The grated Dames of cinema

Five Great dames of the Italian cinema.


Anna Magnani (1908 –1973)

You can’t talk about Italian cinema without talking about Anna Magnani. Anna was arguably one of the first female movie stars to emerge from Italy’s nascent post WWII movie making hub, Cinecitta, or Cinema City in Rome. The movies that were released in the weeks and months after the war started a movement, Neorealism, which explored life in the streets, and told the stories of the working class, highlighting their humanity and their daily struggle to survive. Anna was a fiercely talented actress whose characters in these films embodied the passion, emotions, and plight of the average Italian woman, endearing her eternally to the movie-going public. See Bellissima, which satires the film industry directed by Visconti, and The Rose Tattoo, a screen adaptation of a play that Tennessee Williams wrote especially for her, and won her the Oscar in 1955.


Gina Lollobrigida (1927) 

In the mid-fifties Italy was transitioning from salt-of-the-earth Neorealist films, to more glamorous, escapist, Hollywood movies, and Gina Lollobrigida exploded onto the screen as Italy’s first true sex symbol post-WWII. Known as “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”, she earned the attention of none other than Howard Hughes, who was desperate to have her move to Hollywood. Well known throughout Western Europe she eventually made a few Hollywood movies with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Errol Flynn, making her a household name. In the 1970’s, after a successful film career, Gina dedicated herself to photojournalism, stunning the world when Fidel Castro granted her an exclusive interview in 1973. See Bread, Love and Dreams, it won Gina the BAFTA and is an enduring masterwork of Italian cinema.


Monica Vitti (1931)

Monica’s stunning looks and icy on-screen sensuality made her an almost instant star. Throughout the 1960’s Monica was both the muse and lover of internationally acclaimed director Michelangelo Antonioni, a passionate romance that fizzled when they stopped making movies together. In the 1970’s she focused on romantic comedies working with screen legends Marcello Mastroianni and Alberto Sordi. Though Monica won several awards in her career including seven Italian Golden Globes for Best Actress and the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award, see the film that earned the Jury Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, L’Avventura, a visually beautiful early film she made with Antonioni.


Sophia Loren (1934)

Exceptionally gorgeous, profoundly talented, and overflowing with that irresistible Mediterranean warmth, Sophia Loren earned both the titles of international sex symbol and Oscar winner. After winning a local beauty pageant, Sophia moved to Rome hoping to become an actress, where her voluptuous good looks and relationship with film producer Carlo Ponti, quickly catapulted her onto the screen. In 1957 Sophia went to Hollywood, making her an international sensation and winning her the attentions of Cary Grant, who fell desperately in love with her. She returned to Italy where she eventually married Ponti, and made some of her best-known comedic films with co-star Marcello Mastroianni. See Two Women, a fiercely intense film set during WWII where Sophia plays a mother who is raped while protecting her young daughter, it won her the Oscar for best actress and cemented her talent for being more than merely physical. Also see Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow a much lighter film she made with Mastroianni, which gives viewers a delightful taste of Italy from different eras.


Claudia Cardinale (1938)

Claudia Cardinale was originally billed as Italy’s answer to Brigitte Bardot, for her dark beauty and radiant sensuality, however Claudia’s acting talent and love for film making puts her in a category all her own. During the 1960’s she made a string of successful films and worked with top directors such as Visconti and Fellini, making her a sought-after star and a well-loved actress by Italian audiences. In 1963 she made her Hollywood début in the first of the The Pink Panther films, alongside Peter Sellers and David Niven; though she made a few more Hollywood films, including Once Upon a Time in the West, staring opposite Brigitte Bardot, she preferred to make movies in Europe sacrificing the international success achieved by her contemporaries, such as Sophia Loren. At 77 years-old Claudia has never stopped making movies, and continues to make films to this day. See Sandra, a dark film but sultry film where she plays a Holocaust survivor who may have had an incestuous relationship with her brother, and The Leopard, a movie directed by Visconti that’s counted among the best films ever made.


Rome Spotter tip! Don’t forget that Rome has Cinecittà – the largest film studio in Europe! Schedule the movie set tour, visit the studios and locations in the city where some of your favorite movies where made.

Moreover, note that during the summer, Rome has several open air movie theaters. Take a break after long walks and see a movie. If it is wintertime, you might want to do like Romans on Sunday nights: aperitivo e cinema!