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.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Faye's hit and miss in 1968

Marilyn and Doris were those early '60s blondes then, along with Kim and Janet, and then Julie Christie and Catherine Deneuve emerged as big mid-60s stars (see posts below..) and then a new girl arrived, fresh from Broadway: Faye Dunaway - THE HAPPENING and HURRY SUNDOWN got her going in 1966 and of course nothing was bigger then than BONNIE AND CLYDE with that new fashion look in 1967 and then she consolidated that in 1968 ...

It was very enjoyable relaxing with THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR again one afternoon last week ... where Faye gives a masterclass on how to walk into a movie and/or arrive at an airport. This plays like a perfect late '60s movie now, with all those '60s fashions (Faye's are by Theodora Van Runkle), split screens, and that lovely score by Michel Legrand. Faye has a staggering outfit and hairstyle for each scene - the airport, at the auction (that big black hat), that wispy chiffon dress for the chess playing scene etc. Her Vicki Anderson is a terrific creation, the investigator who will stop at nothing (like fixing up schlub Jack Weston, one of the bank robbers) to nab that daring bank-robber. She knows right away it is Steve McQueen who is the mastermind behind the 5 strangers who never met before ...

A debonair, adventuresome bank executive believes he has pulled off the perfect multi-million dollar heist, only to match wits with a sexy insurance investigator who will do anything to get her man.
Steve is terrific here too - the definition of cool. I find he works best opposite a strong attractive leading lady: Natalie Wood in LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER, Lee Remick in BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL (I really have to re-visit these...) and Faye here - I had no interest in his macho heroics, apart from as part of the gang in THE GREAT ESCAPE or of course BULLITT (but I never wanted to see LE MANS, PAPILLON or THE SAND PEBBLES ...) With his Thomas Crown here its never about the money, but beating the system, as he relaxes in his luxurious town house, goes hang-gliding (cue that song...) or drives his beach buggy along the sand.

Norman Jewison's caper (shot by Haskell Wexler, edited by Hal Ashby) is still a delight now - unlike most heist movies the robberies here are almost incidental and are glossed over quickly with all those split screens. Then he decides to do it again - to test Vicki as she has to realise which side she is on.  I still remember vividly sitting at the local Odeon cinema with my best pal Stan seeing this on release, as we lapped it up - and that marvellous climax with Faye in closeup at the churchyard as Steve flies away in his jet. It was pure movie star gloss.  Vicki is a great role which she attacks with relish - interestingly Anouk Aimee said in that recent interview a few weeks ago, that it was one role she would have liked. Much as I like Anouk I can't quite picture her here. The film though does seem influenced by her big hit UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME, (that othe major '60s glossy movie) as Jewison - like Lelouch - also depicts that '60s good life - as our glossy glamorous couple relax at the beach, in restaurants, playing polo etc. La dolce vita indeed. An essential '60s movie then - a colour supplement in celluloid.

It was a busy time for Norman Jewison: those early Judy Garland tv shows, Doris Day hits like THE THRILL OF IT ALL and SEND ME NO FLOWERS, THE CINCINNATI KID (with Tuesday Weld again, and Ann-Margret), the huge success of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT which we loved in 1967, then on to FIDDLER ON THE ROOF etc. I know the remake of THOMAS CROWN is quite good and different, I shall have to give it a go then ...
A fascinating contrast then to Faye's next one, an MGM art-house glossy made in Italy with maestro Vittorio de Sica, and Marcello Mastroianni as co-star ... A PLACE FOR LOVERS. It should have been fantastic, but turned out to be one of the great bad films (almost a Trash Classic) that has not been seen in decades.  Here she is Julia, a divorced American fashion designer, who is dying of a tragic, incurable disease so with only days left to live, she flees from her clinic to Italy and on impulse contacts a man she met once briefly .... this is a laughably awful concoction about two jetset people in luxurious environments which all the high gloss and stunning scenery cannot improve. It took 5 writers (including Tonino Guerra and Cesare Zavattini) to come up with this plodding tale?

