Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hitherto Unmentioned: Miss Hollywood

Reading an interview this morning with Miss Anjelica Huston got me thinking, in several different directions.

First, that she is a woman of uncommon sense and perspective; it's one of the sanest and most interesting performer's interviews I've read in a long time.  She manages to be self-aware without being pompous - admitting, for example that she likely mightn't have been a first-rate mother, given that "I suck up too much air, myself," and talking frankly about the effects of aging on what remains  a remarkable and idiosyncratic beauty.  One gets the impression that if one could get over being overawed by her, one could get to like her a lot - and be liked in return (the real secret, in my experience of Great Ladies, of their appeal once one gets past the dazzle).

And second, that in all my six years and more of nattering on about things here, she has managed to fly under the radar.  So here she is, in her very first Café mention, as captured by the great Italian snapper Gianpaolo Barbieri in all her '70s glory (it's 1973, and the whole world has for a little while gone Sally Bowles).*

It does feel like rather an omission, not to have considered her - she is of course cinema royalty by birth, but equally - more, after her decades of achievement - notable as an artist in her own right, the rare aimless second-generation perennial girlfriend who emerged as her own woman, an actress of range and discernment, at home in broad comedy in Addams drag, viperous in harridan roles, serenely heartbreaking in drama.  Certainly other Hollywood daughters - from Christina Crawford to Lucie Arnaz, and not forgetting the various Chaplins, Judy Lewis, Maria Riva, and now even Tracee Ross on television - have gone various distances in the show business - but Huston is in a class by herself, a fully successful figure entirely separate from the daunting shadow of her father.

And, we learn thanks to The Guardian, she's still quite happy to have a mid-afternoon cocktail.  My kind of gal, indeed...

* There's a terrific gallery of Barbieriana here if you feel like immersing yourself in that vanished time when Quaaludes and Régine roamed the Earth.


  1. As she is up for consideration, I'll weigh in with my personal experience.

    In January of 2002, after spending an entire year associate producing the 90 minute TCM doco, "Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star", it was time to get the narration track recorded and put the thing to bed. Miss Anjelica Huston was contracted to be the narration voice.

    It was very early in the new year (maybe only the 2nd or the 3rd) when the producer/director, the sound engineer and myself met at a small vocal dubbing facility upstairs over a shop on Larchmont (a former Mayberry-esque, and fast becoming hipster/yuppie mommie shopping street). We were all, I think, a bit nervous about the arrival of Miss Huston. What was she going to be like? Would she be a diva? Would she be capable to the task at hand? We only had the studio for one day and had to get the entire show's narration that day and Miss Huston had only had the script in her possession for two days to work on it ,on her own.

    At precisely 5 minutes before the appointed time, she entered. Alone. No handlers. No assistants. No drivers. She was dressed casually and fabulously, almost like she was arriving at some really chic sleepover. She was in workout wear, but workout wear with a line and cut and drape I'd never seen before or since. She introduced herself and shook hands all around. After a few minutes of small talk and sorting out coffees and waters and so forth, she was ready to get right to work. And work she did.

    For the next several hours she was competent, capable and very kind. She took direction easily, she offered inventive alternate readings and suggestions. As the day lasted about 7 hours with her there were a few breaks and casual chit chat: She explained her appearance as due to the fact she had come straight to us from a dance class. Having turned 50 the year before, she had decided she was not too old to get back into dance and, as an xmas present to herself had signed up for some. Some talk about her children and, of course her father and grandfather. At some point during the day the other 3 of us, couldn't take it anymore and broke down and announced our individual favorite films of hers (Mine being "The Grifters"). Though we spent the day as co-workers, she also understood what was required of her during those times we became blithering fans. She would connect with each of us, talk a little about our favorite film and give us some little behind-the-scenes anecdote from the picture.

    I really wish I could remember more from the day. I wish I could remember if she had any opinions or remembrances about Crawford. Fact is, I was too concerned about the job at hand and too star struck to be completely present for that.

    The one quip I do remember, and it's glorious, is that she told us while working on The Addams Family, the hairdresser nicknamed her wig 'Faye Dunaway' "....because it was such a bitch to work with."

    1. Yay! Thanks so much for sharing this, honey!

  2. Oh, wow. Between yours and Felix's commentary, I feel I love Ms Huston even more than I already did, if that were possible.. Jx

  3. Oh, Felix - how nice to know that one's hunch is very likely so. And what a marvelous experience.

    And as for poor Faye - imagine being where she is now and knowing that, a few alarmingly rabid fans aside, there doesn't seem to be a soul with a good word to say about one. Watch whom you kick on the way up, kiddies...

  4. That's a great story, Felix.

    I have a second hand antidote to relay that reflects well on the lady. A friend was living at one time near the beach where she also had a beach house. He was an early riser and would walk the beach most days it was possible and would frequently pass her doing likewise. Over time they gradually fell into conversation and he said she was always open and friendly, no pretense whatsoever. When he initially called her Miss Huston she instantly corrected him and said "There's no need for that, I'm Anjelica."

    She is definitely one of the most successful of the second generation, I would say only Jane Fonda and Liza Minnelli are at her level of forging a unique identity apart from their famous parents.

  5. She's fantastic! What a lovely post (and comments). And I definitely agree with Joel.