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Talking More, Lassooing Less

Michael Rogin, 19 June 1997

American Original: A Life of Will Rogers 
by Ray Robinson.
Oxford, 288 pp., $30, January 1997, 0 19 508693 7
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... declared their support for Sinclair. Some screenwriters and an occasional actor (James Cagney, Katharine Hepburn) defied their studios and supported Sinclair; Rogers managed to conduct a running commentary on the campaign without ever taking sides. Will Rogers was the friend of the New York immigrant Jewish blackface comedian Eddie Cantor (he ...

Meg, Jo, Beth and Me

Elaine Showalter, 23 March 1995

Little Women 
directed by Gillian Armstrong.
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... gone unrecorded. The BBC has filmed Little Women once; Hollywood twice. The 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn as a coltish, high-spirited Jo, won the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation, and is still a critical favourite. The same screenwriting team plus Andrew Solt wrote Mervyn LeRoy’s 1949 remake, with June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as ...

Why are you so fat?

Bee Wilson: Coco Chanel, 7 January 2010

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide 
by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.
Profile, 620 pp., £12.99, October 2009, 978 1 84668 127 1
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Chanel: Her Life, Her World, The Woman behind the Legend 
by Edmonde Charles-Roux, translated by Nancy Amphoux.
MacLehose, 428 pp., £14.99, June 2009, 978 1 906694 24 1
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The Allure of Chanel 
by Paul Morand, translated by Euan Cameron.
Pushkin, 181 pp., £12, September 2009, 978 1 901285 98 7
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Coco before Chanel 
directed by Anne Fontaine.
July 2009
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... Chanel was suspicious, but she brightened up when told that the lead role would be played by Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn, then 33 and fresh from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, seemed an ideal choice. The play, Chanel presumed, would depict her love affair with Boy Capel. ‘Not Audrey ...

All about Me

Kevin Kopelson: Don Bachardy, 9 April 2015

by Don Bachardy.
Glitterati, 368 pp., £45, October 2014, 978 0 9913419 2 4
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... called the ‘culture industry’ – through Isherwood.) Those stars include Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, the much too pretty Teri Garr, the much too beautiful Warren Beatty, Julianne Moore (who also stars in the film A Single Man), Montgomery Clift (with rather more eyebrow than eyelashes), the late, great Joan Rivers (drawn ...

Plain girl’s revenge made flesh

Hilary Mantel, 23 April 1992

Madonna Unauthorised 
by Christopher Andersen.
Joseph, 279 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 7181 3536 9
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... with his wife and two daughters’. He has previously written ‘highly-praised’ works on Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda. This does not seem adequate preparation. Perhaps life’s ambiguity has passed him by, or he has come by praise too cheaply? So: Madonna went to New York. Her dance teacher persuaded her she needed the larger stage, and so ...

Why can’t she just do as she ought?

Michael Newton: ‘Gone with the Wind’, 6 August 2009

Frankly, My Dear: ‘Gone with the Wind’ Revisited 
by Molly Haskell.
Yale, 244 pp., £16.99, March 2009, 978 0 300 11752 3
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... going to be easy. Scarlett was both an everywoman, and a frustratingly elusive character to cast. Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Paulette Goddard: all of them were nearly right, yet none quite captured the required quality. Through a mixture of cunning, determination and strategic good luck, Vivien Leigh nabbed the role in a way that might ...

It was gold

Patricia Lockwood: Joan Didion’s Pointillism, 4 January 2018

Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold 
directed by Griffin Dunne.
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South and West: From a Notebook 
by Joan Didion.
Fourth Estate, 160 pp., £10, September 2017, 978 0 00 825717 0
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... him, and not just because he gathered the whole American West in a man. It was also because, as Katharine Hepburn observed, it was so thrilling to lean against him. Great like a tree, a place to rest. And didn’t she want to rest? Weren’t her burdens so heavy? In youth she had rested against the strength, the solid thereness of the West; in ...

Frognal Days

Zachary Leader: Files on the Fifties, 4 June 1998

Previous Convictions: A Journey Through the Fifties 
by Nora Sayre.
Rutgers, 464 pp., £27.95, April 1997, 0 8135 2231 5
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... drank like fish and rutted like goats. Once, at the New Yorker, Joseph Mitchell came across Katharine White and Sayre’s mother, Gertrude Lynahan Sayre, snickering over a passage from Edmund Wilson’s Memoirs of Hecate County (1946) in which the narrator referred to his penis as a ‘club’. ‘His club!’ one of them exclaimed. ‘Bunny’s ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 5 December 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... is the best short life of Brando we’ll ever have, and nearly as good as his incisive portrait of Katharine Hepburn, Kate (2006). I say ‘short’ with some irony, but it might actually have been shorter, for the dropping in and out is more an interpretation than a thorough record. Actors are always considering and exploring so many other lives that ...

The Real Magic

David Sylvester, 8 June 1995

A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... so direct, unschooled and slavelike. There are actresses whose intelligence always shows – like Katharine Hepburn, Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box, or Dietrich in the Sternberg films. Then there are actresses who seem stripped of any chance of control. They are simply there, caught in the lights by the camera and the movie – like Brooks in ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... with Judy Holliday and not mention Born Yesterday (an error I fell into)? How be casual with Katharine Hepburn or do anything but gaze at Steve McQueen? My best plan, I found, was to make a mental note of who was there so that I could write home that night, then go and get some food at the vast buffet and gracefully retire. But it often turned out ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore, 10 August 2000

Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... writing I Am Mary Dunne and wrote a screenplay for The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, in which Katharine Hepburn was to play the lead. (It was never used; many years later the role was played by Maggie Smith.) Moore wrote to Friel: ‘I know this sounds un-Ulster and extreme, but as it is much easier for me to say it in print than to your face, I am ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter, 3 November 2016

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... more respectfully, than Japanese hostesses. ‘I thought she was like a Hollywood actress, like Katharine Hepburn,’ Sozo said. Carter was very upset indeed when Araki left her. Within a few months, however, she started a new relationship with an even younger man, a Korean called Mansu Ko, ‘who is, or rather was, a virgin; who is 19’ and who ...

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