"They're rich, they're glamorous, they're beautiful, they're in love... nothing could part them. Except Julia is suffering from a terminal illness, and is bound to die in a matter of days." - as an IMDB reviewer puts it. Yes its one of those movie maladies that strike down heroines who still look marvellous as they expire. LOVE STORY two years later in 1970 hit the motherlode, while  A PLACE FOR LOVERS was quickly forgotten. We start with Faye arriving at a deserted Italian palazzo which she wanders around for ages while Ella Fitzgerald croons the theme song, while we worry about her luggage left outside (its still there next morning when Marcello arrives). Later the Alpine scenery is a marvellous backdrop to our anguished lovers - he is improbably told of her malady over the telephone ... she then tries to teach the Italian how to respond to Negro spirituals ...then we have the scene where she gives away all her fancy outfits to the peasant girl on the farm ...
That '60s Alpine chalet chic ...
Faye though gives it her all and looks stunning - this was her goddessy high-glamour era after all (Kazan's THE ARRANGEMENT was another terrific role for her in 1969, then there was 1970's PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD, another to re-see) - I had a glossy still of her from this one on my wall at the time. Marcello of course is as per usual. Our lovers here did become lovers in real life for a few years ... before Mastroianni took up with Catherine Deneuve. Faye writes interestingly about it in her fascinating memoir "Looking for Gatsby". 

The Towerning Inferno
The '70s were good for Faye too: we loved her wicked Milady in Lester's MUSKETEERS films (she and Michael York, right - did two blondes ever look better together?), then her stunning Evelyn Mulwray in Polanski's CHINATOWN - she and Roman may have had one of the great feuds but it is as much her film as Nicholson's, her twisted heroine is the dark heart of the film, it was an Oscar worthy performance. She picked up the award though for NETWORK in 1976, that still stunning satire on television which resonates even more now. (More on that when I get around to Peter Finch ...).
I saw her on the stage in London in the '80s in that interesting play CIRCE AND BRAVO (Theatre label). Some ill-advised films followed (did she have to do Winner's THE WICKED LADY? - and her MOMMIE DEAREST still polarises viewers - Pauline Kael was very perceptive about it, calling her Joan Crawford "a warrior", but the film itself looked like a sitcom of Joan Crawford movie moments), but Faye is still a force to reckon with.
Cannes Festival poster 2011

This is part of what I said about her in a 2010 post: "All careers that endure for decades have peaks and troughs and Faye's is no exception. It would be nice if there was another great part for her - perhaps MASTERCLASS? (like Julie Christie got with AWAY FROM HER - which should have got Julie her 2nd oscar 40+ years after her first; Julie and Faye though embody the '60s and '70s).

It was good seeing Faye getting on famously with Jonathan Ross on his TV show [its on YouTube] here in the UK last year, [unlike the interviewer who needled her about Polanski], Ross is another admirer of hers, but as usual before she could steer the conversation around to the film she was promoting then [whatever happened to that?] she had to go through, once again, how great it was to work with Newman, Redford, McQueen, Nicholson, Brando etc. Most 'civilians' don't have to recall what they were doing or who they were working with 40 years ago or be constantly reminded of their brilliant younger selves (or indeed have their rants on the telephone broadcast worldwide, as per that YouTube clip). Its tough being a working actress in your '60s these days..."


  1. Great recap of her career. I think Faye is basically her own worst enemy. She has made bad decisions even though she starred in some highly respected films (unlike Meryl Streep who's great actress that's often better than the films she appeared in). The whole MOMMIE DEAREST/WICKED LADY/ SUPERGIRL period really derailed her career and that recorded phone rant is really embarrassing. No one wants to deal with that, if you know what I mean.

  2. Faye was stunning at her peak, and I hate to see what's become of her career. The excessive plastic surgery was not a help. But her great performances that you cite here are unforgettable. I think you should give Steve's "The Sand Pebbles" a shot - its a gargantuan, overblown 60's epic with a callow Candice Bergen, but Robert Wise got really fine performances from McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Mako.

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  4. Turner Classic Movies, in the U.S., used to run "A Place for Lovers" once in a while, but lately not at all. I'd like to see it again, if only to rediscover how good a bad movie can sometimes be. And, of course, Faye and Marcello were real-life lovers during filming, which adds to the movie's glow (until she realized he wasn't going to leave his wife for her). There's still no English-language DVD available, but there's a nice Italian-language one out there (minus subtitles), as well as some assorted clips on YouTube.

  5. Scratch that bit about TCM not running "A Place for Lovers" lately. They put it on back in March of this year, so nine months ago. Good to know it's still on their menu. I'll have to keep my eyes better pealed for the next showing.