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Tony Grist

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Glenda Jackson [Jan. 5th, 2014|10:45 am]
Tony Grist
Introducing a sketch from The Morecambe and Wise Show last night, Penelope Keith explained- I suppose because it was thought necessary- that Glenda Jackson was once a very big star indeed. The sketch- featuring Jackson as Cleopatra- included a running joke about the Oscar she won for Women in Love.

Jackson belongs to that itchy and scratchy generation of post-war actors who found their chosen career unserious. Where many of her male contemporaries- like Peter O'Toole and her co-star Oliver Reed- diluted their talent with drink, she- like Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda- pursued a parallel career in left-wing politics. In 1992 she quit acting altogether to stand for parliament, trading stardom for a career of relative obscurity as junior minister and back-bencher, punctuated by occasional, high-profile, episodes of windmill-tilting. Had she stayed where she was there'd have been no need to gloss her name for a contemporary TV audience and Judy Dench's late career surge might never have happened- because who would have offered Dench those iconic roles of hers if Jackson- with two Oscars under her belt- had  still been available?

I refuse to say, "what a waste", because who knows what private karma Jackson needed to work out or what satisfactions she has enjoyed in her later life but it's hard not to regret the body of work she chose not to give us.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: steepholm
2014-01-05 11:04 am (UTC)
I disagree with you there. Jackson has been a clear and unabashed voice on the Labour benches: God knows, there are few enough of them. This morning we find Ed Miliband promising to crack down on immigrants taking the low-paid jobs from British workers - but not a word about making sure the jobs are properly paid. That's typical of Labour's post-Blair pastel blue.

So, in addition to her personal satisfactions/karma, I think Jackson's been some help to the political discourse in her new role.

And Judi Dench is pretty damn good, after all - I wouldn't want to unwish her performances.

Edited at 2014-01-05 11:44 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 12:08 pm (UTC)
I share Jackson's politics, but has she ever been anything more than a voice crying in the wilderness?

I admire Dench too, but I have a feeling she has attained her present ascendancy because of the abdication of potential rivals- notably Redgrave and Jackson, neither of whom has been prepared to give her full attention to the day job.
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2014-01-05 12:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, she's been a voice in the wildnerness - so was John the Baptist. Obviously I'd far rather the Labour Party were doing what it ought to, but I'd rather have a voice in the wilderness than no voice at all.
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2014-01-05 11:22 am (UTC)
I think you're wrong on both counts.

Jackson has been a clear voice for the Left - she certainly doesn't subscribe to post-Blairite sappy clappy non-Left bullshit. And Judi Dench is an amazing actress - to imply she would have been left in obscurity if Jackson had continued acting is harsh and unecessary.

Oh, and Jane Fonda is probably more famous to me for pushing exercise videotapes. Yes, she protested against Vietnam - but so did quite a lot of people, and most of them were not famous. I'm also not entirely sure why you would consider Jackson's career change a waste. People change careers all the time. Its just the majority are not in the public eye. And for all you know, she could have ended up with not an amazing Oscar lauded career, but in B-movies and crap TV. It only takes one bad choice in acting to sink you.

Oh, and Redgrave is still acting. I saw her on stage last September. Going to a few rallies and putting your name to a few causes does not necessarily qualify as a "career change".

Edited at 2014-01-05 11:48 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 12:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, but has Jackson ever actually achieved anything in politics?

Dench's stardom came late. I see her as an actor- like Ian Mckellen- who has worked her socks off to achieve pre-eminence in her profession. I think she lacks Jackson's natural charisma.

Redgrave is amazing. The greatest actor of her generation, but I think she could have had a starrier career if only she hadn't allowed her mind to wander.
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2014-01-05 12:21 pm (UTC)
I could say "do any politicians achieve anything in politics?" - aside from keeping themselves in a job.

Dench's stardom did come late - but she can still act.

Redgrave's career was a damn sight starrier than most. And as I saw her perform in a packed theatre in September, I think that, yes, I do know what I'm saying.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 12:42 pm (UTC)
Well you've sort of made my point for me. Jackson exchanged a career in which she had autonomy and a certain degree of influence for one of managed impotence.

I'm not denying Dench's talent. I'm just saying I think Jackson has/had the potential to be greater.

