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Please don’t retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them. —Anna Magnani . Strange to feel so drawn these days to the She-Wolf, the wild rose of Italian cinema. Magnani, abandoned by her unmarried mother, grew up a big-boned girl with fierce eyes in the slums of Rome, sang in tawdry nightclubs, with that low & earthy contralto. Over the years, she’d play Anouilh’s Medea, Brecht’s Mother Courage, O’Neill’s Anna Christie She’d throw spaghetti at Roberto Rossellini, before (or maybe after) he threw her aside for Ingrid Bergman. When her only son Luca was stricken with polio, she worked like a donkey in every film she could to provide for him. She complained everyone saw her as some sullen, lonely Elektra, but she loved being Anna Magnani, laughing, joking through it all. In The Rose Tattoo with Burt Lancaster (who did not impress her), she plays a widowed seamstress undone by grief, then revived by passion for Lancaster’s dumb trucker. Tennessee Williams gave her the line: He has the body of my husband & the head of a clown. -----
Copyright 2022 Joan E. Bauer. First published in Paterson Literary Review.
Joan E. Bauer is the author of two full-length poetry collections, The Almost Sound of Drowning (Main Street Rag, 2008) and The Camera Artist (Turning Point, 2021). For some years, she worked as a teacher and counselor and now divides her time between Venice, CA and Pittsburgh, PA where she co-hosts and curates the Hemingway’s Summer Poetry Series with Kristofer Collins.
Anna Magnani (image: La Voce di New York)