Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Ice Queen Cometh


Funny thing about Joan Fontaine... we couldn't really stand her; she seemed so snivelly and annoying in her earliest films. We couldn't wait for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. to tell her off in Gunga Din (1939) and ride off into the sunset with Cary Grant; and her blubbering in The Women (also 1939) made us want to just smack her silly. We rooted for Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (1940), and wished that glass of milk had been poisoned in Suspicion (1941). In short, we were not fans of Ms. Fontaine. But a funny thing happened on the way to the mid-century: Joan Fontaine suddenly became a bitch, and we suddenly became interested. Born to Be Bad (1950), Serenade (1956), A Certain Smile (1958) - they may not be classics on a par with Fontaine's first flush of successes, but her surprising switch to brittle, spit-polished glamour and hauteur was thrilling to behold.


In the years since, Fontaine's ice queen demeanor has not thawed one whit; some of her television interviews are so chilly, one needs scarf and gloves simply to watch. She and estranged sibling Olivia de Havilland have participated in the longest-running feud in Hollywood history, and neither grande dame seems particularly inclined to be the first to offer an olive branch. Joan Fontaine turns 92 today; sister Olivia is 93. One hopes that both are not too old to remember that time is short, even for Hollywood legends.


MISS JOAN FONTAINE
October 22, 1917

8 comments:

  1. Funny thing about Joan...I always thought of her as Olivia's much older sister. Of the two, I'd rather dine with Olivia. La Fontaine has never been a favorite.

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  2. But how can you forget her masterful performance as Gwen Mayfield in The Witches?

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  3. We always seem to be of the exact same opinion on who bugs us! Must have something to do with our mothers.

    And don't even get me started on Betty Hutton!

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  4. I just saw her last week in a snippet of a TV interview from the 1970s in which she is actually quite appealing and amenable. She also managed to slip the word "vendeuse" into a sentence, which never fails to make my heart go pitter patter. She also said it with the most maaaaaahhhrvelous accent.

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  5. I've been watching her on three different visits to Password and she's been quite charming and amusing, albeit a little bit "put on" in her speech. Her hair a few nights ago rocked my world as it was a massive bouffant, twisted up in the back and waterfalling over the left side of her head and landing in heavily hairsprayed, outswept curls! It didn't flinch once throughout the show and THAT's my kinda gal! lol I saw a photo of her from about 2 or 3 years ago (I think) and she looked unbelievably great for her age!

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  6. Oh, and "Dan" I have The Witches on a clamshell VHS and drag it out occasionally. Hilarious!

    TJB, Here's the interview and photo:

    http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://kittypackard.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/cuar01_proust_fontaine08031.jpg&imgrefurl=http://kittypackard.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/a-tea-break-with-joan-fontaine/&usg=__3gcJMJUIwdaEElRiY_B70DPZCYk=&h=354&w=240&sz=26&hl=en&start=19&tbnid=7bklTTSGq0pWOM:&tbnh=121&tbnw=82&prev=/images%3Fq%3D%2522Joan%2Bfontaine%2522%2Binterview%2Bblog%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den

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  7. Shoot. I may have messed that up. Sorry!

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  8. Her memoir, "NO BED OF ROSES" is a total gas. Highly recommend.

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