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.”

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.

Con La Rosa Tatuata Anna Magnani consolida definitivamente la sua fama

Bisogna vedere questa intrepida e focosa Serafina al centro della vicenda, con le sue manie ossessive, con l’amore devoto e quasi fanatico che la unisce ancora alla memoria del marito

La Rosa Tatuata di Tennessee Williams

Chi andrà a vedere La Rosa Tatuata, incuriosito anche dagli elogi incondizionati espressi dalle più alte personalità della cinematografia americana, resterà piacevolmente sorpreso. In questo film, dove una vedova impulsiva e severa con tutti anche con se stessa, è l’anima del racconto, la Magnani ha modo di rivelare in pieno tutta la sua arte di interprete impetuosa e travolgente. Abbiamo detto travolgente e non sapremmo quale altro termine adoperare; ella travolge due ragazze stupide che l’hanno insolentita, travolge il vicinato, il mito del marito morto che l’aveva ossessionata, travolge in un primo tempo l’uomo che le fa la corte, il sacerdote che cristianamente e pazientemente tenta di contenere il suo impeto, travolge i pregiudizi che l’avevano imprigionata, i capricci della figlia, è insomma una forza irruente che trova un argine soltanto in se stessa, nei propri poteri inibitori, quando funzionano. Nulla da fare: è un filo ad alta tensione, pericoloso e intoccabile.

La sua mimica ha la mutevolezza, l’espressività tipica dei caratteri mediterranei; la sua psicologia approfondita da una immedesimazione sorvegliata e sensibile, ci viene rivelata attraverso le manifestazioni del suo carattere abbastanza complesso, con una logica tutta sua , è di una coerenza impeccabile. Ecco perché questo film, a nostro giudizio, supera tutti quelli interpretati fin qui dalla Magnani; essa con questa Rosa Tatuata consolida definitivamente la sua fama, si porta su un piano talmente elevato da poter guardare all’avvenire da un’altezza unica, forse irraggiungibile, data la sua eccezionale versatilità.

Bisogna vedere questa intrepida e focosa Serafina al centro della vicenda, con le sue manie ossessive, con l’amore devoto e quasi fanatico che la unisce ancora alla memoria del marito; con i suoi principi rigorosamente morali che derivano anche dalla mentalità italiana (meridionale) rimasta ancorata alle leggi della sua antica razza: con il sentimento della fedeltà che si protrae oltre la morte del marito come per una dedizione totale, delirante, senza limiti di tempo, senza condizioni di sorta; posizioni nette, inequivocabili, refrattarie ad ogni compromesso, ad ogni oscillazione. Si vedrà poi attraverso quali processi intimi, vere e proprie lievitazioni insospettate, la Serafina rigorosa e moraleggiante, distrugge il mito dell’eterna fedeltà, fino a rompere materialmente l’urna che contiene le ceneri del marito, e con questa distruzione essa effettivamente si ribella, spezza il nodo che l’avvinceva alla tirannia dei ricordi, in altre parole, fracassa il mito, che si è rivelato falso e indegno di adorazione: e una volta postasi sulla via della liberazione, scioltasi dalle pastoie dei fanatismi e dei pregiudizi, il suo animo si apre alla speranza di una nuova vita. Questo riscoprirsi donna e amante, legata a una vita terrena contessuta di gioie materiali e anche umane, e non a un mito astratto, questo risveglio da un letargo durato parecchi anni è forse il punto culminante del film, quello che dà la misura della vera, grande arte della Magnani. Al suo risveglio contribuisce indubbiamente la somiglianza fisica tra il camionista che si è invaghito di lei e il marito: ma questa concomitanza, questa sottigliezza psicologica se depone in favore della vedova e ne giustifica il turbamento non determina il fenomeno del risveglio cha ha una derivazione più complessa: è, se mai una concausa, perché non bisogna dimenticare lo sdegno, la collera di Serafina quando essa viene a scoprire che l’uomo da lei idolatrato in vita e in morte, la tradiva con una donna che si era tatuata in petto una rosa per imitarlo.

Bisogna anche dire che accanto alla Magnani, Burt Lancaster ha scolpito mirabilmente il personaggio del camionista Alvaro. Lancaster “il gigante buono” ha recitato da grande attore; è facile interpretare se stessi perché basta essere presenti e il resto viene da sé: ma quando si deve creare un “tipo” occorre dimenticare se stessi e assurgere altre sembianze, il che, presuppone per lo meno uno spiccato talento naturale.

