Fairy Dust Blown Off
The headline reads Emma Thompson: Hepburn Couldn't Act. Nothing so unusual in that. Re-makers often defame originals they're set upon improving. My Fair Lady is what Thompson intends to overhaul, pledging to give her script a feminist makeover. The actress makes no bones re Audrey Hepburn being overrated, referring to her as fantastically twee. I was saved Googling that by a Thompson supplied definition: Twee is whimsy without wit. It's mimsy-mumsy sweetness without any kind of bite. And that's not for me. She can't sing and she can't really act, I'm afraid. I'm sure she was a delightful woman -- and perhaps if I had known her I would have enjoyed her acting more, but I don't and I didn't, so that's all there is to it, really. Interviews like this are always fun for reaction they provoke online. Comments so far (hundreds) have been swift and barbed. Audrey Hepburn is a legend and Emma who?, one asked. Another swore off in advance any crappy remake of "My Fair Lady." I'd figure Thompson's daft on one hand for attacking such a revered icon, but maybe she's read a larger tea leaf the rest of us are yet to divine. Could it be the whole Audrey thing is done? I wrote before about college girls loving her, but those were vibes off shows we ran five and more years ago. Has the Hepburn tide gone out since, never to return? Based on what's happened lately, it's beginning to look that way ...
I think that she's a guy thing, says Emma Thompson of Audrey Hepburn's contested appeal, but there's where I'd submit Emma's twee, for Hepburn always came across as anything but a guy thing, that demographic seldom opting for waifish and gamin. Unlike a generation of critics who'd given her a pass, Hepburn's now roasted, and often, by modern scribes considerably less gallant. David Thomson used a book review to lower his boom, writing that Hepburn's appearing in Breakfast at Tiffany's ensured its dishonesty and its fabricated air. There's no coincidence I've yet to run Tiffany's for an audience, as there's too many cracks in veneer of a show whose idea was always more appealing than its reality (I'd hate watching sans Mancini's music). To put such before modern viewers courts disappointment and perhaps distrust of my future choices. Now that I think of it, there were never that many trustworthy Audrey Hepburns from which to choose. Would programmers among you serve The Unforgiven or The Children's Hour to nineteen-year old co-eds? Both these have points of interest, but there are expectations Audrey fans have of her, and they are rigid ones. My safe show options included Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face, Charade, and My Fair Lady (even a good one like Two For The Road was too edgy, too 60's, too British ... just too too). I admit running these as sops to boost patronage, knowing they'd fill most seats. Reality of college exhib-ing will get you 138 bodies for a Charade and three (two of those instructors) for a Kiss Me Deadly. So much for autuerist appreciation on 2005 campuses, and I've no reason to think it's changed much since, except to extent of lower numbers should I attempt Charade again.
After scanning Emma Thompson's and other broadsides, I got out Green Mansions, late of Warners' Archive, and one I'd not seen till now. Words fail effort to describe torture those 104 minutes entailed. You know it's trouble when eyes focus more on a remote's Time Left option than action (precious little) on screen. I had steered clear these fifty years for Audrey's playing "Rima the Bird Girl" with Anthony Perkins in romantic pursuit. South American locations were captured by traveling units, then matched with Audrey/Tony on Denny Miller-ish backlot Metro jungles. Perkins seems absurd in retrospect as vengeance/gold seeker, thanks largely to a target the following year's Psycho would paint on his back. As of 1959 and months up to (moment of) Hitchcock's helping, there was hope in abundance of Perkins consolidating lead man status. His serenading The Song of Green Mansions to Audrey Hepburn plays peculiar to us, but was not so to then-followers of Hit Parading Perkins, who'd scored with Moonlight Swim and The Prettiest Girl In School (spinning yet on my satellite radio). Did any single role upend an actor so thoroughly as Psycho did for (or better put, to) Anthony Perkins?
But it's Audrey Hepburn's fall from Olympus we're about this day. I still like her OK whatever others think, and find these recent deconstructions puzzling ... yet there they are ... and who knows the real extent of a culture's defection? Is Hepburn a precious metal not so precious anymore? Poster dealer/collectors tell me her stuff plateaued awhile back and is plunging now. It appears some of us waited too long to unload Breakfast At Tiffany's one-sheets we'd been hoarding. Such turning on a vintage star often reveals deeper resentment. With Hepburn, it's as though her kind of femininity no longer suits prevailing definition of what modern women should be (cue Emma Thompson). Do they object to her being thin (minus purging lately required), or fact that she dressed so well (surely a lost art)? Could be Audrey's image suffers from an excess of perfection. There must have been hypocrisy there that needs to be unmasked. She set a high enough standard for young women to aspire to in her own day that now seems beyond unattainable. Is this what's getting our goat? I tried revealing the human (and likably imperfect) face behind a retoucher's mask with pre-tampered proofs in a February 2006 post that got some interesting comments in response (a few brought Stanley Kubrick into the conversation!). There has always been mixed reaction where Audrey Hepburn is concerned (my own Fair Lady Ann can't stand her and won't watch her), even as it seems we're tilting toward negatives as of late. Is there love left for this unique actress and personality?