Mira Sorvino

Ann Bancroft
From Ann Bancroft to Annabella Sciorra - Hollywood Discovers Italian American Women.

Although some Italian American females such as the Taliaferro sisters, Edith and Mabel, of the silent film era and others like Esther Minciotti, who played in the 1955 Academy Award winning movie "Marty,” have performed in movies from the beginning, they did not come into their own until the 1960s. This development seemed to coincide with growing recognition in this country of the talents of post-World War II Italian actresses such as Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren, and Gina Lollabrigida.

Ann Bancroft (1931- ), born as Anna Marie Italiano in the Little Italy of the Bronx, New York, was perhaps the first of her nationality to achieve acclaim in starring roles. After attending acting school in Manhattan she appeared in stage productions and film first under the name of Ann Marno that was then changed to Anne Bancroft under which appellation in 1958 she received the Tony Award for her stage performance in "Two for the Seesaw." Her sturdy acting in Hollywood's "The Miracle Worker" brought additional acclaim and won her a second Tony as well as an Oscar Award. Bancroft continued to act both in stage plays and film winning praise for her roles in movies such as "The Graduate," "The Pumpkin Eater," "The Turning Point," and "The Elephant Man." She also appeared as Mary Magdalene in a television mini-series.

Born in 1946 in Lake Success, New York Talia Rose Coppola enjoyed a movie career playing roles of Italian American women. For Talia, the road to acting was not surprising since she came from a family long associated with public performances and acting -her father and grandfather were noted composers and her mother an actress. Her uncle was dean of a Creative Arts department and her brother Francis Ford Coppola, one of the most successful screenwriters and producer/directors. In addition, her first husband David was a Hollywood music composer. After studying acting in New York and the Yale University School of Drama, Talia obtained her first major role in her brother Francis' monumental "The Godfather II" for which she was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress. She was nominated for the same award in1976 when she won the New York Film Critics Award for her role as a shy, unloved, colorless woman in "Rocky."

Brenda Vaccaro, who was born in 1939 in Brooklyn, and raised in Texas, studied acting in New York where she began acting professionally in the 1960s. Among the films in which she appeared was "Midnight Cowboy" and "Once is not Enough" for which she received an Oscar nomination in 1985.

Born to Italian immigrants in 1958 in Lombard, Illinois, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio attended the University of Illinois and also took up acting. She went to New York where she appeared in "West Side Story” in 1981 and subsequently starred in a number of movies in which she was matched with some of Hollywood's leading actors, as for example, in 1991 appearing in "Class Action" with Gene Hackman. Her performance opposite Tom Cruise and Paul Newman in "The Color of Money" earned her an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress in 1986. In 2002 she returned to the theater in "Man of La Mancha."

The daughter of famous actor Paul Sorvino, Mira Sorvino, born in 1967 in Tenafly, New Jersey, has emerged as an accomplished actress. A cum laude graduate of Harvard University who speaks Mandarin Chinese, Mira is a versatile actress who has starred in such films as "The Summer of Sam." Her peak film performance was in "Mighty Aphrodite" that won her an Academy Award as best supporting actress and the Golden Globe Award in 1995. There are, of course a number of other names that can be cited such as Marisa Tomei, Beverly D’Angelo, and Annabella Sciorra, to demonstrate that however limited their appearance in starring Hollywood films of an earlier era Italian American women have carved out for themselves a meaningful place in the movie industry.

Gina Lollabrigida with Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Pictures Association of America

Beverly D'Angelo receiving a NIAF Award

Sophia Loren at the NIAF Awards Gala 2002

Annabella Sciorra

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