I, like Simone H in ‘Echo of the Boomers01’, wonder what did come first for me, the movie or the song? It was so long ago – but then again, it could have been yesterday, laying eyes for the first time on Mrs Robinson, up there on the screen, her stockinged leg inducing the young man she was about to seduce. I suspect she came to me first via Simon & Garfunkel too. Hollywood movies, back then, took a while to get released here in Oz in any case, but I recall it was the movie that changed my perception of film, it pointed me in the direction of my future viewing habits. ‘The Graduate’ as well as, later on,. Woody’s ‘Annie Hall’ were, to me, far more real than the pap I’d been used to up until then. They’re both movies I’ve returned to over the years and yet they still seem so fresh. By ‘The Graduate’s’ appearance in 1967 Tinsel City had moved away from the restrictiveness of the Hays Code, giving with this release the world an early taste of the fantasy that is the older woman, the cougar if you like. So, my my, ‘The Graduate’ has turned 50. Anne Bancroft is now gone, Dustin Hoffman has had his star tarnished and the gorgeous Katharine Ross is now 76.
By the time this film came around Ms Bancroft’s best days were behind her. It seemed to me her remaining beauty was a hard one – but it was beauty nonetheless. Benjamin Braddock was no match for the alcohol sodden temptress. She was also quite something for my younger self up there on that giant screen. To me daughter Elaine (Ross) was no match as the object of one’s lust. I doubt, though, if I ever get to San Francisco one day, that I’d go on The Graduate Walking Tour of Berkeley. I’m enamoured of the movie, yes, but not that enamoured.
So, when ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ came along and Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame worked her wiles on an only too willing Peter Turner (Jamie Bell – who does a little reprising of Billy Elliot), it took me back to Mrs Robinson and ‘The Graduate’. Grahame, an Oscar winning 1950’s actress, come the seventies had fallen on harder times. She was touring Britain with a two-bit company giving what glamour she still possessed to the great English unwashed. And although she was semi-washed out herself, there was still beauty to be had, of a softer ilk in this film than Mrs Robinson’s. She had a beauty that was still capable of lighting up the footlights in a timeless way, as has Ms Bening. Peter Turner, a real Liverpool born actor, writer and director, has recounted his memory of his affair with the star of silver screen in a memoir. Director Peter McGuigan has done the rest.
It was an affair that was never going to last, but not because of the age difference. Peter gets a taste of some of her faded Hollywood glamour when he visits her in the US to meet her family, but soon Gloria has more to worry about than keeping a younger lover on the leash.
The star of this tale is of course the present day actress who is anything but faded. It’s a stellar performance, one I would have thought worthy of an Oscar nod. It’s brave, too, as she does not shy away from the lines of age nor indeed sagging breasts. The story had me absorbed from go to whoa.
Reviews have been mixed but I loved it. It will never outshine ‘The Graduate’, but then what could? I’m no longer that callow youth transfixed by Mrs Robinson. Now I am in my dotage but still transfixed by women of a certain age; transfixed by Annette Bening’s Gloria Grahame.
Trailer for ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCwt4kYWOHA