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04 July 2013

Silvana Mangano

In the past Il Cinema Ritrovato (29 June - 6 July 2013) had many CinemaScope screenings at the Arlecchino theatre, which we really enjoyed. This year we can look at the magic of the European Scope (the festival organisation defined it so to take into account all of the variations the widescreen systems adopted in our continent). The section Bigger than Life: a journey through European CinemaScope will include Mario Monicelli's La grande guerra/The Great War (1959), starring Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, and in the female lead, beautiful Silvana Mangano (1930-1989). The Italian film star will forever be remembered as the sexy rice picker in Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (1949), and as Tadzio's elegant mother in Morte a Venezia/Death in Venice (1971). She worked four times with maestro Luchino Visconti, and three times with another major director, Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Silvana Mangano in Riso amaro
Dutch postcard by Filmverhuurkantoor Centrafilm, Dordrecht.

Silvana Mangano
Dutch postcard by DRC, no. F 196. Photo: Lux Film.

Silvana Mangano
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 159.

Silvana Mangano
Italian postcard by Bromostampa, Milano (Milan), no. 37. Photo: still from Ulisse/Ulysses (Mario Camerini, 1954), produced by Silvana's husband, Dino De Laurentiis.

Shocking Hotpants
Silvana Mangano was born in Rome in 1930 to an Italian father, a Sicilian train conductor, and an English mother. Her brother is sound technician Roy Mangano and her sisters are one-time actresses Patrizia Mangano and Natascia Mangano. Silvana grew up in poverty caused by the Second World War. Trained for seven years as a dancer, she was supporting herself as a model. At 16, she won the Miss Rome beauty contest in 1946 and got a small role in the opera adaptation L'Elisir d'amore/Elixir of Love (Mario Costa, 1948) with Tito Gobbi. She was also nominated for the Miss Italia contest in 1947, which Lucia Bosé won. Mangano started to play small roles in films like Il delitto di Giovanni Episcopo/Flesh Will Surrender (Alberto Lattuada, 1947), Gli uomini sono nemici/Crossroads of Passion (1948, Ettore Giannini) with French diva Viviane Romance, and Black Magic (Gregory Ratoff, 1949) starring Orson Welles. She had her breakthrough with the neo-realistic crime story Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (Giuseppe De Santis, 1949), situated in the rice fields along the Po river in Northern Italy. Managano played the voluptuous rice picker Silvana, who falls for the criminal Walter (Vittorio Gassman) and his presumed wealth. The thousands of female rice workers, up to their ankles in the water, breaking their backs in the burning sun to earn a few bucks, make an impressive decor. To the standards of 1949s Roman Catholic Italy Mangano's performance in hotpants was shocking. This earned Riso Amaro a lot of publicity, and earned Mangano a contract with the Lux company.

Silvana Mangano
French postcard, no. 850. Photo: Lux Film.

Silvana Mangano
German collectors card. Photo: Lux / Schorchtfilm.

Silvana Mangano
Belgian postcard by Nieuwe Merksemsche Chocolaterie, Merksem. Photo: Lux Film Rome. Publicity still for Riso Amaro/Bitter Rice (1949).

Silvana Mangano
German postcard by Netter's Star Verlag, Berlin. Publicity still for Riso Amaro/Bitter Rice (1949).

Pig-fancying Enchantress
Though Silvana Mangano never scaled the heights of her competitors Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida, she was a popular European film star in the 1950s and 1960s. Lux produced her subsequent films such as Anna (Alberto Lattuada, 1951) with Raf Vallone, and Ulisse/Ulysses (Mario Camerini, 1954), an adaptation of Homer's second epic featuring Kirk Douglas. Mangano played both Ulysses' faithful wife Penelope and the pig-fancying enchantress Circe. In 1949, she had married producer Dino De Laurentiis who controlled her career and launched her as the leading lady of international co-productions such as Mambo (Robert Rossen, 1954) with Michael Rennie, This Angry Age/Le barrage sur le Pacifique (René Clément, 1958) with Anthony Perkins, and 5 Branded Woman/Jovanka e le altre (Martin Ritt, 1960) with Jeanne Moreau.

Silvana Mangano
Dutch postcard, nr. 34. Photo: Standard-Films. Still from Ulisse/Ulysses (1954) in which Mangano played Circe/Penelope.

Silvana Mangano
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano (Milan), no. 230.

Silvana Mangano
Dutch postcard, no. 857. Photo: Luxardo.

Silvana Mangano)
Italian postcard by Bromostampa, Milano in the series 'Hobby'.

Visconti and Pasolini
In 1967, Silvana Mangano starred in the anthology film Le streghe/The Witches (1967) with five episodes directed by Mauro Bolognini, Vittorio De Sica, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Franco Rossi and Luchino Visconti. Visconti shot the quite cynical and biographical episode La strega bruciata viva/The Witch Burned Alive, and he later cast her again as Tadzio's (Björn Andrésen) aristocratic mother in Morte a Venezia/Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971), modeled on Visconti's own mother. She also played the cunning Cosima von Bülow in Ludwig (Luchino Visconti, 1972), and the hysterical marchesa Brumonti in Gruppo di famiglia in un interno/Conversation Piece (Luchino Visconti, 1974) opposite Burt Lancaster. Mangano also performed in three films by Pasolini: as Jocaste in Edipo re/Oedipus Rex (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967), an updated version of the Greek tragedy by Sophocles; as Lucia, the mother in Teorema/Theorem (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968) with Terence Stamp, and as the Holy Virgin - a small, uncredited role - in Il Decameron/The Decameron (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1971).

Silvana Mangano
Vintage postcard, no. 2067.

Silvana Mangano
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, offered by Les Carbones Korès, no. 618.

Silvana Mangano
French postcard. Editions P.I., Paris, no. 743.

Silvana Mangano
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano. Photo: Lux Film. Mangano holds up a kitschy copy of a man's portrait (ca. 1635) by Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, now at the Mauritshuis at the Hague.

Silvana Mangano
Italian postcard by Ferrania. Photo: Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica.

Tapestries
In the 1980s, Silvana Mangano's life took a bad turn. In 1981 her son, Federico De Laurentiis, was killed in an Alaskan air crash. In 1983 she separated from Dino De Laurentiis , though they did not divorce. She did not perform in films anymore, except for Dune (David Lynch, 1984) and Oci ciornie/Dark Eyes (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1987), in which she played Romano's (Marcello Mastroianni) wife. She dedicated her time to making tapestries, alternating her domicile between Madrid and Paris. Silvana Mangano, who had always been a strong smoker, died of lung cancer in 1989, in a hospital in Madrid. She was only 59. Silvana Mangano had four children with Dino De Laurentiis: Veronica, Raffaella, Francesca, and the deceased Federico. Veronica's daughter Giada De Laurentiis is host of Everyday Italian on the Food Network. Raffaella coproduced with her father on Mangano's penultimate film, Dune.


Scene from Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (1949). Source: boct2007 (YouTube).


Scene from Anna (1951). Silvana sings El negro zumbon. Source: jack11anbar (YouTube).


Trailer of Morte a Venezia/Death in Venice (1971). Source: enneme (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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