Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Born Today March 7: Anna Magnani


Italian stage and film actress Anna Magnani was born on this day possibly in Rome (some sources cite Egypt as her birthplace).  Her parentage remains a mystery.  Famed film maker Franco Zeffirelli, who claims to have known her well, stated in a book that she was, in fact, born in Alexandria, Egypt to an Egyptian father and an Italian-Jewish mother.  He further states that she was raised in Rome by a grandmother.  Whatever the case, she was supposedly sent at age 17 to study at the Eleonora Duse Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; though other sources claim she never formally studied acting.  It is known for sure that to support herself, she began to work in nightclubs and cabarets as a singer around this time.  She formally started her career on the stage in Italian music halls, singing Italian folk songs--this earned her the nickname "the Italian Edith Piaf."  She then began to get parts in speaking roles on the stage as well. She was said to be quick learner and a fine stage actress, and had some success early in her career as a result.  She is appearing here because it is thought that her first film appearance came in a late silent filmed in Rome by a German production company.  The film Scampolo featured a mostly Italian cast in the lead roles, but also featured German players, even featuring Max Schreck in a smaller role; it was released in 1928. Magnani's part is uncredited.  Her first credited role came in 1934 with The Blind Woman of Sorrento.  She would go on to have a bright career in film, working with and befriending a wide swath of famous people from Frederico Fellini to Tennessee Williams (a point of trivia: her friendship with Williams became the subject of an off-Broadway play).  She is also the grandmother of Italian actress Olivia Magnani, who was born after her death.  She died suddenly on the 26th of September 1973 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, she was 65 years old.  A huge crowd gathered for her funeral in Rome and she was interred the family mausoleum of Roberto Rossellini, with whom she had a relationship with before he married Ingrid Bergman.  She was later moved to the Cimitero Comunale di San Felice Circeo, where she is entombed behind a glass enclosure.  

Site of her first interment.

Her current resting place.

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