PIER ANGELI (1932-71) – A casualty of stardom, adulation and the high life.

 

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PIER ANGELI (1932-71)                                     

Anna Maria Pierangeli was born in Sardinia in 1932 and would one day evolve into Hollywood movie star Pier Angeli. Her twin sister, Maria Luisa, would also change her name and achieve limited screen success as Marisa Pavan. The family moved to Rome when the girls were three, and then to California in 1950. Pier’s first boyfriend in Hollywood was 28 year-old Arthur Lowe Junior, son of the boss at MGM. She was signed by the studio in 1951 to a five-year contract at $1,600 a month. Not yet 19, she was soon dating Marlon Brando and John Barrymore Junior, although her real romantic interest lay with up and coming actor Richard Anderson.

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Pier & twin sister Marisa Pavan         Richard Anderson                        Carlos Thompson

In 1952 Pier made The Devil Makes Three on location in Germany, part of which was shot among the ruins of Hitler’s bombed out Berghof in Berchtesgaden. Singer Vic Damone was in Germany on military service at the time and visited her on the set. Within two years he would become her first husband. Later in 1952, however, she replaced Ava Gardner in Sombrero and was photographed being escorted around Mexico City by the son of the nation’s president. In fact, Pier discovered she enjoyed dating famous, wealthy men. Brazilian diplomat Raoul de Surandel and another Brazilian nobleman named Francesco Matarazzo escorted her about town. Actors John Ericson and Carlos Thompson all dated her as her star began to rise.

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  Pier and Kirk Douglas circa 1953                                                                   in The Story of Three Loves (1953)

It was 36 year-old Kirk Douglas, however, who spent most of his nights with her. Unfortunately for Pier, he spent the rest of his time tom-catting around and she soon learned of his nocturnal wanderings. Tired of Kirk’s two-timing she ended their relationship and started dating Damone and actor Carlos Thompson. On her 21st birthday in June 1953, however, Kirk suddenly showed up and presented her with a Bulgari diamond engagement ring. For a few months they were a couple again, but then she handed it back to him in December and began seeing other men again. Recording agent Bobby Weiss and young singer/dancer Tommy Rall dated her more than once. She was being publicly seen with the Shah of Iran’s brother when she attempted a reconciliation with Kirk. He refused to see her. A month later she was on a date with Gene Tierney’s ex-husband, the notorious skirt-chaser Oleg Cassini, when they learned that Douglas had just wed Anne Buydens. Pier became hysterical and had to be escorted home.

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Kirk & his new wife Anne Buydens 1954

In mid-1954 she met James Dean. His agent had suggested he date her for publicity purposes. On her 22nd birthday Dean presented her with a gold bracelet and necklace, and before long he was a regular guest at the family home on Sunset Boulevard. The couple were soon spending their weekends at the Arrowhead Springs Hotel. Pier’s heartbreak over Kirk had seemingly evaporated. In July her mother discovered that her precious daughter and Dean were lovers and she did not like it one bit. She complained to Jack Warner who promptly carpeted Dean and told him to ‘stop fuckin’ that broad’. Dean, as expected, ignored the order. A month later he proposed marriage to Pier in New York City, but she refused to elope with him. Her mother told her to choose between Dean and her. Pier chose family and ditched him.

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on a date with James Dean                               Tommy Rall                                                             Pier and Maurizio Arena 1960

In October 1954 she started dating Damone again. Within a day of doing so she announced their engagement! Douglas was staggered when they married in Hollywood a month later and then honeymooned in Las Vegas where Damone was booked to perform. By January 1955 Pier was pregnant. Contrary to popular belief, friends present at the time vowed she did not even shed a tear on hearing of Dean’s death in a road accident in September 1955.

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Mr. & Mrs. Vic Damone 1954            Somebody Up There Likes Me  (1956)

Her big career break came when she played Norma opposite Paul Newman in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). However, she would not reach such dizzying heights again in her brief movie career. By 1958 her marriage to Damone had deteriorated to the point where she alienated her closest friend, singer/actress Anna Maria Alberghetti, by making a play for her husband, director Claudio Guzman. By December 1959 Pier’s marriage was over. Her subsequent affair with Italian actor Maurizio Arena saw his fiancée attempt suicide. At the completion of filming Sodom and Gomorrah, in the summer of 1960, Pier gave a dinner party, inviting all of the lovers she had sampled during the filming! After cutting a swathe through numerous studs since her divorce, she opted to marry again, this time to an Italian bandleader named Armando Trovajoli, a man 14 years her senior. It was February 1962 and she had begun to drink heavily. By 1965 the marriage was over and they divorced in 1969. Her drinking and sleeping around had wrecked whatever love they once had for each other.

