30 January 2015

Pier Angeli

Before she was 20 Pier Angeli (1932-1971) had starred with Vittorio de Sica in two Italian box office hits and was discovered by Hollywood. There she would win a Golden Globe, have an affair with James Dean, and there she would die before she was 40.

Pier Angeli
French postcard, no. 108.

Pier Angeli
Dutch postcard by DRC, no. F 103. Photo: MGM.

Pier Angeli
Dutch postcard. Photo: MGM.

Pier Angeli
Dutch postcard.

Pier Angeli
French postcard by Edition du Globe (E.D.U.G.), no. 93.

A Light Touch of Innocence

Anna Maria Pierangeli was born in 1932, in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. Her twin sister is the actress Marisa Pavan.

When she was only 16 she made her film debut in an uncredited part in a short Italian film. The following year she played with Vittorio de Sica in Domani è troppo tardi/Tomorrow Is Too Late (Léonide Moguy, 1950).

At AllMovie, Hal Erickson writes: "Domani e Troppo Tardi is the first of two Leonide Moguy films dealing with the travails of post-war Italian life; the second was Domani e un altro Giorno. The story concerns the efforts to provide a proper sex education for youngsters. Progressive schoolteachers Landi (Vittorio De Sica) and Anna (Lois Maxwell) have a profound influence on two of their young students, Mirella (Anna Maria Pierangeli) and Franco (Gino Leuri). The two kids are enamored of one another, and decide to experiment with some of the knowledge they've gleaned in the classroom... with devastating results."

Soon Anna Maria Pierangeli would be discovered by Hollywood, and she changed her professional name in Pier Angeli. MGM launched her in Teresa (Fred Zinnemann, 1951). Enthusiastic reviews for her eloquent and understated performance compared her to Greta Garbo. She received an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe.

With Stewart Granger she played in The Light Touch (Richard Brooks, 1952). She indeed brought a light touch of innocence to the film, but her next films, like the musical The Story of Three Loves (Vincente Minnelli, Gottfried Reinhardt, 1953), and Flame and the Flesh (Richard Brooks, 1954) with Lana Turner, were respectable but unexciting.

Pier Angeli and Gino Leurini in Domani è troppo tardi (1950)
Italian postcard. Photo: M.G.M. Publicity still for Domani è troppo tardi/Tomorrow Is Too Late (Léonide Moguy, 1950) with Gino Leurini.

Pier Angeli and John Ericson in Teresa
Belgian postcard, offered by RI RI Demaret, no. 1051. Photo: MGM. Publicity still for Teresa (Fred Zinnemann, 1951) with John Ericson.

Pier Angeli, James Dean
With James Dean. German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 2346. Photo: Keystone.

Pier Angeli
British postcard in the Film Star Autograph Portrait Series by L.D. Ltd., London, no. 133. Photo: M.G.M. Publicity still for Sombrero (Norman Foster, 1953).

Pier Angeli
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 520, offered by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1954.

Pier Angeli
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 549. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Pier Angeli
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. 1182. Photo: MGM.

The Angry Silence

Pier Angeli had a relationship with James Dean but in 1954, under pressure from her domineering mother, she married Catholic singer Vic Damone. The marriage lasted only four years and was followed by highly publicized court battles for the custody of their one son, Perry Farinola.

MGM discovered another European ingénue, Leslie Caron, and they loaned Pier out to other studios. At Warner Bros., she made The Silver Chalice (Victor Saville, 1954) which was only remarkable for the debut of Paul Newman.

For Paramount, she should have had the role of Anna Magnani's daughter in The Rose Tattoo (Daniel Mann, 1955), but motherhood interfered. The role went to her twin sister, Marisa Pavan, who was nominated for an Oscar for it.

Pier returned to her old form in the biography of boxer Rocky Graziano, Somebody Up There Likes Me (Robert Wise, 1956) as Paul Newman's long-suffering wife.

During the 1960s she worked in Europe. She did a strong performance in the kitchen sink drama The Angry Silence (Guy Green, 1960) opposite Richard Attenborough, but few of her other films during that period were notable.

She was reunited with Stewart Granger for the sword and sandal epic Sodom and Gomorrah (Robert Aldrich, 1962) and she played a brief role in Battle of the Bulge (Ken Annakin, 1965) starring Henry Fonda .

Her final appearance was in the low-budget Sci-Fi opus Octaman (Harry Essex, 1971) opposite Kerwin Mathews.

She married a second time to composer Armando Trovaioli in 1962. They had a son, Andrew, but the couple divorced in 1969.

It seemed as if her acting career might revive when she was picked to play a role in The Godfather, (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) but she died soon before filming.

On 10 September 1971 Pier Angeli was found dead of an accidental barbiturate overdose in her house in Beverly Hills. She was only 39 years old.

Pier Angeli
Italian postcard by Turismofoto, no. 18.

Pier Angeli
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. A 370. Photo: M.G.M.

Pier Angeli
Dutch postcard. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

Pier Angeli
Indonesian postcard.

Pier Angeli
French postcard. Photo: MGM.

Pier Angeli
Dutch postcard. Photo: M.G.M. Publicity still for The Vintage (Jeffrey Hayden, 1957)

Pier Angeli
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 57.

Pier Angeli
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 57.

Pier Angeli
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/48.

Scene from Domani è troppo tardi/Tomorrow Is Too Late (1950). Source: coralieshy (YouTube).

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


Bunched Undies said...

A wonderful profile Bob. She worked with great actors and directors and such a tragic demise. Ironically, I was listening to some Christmas music by Vic Damone just a few days ago :)

Linda said...

How sad. She was a name I was familiar with growing up, probably because of Merry Andrew. And there is a paper doll of her c. 1950s, that commands high prices on eBay. I wonder what part she would have had in The Godfather. Connie, perhaps.