Ora, chi vede questo Alvaro Mangiacavallo non può non ammirare, insieme con la maschia figura di Lancaster la sua studiata ingenuità, la sua divertente  goffaggine, la sua vena burlesca e insieme generosa, la sua chiassosa espansività, tipica degli uomini che proprio a causa della loro mole restano sempre un po’ fanciulli.

La regia di Mann è stata all’altezza del compito: ha saputo anzitutto descrivere con rapidi quanto efficaci tocchi l’ambiente italo-americano, aggiungendovi delle note di colore brevi e significative senza mai eccedere nella dosatura: l’ambiente si intuisce prima ancora di sentirne il gergo: lo si intuisce dal vestiario, dall’acconciatura, dalla mobilità dei gesti, e dei volti; la vecchia Italia è presente con i suoi tratti caratteristici, retaggio di una civiltà mediterranea che non si è ancora disciolta nel grande crogiolo americano.

Daniel Mann peraltro è riuscito a disciplinare con raro equilibrio una materia per se stessa rovente e staremmo per dire, sfuggente, costituita da disparati elementi e ne è derivata un’opera che regge al vaglio rigoroso di qualsiasi critica, un’opera che è un capolavoro di armonizzazione

The Rose Tattoo film version of Tennessee Williams play

The glowing and impetuous performance given by the Italian star will be long remembered and will certainly win an Oscar nomination

Hal Wallis' production of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo

The highly gifted Italian actress, Anna Magnani, is the emotional and unpredictable heroine of The Rose Tattoo, a tragicomedy based on Tennessee Williams‘ stage play and produced for the screen by Hal Wallis. Burt Lancaster is Miss Magnani‘s co-star and Marisa Pavan heads the large and capable supporting cast, both delivering top notch performances. But the major share of the acting honors goes to the dark-haired star whose performance covers an extraordinary range of human emotions from high comedy to deep tragedy as she characterizes a woman who was in love with love and refuses to have her images shattered. From a box-office standpoint, the film should be in the top gross class, especially in the larger situations. It’s an “unusual” and off-beat type of production that is sure to command attention, and word-of-mouth should be so effective that its appeal should not be limited to any type of run. Even if some patrons don’t like the story, the acting of Miss Magnani should be such a conversation topic that others will want to see it out of curiosity. Most critics will miss their guesses if she doesn’t win an “Oscar,” or, at least, a nomination.

The story concerns a small colony of Sicilians, hot-tempered by nature, who have settled in a seedy, semi-tropical Gulf Coast town where Miss Magnani lords it over her neighbors in the belief that her truck-driving husband’s pure love has endowed her with the dignity of a baroness. She boasts with equal pride of the rose tattooed on his chest and strives to bring up their daughter, Marisa Pavan, in the strict ways of the old world.

But three years after her husband is killed while on a smuggling venture, rude disillusionment begins to set in. She learns that her husband had not been as faithful as she had believed, and the romance of her daughter with Ben Cooper, a sailor on leave, does not add to her comfort. When she meets Lancaster, also a truck-driver of Sicilian parentage, their romance is a stormy one, actually riotous and well sprinkled with comedy that borders on slapstick. But she resists all his attention until she determines the fact that her husband had not been true to her. Eventually she gives her blessings to the marriage of her daughter to Cooper and then accepts Lancaster.

While the action at times is violent, the interjection of comedy is well placed. Especially good are Miss Magnani‘s neighbors, a collection of gossipy and witch-like characters who represent the result of expert casting. And Lancaster‘s characterization also is deserving of Academy attention.

Daniel Mann‘s direction is excellent. The screenplay by Williams and the adaptation by Hal Kanter have intensified the best ingredients of the stage play.


The Rose Tattoo is a most unusual motion picture starring a superb performer. Sex-conscious, earthy, and unusually hilariously funny, the film was adapted from a prize-winning New York stage play by Tennessee Williams. The story, decidedly off-beat for a U.S. film, takes place in a seedy, semi-tropical Gulf Coast town, where a highly passionate Sicilian seamstress played by Anna Magnani is so proud of her Italian-American husband that she lords it over her neighbors. When he is killed, she assumes an epic grief and goes into virtual seclusion for three years, restraining her passion in pathetic and comic ways. Finally, she learns that her beloved husband had been unfaithful to her, and allows her ardor to be rekindled by a benevolent village simpleton, played by Burt Lancaster.

