Friday, 8 November 2013

RICH AND FAMOUS (1981)


 
Of all the chick flicks ever produced the one I particularly hold dear is George Cukor’s RICH AND  FAMOUS. Based on the 1943 Bette Davis’ vehicle OLD ACQUAINTANCE, it stars two of the most beautiful women in Hollywood: Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset. The story revolves around my favorite topic, books. Both characters become literary greats in the space of their 30 year friendship. Of course, they don’t start off that way. One of them flourishes in the Jackie Susann-like best-seller dome before jumping the fence to serious writing. The other becomes an established maven of literature, having won praise for her first novel. Suffice to say, jealousy between the two settles in rather quickly which makes RICH AND FAMOUS one heck of a compelling survival of the fittest drama.


What’s evident from the get go is the inseparable bond that ties the two, sort of like the one the incomparable Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft share in THE TURNING POINT (1977), another must-see film. In RICH AND FAMOUS, Bergen portrays this obnoxious Wasp who feels the need to control everything and everyone, including her rebellious teen daughter, played by a young surgical free Meg Ryan. The pivotal point in the film is when Bergen, now a renowned author, quarrels with Bisset over her failed marriage and accuses her of lusting over her ex (which Bisset secretly does since both want what the other’s got). That’s when she crosses the line and threatens to severe their friendship (represented so vividly by the ripping of a childhood teddy bear). Both go at it with fervor, and ultimately impress.


But it’s Jacqueline Bisset who serves up a meatier role. She plays the brainy Liz Hamilton. The one who  views the world with a cynical eye. She’s what you call damaged goods. She goes from one liaison to the next without any qualms. But when she falls hard for hot Rolling Stone reporter Hart Bochner, she crumbles and self-destructs. That’s when Bisset becomes quite vulnerable and shines, especially during the break up scene that follows. Both she and Bochner hold their own, but it’s her strong performance that steals the spotlight. Moreover, of the two female leads, she again is the one to watch. Bergen, as talented as she may be, seems to be stuck on two expressions, happy or hysteric. Oh, she’s very funny, and they work very well together, but the film belongs to Bisset. Which isn’t surprising, since she’s also billed as co-producer of this, huh, vanity project, as it turns out.


This is the last feature film the great George Cukor made before succumbing to heart failure in 1983. The man who gave us so many hours of joy with THE WOMEN, BORN YESTERDAY and A STAR IS BORN—just to name a few—leaves on a high note with RICH AND FAMOUS. Yes, it may be flawed as a whole (some scenes do tend to drag on) but you can’t deny the dedication of everyone involved, including score master Georges Delerue (BEACHES, STEEL MAGNOLIAS, TV’s QUEENIE…) who creates such a memorable sound. Now all I need to do to savor the moment even further is to read the Eileen Loitman novelization which is still available if one wants it hard enough.
 


 
 

Until next post—Martin
 
 
 
 

 


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