In an interesting twist to last week’s column about the film ‘Stromboli’ starring Ingrid Bergman, two nearby Aeolian islands, Vulcano and Salina, were the base for rival film ‘Vulcano’.
Film wars might be an appropriate term to describe the astonishing events that took place there back in 1950.
Bringing the term ‘deja vu’ to mind, the film ‘Vulcano’, directed by William Dieterle, was being made in the summer of 1949, starring the magnificent and fiery Roman actress Anna Magnani.
The reason for this copycat behaviour was, in fact, the rivalry between Anna Magnani and Ingrid Bergman.
Film director Roberto Rossellini, Magnani’s ex lover and friend, had chosen Ingrid Bergman to play the role of protagonist in film ‘Stromboli’ after initially promising this role to Magnani.
In addition to this humiliation, Rossellini and Bergman had become an item, falling in love and later getting married. Apparently, this so infuriated Anna, she deliberately sought to compete with her ex by making a similar film.
The two neorealist films were in fact shot simultaneously, and only some twelve miles apart, on different Aeolian islands.
In a plot to rival Corrie, ‘Vulcano’ tells the story of Maddalena, a former prostitute, (played by Magnani), who is exiled from Naples to her former Aeolian island home, by the police.
Given the cold shoulder by the island’s locals and feeling isolated, though close to her siblings, she tries to defend her younger sister from the advances of extremely dodgy sea diver, Rossano Brazzi, whom Maddalena doesn’t trust an inch. In fact she becomes so desperate to protect her younger sister that she kills Rossano, by stopping his air flow, whilst ‘helping’ him on a deep sea dive.
The film ends with the wretched woman climbing the volcano in desperation. Magnani and Rossellini had a passionate and stormy relationship with frequent fights. However, in spite of this dramatic example of love rivalry, Magnani’s respect for Rossellini continued throughout her life and she regarded him ultimately as a dear friend.
More recently, a book was written about these lava rivals, entitled ‘La Guerra dei Vulcani’.