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marrying Armando Trovajoli 1962

Virtually single again, Pier’s reputation as a promiscuous drunk gained momentum as she took many lovers, mostly personalities from the underground of Italian cinema. From 1967 to 1968 a wealthy businessman kept her a virtual prisoner in his Rome apartment for almost two years! In 1969 she filmed the X-rated Addio Alexandra in Rotterdam. Diagnosed with clinical depression in early 1970, she was treated with electric shocks at a clinic in Rome. In December she moved back in with Damone after his own marriage had collapsed. It was a brief reconciliation only. She was soon involved with a string of wealthy men.

In September 1971, her close friend Dr Ramon Spritzler responded to a call from a highly agitated Pier to come to her apartment. He administered a shot of Compazine to calm her down and then left. The next day, September 10, he returned to find her dead. Pier’s family have always maintained that Spritzler was not only her friend but her lover as well, and that she had died as a direct result of the Campazine. The once beautiful and talented Pier Angeli had not lived to reach forty.

Since Pier’s death a lot has been written about her love for James Dean, that he was indeed the love of her life. But was he really? How much of that was just Pier cashing in on the hype surrounding his early death; keeping herself in the public eye by building on their romance in some kind of endeavour to extract as much sympathy and understanding for her subsequent promiscuous lifestyle? Three years before her death she told the National Enquirer that he was the only man she ever truly loved. If anything, I would be inclined to think that her greatest love was more than likely Kirk Douglas, not Jimmy Dean. One thing does seem certain, however. She started out as an innocent, wide-eyed young girl before stardom and adulation turned her head. She enjoyed being a star, she liked men and she got used to living the high life. And she needed to be loved. Sadly for her, the system and its denizens used her until her beauty started to fade. And, when it did, the ‘using’ became a two-way street that ultimately destroyed her.

15 Comments on PIER ANGELI (1932-71) – A casualty of stardom, adulation and the high life.

  1. Federico Bello Landrove // September 1, 2018 at 2:02 am // Reply

    Please, what’s the name of “the wealthy businessman who, from 1967 to 1968, kept her a virtual prisoner in his Rome apartment for almost two years”? It’s unbelievable that you, an “historian”, can assert that without any precisión.

  2. Elizabeth Taylor and Jimmy were really close friends. At beggining, both didn’t like each other (Jimmy didn’t like Elizabeth because, in his opinion, she was just a holywood star without talent and Elizabeth didn’t like Jimmy because he was difficult to work with and moody lol). However, Elizabeth had a soft spot for outcasts and they became really close friends. They spentmany nights until 4:00 dawn talking and Elizabeth said he became very introspective and told her many things about his past, lovers, his minister (his molester), etc. She was devastated when he died. She also was really close to Rock Hudson.
    In fact, she said all her life spent with gay men whom were her best friends, confidents, etc – Rock Hudson, James Dean, Monty Clift, etc. And in another interview (earlier) she said at time was really difficult to men who wanted to “come out from the closet” (again, Jimmy Dean, Monty Clift, Rock).

    3:17 (Elizabeth about Jimmy, Rock and Monty).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElSCFzpYWrc&t=1s

    Elizabeth Taylor about Jimmy:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOEUa8Kkeag&t=68s

    Elizabeth about Jimmy (again):

    • You clearly know more about the intricacies of Liz’s relationships than I do, Susane. I suppose it all gets down to how much of her statements and recollections are complete and accurate. Only she would have known that.

  3. I think it’s because he will always be a “what could have been”. A potential lost and he had charisma. The aura like you said. His personality and life is also interesting because there are so many contradictions about him (people says he compartmentalized his friends and was a different person for each one).
    True, some of his co-stars had a hard time working with him. Still, many fell in love with him. I think young Jett Rink was his best performance.
    Exactly, he and Dennis Hopper weren’t friends but Dennis loved make claims about their “friendship” and how Dean wasn’t gay or bi xD
    In Rebel, his best friends were Sal Mineo, Nick Adams, Nick Ray and Natalie Wood (although at the beggining he was rude to her).
    In Giant, his confident was Elizabeth Taylor. I think she took many of his secrets to her grave.
    Sal was totally in love with him and Jimmy liked him. I have a soft spot for Sal because, in my opinion, he is one of the few people that I believe really loved Jimmy and didn’t took advantage of it. Besides, Sal was talented, brave and also had a tragic life.

