Wednesday, April 18, 2007
façade: Katharine Hepburn
There's a scene from the 1979 Woody Allen movie, "Manhattan," in which Isaac Davis (Allen) does his best to put up with an insufferable conversation between his best friend, Yale (Michael Murphy), and Yale's pretentious mistress, Mary Wilke (Diane Keaton).
Yale: (to Mary) "Gustav Mahler? Hmmm, I think he may be a candidate for the old Academy... " (to Isaac) "...Oh, we've invented the Academy of the Overrated - for such notables as Gustav Mahler..."
Mary: "And Isak Dinesen, Karl Jung."
Yale: "F. Scott Fitzgerald..."
Mary: "Lenny Bruce! We can't forget Lenny Bruce now, can we? And how about Norman Mailer?"
Isaac: (disgusted) "I think those people are all terrific, every one that you've mentioned. What about Mozart? You guys don't want to leave him out. I mean, while you're trashing people..."
Mary: (ignoring him) "Oh! What about Vincent van Gogh? Or Ingmar Bergman?"
Isaac: (outraged by now) "Bergman? Bergman? Bergman is the only genius in cinema today!"
Mary: (finally acknowledging him) "His view is so Scandinavian. It's, it's bleak. My God! Real adolescent! You know, 'fashionable pessimism.' I mean, 'The Silence.' God's silence. I mean, OK, OK! I loved it when I was at Radcliffe but, I mean, OK, you outgrow it. You ab-so-lutely outgrow it..."
Back in '79, I thought that Mary Wilke and Yale were pretentous idiots and snobs but, these days, I find myself identifying more and more with their appalling conversation. The effusive words about films and stars, past and present, that I hear today rarely seem to correspond to the relatively modest achievements I see on screen.
This is in preamble to introducing my candidate for the Academy of the Overrated ... Katharine Hepburn.
OK, I'm getting into dangerous territory here. Katharine Hepburn, after all, is a Hollywood legend - Kate the Great. This is blasphemy, right? And, admittedly, she gave some luminous performances, particularly early in her career ("Alice Adams," "Holiday," "The Philadelphia Story" and "Bringing Up Baby"). But she also got away with a lot. She could be precious, willful and feisty, and all at the same time. Erudite wit Dorothy Parker said it all when she quipped of Hepburn's acting ability, "It runs the gamut of emotions from A to B."
Largely, I think she got by because of her great cheekbones. Her Bryn Mawr-lockjaw shtick wore thin with age, as well as there metaphoric comparisons for Spencer Tracy - I mean, "Spence." Remember when she compared him to a baked potato?
Yes. Yes, the time for The Academy of the Overrated has arrived.
(Artwork: Vintage publicity shot of Katherine Hepburn.)
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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com
Posted by joe baltake at 10:43 AM