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, 7 January 2011

People We Like: Anne Baxter

Another Anne! - Baxter this time. One always knew one was going to enjoy any movie that featured Anne Baxter [1923-1985] - so it proved once again yesterday idling away a rainy afternoon with another look at a re-run of De Mille's '56 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS - a treat to see now, as it was a fond childhood memory. Anne seizes the part of Nefertiri and runs with it and knows exactly how to overplay it making it a camp delight. Her scenes with Moses, Rameses, Pharoah and nurse Memnet (Judith Anderson) are all worth re-seeing anytime.

Anne began as a '40s ingenue (and a grand-daughter of Frank Lloyd Wright) at 20th Century Fox, after her eye-catching role in Orson's THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS; soon she was co-starring with the likes of Ty Power (CRASH DIVE), Dana Andrews, John Hodiak (whom she married), Farley Granger and the like, in titles like NORTH STAR, THE LUCK OF THE IRISH, THE FIGHTING SULLIVANS and with Tallulah Bankhead in A ROYAL SCANDAL. Another eye-catching role was her award-winning best supporting actress turn in '46's THE RAZOR'S EDGE (Fox's hit version of the Maugham classic, with Power, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb etc). But by 1950 she was churning out routine westerns like A TICKET TO TOMAHAWK (which had a new blonde in the chorus, one Marilyn Monroe on her way up to being Fox's reigning star). Then came the role she is best remembered for now: the scheming Eve Harrington in Mankiewicz's evergreen ALL ABOUT EVE. (Claudette Colbert was initially cast as Margo, so Baxter's Eve could facially resemble her, but that changed once Davis was on board). She and Davis were both nominated as best actress but must have cancelled each other out by splitting the votes, so Judy Holliday won in that very deserving year (I would have given the award to Gloria Swanson for SUNSET BOULEVARD!) It is of course one of the best ensemble casts ever and that dialogue will never date.

Baxter continued in a variety of films throughout the '50s: always attractive and that voice getting huskier: in Hitchcock's I CONFESS, a circus high wire act in Germany in CARNIVAL STORY (reviewed here along with O HENRY'S FULL HOUSE at Anne Baxter label), the hit 10 COMMANDMENTS, a good '57 thriller with Richard Todd CHASE A CROOKED SHADOW, perhaps her last leading role in SUMMER OF THE 17TH DOLL in '59 in Australia (where she had moved to after a new marriage and ran a ranch there for several years, as per her interesting memoir INTERMISSION). Back in the movies parts were less - supporting turns in CIMMARON and WALK ON THE WILD SIDE and a lot of television: DR KILDARE, IRONSIDE, COLOMBO etc, and hilariously as Olga Queen of the Cossacks in several episodes of BATMAN.

History repeating: She replaced Lauren Bacall in the Broadway APPLAUSE (that musical remake of ALL ABOUT EVE) and later replaced Bette in the tv series HOTEL (well, it was work). One of her last good roles was in a Merchant-Ivory tv film JANE AUSTEN IN MANHATTAN. She died suddenly while walking down Madison Avenue in '85, but left a great legacy of work and is fondly remembered as long as the Mankiewicz or De Mille films continue to entertain us, and those Hitchcock and Welles films remain in circulation.

Other 'People We Like' soon: Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, Dorothy Malone, Suzanne Pleshette, Clifton Webb, George Sanders, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Julie Christie, Susannah York, Charlotte Rampling, Jane Asher, James Fox, Stephen Boyd, Alan Bates, Laurence Harvey, Peter Finch, and Dame Flora Robson!

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