Monday, November 26, 2012
Accept No Substitutes
So. I hear people have been talking about her a little this weekend. That certainly wouldn't surprise her, although the low-rent context might - that was one thing she never was.
And God knows, she was many things. Star - no, for her it can be said: superstar. Beauty, at moments nearly unparalled. Actress, and at times a damn good one. Bonne vivante, gourmande, and acolyte of excess in almost every conceivable form. Wife (also at times a good one), mother, grandmother, philanthropist, activist, author, entrepreneur (few in Hollywood died richer). Child, girl, woman, old woman, all in the very middle of the public eye.
All I have to say about this latest assault on her legend is to echo what another Hollywood survivor, Mr. Bugs Bunny, might have said: da noive.
This impertinent attempt does conjure up one question: has there ever been a really satisfactory incarnation on film of a film legend? The only one that springs to my feeble mind is Betty Comden in Garbo Talks, and she was given only the (daunting) task of impersonating the star's back. I know that Blanchett won an Oscar for her Hepburn, but I found it vaguely embarrassing, a party trick at best (and not, in the end, all that precise an impression). Downey's Chaplin is close, I suppose, but the movie was all over the place, and after that it's kind of a yawning void - Mr. Barbra Streisand and An Unmarried Woman were hardly a satisfactory Gable and Lombard, and Dunaway as Crawford strays perilously close to Lizanddickland. In the sixties, there were two attempts at Harlow, both flops (deservedly), and more recently Kirsten Dunst as a pretty blonde called Marion Davies, but nothing like the original in manner or looks.
One thing the last twenty-four hours have taught us: when it comes to a force of nature like Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Chevalière de la Légion d'Honneur (among countless other gongs, two Oscars not the least of them) - the viewing public would have been a lot better off, last night, watching BUtterfield 8.