She wasn’t exuberant like Sophia Loren, vivacious like Gina Lolobrigida, or intense like Anna Magnani. But she was just as talented. What distinguished her from these women were an ordinary-girl quality, a soft-spoken manner, a most delicate face, and the ability to deliver truly heartbreaking performances.
In 1951, she was given the title role in Teresa,
opposite John Ericson. It turned out to be one of her
best films and was a promising beginning for the 18 year-old Italian actress.
The next year she had the opportunity to work with
the great Gene Kelly in “The Devil Makes Three”, a movie about an ex-soldier
who returns to
Soon Angeli herself would
be deeply in love as well – only not with
One day, after shooting, a
dashing young actor working on a nearby set stopped by to visit Newman and
another friend. They introduced him to Angeli. It was
a meeting that would chance both their lives.
He was just starting his
Little by little, Dean
became more gentle and easygoing under Angeli’s influence. Friends say he even wore a tuxedo for the first time to accompany
her to a première. Apparently, the made each other very
But it was not all a bed of
roses for the handsome
Angeli wanted to marry Dean, but he was reluctant. Though he thought she was “the
marrying kind”, he was afraid of having his freedom restrained and of not being
ready or able to take care of her properly. His indecision and insecurities
hurt Angeli, who believed if he had such doubts, it was because he did not love her. All this
pressure began to take a toll on the relationship.
One day Dean travelled to
Angeli began dating a young singer she had met while making a movie in Germany, three
years before. His name was Vic Damone – a rising star
at MGM at the time. He was charming and had a magnificent voice. But most
importantly he came from a Catholic Italian family and, unlike Dean, was not a
rebellious type. He possessed a clean cut image. In other words, Damone was the son-in-law of Mrs. Pierangeli’s dreams.
After a few months, to
Dean’s bewilderment, Pier announced she and Damone were engaged.
They had a big church
After their break-up, Dean
was desolate and broken-hearted. Though he would have other affairs until his
death in 1955, there would never be another Pier Angeli in his life. No other woman would ever be so romantically linked to him.
The same year, Pier gave
birth to a son, Perry Damone.
In 1956, she starred in one of her most important films, “Somebody Up There Likes Me”. Ironically, Dean was supposed to have starred in it. When he died, Paul Newman was signed to replace him. He and Angeli worked together for a second time, and the result was much better than their first effort, “The Silver Chalice”.
In 1957, she appeared in
“The Vintage”, a romantic and dramatic story of forbidden love and hidden
meetings involving two couples. Co-starring with Angeli were Mel Ferrer, John Kerr and Michèle Morgan. Angeli played the tormented heroine who was
willing to do anything for love.
Her next part was in a much
lighter movie – the musical comedy Merry Andrew, starring Danny Kaye. The film
became quite popular and gave Angeli the chance to
play the cheerful Selena Gallini, a trapeze artist
who wins the heart of Kaye’s Professor Andrew Larabee.
But if on screen it was all
joy and laughter for Angeli, in real life things were
going badly. In 1958, she and Damone were divorced.
Pier went on to work in “SOS Pacific” – the only film she made in 1959. It told the story of survivors of a plane crash who land on a nuclear-test island.
In 1962, things seemed to
be definitely looking up for Angeli. She decided to
take a new chance on marriage with composer Armando Trovajoli.
In addition, she worked in two great productions: “
As Angeli aged, it became increasingly difficult for her to find good parts. The times were different, too: the studio system, under which she was nurtured, was falling to pieces. As the seventies arrived, there was little to hope for.
At the age of 39,
despondent and lonely, suffering from a nervous illness and in a very difficult
financial situation, Angeli died of anaphylatic shock after being given a tranquilizer by her
Her twin sister, Marisa,
had changed her surname to become Marisa Pavan. Her
life was happier than Angeli’s and her film career
more successful. Though Pavan did not work in many
pictures, one of them was especially noteworthy: “The Rose Tatoo”.
Her performance earned her a nomination for an Oscar of Best Supporting Actress
Pavan’s marriage to French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont was somewhat troubled and the couple divorced, but reconciled years later and remarried.
Anna Maria Pierangeli was unpretentious, simple and realistic. She
would not become a glamorous Lana Turner type, but instead, she was the girl
next door, the girl who suffered, cried and had weaknesses and fears, like most
Angeli conveyed sadness, the need for love and protection, and broke the audience’s hearts with her sweet, gentle way. She possessed great charisma and should be remembered as a beautiful, talented woman who had all it takes to become a superstar.