Well how much did you know about our forgotten beauty?
There she is (above) blissfully posing with a young James Dean, described early and often as the love of her life.
They were an odd couple: Pier Angeli, the daughter of a domineering stage mother from the Italian island of Sardinia, and the mixed-up actor on the brink of stardom from Marion, Indiana.
Dean and Angeli became close while he was making his breakthrough Hollywood feature, East of Eden. He fell for her and she fell for him — hard. She admitted publicly that she was “in love, deeply and eternally” with the actor. The two wished to get married.
The fates — that is, Angeli’s mother, Dean’s business manager, and her parent studio, MGM — were thoroughly put off by the idea. Thus, the marriage never happened, to the deep regret of both principals. He died in a car crash in 1955; she mourned his loss until her suicide at age 39.
More on all this in the answers to our Pier Angeli Quiz questions. Here we go:
1) Question: Pier Angeli’s most enduring Hollywood film, 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, is a biopic about a boxer played in the movie by a popular leading man. Can you name this actor, and the real-life pugilist he portrayed?
1) Answer: Paul Newman played the role of prizefighter Rocky Graziano. (Angeli portrayed his wife, Norma.)
2) Question: Angeli was famously married to which one of the following pop singers of the period? a) Fabian; b) Frankie Avalon; c) Vic Damone; or d) Perry Como.
2) Answer: c) Vic Damone. It’s fair to say that Angeli married the Brooklyn-born crooner, who was under contract to MGM, on the rebound post her intense James Dean affair. The marriage was marked by combat, and the divorce came in 1959 accompanied by a nasty custody battle over their son, Perry.
3) Question: Angeli also had her share of notable lovers, a group that does NOT include which one of the following? a) Kirk Douglas; b) James Dean; c) Armando Travajoli; or d) Jean-Pierre Aumont.
3) Answer: d) Jean-Pierre Aumont, the French actor who married Angeli’s sister, Marisa Pivan, and stayed married to her (on and off — the couple got divorced and then remarried) until his death in 2001. Italian bandleader Armando Tavajoli, who was much older than Angeli, was her second and final husband.
4) Question: During a dark period during which she couldn’t find work, Angeli somewhat improbably became very close with which one of the following female stars? a) Joan Crawford; b) Jane Mansfield; c) Debbie Reynolds; or d) Rita Gam.
4) Answer: c) Debbie Reynolds. She and Angeli became pals during their MGM days, and the friendship deepened over time. It was Reynolds who tried to land jobs for Angeli during the latter’s dark, late career days.
5) Question: How exactly did Angeli commit suicide? a) She listened one too many times to her then husband’s latest record album; b) Jumped off a tall building on the MGM lot; c) Overdosed on barbiturates after four previous suicide attempts; or d) Flung herself in front of heavy traffic along Sunset Boulevard.
5) Answer: c) She overdosed on barbiturates. Some sources say it was not deliberate suicide but an accidental death. We have our doubts.