One of the finest, most beautiful and purely believable of film actresses has past on at age 84 of lung cancer. She had survived numerous personal tragedies and hardships including the loss of a child, a horrifying accident involving another, a beyond problematic marriage to author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, etc.) and multiple strokes suffered when she was only 39 years old and pregnant. Despite all of it, she has been consistently outstanding in numerous films and television shows, including three classics that likely wouldn’t have been classics without her, so much depth and believability did she bring to her roles in the “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “A Face in the Crowd,” and “Hud.”
You could reach much more about her amazing life and her even more amazing skill as an actress via two first-rate remembrances by The Self Styled Siren and Sheila O’Malley, and I really think you should. In the meantime, her’s an example of what I think is probably her finest portrayal, from “Hud,” made only about a year after the death of her daughter. For some reason, her three greatest roles have her being involved in some way with men who were just no good, and this is the most vivid example. Her scene starts at about 5:00 or so.
The ending of Budd Schulberg‘s extraordinary life at age 95 last night was just a little strange for me personally. By a very odd coincidence, just the night before I finished watching the 1959 TV production of “What Makes Sammy Run?,” Schulberg’s great and possibly never-to-be-filmed 1941 novel about Hollywood careerist dehumanization (yes, it goes back that far, at least). The DVD included an interview he gave just last year. Given his age and fairly obvious frailty, I wondered how long it would be before I’d be writing one of these posts on him. He was not a young man, but this is still too soon.
Anyhow, what can you say about the writer of “On the Waterfront” and “A Face in the Crowd” — two of the most acclaimed screenplays ever written — and the nastily on-point movie business novel which was so effective it is supposed to have driven the usually jovial John Wayne to physical violence? Of course, Schulberg got it from all sides, though for differing reasons.
Like most liberals, I have serious complaints with how Schulberg and his more famous directing collaborator, Elia Kazan, comported themselves during the McCarthy era, and certain lines in both of their most famous films stick in my craw. While Budd Schulberg never abandoned his liberalism, it’s clear to me that his entirely justified anticommunism took a form that helped that American extreme-right, harmed the first amendment, and bolstered the most vicious aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Still, there’s no denying the power and clarity of his writing or the moral values they expressed at their best.
As it happens, I posted one great scene from “A Face in the Crowd” just last week. I’m posting more after the flip, starting with a scene with Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal that should knock your socks off.
In honor of the biannual TCA and the arrival to our fine coast by PH’s own Will Harris, I’ll be doing a few movie moments that relate to the movies’ media sibling. Let’s just say that the rivalry’s been fierce at times. This spookily contemporary-feeling clip is from Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan’s 1957 “A Face in the Crowd.” Andy Griffith might seem “country” here, but he’s a very long way from Mayberry.