Daily Archives: April 17, 2008

Old women were once hot too.

35. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

Faye Dunaway was pretty ballin’ in this. Even with the incest and all.

My theory is that the majority of actresses who are old today(like over 50 say), are old-looking and possibly haggard, and either still work in major parts or are in the public eye were at one point ballin’. The reason for this is that most actresses depend heavily on their appearance to get parts. So young actresses use their looks to get parts, hone their craft(theoretically), and gain a reputation that supercedes their appearance. Once their reputation is firmly established, looks become less important and the actress is able to age somewhat gracefully while still working regularly(even if its old people parts).

It is uncommon for an older actress to maintain a level of stardom without having achieved that level of stardom when they were younger. There are exceptions, but in those cases its usually because an actress becomes identified with a type or a specific role: ie Marjorie Main a moderately successful character actress who become very popular in the 1950’s as Ma Kettle, or for those of you who aren’t dead, Gloria Stuart who worked regularly in the 1930’s without achieving stardom, but became famous for her role as the old-lady in “Titanic” for which she received and Oscar nomination.

The reason this is on my mind is that as I watch more and more films, particularly older films, I realize what all the hype is about with certain actresses. Up until a few months ago, my only recollection of Elizabeth Taylor was as a fat diamond shill, who married a construction worker, and was friends with Michael Jackson. But having seen a number of her old films, she was a pure sex bomb. She was hot. Ditto someone like Shirley MacLaine, who might be a fine actress(and apparently writes new-age books), but really not much to look at. But watching “The Apartment” from 1960, she is pretty swank. And the list goes on and on. Katharine Hepburn is pretty much my favorite actress now, but for most of my life I only knew her as being old, and having a constantly shaking head. Hell even someone like Liza Minnelli, who is as big a trainwreck as they come nowadays, I thought was pretty cute in “Cabaret“.

On filmaffinity.com I gave this film an 8/10. It’s quite good and contains one of the only really good Jack Nicholson performances I can think of, by good I mean Jack Nicholson not being Jack Nicholson, but actually trying to act. It’s the kind of movie I think I am under-rating, because I don’t have any explicit criticisms of it, but rather I never felt like I could get really into it.