “adult, realistic” motion picture. His direction of Come back, Little Sheba for Hal Wallis won him a great deal of praise and many citations.

In The Rose Tattoo, Mann has one of the top international motion picture actresses, Anna Magnani, making her American screen debut. “The part was originally written in the play with her in mind” Mann stated.

Mann is enthusiastic about Miss Magnani in the role. He explained that she speaks good English, with an Italian accent, which blends in with the role. For Burt Lancaster, he also stated, it is still another different role, which help even more establish Lancaster as one of the most versatile Hollywood actors.

Mann also directed the Broadway theatrical version of The Rose Tattoo. “In the play,” he said, “you direct the actors and on the screen, you direct the actors for audience attention.” He also pointed out that motion pictures differ from the stage in that the technicians work as a team with you. “In making a motion picture, you are constantly involved in mechanics.”

“The story material I have here is most unusual.” Mann stressed. “Tennessee Williams did the screen play from his own play.” Mann also directed About Mrs. Leslie for Hal Wallis and Paramount release.

Mann pointed out that “life, action, violence and movement that only the camera can bring in the screen” will be in the film version of the play.

Working with a camera is “more fluid,” and Mann likes this. He stated that when he comes to Hollywood, he returns to New York after he has completed a film a better director for the stage. And when he returns to Hollywood from the stage after directing a play, he is better director for motion pictures.

Mann cited the fact that there has never been a picture made on the theme of The Rose Tattoo. It is the story of an Italian woman who has the obsession after her husband’s death that he has been unfaithful to her. How she overcomes this and comes to her senses to lead a normal life again is the rest of the story.

The director pointed out he has only worked for Hal Wallis although he has had many other offers to direct feature films. “I’ve tried to do only things that interest me,” he said.

A former actor, Mann understands thesping more and more about the theatre and stagecraft and moviemaking. What is the most important job for a director? “You know what plays if you have directed the stage version and it is completely different to translate into screen terms. In this film, it is a very personal story and the camera helps make it intimate.”

Mann has lined himself up both a cast from Hollywood and also people who appeared in the play for him. Besides Lancaster and Miss Magnani, Mann cast Marisa Pavan, Virginia Grey and Ben Cooper here in Hollywood, while Jo Van Fleet, Dorritt Kelton and Florence Sundstrom were cast from New York where they appeared in the play.

Mann stated that in his opinion Hollywood will be more aware of Broadway properties that lend themselves to films; also the adult aspect of plays that lend themselves to films.

In regard to his directorial techniques, Mann pointed out that he tries to get much movement in a picture. His movement is not just arbitrarily put in, but is inserted from the point of dramatic action. He likes his camera “to float.” He is very happy to have James Wong Howe, one od Hollywood’s top cameraman, working with him. The camera follows a person or people for the reason that you make a point dramatically, he stressed.

There are no rules for making a picture. A director has to embrace all intelligent approaches, Mann said. Every picture has its own logic.

Magnani’s First Trip to New York

She talks as she acts, with her whole body. As the famous staccato poured forth, now clipped, now torrential, one expression mercurially blotted the next.


Anna Magnani and Lillian Gish, New York 1953
Anna Magnani and Lillian Gish, New York 1953

New York, April 1953

In her comfortable hotel suite, a conservatively clad Miss Magnani smilingly indicated a seat and balanced herself rather tentatively against a chair near the window. Humbly apologizing for her unfamiliarity with English, the actress shot a hopeful look across the room at her interpreter-companion, a pleasant, alert lady who immediately proceeded to set the actress in speech and, unsurprisingly, motion.

She talks as she acts, with her whole body. As the famous staccato poured forth, now clipped, now torrential, one expression mercurially blotted the next. Fingers stabbed the air, interlaced and locked in concentration. Above the wide, mobile mouth and straight, generous nose, the Magnani eyes reflected childlike trust and the stark inscrutability of tenement windows.

“Bella, bella,” she crooned, peering out over the mid-town roof tops. “New York is in some ways like Rome. And I love Rome, especially at night when the city is alive and throbbing. But the noise here is bad. I didn’t sleep at all the first two nights. The hotel moved me up here yesterday. And now more noise. This morning — here,” she said, pointing to the ledge outside, “two pigeons woke me up fighting. Husband and wife. If it had been a man I wouldn’t have minded.” Miss Magnani exploded with laughter. Subsiding, she patted a dislodged thatch of shaggy hair.

“On my first night here, I walked along Broadway, looking at everything. Like this.” The actress twisted, turned and gaped. “I will keep that picture as a photograph in my eyes for a long time.” She listened placidly to a translated resume of her first week’s activities: a mass interview aboard the Andrea Doria; a harbor farewell reception for Ambassador Clare Booth and Geraldine Brooks (with whom she made one film), fourteen interviews, three evenings at the theatre, another at El Morocco, tea with Bette Davis (her idol along with John Ford and Henry Fonda) and an official cocktail party for the press.

(…) Had Miss Magnani a favorite screen characterization? “Many. ‘Open City‘ —the part was written for me. ‘The Miracle,’ of course. No, I wasn’t surprised by the censorship trouble here. Every country has its own laws.”At the moment, “since I am identified with drama,” she prefers comedy.

“Do I live my parts?” Magnani brooded, pursing her lips. “I feel that both as a woman and as an actress, I put my all into any part. The director is a painter. The actor’s success depends on his strength and the extent to which the personality is allowed to come forth.”

Miss Magnani sat up straight. “Do you know Julie Harris?” she demanded intensely. “I saw ‘Member of the Wedding‘ on the boat. Wonderful. Talk, talk, talk. I didn’t understand a word. But I predict an extraordinary career for that girl. That delicate body, the great spirituality of the face.”

Was the film’s projection of isolated childhood perhaps suggestive of Miss Magnani‘s own? “No, no similarity,” she decided, shaking her head. “I am a very courageous woman. In real life I always have done what I pleased.”