Marisa Pavan, the Italian actress and twin sister of Pier Angeli who received an Oscar nomination for her performance as the daughter of Anna Magnani’s seamstress in the 1955 drama The Rose Tattoo, has died. She was 91.
Pavan died Wednesday in her sleep at her home in Gassin, France, near Saint-Tropez, Margaux Soumoy, who wrote Pavan’s 2021 biography, Drop the Baby; Put a Veil on the Broad!, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Pavan also portrayed the French queen Catherine de’ Medici in Diane (1956), starring Lana Turner; an Italian girl who had an affair years ago with a corporate exec (Gregory Peck) in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956); and the love interest of a former cop (Tony Curtis) investigating the murder of a priest in the film noir The Midnight Story (1957).
In Paramount’s The Rose Tattoo (1955), an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play that won four Tony Awards, including best play, Pavan was memorable as the headstrong Rosa Delle Rose alongside Magnani, Burt Lancaster, Jo Van Fleet and Ben Cooper. Williams adapted the screenplay with Hal Kanter.
The film, directed by Daniel Mann and shot in Florida by James Wong Howe, was nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture, and won three. Pavan lost out on Oscar night to Van Fleet — who won not for The Rose Tattoo but for East of Eden — but she did get to the podium at the Pantages, accepting countrywoman Magnani’s trophy for best actress.
Maria Luisa Pierangeli and her sister (birth name Anna Maria Pierangeli, who was older by a few minutes) were born on June 19, 1932, in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. Their father, Luigi, was an architect and construction engineer, and their mother, Enrica, was a homemaker who once dreamed of being an actress.
“My mother adored Shirley Temple and took us to see all her movies,” Pavan said in Jane Allen’s 2002 book, Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life. “She even dressed us like Shirley Temple, hence the big bows in our hair.”
The family moved to Rome in the mid-1930s and was threatened when the Nazis occupied the city.
When she was 16, Anna was strolling along the Via Veneto on the way home from art school when she was discovered by Vittorio De Sica, and she portrayed a teenager on the verge of a sexual awakening opposite him in Tomorrow Is Too Late (1950). That brought her to the attention of MGM, which cast her in Teresa (1951), signed her to a seven-year contract and gave her the stage name Pier Angeli.
Angeli and her sister then moved to Los Angeles, and Maria, with no acting experience, was signed by Fox. Newly christened Marisa Pavan, she made her big-screen debut as a French girl in John Ford’s World War I-set What Price Glory (1952), starring James Cagney and Dan Dailey.
Pavan then appeared in 1954 in the film noir Down Three Dark Streets and in the Western Drum Beat, starring Broderick Crawford and Alan Ladd, respectively, before she broke out in The Rose Tattoo.
Pavan also co-starred in a pair of epic adventures released in 1959, playing Robert Stack’s love interest in John Farrow’s John Paul Jones (1959) and the servant Abishag in King Vidor’s Solomon and Sheba (1959). In the latter, she worked alongside Yul Brynner, who joined the film in Spain after the sudden death of Tyrone Power.
Pavan worked mainly in television after that, with stints on such shows as The United States Steel Hour, Naked City, 77 Sunset Strip, Combat!, The F.B.I., Wonder Woman, Hawaii Five-O and The Rockford Files.
In 1976, she appeared as Kirk Douglas‘ mentally ill wife in the Arthur Hailey NBC miniseries The Moneychangers, and she played Chantal Dubujak, mother of crime lord Max DuBujak (Daniel Pilon), in 1985 on the ABC soap opera Ryan’s Hope.
Angeli, who dated James Dean before she married singer Vic Damone and portrayed the wife of champion boxer Rocky Marciano (played by Paul Newman) in 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, died in 1971 at age 39 of a barbiturate overdose at a Beverly Hills apartment. It was never firmly established whether she died by suicide or suffered a reaction to prescribed medication.
Pavan was married to French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont (her castmate in John Paul Jones) from 1956 until his 2001 death. Survivors include her sons, Jean-Claude (a cinematographer) and Patrick, and her younger sister, Patrizia Pierangeli, also an actress.