Teresa (1951): Zinnemann’s Marital Melodrama, Starring Pier Angeli

Director Fred Zinnemann adopts the same quasi-documentary approach he’d used in The Search (1948) to his marital melodrama Teresa, though the material is much weaker.

Our Grade: B- (21/2** out of *****)

Shot on location in Italy and New York, the film introduces the beautiful Italian actress Pier Angeli in the title role.

Poster with an illustration of actress Pier Angeli and film details

Theatrical release poster

It co-stars three male newcomers: John Ericson, Ralph Meeker and Rod Steiger.

Angeli plays the Italian bride of G.I. Philip (Ericson), who is mentally disturbed. Taking Teresa home with him to New York, Philip begins to break down under the new pressures of marriage, aggravated by his dysfunctional family.

Readjustment proves difficult as the young couple have to share a New York apartment with his parents and sister, while Philip feels a failure at menial jobs.

However, the birth of a baby finally gives the couple new hope, and in the last shot, they are seen returning home, climbing the stars upward, both literally and symbolically.

One of the film’s most emotional scenes occurs during a fateful visit to Coney Island.

Featured in the cast is political cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who’d co-star with Audie Murphy in John Huston’s Red Badge of Courage.

More popular abroad than in the U.S., the movie generated a moderate profit.  Teresa would be followed by two major hits from Zinnemann: the Gary Cooper Western “High Noon” in 1952, and especially the all-star, Oscar-winning “From Here to Eternity” in 1953.

Intertextuality/Of Similar Interest:

Marty (1955): Best Picture Oscar

Pier Angeli as Teresa Russo
John Ericson as Philip Cass
Patricia Collinge as Mrs. Clara Cass
Richard Bishop as Mr. Cass
Peggy Ann Garner as Susan Cass
Ralph Meeker as Sgt. Dobbs
Bill Mauldin as Grissom
Ave Ninchi as Teresa’s Mother
Edward Binns as Sgt. Brown
Rod Steiger as Frank
Aldo Silvani as Professor Crocce
Tommy Lewis as Walter
Franco Interlenghi as Mario


Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by Arthur Loew, Jr.
Screenplay by Stewart Stern, story by Alfred Hayes and Stewart Stern

Music by Louis Applebaum
Cinematography William Miller
Edited by Dave Kummins, Frank Sullivan

Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date April 5, 1951

Running time: 102 minutes
Budget $610,000


I had a chance to refresh my memory and notes, when TCM showed the movie on July 14, 2020.