Monday, January 24, 2011

Susannah


When I first heard about the death of Susannah York last week (she died on 15 January of bone marrow cancer), the first thing to come to my mind was her bold performance in one of her most obscure films, unmentioned in her many obits: Jerzy Skolimowski's The Shout (1978), about a madman (Alan Bates) who claims to possess the power to kill with a shout. It was a difficult role for York in an even more difficult film. I remember seeing a photo of her at the film's premiere sitting beside a very old Robert Graves, who had written the original story.

Skolimowski captured the story's strange mixture of madness and magic brilliantly. I admit that a contributing factor of my admiration for the film, which I first saw when I was 21, was seeing York in one scene in the altogether. (How it must have tickled dotty old Graves's fancy as well, sitting next to her during the scene.)

For a short time York was the darling of British film - much more so than Julie Christie, the star of Darling (1965), who, according to Vernon Young, missed her true calling as an air hostess. York made her debut in Tunes of Glory (1960) as Alec Guinness' daughter. And who can ever forget her in Tom Jones (1963), A Man for All Seasons (1966), They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), for which she was nominated for an Oscar - she lost to Goldie Hawn? Sadly, most people will only remember her as Superman's mom. Art is wasted on those who can't remember.

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