Sunday, August 14, 2011

Magnetic Magnani

In another post, someone in the comments section mentioned Anna Magnani in The Fugitive Kind (1960). I had caught part of a scene when TCM aired this film a couple of weeks ago and was immediately interested in Anna Magnani's performance. I'm only familiar with her as being a Best Actress winner for The Rose Tattoo, but it's interesting that she was cast in Tennessee Williams adapatations, which were in vogue in Hollywood during the 1950s and early '60s; Williams was cutting-edge material during that time.

As for Anna Magnani, I've read wildly varying opinions of her role in The Fugitive Kind: She was brilliant, she couldn't speak the lines properly, she had no chemistry with Brando, she was overrated...wait, scratch that; I never want to hear, see, speak, or write that word again...

From that brief exposure to her, I have to say that Anna Magnani was a magnetic screen presence. She's not "beautiful" and her appearance is, shall we say, "unpolished" by Hollywood standards, but whether she knew how to pronounce her dialog correctly or not, whatever it was she had, Magnani radiated charisma and a conviction to the character's emotions. I could sense her power and passion and all that simmering energy she obviously had.

With my burgeoning interest in foreign films, I have to explore the career of this charismatic star; particularly her foreign language roles. For years, I dismissed Anna Magnani as a one-shot Oscar winner who subsequently toiled in obscurity, but the faintest of glimpses into her work has picqued my interest.


  1. C.K., Magnani was one of the greats. I can recommend three of her non-US films where she will blow your mind: "Open City" (Rossellini, 1945), "The Golden Coach" (Renoir, 1952--in English), and "Mamma Roma" (Pasolini, 1962). These are all available from Netflix. Trivia note: the role Sophia Loren played in "Two Women" (the one she won the Oscar for) was originally written with Magnani in mind. You can see her influence in Loren's performance. Have fun discovering more about this amazing actress!

  2. I'm glad you took up Anna Magniani through my comment. She was one of the few actresses who had a "meaning" about them, who filled the screen with her mere presence despite not being “conventionally” pretty, who conveyed that raw dramatism, authenticity and ingenuous purity of heart and passion (boosted by her personal life) – in other words, a genuine artist. The best thespians are invisible, you see the character and not someone portraying a character (when I watch Lawrence Olivier — the best Shakespearian actor ever — as Richard III or Hamlet, I don’t see him, I see Richard III, Hamlet, etc). I think she is still a largely underrated actress even in Europe. Roberto Rossellini called her "the greatest acting genius since Eleonora Duse". She always represented for me the desperation and loneliness of a good person forever losing the battle against the world. One of her best films, in my opinion, is “Una voce umana” (The Human Voice) directed by Roberto Rosselini (the second part of a two-part movie “L’amore”) and based on Jean Cocteau's play where she is the only character and talks on the phone throughout the movie. I’d specifically point out her impressive moments of silence — only great actors are able to act without words.

  3. I always found this still from Riso Amaro very enticing...


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