Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Suddenly, This Winter...

They always say there are no stars anymore, as though I were dead, which eight out of ten doctors have certified I probably am not. They mean there are no stars like Garbo, Swanson, Davis, me these days. But there are a few. Meryl Streep is the real deal. Faye Dunaway isn't quite dead yet, and is is almost as great an actress as she believes she is. Little Kate Winslett shows promise.

But there is one less True Star tonight. There are no jokes to make about the death of Natasha Richardson. Like Heath Ledger's departure, Natasha's passing is a sudden, unanticipated shock of horror and loss. This was a first-class, great actress, of the highest imaginable pedigree, suddenly yanked from the bosom of a large loving family. Liam and Natasha were one of my favorite Hollywood couples. They were so right together, like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. (Not that Susan couldn't loan him out once in a while. So selfish!)

I am barely over the death of Natasha's grandfather, the magnificent Sir Michael Redgrave. That wound still feels fresh. Was there ever a scarier ventriloquist than Sir Michael in Dead of Night? Ever a more charming leading man than Sir Michael in The Lady Vanishes? Ever a funnier Jack Worthing than Sir Michael in The Importance of Being Earnest? (The good film version, not the one with Sir Judi Dench.)

The terrible departure of her brilliant father, Tony Richardson, a mere 18 years ago, still feels like a bleeding gash. When I'm down in the dumps (Sometimes literally. There's a roadway near here that looks just like my driveway, but which concludes at an active landfill. One time it took me almost three whole weeks before I realized it wasn't actually my home, since it smelled so much fresher. The stuff you find! I found Shelley Long!), I pop Richardson's film, The Loved One into the DVD player and laugh my cares away. Sometimes it's Tom Jones I pop in. Great movie. Tom was my sort of man, and people currently watching Before The Devil Knows Your Dead might not realize that Albert Finney used to be hot! Tony Richardson was one hell of a director.

Fortunately, her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, possibly the greatest actress alive besides myself, is still flourishing, and we send all our love to her in her anguish today.

And dear, magnificent, awesome in its original actual meaning, Liam. He is in the peak of his career, handing us wonderful performances on film and stage one after another. We love his quiet, understated, power and unforced masculinity. We weep for his broken heart tonight. Our love to their sons.

And we confess to selfishness in our grief, for we bitterly covet the wonderful performances Natasha had yet to give us. Out here in California, we sadly missed some of her incredible stage work. When the production of Cabaret that she won her Tony for played Los Angeles, her role was played by Teri Hatcher. It was like replacing the Statue of Liberty with a Barbie doll. Teri Hatcher? And if you can't get Joan Plowright, Victoria Principal is a perfectly adequate substitute?

This terrible loss strikes deep, but we take comfort that Natasha crammed more life into 45 years, than most people do in a century, and left us a legacy on film to enjoy forever. I've just Netflixed her Suddenly, Last Summer with Dame Maggie Smith, who is not an unskilled actress herself.

But this is why I have never skied intentionally.

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