The Rose Tattoo (1955)

The Rose Tattoothe-rose-tattoo-movie-poster-1955-1020207046
Directed by Daniel Mann
Written by Tennessee Williams and Hal Kanter from Williams’s play
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Amazon Instant

“Everybody is nothing until you love them.” ― Tennessee Williams, The Rose Tattoo

The rest of the film is not as strong as Anna Magnani’s tour-de-force Academy Award winning performance.

Serefina delle Rose (Magnani) immigrated to the U.S. from Sicily and now lives somewhere in the South with her husband Rosario and fifteen-year-old daughter Rosa.  She is completely devoted and enthralled by Rosario, who wears a rose tattoo on his chest.  (Obviously, the rose symbolism is going to be taken to the limit in this movie.)  He is a truck driver and when caught hauling “something else” under his bananas gets into an accident and is killed.  Serefina is overcome with grief and spends her days in her nightgown and robe, embarrassing the hell out of Rosa.

Serefina continues with her business as a seamstress.  She becomes obsessed with preserving Rosa’s innocence.  She does not take it kindly when Rosa falls in love with a young sailor at a high school dance.


One day, a woman comes into pick up a blouse she wants to wear to a convention in New Orleans.  The blouse is not ready, one thing leads to another, and a terrific argument ensues.  The woman blurts out that Rosario was having an affair.  This is shattering news to Serafina and she intially refuses to believe it.  She ends up trying to pry the information from Rosario’s confessor at church.  She is unsuccessful but so distraught that she needs a ride home.

Alvaro Mangiacavallo, whose sister had been trying to make a match for him with Serafina any way, comes to the rescue.  The rest of the movie follows the uneasy courtship between Alvaro, “who has the body of Rosario, the face of a clown and smells like a goat”, and Serafina.


Burt Lancaster’s character is the big question mark in this film.  I’m uncertain as to whether the usually reliable actor was taking it way over the top or whether he is playing the character as written.  At any rate, his shenanigans add a comic tone to an otherwise dark story and seem incongruous.  Otherwise, there is nothing exactly wrong with the movie but it didn’t send me.

The Rose Tattoo won Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Supporting Actress (Pavan); Best Costume Design, Black-and-White; Best Film Editing; and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.


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