The glowing and impetuous performance given by the Italian star will be long remembered and will certainly win an Oscar nomination, perhaps the acting plum itself. Whatever she does —chasing a wayward goat in her filthy back yard, hysterically arguing with her priest and neighbors, trying to squeeze herself into a corset, expressing her mute love to her sleeping husband, or forcing her daughter’s sailor boyfriend to kneel before the Virgin Mary and pronounce his good intentions — Miss Magnani rates superlatives, and her magnificent performance will create tremendous word-of-mouth. Also designed to send the customers away talking is the daring casting of box-office draw Lancaster as a harmless moron whose grandfather was the village idiot, and who only wants to marry a plump older woman who has a business on the side. Another surprise is Marisa Pavan, until now known mainly as Pier Angeli‘s sister. She registers in The Rose Tattoo as a potential star with a rich and moving performance as Miss Magnani‘s teen-age daughter, hot-blooded like her mother. Jo Van Fleet, as a lady of shady reputation, and a group of magpie-like, gossiping neighbors also add to the lustre of the production and will cause favorable comments.

Response to the film will probably vary according to locality, with the more sophisticated big-city audiences certain to bring in top grosses, and less worldly audiences a more doubtful proposition. Every exhibitor will be wise to help along the inevitable word-of-mouth with strong selling of his own, and he can recommend the film without hesitation to all those who want a rare treat in film fare.

November, 1955


Dramma di una madre in una clinica svizzera

Anna Magnani al capezzale del figlio operato a Lausanna

Anna Magnani sorpresa da un fotografo in una via di Losanna
Anna Magnani sorpresa da un fotografo in una via di Losanna

Losanna, ottobre 1955

Anna Magnani ed io siamo partite per Losanna una sera del mese d’ottobre, senza parlare della ragione di questo viaggio. Quando Anna ha una pena nel cuore, tace per giorni, giorni, giorni, forse per mesi. Sembra che maturi, nutrendola di ogni pensiero, la disperazione la quale, quando infine esplode, ha la violenza del tornado. Ora la nostra antica e provata amicizia ci metteva insieme di fronte a uno dei momenti più gravi della sua vita. Luca, suo figlio, colpito da poliomielite dieci anni or sono e da molto temo in cura dal prof. Louis Nicod, docente di ortopedia  all’Università di Losanna, doveva essere operato ai piedi. Ogni data dell’intervento, stabilita e rimandata, aveva messo Anna di fronte a gravi problemi e la responsabilità della decisione, unita alla paura del dolore, forse inutile, che avrebbe dovuto sopportare suo figlio, avevano reso i suoi nervi di vetro. Tuttavia il prof. Nicod, che per molti anni aveva atteso tutto il ricupero possibile e tardivo dei muscoli delle gambe del bambino, consigliava l’operazione ora che il bilancio della paralisi era definitivo.

«Hai visto nascere mio figlio» mi aveva detto a Roma «Non mi regge il cuore a star sola in questo momento. Puoi venire con me?».

E così una sera siamo partite per Losanna, angosciata lei, umile io di fronte alla pena che la isolava.

Siamo arrivate precedute a seguite da telegrammi e da lettere che giungevano da ogni parte nel piccolo albergo che avevamo scelto per essere più vicine alla clinica dove sarebbe entrato suo figlio. Troppo inquieta, troppo angosciata, Anna era in condizioni spirituali, morali e fisiche tali da non consentire di poter ricevere i giornalisti arrivati a Losanna.

Luca, che ora ha tredici anni ed è bello, serio e spettinato, era ad aspettarci alla stazione insieme con la governante, visibilmente divertito dall’affanno e dall’inutile diffidenza con i quali controllavamo i capi del bagaglio.E cominciarono qui quei discorsi di Anna col figlio che li portano insieme in un mondo magico e segreto dal quale ci si sente subito esclusi. Lo spirito critico di Luca e una sua speciale grazia nello scherzare sono ripresi da sua madre in tono maggiore quando parlano a ritmo serrato di cose che interessano e capiscono soltanto loro. Di quel mondo fanno anche parte l’umiltà e la gioia con le quali Anna accetta la dolce tirannia di questo suo unico figlio che ha imparato a discutere con lei della malattia e dell’intervento come di un dolore comune.

