There were many famous “sister acts” in the movies.

It started back in the silents, with Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Norma and Constance Talmadge, Delores and Helene Costello.

It continued in talking pictures. Constance and Joan Bennett, Loretta Young and Sally Blane (and Polly Ann Young). There were the famous Lane Sisters, Priscilla, Rosemary and Lola, who made films in the Thirties portraying sisters.

The most famous sister duo is, of course, Olivia deHavilland and Joan Fontaine. They both won Academy Awards.

But to our knowledge there is only one set of film star sisters who were twins — Pier Angeli and Marisa Pavan.

They were born Anna Maria and Maria Louisa Pierangeli in Italy (on the island of Sardinia) in June of 1932. Their domineering mother was determined that they would become famous. At an early age Anna Maria was discovered by director-actor Victorio DeSica and starred opposite him in an Italian film (released in the U.S. as Tomorrow is Too Late.)

She was quickly signed by MGM and given a big push with her first American film, Teresa, which also introduced John Ericson. The studio wanted to change her name but her parents insisted she keep it so they split her last name into two and she was billed at Pier Angeli. She was compared to Garbo and won The Golden Globe award for her part in Teresa.

Her career seemed to be headed for greatness, but personal problems sidetracked her.

After affairs with James Dean — the only man she truly loved, she later said — and Kirk Douglas she married singer Vic Damone. Pregnancy interfered with her being cast as Anna Magnani’s daughter in The Rose Tattoo, and the role was given to her twin, and thus Marisa Pavan’s career was launched.

Pavan received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress. And both she and Magnani won Golden Globes. Pavan made a few more films but then married actor Jean Pierre Aumont, and devoted herself to marriage and children rather than a career.

Angeli starred opposite Paul Newman in The Chalice and Somebody Up There Likes Me. She returned to Europe and made a half dozen more features. The marriage to Damone foundered in 1958 after four years, and a seven-year marital bout with Italian movie composer Armando Trovajoli ended in 1969.

Angeli was cast for a major role in The Godfather but died of an accidental overdose of barbiturates before production started. She was only 39.  The widowed Pavan is still with us at 81.

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