    And of course, I love this screen test:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zUb3NRUQRM

    Ps- Thank you for allowing me give my opinion and for don’t freaks out about it. If I said those things in any group of Dean fans, people would kill me and I have no patience for that.

    • I recall Liz getting extremely angry when the Academy did not posthumously nominate Jimmy for ‘Giant’. She seemed far angrier than a mere ‘acquaintance’ would normally be. I read that she and Jimmy would arrive on the set in the morning together and appeared to be quite infatuated with each other. Trouble is that Hollywood is all smoke and mirrors, a non-stop PR exercise. We never really know for sure what is real and what is hype.

  4. I mean ” fantasy of Romeo and Juliet in her mind based on that. “

  5. According to people in the industry, the “romance” was fabricated because they would star in “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” They were both good looking and romance would only keep them in the magazines and help both careers. I think the media to protect Dean’s sexual orientation, exaggerated and overpublicized this “romance”. Pier probably took advantage of that or she really created a fantasy of Romeo and Juliet in his mind based on that. I read that she did not know that she was a beard and I know that James Dean was manipulative and made people believe in certain things, so I do not know ..
    From what I read, contrary to the popular belief, she didn’t leave a suicide note.
    Some people who were not close to Dean came to tell many stories about Dean – Dennis Hopper, for example – that do not seem to be true.

    I think the childhood and sexual abuse that Jimmy suffered when was a child really affected his personality (obviously). In my opinion, the love of his life was the porsche in which he died. Or maybe Bill Bast. I love Bill Bast book “Surviving James Dean” – his best friend and occasional lover. Jimmy was probably bipolar.

    I also think that if Jimmy had lived, he would an affair with Sal Mineo. Sal really loved him until the rest of his life.

    Ps- I’m little obsessed with Jimmy xD. Sorry for my english.

    • That is most illuminating, Susane. Thank you. I must admit that I have never really understood why Jimmy Dean was so adored by his fans, but adored he most certainly was. His colleagues (mostly) were less enamored of him, or so the majority of sources say. Having said that, I thought he was the best thing in ‘Giant’, although the picture had very little going for it overall. I do not believe he and Hopper were ever intimate, yet I have read that Mineo seemed to have a crush on the guy. Stars who die young tend to develop an aura around them that enhances their appeal. Carole Lombard, Dean, Marilyn, Carole Landis, River Phoenix are five that come to mind. They forever stay in our mind’s eye as they were at the peak of their powers. And it is a gender thing, I feel. I have a strong affection for Marilyn and the two Caroles, for instance, but not for Dean or Phoenix. Women probably lean in the opposite direction. Good to hear from you again.

  6. “Since Pier’s death a lot has been written about her love for James Dean, that he was indeed the love of her life. But was he really? How much of that was just Pier cashing in on the hype surrounding his early death; keeping herself in the public eye by building on their romance in some kind of endeavour to extract as much sympathy and understanding for her subsequent promiscuous lifestyle?”

    Finally, someone who don’t romanticize that “romance” and agree with me. I think Pier took advantage of Jimmy’s hype since she just gave one interview about him and talked their walks on the beach (wishful fantasies of her by many accounts) just in the end of her life.

    And Elizabeth Taylor already clarified Jimmy’s sexual orientation, so ..

    • Thank you for comments, Susane. Who knows the extent of her fantasizing towards the end of her unhappy life? Personally, I doubt very much if Jimmy Dean loved anyone but himself.

  7. Jerry V. Di Trolio // July 13, 2018 at 11:41 am // Reply

    Enjoyed reading about Pier Angelo,I’m a big fan of James Dean,and she dated Dean,And Jimmy loved her,I remembered when Pier died in September, 1971,She left a note stating, James Dean was the only man she loved! Jerry Di Trolio,07/12/2018

    • Pier’s story is one of Hollywood’s saddest, I feel. She seemed to fall in love easily and deeply, not a good combination for a pretty girl living in Hollywood. Thank you for your comment, Jerry.

  8. Holy Cow!! Another sad and familiar story.

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