Sunday, 28 September 2008
Last night I was wondering whether my headline about Paul Newman was correct, that he really was the last of the great Hollywood stars of his generation. Liz Taylor is still alive, and as the radio news pointed out a few moments ago, so is Clint Eastwood, arguably a greater actor and certainly a great director. But I can't imagine the same intense feelings of sadness and nostalgia when Eastwood dies, perhaps because he has always been a man's man, while Newman appealed across the board.
Paul Newman was a wonderful actor, a mensch and an all-round beautiful person. We rightly distrust the elevation of physical beauty, and we rightly argue that good looks don't equal moral character. But sometimes you just have to give in and say you're glad that the world is full of what is wonderful to look at. When Paul Newman smiled he lit up everything.
But even Paul Newman wasn't quite born beautiful, as his very first screen test with a guy called Jimmy reveals
I wan to draw your attention to a new book by a dear friend of mine, Susie Boyt's My Judy Garland Life which is currently running through a series of rave reviews this weekend.
Susie is the daughter of Lucien Freud and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. She is always fabulous company, but in this work which is not quite memoir and not quite biography she traces the life of a lonely child who first heard Judy Garland sing Over the Rainbow and found a friend. It's a book about being a fan, and it's a book about feelings. Here's the first review:
This book is a bit insane. It is too much. It is well over the rainbow. It is embarrassing. At the same time it is a brilliant analysis of embarrassment; it suggests that such strength of feeling is maybe something “to be prized”. What a self-deprecating, funny, moving, entertaining read it is, a mad love letter (“I inhale her and exhale her”) from Susie Boyt to Judy Garland, who “created a whole new theatrical idiom in which glamour and frankness nudge and jostle unabashedly”. Its unabashedness is its delight, and a large part of its moral courage.
It conjures up a hopeless openness of empathy, presents its readers with a sensitivity which, by its nature, can't not be damaged, then radiates cowardly-lion bravery. It makes for a new kind of memoir, one that finds a way to insert, philosophically and emotionally, between the plain words “my” and “life”, the everyday pathos, bathos and surreality of being alive in the modern, celebrity-glutted, couldn't-care-less Western world. . . .
This book, though, is stark naked. It wears its vulnerability like a birthday suit, and does so for all of us, in a spirit of born celebration. Can cynicism really be so simply out-argued? Can a book really be so analytical and high-kicking, so fragile and defiant at the same time? An insecure, anguished, megalomaniac, voracious, truly altruistic piece of modern thought, this wonderfully clever book gives its whole self, flings its arms out in a rainy street like a wonderful diva. Brava.
And did I mention she writes a weekly column about clothes among other things in the Financial Times?