Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On "Miss Marple: The Sittaford Mystery" (on PBS this past Sunday) was interested in seeing Rita Tushingham. On another of these recent Miss Marples, Geraldine Chaplin was one of the guest stars. Now, if Julie Christie did one of the Miss Marples, you'd have all three female stars of "Dr. Zhivago". Actually, the appearance of Rita Tushingham brought up the fact that, in England, most of these women have allowed themselves to age. Rita Tushingham and Geraldine Chaplin look like they're in their 60s (which they are).

When i saw Tushingham and Chaplin, and thought about Julie Christie (around the late 1990s, she had had work done on her face, because in her appearances then, she had that tight, hard-to-move-her-mouth visage which comes from recent plastic surgery; by the time of "Afterglow", it had relaxed enough so that it seemed normal, and she looked astonishing in that movie), there were two thoughts.

One was that Julie Christie always said that she stayed too long in L.A. (because of her long relationship with Warren Beatty, of course) but that she was afraid that it warped her perception. Christie was known as a great beauty, and it's hard to give that up, especially in L.A. terms.

But the interesting thing is that, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the idea of the greatest English-language actor was so exclusively male: it centered on Olivier, Gielgud, Ralph Richardson (of course), with Alec Guinness, Robert Morley, Michael Redgrave also doing distinguished work. (Trevor Howard and James Mason, who had decamped to "the movies", were never quite given their due.) I remember when Rex Harrison (very late in his career) returned to the stage ("Heartbreak House"), and it was only then that he was awarded a knighthood. The whole idea of carrying on that classical tradition, of creating a triumph on the stage....

Since the 1960s, the idea of "greatness" in the English theater has been mostly female. Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Diana Rigg, Lynn Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, and so on. In some cases, they have brought their stage triumphs here to the US. But though their male counterparts have tried to do distinguished work (Ian McKellan, Alan Bates, Albert Finney, et al), it hasn't been with quite the same force as the actors who started in the 1930s.

But Rita Tushingham and Geraldine Chaplin have allowed themselves to age... which is fine.


Post a Comment

<< Home