A Losanna lunghe conferenze con il prof. Nicod dovevano mettere Anna al corrente dei benefici che Luca avrebbe ottenuto dall’operazione chirurgica. Si trattava soltanto di una questione estetica o le gambe del ragazzo si sarebbero rafforzate?

Da questi colloqui Anna tornava disfatta, sempre timorosa di non aver capito bene, sempre titubante di fronte ai vantaggi che reputava relativi, se paragonati ai sacrifici ai quali andava incontro suo figlio. Nottate intere, trascorse a parlare di quest’unico argomento, sfociavano lentamente in albe grigie che non avevano portato nessuna decisione. Luca, al quale furono prospettati vantaggi, dolori e sacrifici, insieme con sua madre decise per l’intervento: quattro operazioni ai piedi, due mesi d’ingessatura e un altro supplementare d’immobilità lo spaventavano meno dell’agonia di sua madre. La perfetta intesa di queste due creature colpite, sebbene in diversa maniera, dallo stesso dolore è il lato più umano di questa triste vicenda.

Il coraggio del ragazzo, cosciente e terso quanto quello di un uomo, come quello di ogni uomo, ebbe un momento di debolezza quando la porta della camera della clinica Bois Cerf si chiuse dietro di noi. Luca guardò sua madre: «Portami via» le disse. E, come un vaso comunicante, Anna reagì subito. Voleva portarsi via il figlio e incalzava le Suore con la stessa voce implorante con la quale mi pregava di tornare ogni ora a riparlare con il prof. Nicod. Travolta, ma più serena di lei, le spiegavo i vantaggi che Luca avrebbe tratto dall’operazione. Il dott. Gobet, che il mattino seguente doveva praticare la narcosi al ragazzo, dovette spiegarle il suo sistema e ascoltare attentamente i suoi racconti di narcosi fatali e le sue raccomandazioni.

Le reazioni di Anna, che sembrano più fenomeni naturali che umani, ebbero modo d’imperversare quando, alle nove di sera, le Suore ci costrinsero a uscire dalla clinica dove doveva rimanere soltanto la governante infermiera del bambino. Anna, che era addirittura convinta di avere il diritto di assistere all’intervento di suo figlio, reagiva selvaggiamente a ogni sua esclusione. Tuttavia la vicinanza di Luca con sua madre è una combinazione chimica che deve indurre il prof. Nicod contrario che precedono un intervento, a pregare Anna di non farsi vedere dal figlio al mattino seguente.

Alle cinque, il campanello che suonava come interrotto in un corridoio dell’albergo era quello di Madame Magnani la quale, poco dopo, era già in moto nel corridoi della clinica dove io, che l’ho raggiunta poco dopo, l’ho trovata livida, gelata, con gli occhi asciutti e duri.

«È salito alle otto meno dieci nella sala operatoria» diceva guardando continuamente l’orologio «sembra che l’intervento debba durare un’ora e mezzo». Alle dieci non riuscivo più a seguirla nel tragitto che al Bois Cerf va dalla terrazza dove si affacciano i vetri della sala operatoria all’ascensore che riporta giù gli operati. Non sapevo più trattenerla; ci aveva portati tutti al centro di una bufera dalla quale non trovavamo più la via di ritorno. Soltanto alle undici, dopo tre ore, il piccolo Luca fu riportato nella stanza dove Anna aveva disposto fiori e giocattoli, spostando a seconda di quelle che credeva fossero le preferenze di suo figlio. Io, spedita d’urgenza a comperare un paesaggio giapponese in vaso che Luca aveva desiderato, al ritorno la trovai a colloquio con il prof. Nicod, finalmente abbandonata a una crisi di pianto. Nicod sorrideva soddisfatto. «Tutto è andato benissimo» la rassicurava «soltanto che ho trovato qualche altra cosa da fare e le operazioni sono state sei, non quattro». Lucida, immediatamente, e attenta Anna si mise ad ascoltare, traducendo con me l’arcano francese del professore.

Poco dopo Anna sapeva a memoria le varie fasi delle operazioni di suo figlio delle quali avevo dovuto prendere nota, per lei.

