How Anna Magnani became the face of Italian neorealism

May 17, 2024 146

BY: Chloe Walker

Italian neorealism was meant to be a genre populated by non-professional actors, but Anna Magnani was the exception that proved the rule. Despite her stardom, her bawdy ebullience, earthy intensity and resolute lack of glamour made her the perfect emblem for a cinematic movement centred around ordinary Italians dealing with the tough realities of life in the shadow of the Second World War. Audiences were fed up of the glossy, escapist, studio-set ‘Telefoni Bianchi’ comedies of the Mussolini era. They wanted raw, tough, gritty, real. Enter Magnani.

She’d been a mainstay of Italian cinema for much of the 1930s and early 1940s, garnering a reputation as an actor adept at comedies and dramas alike. But it wasn’t until Rome, Open City (1945) that Magnani’s career, and the Italian neorealist style, truly took flight.

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