Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Friday, 26 March 2010
People We Like: Joan Greenwood
English actress Joan Greenwood [1921 – 1987], one of those ladies for whom superlatives are not enough. She is “a rather dotty, genteel sexpot” according to David Thomson in his invaluable A Biographical Dictionary of Film, whereas David Shipman in his equally indispensable The Great Movie Stars comments on her “sex appeal, style and striking individuality”, and Variety once described her voice as “one of the wonders of the modern world”. Exquisite is the word that sums up Joan’s allure both vocally and personally. No wonder she voiced the Evil Queen in Vadim's BARBARELLA!Other roles included Disney's THE MOONSPINNERS where she was rather wasted, in '64. I saw her on the stage in 1971 in a revival of THE CHALK GARDEN as Miss Madrigal [above] opposite Gladys Cooper’s Mrs St Maugham. (programme page at left, click image to enlarge text, detailing Joan's extensive theatre career).
In movies since the early 40s, early roles included THE GENTLE SEX (43), THE OCTOBER MAN (47), SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS (48), those Ealing classics WHISKEY GALORE and her naughty, seductive, adorable minx Sybilla in KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, 1949. She was also Lady Caroline Lamb in the dreadfully enjoyable THE BAD LORD BYRON.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST in 1952 by Anthony Asquith remains the definitive film of Oscar Wilde’s play, a wonderful staging preserving the great performances of Edith Evans, Margaret Rutherford, Michael Redgrave and Joan’s considerable star turn as Gwendolyn. Her every appearance is a joy here, full of vocal inflections and marvellous readings of lines like, when asking for bread and butter with her tea “as cake is never seen in the best houses these days”. Above: MOONFLEET with Stewart Granger.
She is very touching in the French KNAVE OF HEARTS (MONSIEUR RIPOIS) opposite Gerard Philipe in 1954 (left), and with Guinness again in FATHER BROWN. Joan then went to Hollywood in 1955 to appear in Fritz Lang’s MOONFLEET – one of the high points of mid-50s costume dramas. Other roles were in STAGE STRUCK (57), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (61), and as the very demanding Lady Bellaston in Richardson’s TOM JONES, the big hit of 1963.
Joan by all accounts was a very unaffected leading lady, quietly married to reliable supporting actor Andre Morrell (who died in 1978) with whom she had a son.
She is also the subject of a fascinating website: http://www.silversirens.co.uk which feature her and Margaret Lockwood, with great galleries of photos, stills and much more on their films. Joan Greenwood, like Kay Kendall, will always be a leading light of the English cinema.
My full appreciation on Joan is on IMDb at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0339343/board/nest/136932896?d=136932896#136932896