Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beauty Break: Warren Beatty & Julie Christie

I have to take a break from reading Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America by Peter Biskind. I recommend it, particularly if you're interested in 1960s/70s Hollywood, but it's disheartening, too. Warren Beatty comes off as extremely talented (knew that) but quite insufferable (didn't imagine that, for someone so charming) and the tales of movie-making within force you to marvel that any movie gets made ever, it's all so touch and go with contracts, creative differences, scheduling conflicts, personal pettiness, financial complications and those lusty personal lives that we as moviegoers sometimes live through vicariously for better or for worse.

Most curious to me is that the book has reignited the Julie Christie obsessing I was doing when Away From Her was around rather than renewing my lifelong Beatty drooling. Beatty has been out of the big picture for a decade now. I wanted to fall back in love since I haven't seen him in so long, apart from occassional red carpet trips to escort The Bening. Instead, I keep waiting for Julie Christie -- a supporting player -- to return to steal more scenes. She's so fascinating. It's almost like she's the 60s/70s version of Garbo. But instead of running away from stardom, she drifts in and out of it like some indifferent hippie muse.

Beatty & Christie made three films together, making her his most common screen partner (Gene Hackman equals that record but he was a supporting player). All three Beatty/Christie films were in the 1970s (McCabe and Mrs Miller and Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait) and are well worth watching. Between them those films have 14 Oscar nominations and two statues. Even after their last film together, Christie remains a spectral presence. Beatty dedicated his Oscar winning classic Reds (1981) to her.

Curiously, Beatty don't seem to have anything like affection for McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971) and it reads like neither star was happy on set. I have an admittedly limited working knowledge of the western genre (not my favorite) but McCabe is in my top ten for sure [editors note: other favs... using "western" loosely I suppose are Red River (1948), Giant (1956), Hud (1963) and Brokeback Mountain (2005)]. It's yet another reminder that actors don't always know what's best for them. McCabe is a total classic. Whether or not the stars understood what Altman was after, they're both terrific in it.



Jude said...

I'm loving that first picture of Warren with the apple in Bonnie & Clyde!

Jude said...

What I might love more is how the snow day has allowed me to be the first comment! That never happens!



but isn't warren holding a peach? i haven't seen that movie in too long.

BLH said...

Christie speaks very, very highly of McCabe & Mrs. Miller in IFCs A Decade Under the Influence. I got the impression that it was the film she was most proud of.

Ian said...

"Reds" is airing to TCM on Friday night! Great chance to see the film if you haven't watched it yet.

Jude said...

Hmm that could very well be a peach.

Lily said...

I do know that Julie was a very good friend of Robert Altman. I think she genuinely liked McCabe & Mrs Miller

Anonymous said...

The first picture is from Splendor in the Grass with Natalie Wood and he's holding plumbs.

Hayden said...

I don't really agree with the assertion that Julie Christie is a supporting player. Sure, as she's gotten older and put the brakes on her career that's mostly been the case. But I the 60's and 70's? Even in Shampoo she's quite arguably lead.

I feel like I misunderstood what you were trying to say.


Hayden -- i meant a supporting actress in this book.

but i see where that might be confusing.Yeah, she's definitely a lead. a movie star.

jimmy said...

She is a spectacularly beautiful woman. in the top 10 i would say in filmdom.

julie christie
natalie wood
sophia loren
vivien leigh
grace kelly
joan crawford
ingrid bergman

i can't really think of anyone that beautiful who is contemporary....maybe penelope cruz.

Hayden said...

I love the Michael Caine quote from when he presented her with the BAFTA Fellowship:

"Julie Christie has sometimes been called the Katharine Hepburn of her generation. With all due respect to Ms. Hepburn, Julie Christie is far more fabulous than you could ever hope to be."

I don't really get the comparison in the first place which is what makes this even more delicious.

Alfred Soto said...

The Biskind biography confirms it: Beatty is a business man who happens to have some talent for acting. As a gay man I never understood his sexual appeal; he radiates the charisma of a piggy bank. It hasn't stopped him from giving good performances on occasion like in McCabe and Mrs Miller, but in the main he's insufferable, and I understand why twentysomethings don't give a shit about him. A glance at his resume is dispiriting.

Jay said...

I was always on Team Julie. She does tend to get overlooked in terms of the movie star pantheon.

Tarantino seems to agree with you about McCabe & Mrs. Miller:

Anonymous said...

When I was watching "Away From Her", Hayden, my first reaction on seeing Christie in the scene where she looks at herself in the mirror prior to being driven to the nursing home that she's going to, was that the only actress at a comparable age who had so much combined elegance, intelligence and perennial beauty was Katharine Hepburn, so possibly that's the same thing Michael Caine was thinking.

Hayden said...

Very true. There's something about any female movie star persona that not only endures but ages like wine that automatically references Katharine Hepburn.

I love this little anecdote:

rosengje said...

Aw, I feel like this post is designed specifically for me. Julie Christie is my favorite all-time actress, and I frequently lament (and begrudgingly respect) her reluctance to work regularly. Warren and Julie are the quintessential Hollywood glamor couple to me. I would love to see a movie about their relationship, ending with his dedication of Reds to "Jules."

I finished Biskind's book a few weeks ago. The most interesting part to me was the distinctions drawn between selecting and directing. A lot of people accused Beatty of having no true vision of how a film should unfold in his head, and instead just waiting and choosing what he liked. Such an interesting difference compared to the singular visionaries we usually hear about.