The daughter of the singer Domenico "Mimi" Maggio and his actress wife Antonietta Gravante, Pupella began appearing in her parents' productions of popular musical melodramas, or sceneggiata, at the age of three, and later formed a successful singing partnership with her eldest brother, Beniamino. She remained with the Maggio-Coruzzola-Ciaramella company into her twenties, before branching out as a writer of sketches and reviews in which she also acted.
In the years following the Second World War, Pupella and Beniamino revived their collaboration, to great acclaim, in Quando cantava il cuore, a show based on the songs of their youth. She also appeared with her older brother Dante in a production of La bugia del giorno, as well as making her film debut in Camillo Mastrocinque's Sperduti nel buio (1947).
In 1954, Maggio was invited to join Eduardo de Filippo's La Scarpettiana company. De Filippo, regarded (with Luigi Pirandello) as perhaps the most important Italian playwright of the century, was the leading exponent of the same Neapolitan dialect comedy tradition of which Maggio was a part.
Her success in de Filippo's plays led to work with the Compagnia Dialettale del Teatro Bracco. In 1960, she appeared with Paola Stoppa in Luchino Visconti's production of L'Arialda, and, the same year, won the San Genesio award for her performance in de Filippo's Sabato, domenico e lunedi. She followed this success with a powerful performance in In memoria di una signora amica, directed by Francesco Rosi.
Maggio's better-known films include Mogli pericolose (1958), Sogno di una notte di mezza (1959), La ciociara (Two Women, 1960), John Huston's La bibbia (The Bible . . . In the Beginning, 1966, in which she played Noah's wife, opposite Huston's Noah), Joe Valachi - I segreti di Cosa Nostra (The Valachi Papers, 1972, as the mother-in-law of Charles Bronson's character), and Fellini's Amarcord (as Signora Biondi).
Her last films were Sergio Corbucci's I giorni del commissario Ambrosio (1988), and Giuseppe Tornatore's internationally successful Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso, 1983), after which she largely retired from performing.
In 1983, Pupella had taken part in a final celebration of the family's Neapolitan roots when she appeared in a nostalgic review entitled Na sera e . . . Maggio.
Giustina "Pupella" Maggio, actress: born Naples 24 April 1910; married Luigi Dell'Isola (one daughter); died Rome 8 December 1999.