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...Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Though the script places the location in a small Mississippi Gulf town, exteriors were shot in Key West. When scouting for locations, a perfect fit was found for the exterior of the house owned by Serafina Delle Rose on Duncan Street. A fence indicating a goat paddock was needed next door and the crew was worried the owner may object to the filming nearby and the addition of a ramshackle fence on his property. They needn't have worried - the house and property next door at 1431 Ducan was the home that Tennessee Williams shared with his lover Frank Merlo himself who happily agreed to its use even inviting Magnani (close friends of Merlo and Williams) and Lancaster to use it as their dressing rooms. In later years, Williams had an enormous mosaic of a rose tattoo embedded in the floor of the pool behind the house, which is still there today. See more »
When the truck crashes in flames and rolls down the hillside, it is obvious from the beginning of the sequence that there is nobody in the cab. See more »
Mrs. Delle Rose. I don't understand how a woman that acts like you could have such a sweet and refines young girl for a daughter.
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Think of a character equal parts Meryl Streep and Irene Pappas, only Sicilian and rather mad with grief, and you end up with Anna Magnani playing the wonderfully unhinged Serafina Delle Rosa in "The Rose Tattoo."
How crazy is Serafina? So much so you can't take her as a dramatic character because her most dramatic scenes play like comedy, yet you can't laugh too much because you feel such sympathy for her. Tennessee Williams' play becomes a rather endearing character piece with Magnani and director Daniel Mann working odd angles for maximum audience reaction.
Magnani plays Serafina as if she was a character not in a movie but in a song, namely Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." For her, every opportunity to fondle her husband's torso is a chance to "reach out, touch faith." She believes so absolutely in his majesty that it's a bit of a blow, to put it lightly, when she discovers he's actually a louse. Can she break out of her spell and find new love, even if it's a clown wrapped in the body of Burt Lancaster?
Lancaster's performance here is both the film's weakest link and testament to the actor's willingness to serve a role at whatever cost. His character, Alvaro, thinks Magnani the perfect find, however dark the bags under her eyes and big her caboose. Whenever he laughs, you groan a bit because it's not convincing, yet you root for him all the same, both because it's Lancaster in a difficult role, and because he represents Serafina's one shot at happiness.
Magnani won the Oscar for best actress for her performance here. It's deserved for the way she works past any expectations of Hollywood beauty to present us with a character who wins us over despite the fact she's rather ridiculous. Others talk about her straight dramatic moments as witness of her artistry, but her two best moments for me are both comic.
In one, she corners a priest to make him confess to her what her husband confessed as part of a Holy Sacrament, something that would play heavy except for the way Magnani cleverly overplays her scene, not so much as you notice because of how emotional her character is, except when you see it a second time and see more clearly her absurd husband-worship overtaking her.
In the other, she corrals the boyfriend of her daughter (delectable Marisa Pavin) and makes him promise as a fellow Catholic to respect her daughter's virginity, while the daughter watches with obvious anger at her mother's power play. Yet when the boy agrees, the domineering Serafina becomes pleasantly affectionate, winning us over and reminding us of the price she paid for another man's lack of sexual restraint.
For most of the movie, Serafina is at her wits' end, and Magnini draws a fine line between protagonist and monster, again in a way that shreds the Hollywood image of the period. It's a rather overdrawn film, with lots of goofy scenes and Lancaster struggling to keep up his end of the proceedings, but when you give "The Rose Tattoo" a chance, you wind up enjoying it more than you may expect. Tennessee Williams wrote soapy stories, but he knew how to make them work, too.
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