We can always count on Tennessee Williams to give us an engrossing tale of love, lust, loss, betrayal, sexual frustration, and jealousy. Anna Magnani's corrosive performance absolutely dominates this film, which works well in black & white (the overheated emotions seem to leap out of the b&w more starkly than they would out of color); you can't take your eyes off her - it's like watching a train wreck. She makes this insecure, emotionally frightened, self-deluded, yet domineering woman a sympathetic figure in the end. Burt Lancaster is a bit over the top, but the role calls for it. A fascinating aspect is the parallel development of the daughter's budding sexuality with the release of her mother's long-suppressed yearnings. Those fascinated by Magnani here should catch her working with Anthony Quinn in "The Secret of Santa Vittoria", made just four years before her death. Once again, thank you American Movie Classics for bringing us this fine film.
The Rose Tattoo
Comedy / Drama / Romance
The Rose Tattoo
Comedy / Drama / Romance
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An Italian-American neighborhood in Louisiana is disturbed when truck driver Rosario Delle Rose is killed by police while smuggling. His buxom widow Serafina miscarries, then over a period of years draws more and more into herself, trying to force her lovely teenaged daughter Rosa to do likewise. On one eventful day, Rose finally breaks away; Serafina learns of Rosario's affair with another woman; and a new carefree, handsome Italian truck driver enters her life...
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Anna Magnani "owns" the movie
It ain't easy to steal the spotlight from Burt Lancaster, but Anna Magnani in her Oscar winning performance managed to do just that. Of course it helps to have the female role be the protagonist here.
In the 1951 season on Broadway, Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo came to Broadway and ran for 306 performances and starred Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach in the Magnani and Lancaster parts. Like all of Tennessee Williams's work it is set in the south, but a different kind of south than we usually see. Surely Serafina Derosse is a lot different than decadent southerners like Blanche Dubois, or Alexandra Del Lago, or Violet Venable. She's from a different world than they, being an immigrant. She brings her culture and its values to the gulf area.
Serafina's husband is killed in a brief prologue in a car crash, he's a truck driver who does a little smuggling on the side. He also does a bit of womanizing on the side as well which comes out at his death. As a result Magnani just withdraws from the world and even tries to turn her daughter, Marisa Pavan, into as a bitter a creature as she is.
Enter Burt Lancaster into her life, who's also a truck driver. His is a pretty expansive role also, but he's just not in the same league as Magnani, few are. Burt was cast in the role because Paramount wanted some box office name as Magnani was not known in this country, though she was Italy's biggest female star.
In a recent biography of Burt Lancaster it said that Lancaster was lucky in this part because he grew up in East Harlem, one of the few WASP types there and had many Italian immigrant friends and their families to draw upon for his character. It's a good performance, Lancaster stops well short of making it a cartoon creation and getting the Italian American Civil Rights group down on him.
Still it's Magnani's picture and she dominates it thoroughly. She did only a few English language films after this, Wild is the Wind and The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anthony Quinn and The Fugitive Kind with Marlon Brando among them. Brando in fact turned down this film because he was afraid she'd upstage him. Guess he got his courage later on.
The Rose Tattoo is probably the closest Tennessee Williams came to doing a comedy. It's well short of a comedy, there's too many serious parts to this film to consider it that. Still I think it's something different from Tennessee Williams, something unique, and something wonderful.
Tennessee Williams was a good friend of Anna Magnani, the great Italian screen star. It was with her in mind he wrote "The Rose Tattoo", but she never played it in the theater because she didn't feel too comfortable, at the time, in doing the play in English.
Anna Magnani was born to play Serafina; she smolders the screen every time we see her. She is the sole reason for watching the film. Daniel Mann miscalculated in the adaptation, by Hal Kanter, of the play he had directed on Broadway, and it shows. The basic failure is that he made the character of Alvaro Mangiacavallo into a buffoon. Burt Lancaster seems to have been directed to go for laughs rather than being the sensual man he is in the play. He must awaken Serafina from the self imposed mourning she is experiencing at the time they meet.
"The Rose Tattoo" has a Greek tragedy feeling. Watch Serafina at the beginning of the film shopping at the grocery store among the neighborhood women. Later, the same thing happens. At the most dramatic moments, the chorus comes to surround Serafina; it's a ploy to make her react to them and vent her anger at the ignorant women who are her neighbors and clients, but not her real friends.
Serafina is a dignified woman who is still living back in Sicily, even though she is now in New Orleans. Her daughter rebels against her mother, who can't understand the American ways. When her husband Rosario dies, her whole world falls apart. Rosario has been the only man in her life and she wants to stay at home and not face reality, until the appearance of Alvaro, who manages to win her over with his simple ways.
Anna Magnani gives a performance that is larger than life.