The Rose Tattoo

Anna Picture.jpg


Castro Theatre Sat, Sep 24, 2016 6:00 PM
Film Info
Running Time:117 min.
English subtitles
Director:Daniel Mann
Producer:Hal B. Wallis
Screenwriter:Tennesse Williams
Cinematographer:James Wong Howe
Cast:Anna Magnani
Burt Lancaster


In The Rose Tattoo, Anna Magnani played the widowed mother of a teenage daughter. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, it was Magnani's first English speaking role in a mainstream Hollywood movie, and it won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. Lancaster, who played the role of a lusty truck driver alongside Magnani, said: “If she had not found acting as an outlet for her enormous vitality, she would have become ‘a great criminal’.”

Film historian John Di Leo has written that Magnani's acting in the film “displays why she is inarguably one of the half dozen greatest screen actresses of all time”. He also added: “Whenever Magnani laughs or cries (which is often), it's as if you've never seen anyone laugh or cry before: has laughter ever been so burstingly joyful or tears so shatteringly sad?”

Tennessee Williams based the character of Serafina on Magnani, as Williams was a great admirer of her acting abilities, and he stipulated that the movie “must star what he described as ‘the most explosive emotional actress of her generation, Anna Magnani.’” In his memoirs, Williams described why he insisted on Magnani playing this role:

“Anna Magnani was magnificent as Serafina in the movie version of Tattoo... She was as unconventional a woman as I have known in or out of my professional world, and if you understand me at all, you must know that in this statement I am making my personal estimate of her honesty, which I feel was complete. She never exhibited any lack of self-assurance, any timidity in her relations with that society outside of whose conventions she quite publicly existed... she looked absolutely straight into the eyes of whomever she confronted and during that golden time in which we were dear friends, I never heard a false word from her mouth.”

The Rose Tattoo was originally staged on Broadway with Maureen Stapleton as Magnani's English was too limited at the time for her to star. Magnani won other Best Actress awards for her role, including the BAFTA Film Award, Golden Globes Award, National Board of Review (USA), and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. When her name was announced as the Oscar winner, an American journalist called her in Rome to tell her the news; his challenge was convincing her he wasn't joking.

35 mm film print courtesy of the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at UCLA Film & Television Archive.