Tennessee Williams (born Thomas Lanier Williams, March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983) was an American writer, primarily of plays. He received many of the top theatrical awards for his works of drama. Born of Welsh and Scots-Irish parentage in Mississippi he moved to St. Louis, Missouri with his family at the age of eight, he later moved from St. Louis to New Orleans in 1939, he changed his first name to "Tennessee", the Southeastern U.S. state and his father's birthplace. From 1936 to 1945 Williams' career had many stops and starts as he continued to struggle to earn a living as a writer; all of that changed with the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for The Glass Menagerie (1945), soon after he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and his 1952 play The Rose Tattoo received the Tony Award for best play. Williams received a second Pulitzer Prize for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. In addition, The Night of the Iguana (1961) also received New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
Know as playwright and a poet, he reached larger world-wide audiences in 1950 and 1951 when The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire were adapted as major motion pictures. Later plays adapted as motion pictures include The Rose Tattoo, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , Suddenly, Last Summer, Sweet Bird of Youth, Orpheus Descending/The Fugitive Kind, The Night of the Iguana, Summer and Smoke and Boom!/The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. Between 1948 and 1963 Williams spent a great deal of his time in Italy (mostly Rome), working and writing, in the company of his longtime partner, Frank Merlo, and his friend and muse Anna Magnani. 1963, when Merlo died at age 44, to 1973, when Magnani died at age 65, marked a very dark period both personally and professionally in Williams' life. In 1979 he received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor and in 1980 he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter; and many theater lovers and critics began to realize the tremendous contribution Williams had made and was continuing to make to American drama.
Anna Magnani (March 1908 – 26 September 1973) was an Italian stage and film actress. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress, along with four other international awards, for her portrayal of a Sicilian widow in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo. Born in Rome to an unmarried couple comprised of her Calabrese father and a Roman mother, she worked her way through Rome's Academy of Dramatic Art by singing at night clubs and doing vaudeville shows. After meeting director Goffredo Alessandrini she received her first screen role in La Cieca di Sorrento (The Blind Woman of Sorrento) (1934), the marriage fizzled and she later had a child with up and coming actor Massimo Serato, Luca Magnani (she gave him her last name which technically was not legal at the time) was born in 1942. Soon after Magnani achieved international fame in Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), considered the first significant movie to launch the Italian neorealism movement in cinema. An already iconic, albeit local, figure in Rome, she was often referred to as "Nannarella" and "La Lupa," the "perennial toast of Rome" and a "living she-wolf symbol" of the cinema. Time magazine described her personality as "fiery," and drama critic Harold Clurman said her acting was "volcanic."
In the realm of Italian cinema, she was "passionate, fearless, and exciting," an actress that film historian Barry Monush calls "the volcanic earth mother of all Italian cinema." Director Roberto Rossellini, with whom Magnani worked three times and fell in love, called her "the greatest acting genius since Eleonora Duse. Playwright Tennessee Williams became an admirer of her acting and wrote The Rose Tattoo specifically for her to star in, a role for which she received her first Oscar in 1955. As an actress she became recognized for her dynamic and forceful portrayals of "earthy lower-class women" in such films as The Miracle (1948), Bellissima (1951), The Rose Tattoo (1955), Wild is the Wind (1958) directed by George Cukor, The Fugitive Kind (1960), with Marlon Brando and directed by Sidney Lumet, and Pasolini's classic Mamma Roma (1962). As early as 1950, Life magazine had already stated that Magnani was "one of the most impressive actresses since Garbo" and Bette Davis described her as "the greatest actress alive."