An enchanging book about the lifelong friendship of three fascinating women who met as tweens. Oona was the daughter of Eugene O´Neill and married Chaplin whilst barely legal. Gloria Vanderbilt was the famous ´Poor Little Rich Girl´of 1930s tabloids. She married a gangster agent at the age of 17, quickly divorced, married Stokowski when he was in his 60s, then married Sidney Lumet, before divorcing him and founding the jean empire that made her another fortune. She´s also famous as the mother of Anderson Cooper,. Carol also married an older man, William Saroyan. Kenneth Anger was so smitten by her he chased her across Spain and America and their letters are so striking they´ve been published. Some say Capote´s Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany´s is based on her. After twice divorcing Saroyan, Carol married Walter Matthau in the 50s, and the particular spotlight that come from being the spouse of a star for the rest of Matthau´s life probably obscured her very real accomplishments as a writer. Her Among the Porcupines is particularly memorable. What´s interesting about this book is that it´s written almost like a novel by Aram Saroyan, Carol´s son. He must have had access to all the letters, notes, and people, as he captures their individual voices and writes convincingly and with authority of what they´re thinking, feeling, desiring. It´s a beautifully written book and an absorbing read, Going very cheap on amazon.
The Deadly Affair (1967) seemed such an enticing project: Sidney Lumet early in his career directing an adaptation of a John Le Carré novel; the great Freddie Young as cinematographer; a Quincy Jones score with Astrud Gilberto singing the theme tune; and of course a cast that includes James Mason, Simone Signoret, Lynn Redgrave and Corin Redgrave — both then very young; and the latter painfully thin — Robert Flemyng, Roy Kinnear, even the RSC performing bits of Edward II. But though I started watching the film, I lost interest and eventually ended up only glancing every so often. What kept me from turning it off was James Mason’s transcendental evocation of sadness and defeat, which I loved so much that I made a gif of it which you can see above; and Simone Signoret, evoking the anger and resilience of a woman from the middle of the last century who’s seen the worst, which you can see excerpted below. Sometimes, too often, actors are the only reason to see movies.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg was the son of Geraldine Fitzgerald and…who? That’s the overall arch of the book. Was it Orson Welles or a Sir Edward Lyndsey-Hogg, a minor British aristocrat? Whilst the answer to the question takes several turns in the book, we also hear about his directing ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’, some of the early key concert movies like ‘Let it Be’, a pioneer of the MTV video clip (most of the early Rolling Stones videos), a director of Brideshead Revisited on TV and The Normal Heart off-Broadway.
It’s a lovely book; a not very distinguished career in cinema, but with landmark work in tv and theatre; and then of course through his mother — who most of us probably now remember for her work with Bette Davis in Dark Victory or as Isabelle Linton in Wyler’s Wuthering Heights — he knew all the greats of the classic era (Welles himself but Marion Davies, Hearst, right up to Lumet, Gloria Vanderbilt) then on his own (the Beatles, the Stones, everyone in music really) right up to turning Larry Kramer’s A Normal Heart into a hit in the 80s at the height of the AIDS pandemic. Wonderfully atmospheric descriptions of Hollywood in the 40s, Dublin in the 50s, post-war New York, Swinging London etc.
The book’s conclusion about paternity has been disproved in Patrick McGilligan’s Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane, but Lynsay-Hogg’s views on so much of the landmark work he helped create on film and in the theatre makes for an insightful and entertaining read: and the book is also an interesting exploration of the lure of celebrity as social currency that each of the protagonists deploys to advantage: would paternity have been such a question if the father were rumoured to be Joe Blow instead of Orson Welles?
Mike hadn’t seen Sidney Lumet’s classic version of Murder on the Orient Express so we saw it together and basically compare the two but keep the focus on the original. We discuss which performances we prefer in each version, what we make of the differences in style and tone between the film, which film was better directed and who was the better Poirot? We also ask whether the action sequences in the new film were quite necessary. We don’t agree but Mike mounts a good defence.
José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film