Often I am quite slow on the uptake with my own life and preferences Sure, I spend a bit too much time writing in journals and pondering thoughts that aren’t really that deep, yet entertain me. You’d think I wouldn’t be surprised by details about myself at this late stage. I watch hours and hours of movies and theatre and sometimes, sure, television. I think about themes and stories. And sometimes during those hours a chance association clicks and I understand something profound, and sometimes fun at the same time about my own, well, druthers.
During a TCM showing of the 1962 film Period of Adjustment a few days ago — in which a superficial but darn cute Jane Fonda appears doing a bad imitation of Kim Stanley’s accent as Cherie in the Broadway production of Bus Stop (which Marilyn Monroe also adopted for the movie version) — I was riveted once again by Lois Nettleton. In the Period of Adjustment story of young married couples and youthful idiocy, the real acting is performed by Ms. Nettleton — someone I’ve loved for years in these simple and resonant roles. And I mused: over and over I fall for the screen and stage personae of these non superstar women who sparkle with intelligence and something all their own. This is a life long trend for me. Discuss.
Dolores Hart. Born 1938 in Chicago Illinois. Appeared in Loving You (1957) and King Creole (1958) with Elvis Presley, and debuted on Broadway in Pleasure of His Company in 1958, pictured at left. I was a serious girl who noticed this serious girl who claimed our interest for that fact *and* her beauty, who first captured my adolescent attention and my movie goers heart watching the late show on television. Where the Boys Are (1960). The original, source of the quotation that heads this blog entry (uttered by George Hamilton as Ryder Smith), with Paula Prentiss, another lanky good-looking smart girl. Hart left her movie career in 1963 to become a cloistered Benedictine Roman Catholic nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut, where she remains to this day. No, seriously.
Lois Nettleton. Born August 1927 in Oak Park, Illinois, just west of Chicago. Ingenue with unconventional looks and a serious television career to start, including dramas and The Twilight Zone. Period of Adjustment (1962) (as noted above) with another newcomer Jane Fonda and from whom she stole the movie, if you paid attention to acting chops. Come Fly With Me (released in 1963) with Dolores Hart (and my worlds collide). Passed away in January 2008.
Joan Hackett. Born in New York City in 1934, died of ovarian cancer in 1983. From The Group (1966) to Support Your Local Sheriff (1969 … ah, James Garner) to Only When I Laugh (1981), Joan defined to my adolescent self a combination of humor and grace and smarts and a sort of Kate Hepburn self-assured manner. Sigh.
Sandy Dennis. Born 1937 in Nebraska, and died 1992 in Connecticut of ovarian cancer. Created the role of Sandra Markowitz in A Thousand Clowns on Broadway (pictured right) in 1962. Her film portrayal of Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) earned her a best supporting actress Oscar. A later career role of hers that haunts me is Claire in Another Woman (1988), a childhood friend of the academic lead character Marion played by Gena Rowlands, who is unable to forgive betrayals by the clueless Marion when they were young women. Layers and life lessons in the characters; risks and engagement as a professional actress. Riveting.
I add to this set of actors continually (Elizabeth Perkins, Patricia Clarkson, and Allison Janney come to mind). I build my theme today out of these women who were working in their 20s and 30s when I ‘came of age” as it were. Who had unconventional good looks, humor, and intelligence that just shined through.
Thank you, all of you.
© Martha Wade Steketee (December 26, 2009)