Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Ladies of the Silver Screen and Why I Love Them
Leslie Crosbie (The Letter): Bette Davis pumping bullets into a man in a white linen suit on a moonlit veranda in Manila. I would love to play this part but BD has pretty much defined it for all time. No remakes allowed.
Mrs Hampton aka the Eurasian Woman (The Letter): Gale Sondergaard parting the bead curtains in the opium den revealing her mysterious and regal self while that crazy opium addict snickers in the background. Sondergaard's biggest career mistake (or not; see below*) was turning down the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
Maude (Harold and Maude): "My body is in the earth, my head in the stars." When I was a teenager I performed a monologue from the play The Actress for an audition. I didn't get the part but it was the beginning of my appreciation for the woman who wrote that autobiographical script: Ruth Gordon. Eighteen years after The Actress appeared on the silver screen Ms Gordon breathed life into Harold's Maude and gave us the most vibrant free-spirited octogenarian in all cinema.
Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's) Audrey in Givenchy! It made me want to go to Tiffany's. I finally got there a few years ago, just stood outside like Holly did in the movie.
Margo Channing (All About Eve): "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night". Another great turn from Mother Goddam.
Mrs Robinson (The Graduate): She loses in the end but with Anne Bancroft playing this sexy mom/seductress could she ever really be considered a loser? I first saw La Bancroft in The Miracle Worker as the kindhearted Annie Sullivan. This switch up to the cold and calculating Mrs R endeared her to me forever.
Jeanne (Last Tango in Paris): My hair was poker straight so naturally I wanted Maria Schneider's full head of curly hair. But that was all I coveted of hers. Brando was cruel to say she'd be playing soccer with her breasts in a few years but it made me like my slender silhouette even more (Twiggy had already given me a pretty good appreciation for skinny).
Sylvia Scarlet. Alice Adams (from movies of the same names): Because Katherine Hepburn played both.
Kitty Foyle (Kitty Foyle): Never seen it, just like her name.
Fran Kubelick (The Apartment): Another great name (Wilder specialized in them). In that fabulous career girl coat Shirley MacLaine gave Fran a touching and elegant vulnerability. I admire Wilder's decision to shoot in b & w.
Irma LaDouce (Irma LaDouce): French prostitute packing a mean poodle. The awesome Ms MacLaine in another Wilder jewel. This one in Technicolour for jewels have to be colourful especially if they are in Gay Paree!
Elmira Gulch (The Wizard of Oz): "I'm all but lame for the bite on my leg!" Not lame enough to stop her from pedaling a mean bike.
*Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz): Margaret Hamilton's career never recovered from the typecasting but she gave us one of the great evil ladies of cinema. As a child I always wrote a witch part for myself into the plays I put on in my basement. Hamilton's crone was a terrific role model.
Glinda (The Wizard of Oz): Billie Burke in sparkly splendor with that inimitable dance of consonants off her enchanted tongue: "Toto too." Ah, the glitter and glimmer of Glinda! I once found a dress in the garbage outside a tony downtown shop that was much like Glinda's garb except that it was blue and falling apart: a cross between the Good Witch's frock and Miss Haversham's rags.
Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz): Every year they showed The Wizard of Oz at Christmas when I was a kid. Since we only had a b & w set I watched it for several years without that splendid change to colour when Dorothy lands Over the Rainbow. Still I was entranced. I'm so glad Shirley Temple didn't play Dorothy as planned. I love Judy.