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24 March 2019

Film Stars Don't Die in liverpool

UK: 2017

Director: Paul McGuigan                                                   105 Minutes

 Cert. 15                    

Despite roles in It’s A Wonderful Life, The Big Heat and Oklahoma!, plus an Oscar on her shelf, Gloria Grahame’s fame hasn’t endured like other stars of her era. Paul McGuigan’s drama is a fond look at the final years of Grahame’s life, telling the sweet tale of a relationship that lit her up long after her star wattage had faded.

In 1981, aged 57, Grahame is eking out the last of her celebrity on the stage. She collapses before a performance, which she explains away as “gas”. Grahame calls former lover Peter Turner, a twentysomething actor in Liverpool, and asks if she can come to recuperate at his family home. The timeline then splits between scenes of Grahame steadily fading under the care of Peter’s indomitable mother (Julie Walters), and flashbacks to Grahame and Turner’s brief but passionate romance.

In just a couple of years together they zip between LA, New York and Liverpool, chasing adventure, clutching onto the honeymoon period. Though they’ve little in common, they convince as a couple genuinely in love. The age difference is obviously a recurring factor, but it’s not hammered, mainly jabbing to the surface in moments of insecurity for Grahame, who palpably yearns to be young again. They seem so at ease in each other’s presence, at least until the truth of Grahame’s illness begins to encroach, which is significantly down to terrific leads.

It’s a gift of a role for Bening, who gets to play the sashaying film star, so glamorous she even drinks milk from a champagne flute, and treats herself to effectively one long death scene. She doesn’t wring it dry but finds poignant details in a woman whose persona can tend toward the cartoonish. She speaks in a sing-song Marilyn Monroe voice, but it slips when she loses control of herself. It suggests a woman for whom every minute is performance, to others and herself. Bell is her match in a much quieter role.

We can see Grahame’s death coming toward us like a train in a tunnel and McGuigan isn’t entirely subtle when it comes, but a character this big shouldn’t go out quietly. She deserves her moment before the spotlight goes out forever.

Olly Richards  empireonline.com

umphrey Bogart’s world-weariness and romanticism take on something brutal and misogynist in this 1950 noir masterpiece directed by Nicholas Ray – and it’s a marvellous performance by Gloria Grahame. It is adapted from the hardboiled thriller by Dorothy B Hughes.

Bogart is Dixon Steele, a boozy, depressive Hollywood screenwriter whose tendency to violence and self-hatred isn’t helped by the fact that he hasn’t had a hit in years. Like the directors, producers and actors he occasionally sees in bars, his best days were before the second world war. One night at a restaurant, his agent offers him a much-needed gig adapting some brainless bestseller and Dix shruggingly accepts. The wide-eyed hatcheck girl, Mildred (Martha Stewart), tells him she loves the book and, amused, Dix invites her back to his place to tell him what it’s all about. Having established his intentions are gentlemanly, Mildred agrees.

Whatever Dix’s intentions may actually have been, they are blown out of the water when the pair of them run into his new neighbour as he is about to show Mildred across the threshold – on her way back to her own apartment. This is Laurel (Grahame), who is wryly amused by what she clearly sees as Dix’s clumsy, predatory designs on this poor girl. Dix is intensely chagrined, and somehow falls for the beautiful, elegant Laurel in that instant. And when that evening later takes a terrible turn for Mildred, Laurel saves Dix from police suspicion by giving him an entirely honest and accurate alibi. They begin to date, but his own propensity to violence scares her, and then she hears how he once broke his ex-girlfriend’s nose. Could Dix be the psychotic killer that the police are looking for, the one who murdered Mildred?

Bogart was 50 when the picture was made, and Grahame was 27, and yet the age difference between them doesn’t seem as great because of Grahame’s remarkable confidence, maturity and charisma. She is midway between Mae West and Marilyn Monroe: stylish, sexy and self-possessed. Bogart’s performance is daring: it is precisely his cynicism and what-the-hell attitude to everything that has put him in the frame for the murder, and there is something sociopathic about the way he never quite drops this tone.

Peter Bradshaw  The Guardian


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