The horror of aging in showbiz... if you're a woman, that's (2023)

Crazy Old Ladies: The Story of Hag Horror de Caroline Young (Bear Manor £ 25, 381 Seiten)

BOOK OF THE WEEK

Mad Old Ladies: The Story of Hag Horror

Voncarolina young(Bear House £ 25, 381p.P.)

Every day a different cultural monument falls. The students are now told that Tennyson is "troublesome" since he is a Victorian. Scott's Ivanhoe, set in the 12th century, has also been removed from the college menu because the novel mentions slavery.

And at any given time, a bunch of B-movies and horror movies from the '60s and '70s are also being thrown into the oven, as they embody extreme misogyny.

Hollywood actresses in their 30s were considered over the top, "old bitches" to use Jack Warner's insulting expression, and had no choice but to swallow their pride and perform variations on Miss Havisham in her rotten wedding dress. According to the heads of the studio, only Neatness guaranteed big profits.

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Film historian Caroline Young, in her magnificent and controversial book, shows how aging stars used to interpret themselves as "the old lady in a creepy house." They were put in wheelchairs and surrounded by cats, attacked by killer bees or killer rabbits.

Roles as insane inmates, alcoholics, religious fanatics, or overbearing matrons in psychiatric institutions were all that even Oscar winners could hope for in middle age.

Perhaps the most iconic is Gloria Swanson on Sunset Boulevard. "There's something vampire about her," says Young. "She wears sunglasses inside her, her hands claw-shaped crossed in front of her chest." There are many more creepy traps: the creaky stairs and the moldy basements. The undead Swanson was 51 years old.

The other classic film (from 1962) is What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in which Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are "forgotten relics and strange caricatures of the women they once were." Bette wears girl's dresses and white clown makeup. Joan is tied to an iron bed and dinner is served with a rat on a silver platter.

The other classic film (from 1962) is What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in which Bette Davis (left) and Joan Crawford (right) are "forgotten relics and strange caricatures of the women they once were."

It's hard to argue that her characters are "dissatisfied and therefore unstable," but so were the actresses in real life. Bette and Joan have been known to fight and violently kick each other on and off camera.

The subtext of Crazy Old Ladies is that the old stars were really crackers, but were pushed over the edge by the attitudes and demands of the male producers, directors, and co-stars.

As Cary Grant said, "Women who want to be actresses have a disease. Wanting to be a star is all-encompassing. It's not a very feminine pursuit," which is a sexist way of saying that successful women are just as aggressive as men. . They had to be tough as nails.

But what choice did they really have if they didn't want to appear superficial?

Most directors who encountered Bette Davis's intransigence found her a nightmare of bad tempers and tantrums. When Alvin Rakoff opposed her, the producers received a legal letter: "Miss Davis regrets that she cannot continue until a director is found who better understands her working methods."

It's hard to argue that her characters are "dissatisfied and therefore unstable," but so were the actresses in real life. Bette and Joan have been known to fight and violently kick each other on and off camera.

Even while making seedy movies about hatchet murderers, severed heads, devil worship, and a love affair with a caveman (Trog, 1970), Joan Crawford carried herself like royalty. She changed her clothes ten times a day and traveled with 28 pieces of luggage, without hat boxes or fur coats. Her contracts consisted of yellow roses, bowls of mints, crushed ice cubes, and 100% vodka.

Gloria Swanson also played the role of the diva, although her television commercial career had declined. When visiting her black marble apartment, interviewers were shown her bathtub and her gold sinks.

Gloria bragged about spending $10,000 a year on lingerie. Others were not so lucky. Veronica Lake became a waitress in Miami and died of hepatitis at age 50. Piper Laurie was considered elderly at 47 years old. "The studio didn't care about us anymore," Myrna Loy said. In 1974, Ava Gardner was thrown down a sewer pipe in an earthquake. Tallulah Bankhead lamented: “My God! Wasn't she beautiful? . . . And look at me now! Anything goes, right?

Joan Crawford behaved like royalty. She changed her clothes ten times a day and traveled with 28 pieces of luggage. Most directors who encountered Bette Davis's intransigence found her a nightmare of bad tempers and tantrums.

Although it was a sad downfall for many—Judy Garland was fired when "her acting skills had fizzled out," and people will continue to argue and speculate about what happened to Marilyn Monroe—some actresses have embraced what is now known as "Hexploitation." ". is known.

Barbara Stanwyck, for example, saw an opportunity to play an independent woman: "In all the Westerns, the women always get the kids and the cows, while the men fight. Crazy about the kids and the cows!

What becomes visible with age is the star's naked ego and loneliness. A few years before her death at the age of 104, I found out that Olivia de Havilland lived in a particulier hotel, or in a Parisian house, all forgotten. He wanted to talk to her about Richard Burton, her co-star on My Cousin Rachel. She immediately felt adorable, yet imperious: it was like meeting a lost Russian grand duchess. I mentioned her to a friend in high places, the wheels turned and Olivia became Dame Olivia, one of my few good deeds.

She is often mentioned in Crazy Old Ladies; After Gone with the Wind, Robin Hood, and some serious roles in the 1950s, Olivia went to the junkyard.

Gloria Swanson, pictured on Sunset Boulevard, also played the diva role, though her TV commercial career had waned.

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Replaced Joan Crawford at Hush. . . Hush, sweet Charlotte, severed heads bouncing down the stairs, and then she played a woman trapped in an elevator and threatened by robbers in a cheap 1964 movie called Lady In A Cage.

Unless you're Miriam Margolyes, who is in an irreverent class of her own, our local actresses have generally been able to maintain their dignity and decency. British women have not been pulverized by the crude Hollywood equivalent in terms of age and beauty.

From Carry Ons to Crossroads to Coronation Street, there have been roles expressly designed for strong, mature women.

We are the proud nation of Hattie Jacques, Noele Gordon, and Pat Phoenix. Our national treasures are Joyce Grenfell and Victoria Wood, all good subjects for Caroline Young's next book.

We also do not produce psychopaths. Dames Dench, Smith, Atkins, Mirren, Redgrave, Windsor, Lipman, Phillips, McKenna and the rest are not victims of the witches' horror.

In fact, two of the best performances I've seen recently rerun on television were given by older women: Beryl Reid as Connie Sachs in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Joan Hickson as the piercing blue-eyed Miss Marple. She was only 78 years old when she landed the role.

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