Monday, September 28, 2009

It ‘aint necessarily so.

On April 29th 2008 I wrote the following in my post ‘Progress Report’:-

It was a comfort to read in The DT’s Review that when , after writing two successful books about the death of her husband and then her daughter’s serious illness, Joan Didion on being asked to write a play said, ‘I did not want to write a play. I had never wanted to write a play. I did not know how to write play.’

On meeting David Hare, who was to direct it she asked him how ‘long’ a play should be. ‘He did a word count on his own Via Dolorosa: 15,000 give or take.’

The point being that even someone as gifted as she is, feels uncertain when tackling something new. (The play, by the way, was ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’)

Thus I was surprised to read - over a year later – in an obituary of Ruth Ford actress , model and renowned American hostess :-

During the 1960s she returned to Hollywood appearing in films including ‘Act One’ (1964) with George Hamilton and Joan Didion’s ‘Play it as it Lays’ (1972) with Anthony Perkins.’

Both pieces were by the Daily Telegraph. Odd!

Ruth Ford sounded quite a gal. She died recently aged 98 and modelled for Man Ray, Cecil Beaton and Pierre Balmain. She abandoned modelling for the stage and Orson Welles hired her for his Mercury Theatre in New York. Later she went to Hollywood and was signed by Warner Brothers. Tennessee Williams described her as “the Bernhardt of B movies’. She married the actor Peter van Eyck in 1940 but the marriage didn’t last long and she married her second husband Zachary Scott and they were together until he died. She appeared on the London stage in William Faulkner’s ‘Requiem for a Nun’ which was praised by the distinguished critic Harold Hobson but the enfant terrible Ken Tynan said:

‘What a personality that girl needs.’

What she is most remembered for is the salon she created in her apartment in the Dakota building in New York where she entertained. Capote, Warhol, Beaton, Albee et al. Stephen Sondheim said meeting Arthur Laurents and Leonard Bernstein at one of her parties resulted in ‘West Side Story’

Her social life in her later years was reduced to telephone calls from her bedroom which seems to happen to many, very old ladies.

‘It’s easier this way,’ she said, ‘I don’t bother to dress.’


kenju said...

I am becoming more like her! (not dressing, I mean).....LOL

She was beautiful, but I don't remember her at all.

Pat said...

Judy: and me - on both counts.

Guyana-Gyal said...

You are sharp, linking the two pieces of information about Joan Didion's plays.

About Ruth Ford, I wonder if the same happens to old men...are their lives reduced to telephone calls too? Or does this happen only to very old ladies?

It makes me sad for the elderly.

I admire her positive approach in the end though, ‘It’s easier this way,’ she said, ‘I don’t bother to dress.’

Pat said...

GG: i wonder about men too. Don't be sad - as my Mum used to say 'Pat's alright as long she has bed, book and biscuits.'

Charlie said...

Sleuth that I am, I solved the mystery of Joan Didion. She did indeed write the play The Year of Magical Thinking in 2006, but she wrote the screenplay for Play it As it Lays in 1972 based on her book of the same name.

So she only wrote one play (and five screenplays, if you're interested).

Pat said...

Charlie: you sleuth you! That makes me happy because nobody lied and the mystery is more a case of my not having read the sentence carefully enough. Thank you - I'm really grateful:)

Mary Witzl said...

I long for the sort of job where you don't have to dress! For a blissful year, I was a stay-at-home mother and spent the day writing, gardening and (occasionally) house-cleaning. Now I have a proper job which I have to dress for every day. Even if it's only a blouse and slacks, I hate it. I miss my elasticated-waist stretch pants, sweat shirts and running shoes. Nice to know getting old has its perks!

Pat said...

Mary: just for a change - reading your comment I'm presently dressed up to the nines as I'm off out with the girls to see an old film - 'Lorna Doone'. Back to scruffines tomorrow:)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I so understand how this happens...Especially if you cannot get out as she obviously couldn't.
When I started reading your post...I thought..wasn't she married to Zachery Scott"...' And indeed, she was.
Don't you wish you could have gone to some of those 'salons'? She was certainly an interesting and talented womab, in spite of that mean line about her by Kenneth Tynan....!
I had not seen her Obit. So thanks for this lovely Tribute to Ruth Ford, Pat.

BTW: A NEW Post is up....!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh yes...I forgot to say.. Joan Didion wrote a number of creeenplays---some with her husband. Such a different medium, isn't it? I would have LOVED to see Vanessa R. in "The Year Of Magical Thinking"...Two such power-house women working together...! It had to be a wonderful experience in the theatre.

Pat said...

Naomi: I knew you wouldn't let me down and would have heard of her. Would I have liked to have visited one of her salons? About as much as I would have killed to attend Gertrude Stein's atelier in Paris. You came so close visiting Picasso in the south of France.

Re Joan Didion I didn't know about the screen plays and that is what confused me.

Edelweiss Transplanted said...

Lovely photo!

Everything I have ever heard about Kenneth Tynan gives me more reason to loathe him. His cruelty to Vivien Leigh ("in Titus Andronicus, she receives the news that she is about to be ravished on her husband's corpse with the mild annoyance of one who would have preferred foam rubber") -- by constantly implying that her inferior acting kept her husband Lawrence Olivier from greatness -- supposedly tipped her over the edge into insanity. He was funny, but horrid. And apparently equally so in his personal life.

Thanks for more fascinating film history.

Pat said...

Edelweiss: being horrid was his claim to fame - that and bottom spanking. When it came to films Olivier couldn't hold a candle to Vivien IMO. The same could be said of Burton compared with Elizabeth Taylor.