«Ma oltre ai difetti che sono stati tolti ai piedi, mio figlio caminerà meglio?» chiede Anna «Senza dubbio, madame» la rassicurò Nicod, salutandoci con un gesto che significava che il suo lavoro non era finito.

Rientrammo nella stanza di Luca, inutilmente in punta ai piedi e certo, soltanto il rispetto per quel coraggiosissimo bambino creava leggeri i nostri gesti di fronte al sonno profondo che il medico aveva voluto per lui anche dopo il risveglio della narcosi.

Anna non si è più mossa dalla camera del figlio, ma qualche cosa, intanto, aveva sciolto il suo cuore di piombo. Le Suore?… Bravissime. Le infermiere? Deliziose, sebbene controllasse ogni loro movimento.

Molte cose si sono dette su Anna Magnani, in tutto il mondo, ma il pensiero che potesse assumere la fierezza e l’orgoglio di un caporale ha sempre esulato dalla mente di ogni giornalista fintanto che in quell’atteggiamento l’ho veduta io, quando medici, suore e infermiere hanno fatto sapere ai quattro punti cardinali della clinica che mai, mai, avevano incontrato un bambino più bravo e coraggioso del suo.

Il sonno di Luca è stato squarciato, finalmente, dai suoi stessi occhi che, immensi e pensierosi, si sono posati subito sulla madre.

E li abbiamo lasciati soli nella stanza bianca che accoglieva, posandolo dolcemente sul letto come uno scialle, il pallido sole d’autunno.

Egle Monti 

Mamma Magnani

There is nothing, nothing in the world that would take me away from my son Luca on Christmas

Anna Magnani and Luca 1956
Anna Magnani and Luca, Rome 1956

Two weeks before The Rose Tattoo was scheduled to be premiered, its brilliant leading lady, Anna Magnani, received a phone call in Rome.

“Annarella,” began Pilado Levi, Paramount’s representative in Italy, “the studio is opening Rose Tattoo in New York. They want to fly you there.”

“It’s impossible,” Anna Magnani said.

“But it’s very important,” Pilado Levi said. “You are the star. You must be at the premiere. They will pay everything.”

There was a pause, and then Annarella shouted, “You must be crazy. Christmas is coming. Christmas I spend with Luca. There is nothing, nothing in the world that would take me away from my son on Christmas.”

Anna Magnani has a thirteen-year-old boy named Luca, living with the family of Nina Gravatti in Lausanne, Switzerland. Luca is badly crippled, the result of a polio attack when he was two.

The boy cannot walk without heavy steel braces, and the doctors, for the most part, have given up hope that he ever will. But Anna Magnani fiercely insists that sometime her Luca will walk again.

Last December after she turned down the appearance at the New York premiere of Tattoo, she and a girl friend left for Switzerland.

They arrived the day before Christmas and were met at the Lausanne station by Professor Nicod and Luca. A few weeks previously, the professor had operated on the boy. As Magnani stepped down from the train Luca held out his arms. Magnani ran to him, covered his face with kisses. Excitedly Luca told about his latest operation. His feet, formerly pointing outward, were now straight. With leg braces he would soon be able to stand for longer periods of time.

Anna suggested an immediate celebration, but Professor Nicod told her the boy was too tired. Why not postpone the party until after Christmas?

Reluctantly, Magnani agreed. But on Christmas Eve, dining with her friend in one of Lausanne’s best restaurants, Anna was seized by a sudden, uncontrollable desire to see her boy, to be with him, to have Luca next to her. Jumping to her feet, she announced sharply, “It is impossible to be here without my son.” And with that she bustled out of the restaurant.

Less than an hour later, Anna Magnani and her smiling Luca were sitting in the Grappe D’Or. Luca ordered a chocolate sundae and downed it rapidly.

Next day at Gravatti’s, Luca opened the Christmas presents from his mother: books, clothes, and best of all a pellet-shooting air pistol. Watching her boy, Anna shamelessly shed tears of happiness. Bringing joy to her son meant so much more than any possible trip to New York, any joy to herself.

Christmas over, Anna Magnani returned to Rome, where much to her surprise she learned that a news magazine had awarded her “the golden violet” for being Italy’s most exemplary mother.

And then when she heard she’d won the coveted Oscar, Anna in her excitement said, “Everything I have done is for my Luca.” Whereupon she immediately put in a long-distance call to him, saying, “He’ll be crazy about this. It will be his greatest Easter present.”