Born in poverty as an illegitimate child, Anna Magnani grew up with her grandmother in Rome. She performed in nightclubs as a singer in order to survive as a student at the State Theater School in Rome. After graduating, she joined a traveling theater. She joined in 1928 in Augusto Geninas silent Scampolo and in the 30s in several smaller films. She is best known, however, until 1941 with the movie Teresa Venerd́ by Vittorio De Sica.
The breakthrough as an internationally acclaimed new movie star in Italy succeeded in 1945, when Roberto Rossellini - with whom she was allied privately - it was the role of Pina in Rome, Open City, a masterpiece of neo-realism. From then on, she worked only for the film and for all the leading directors of the 50s and 60s.
1955 they hired the American director Daniel Mann of the Tennessee Williams - adaptation of The Rose Tattoo. For her portrait of Italian-American widow Serafina Delle Rose alongside Burt Lancaster Magnani won the first Italian actress Oscar as best actress. Two years later she was still nominated once again for an Oscar. She played the lead role in George Cukor melodrama Wild Is the Wind. For this film she also received the Silver Bear at the Berlinale 1958.
Her final film in 1972 directed by Federico Fellini in his homage to her hometown of Rome (Fellini\'s Roma). A film, which also came to pay homage to the great Italian character actor, was at the time of realization of the film is already sick of cancer. In 1973, she succumbed to her disease. At the funeral, more than 100,000 people should have followed her coffin.