Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thursday Triple: Cross Eyed Divas

Disclaimer: Due to double surgeries as a child Demi Moore was declared ineligible for this honor. I'm sure she's inconsolable and crying on Ashton's shoulder. But doing so with perfectly balanced ocularity.

My three favorite cross-eyed movie stars:

I have to admit right up front that I don't really know that much about 70s cult goddess Karen Black, star of 117 films or so since her debut in 1960 including seminal titles Five Easy Pieces (1970), Nashville (1975), and Easy Rider (1969). But when you have a rock band named after you "The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black" you are entitled to immediate props. Seriously, how many actresses can claim that? "Toto" wrote a song about Rosanna Arquette in the 80s but it's not like they retitled themselves. But back to Black. When you then opt to perform with said punk band? Double props. That's rather like Halle Berry showing up to claim her Razzie last year (the only "you gotta respect" move she ever made in my book).

Barbra Streisand I don't even have to explain, do I?

And then there is Mrs. Irving Thalberg, "The First Lady of MGM" herself Norma Shearer. Norma is one of those stars that time cruelly seems to have forgotten. Sure people remember The Women and her "Jungle Red!" climax. But the film is primarily a catty delicious ensemble and a great snapshot of who-was-who in 1939. Tis a pity because there's few 30s stars I'd more like to see experiencing a revival. I just watched The Divorcée(1930) in which she is also divine as a similarly wronged wife facing that typical 30s film dilemma: When your husband cheats do you embrace your inner modern woman and strike out or do you stand by your man like a good submissive wife? The role won her the Oscar.

You gotta respect a woman who was frequently written off as being opportunist (Joan Crawford on Shearer: "How can I compete with her? She sleeps with the boss!") but who acted up a storm, did big box office, and was opinionated to boot: On Gone With the Wind(1939) which she was offered: "Scarlett O'Hara is going to be a thankless and difficult role. The part I'd like to play is Rhett Butler." Love it. Shearer's retirement from movies was as sudden and final as Garbo's but just not as well timed for 'lost legend' status. After twenty-two years in the business, she married a man outside the industry who was 20 years her junior (*there's Demi weeping again. In even this she is bested*) and never worked again. I heart Norma. Show her some love. Put one of her movies on your Netflix queue.


Anonymous said...

I've seen Nashville and Easy Rider (for the 2nd time just a couple weeks back) without realising Karen Black was in them, but she'll always have a place in my shrine for how charming and brilliant she was in Five Easy Pieces. Great film, that one. It doesn't feel like enough people watch it anymore.

I'll never understand the appeal of Barbara Streisand (certainly not as an actress) and "The Women" really is the only reason I remember what Norma Shearer looks like. I think it may be the only film of hers I've seen in general actually. It's enough for me to like her though.

Anonymous said...

Love Norma.


Me too.

but every time i enthuse about her publicly i am met with stone cold silence.


more people need to just give up and love the cinema as much as breathing like any sensible person would.

jbnyc said...

Hey Nathan,

I don't know if you look at new comments on old posts or not, but, hell yes, Babs! You needn't say anything more. I love the promo trailer on the DVD of Funny Girl: THIS.....
STREISAND (I can't make my font go bigger, but you know I want to).

And although I never thought of my fantasy mother Barbra as cross-eyed, I guess she kinda is, huh?

And Karen....two words: Airport '75! The best cross eyed actress scene ever burned into celluloid: Nancy the stewardess (I can say that instead of flight attendant, since it was still 1975 pulling Mr. Heston into the 747's blown out cockpit windshield....Fabulous cross eyes (accentuated, of course, by heavy liquid liner) with her tounge out for a breif couple of seconds. My favorite disaster film moment of the 20th century.