London, March 1958
Signorina Anna Magnani, might, I feel, be rated one of the wonders of the modern world: this superbly vital Italian actress has defeated Hollywood. Other Continental stars have been known to be groomed and gossiped out of existence in the celluloid city —not so Signorina Magnani. She remains magnificently herself—a strong, vibrant personality, dominating every film in which she appears. She refuses to be glamorized and, as the song crudely puts it “she won’t dish the dirt with the rest of the girls”: that’s to say, she snubs the columnists who try to pry into her private affairs. I think she is terrific.
In Wild is the Wind she is splendidly partnered by M. Anthony Quinn, who plays a prosperous Nevada sheep-farmer—a widower who brings Signorina Magnani to America as his second wife. His first wife was her sister and he seems to take it for granted that she will be as gentle and docile as the woman he lost. He does not understand her impulsive, passionate temperament and though, with clumsy tenderness, he tries to give her everything she wants, he wounds her deeply by his efforts to make her a carbon copy of her dead sister.
Fiercely desiring to be loved for herself, Signorina Magnani finds herself responding to the ardent advances of Mr. Quinn‘s adopted son, Mr. Anthony Franciosa. They become lovers. Mr. Quinn‘s anger on discovering this boils up volcanically. Mr. Franciosa, who will never forgive himself for the wrong he has done to the man he has regarded as a father, leaves the farm —and Signorina Magnani, shattered by his desertion, prepares to return to Italy. Mr. Quinn‘s rage subsides into grief and self-reproach: he begs her to stay with him.
I could not quite believe in the last minute reconciliation, with is optimistic suggestion that they will live happily ever after—but the acting, at least, is entirely convincing throughout and over Signorina Magnani‘s emotional range I am, as usual, lost in admiration. The Nevada landscape, photographed in black and white, is rugged and beautiful and the film has been impeccably directed by Mr. George Cukor.
A fortnight ago I intimated how enjoyable I found Wild is the Wind, vividly directed by George Cukor and still more vividly acted by Anna Magnani, Anthony Quinn, and Anthony Franciosa among the wild horses and not very tame sheep of Nevada. It is to be enjoyed because it deal with the human beings in emotional upset, in daring, in anger, and in distress.
Anna Magnani brings far more sheer passion to the screen than any other actress has done for a very long time. She is essentially the Italian peasant-woman, scornful of make-up, powerful of voice, uninhibited in her ways of communicating her deeply-felt emotions. She is a kind of poor man’s Duse, and she makes more than might be thought possible of her very congenial part in Wild is the Wind, where she is a Nevada sheep-farmer’s second wife, newly brought from Italy to replace her dead sister.