Anna Maria Magnani was an Italian actress who lived from 7 March 1908 until 26 September 1973. She was noted for her fiery acting and earthy, genuine character interpretations. She was born in Rome and paid her way through the Academy of Dramatic Art by singing in nightclubs. During her career, her only child was diagnosed with polio at the age of 18 months and remained crippled. She was dubbed “La Lupa,” the “perennial toast of Rome,” and a “living she-wolf emblem” in the film industry. Her demeanor was described as “fiery” by Time, while her performance was praised as “volcanic” by theatre critic Harold Clurman.
She was a “passionate, brave, and fascinating” actress in Italian cinema, dubbed “the volcanic earth mother of all Italian cinema” by film historian Barry Monush. Roberto Rossellini referred to her as “the finest acting talent since Eleonora Duse.” Tennessee Williams, a fan of her acting, wrote The Rose Tattoo (1955) particularly for her to perform in, a role for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, being the first Italian – and the first non-English speaking woman – to do so.
She obtained her first movie part in The Blind Woman of Sorrento (La cieca di Sorrento, 1934) after meeting director Goffredo Alessandrini, and subsequently garnered international prominence in Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945), which is regarded as initiating the Italian neorealism trend in cinema. As an actress, she was known for portraying “earthy lower-class women” in films like as L’Amore (1948), Bellissima (1951), The Rose Tattoo (1955), The Fugitive Kind (1960), and Mamma Roma (1962). Life magazine declared Magnani to be “one of the most striking actresses since Garbo” in 1950.