I saw Redgrave on TV a few days back. She was electrifying. The talent is as it always was. I just think she missed out on chances through being so wrapped up in her political work.
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2014-01-05 11:42 am (UTC)
I like the acting of both Judi Dench and Glenda Jackson and i think it is wrong to denigrate one against the other. As for Glenda she does a fine job as a Labour voice for the left against the wishy washy general milieu of post-Blearite politics. It would be nice to see more acting from this extremely fine actor but I think her position is crucial where she is and would not want it changed in anyway.
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2014-01-05 11:44 am (UTC)
Exactly. You could easily speculate about the career Oliver Reed would have had if he stayed off the drink, and maybe that would have meant the over rated Roger Moore would never have been Bond, but its pointless. People's choices are people's choices and to imply that they owe us something by choosing something else is completely unnecessary.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 12:30 pm (UTC)
It was amazing generation of actors- super-charged with charisma and talent- and very few of them achieved their full potential- mainly because they thought it was more interesting to arse around in bars.

Richard Burton
Peter O'Toole
Nicol Williamson
Oliver Reed
Richard Harris

What the hell was wrong with them?
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2014-01-05 12:40 pm (UTC)
Post war guilt, perhaps? That they'd survived one of the biggest horrors the world had seen, and were able to do a career that some would regard as trivial?

Or - that they were addicts, pure and simple. And let's face it, acting is one career that is an enabler. Late nights, irregular work, stardom, isolation, loneliness. And the benefit that they were stars when being an actor was seen as mysterious and untochable, unlike today's world where I can tweet people I've just seen in the cinema.

Can I cheekily add you missed Marlon Brando? Pretty much all of the post-60s US actors have aped Brando - from Sean Penn to Stallone. And he went mad. Jack Nicholson, on the other hand, has also drink 'n drugged n' shagged his way through life, but somehow he's stayed relatively in tact. I suspect its because Jack is the kind of man who gets how ridiculous Hollywood is, and rather than getting mournful, joins us in laughing at it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 01:32 pm (UTC)
I agree with everything you say in the first two paragraphs.

I left Brando out for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I don't like his work (it's as if he's always acting into a mirror) and secondly because his decline was untypical. The other guys got hung up on booze but what exactly did Brando get hung up on- himself, perhaps? As you say, he went mad.

Nicholson is a great pro. He likes a laff but he's never lost sight of his craft. Give him the opportunity and he'll seize it. He's never done anything to sabotage his career.
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2014-01-05 01:47 pm (UTC)
Nicholson is a brilliant actor. Whilst much is made of him being The Joker and his role as the Devil in Witches of Eastwick, I thought he was at his best in About Schmidt and The Pledge - two roles that really showed how subtle he is.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 01:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, he's best known for the big razzle-dazzle roles, which he can probably do without breaking sweat, but he's actually an actor of considerable range- and one who's happy to play unshowy roles in small movies when he believes in them.
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2014-01-05 03:00 pm (UTC)
The Pledge is quite, quite brilliant. His performance as a man who loses everything had me riveted.
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2014-01-05 02:50 pm (UTC)
I would happily agree with that synopsis. Also, technology has made actors more visible even when they are not working.
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2014-01-05 02:59 pm (UTC)
There are a few actors who I suspect would have no career now if the drinking, drugging, behaviour of their teens/twenties had been made available on social media - Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey Jr spring to mind. Compare them - both sober, successful, still working to Lindsay Lohan, whose career is essentially dead in the water, aside from crap TV movies. Barrymore openly admits she was snorting cocaine at 16, whilst Downey Jr spent time in chokey.

However...Corey Haim was a drug user in the 80s, and died broke, alone, and depressed in a crappy part of LA a couple of years ago. Perhaps the biggest difference is Barrymore/Downey can both act.

Edited at 2014-01-05 03:03 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 04:18 pm (UTC)
Downey's misfortunes weren't any secret. I remember the gossip columns being full of them. And a prison term can't exactly be hidden. Same with Barrymore. I don't think wild behaviour has ever been a hindrance to an actor's career. The profession has always had its hell-raisers. What matters is the work- and if the work isn't affected who cares? As you say, Downey and Barrymore have come through- and still have careers- because they're both of them extremely talented, charismatic performers.
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2014-01-05 11:53 am (UTC)
I used the post-Bleaite misspelling by design as in the sense of making dim or to blear, which is how I feel about the pastel blue colours of labour right now.

Edited at 2014-01-05 11:54 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 12:20 pm (UTC)
Me too!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 12:16 pm (UTC)
I loved her "tribute" to Thatcher- but what else has she done in politics- apart from keep the red flag flying?


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[User Picture]From: splodgenoodles
2014-01-05 12:07 pm (UTC)
Penelope Keith explained- I suppose because it was thought necessary-

I hate it when that happens. Makes me feel so ooooold. The first time it happened to me, I was listening to young person's radio and they explained Culture Club. I wasn't even old yet.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-01-05 12:23 pm (UTC)
Jackson won two Oscars and had a brilliant career on stage and in film and TV. It's sad that this has to be explained to the younger generation.

Sic transit gloria mundi.
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