Thursday, June 3, 2010
Well, it's time for a new month and a new starlet to adore. To kick things off this summer, I have selected the lovely and talented Jean Arthur. But be prepared, this lady isn't all that she seems...
Jean Arthur was a pip! From her shrill yet adorable little voice to her feisty and perplexing behavior, you never knew what this woman would do or say next. In fact, neither did she! Spending her life in a fog of confusion, Jean never understood how or where she fit into this whole Goddarned mess of a world, and she was too insecure to try. Instead, she turned to acting, where a script could tell her exactly who she was, where she was, and what she was supposed to do. Only in the camera's gaze or on the sturdy boards of the theatrical stage did she find peace. Those moments between "action" and "cut" were the most secure and comforting of her life. Unfortunately, the boundless time between "cut" and the next call to "action" were emotionally back-breaking, fearful, nervous, and sometimes downright dangerous.
From Easy Living
A naturally insecure individual, Jean has been labeled as the poster girl for the "inferiority complex." Perhaps this attitude came as a repercussion to her father's abandonment of her, her mother, and her two elder brothers. Hubert Greene, her dad, was always coming and going and thus always breaking her heart. Jean had to learn to fend for herself at a young age, but with her hell-bent and determined attitude to never, EVER be hurt by another human being again, came a profound mistrust and an abysmally low sense of self-worth. The internal tug-of-war constantly raging within her would produce a profoundly confounding individual that no one could figure out. At once brave, cynical, and stubborn, Jean too was meek, soft, and childish. For example, before scenes on Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, it is rumored that Jean could be found in her dressing room vomiting. Getting her onto set, on any of her films, was a chore. She never thought she looked right, she was never ready emotionally... She had to be coaxed and soothed onto set, which perturbed many an actor, director, or crew member that had to work with her. When she made it into the spotlight though, boy oh boy! Jean Arthur, the fretful, worrisome, "difficult" actress did not exist. Only a lovable girl armed with smarts and full of heart remained.
Jean, trying not to scream, in a
rare cheesecake photo
When in the hands of directors Frank Capra or George Stevens, she was captured best. Opposite the most handsome leading men of the day-- Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, John Wayne-- she still steals the show. The thing is, Jean didn't want to be captured or stolen. Or trapped! She loved liberty above all, and spoke to a generation of women who were still struggling to find their own voice and independence. It seems that squeaky Jean spoke for them as well. Jean's talent was a source of this liberation, but also a burden. As at home as she was on the stage, she was equally tormented by a fear of failure. The more success she gained, the more she believed that it would all crumble out from under her. This explains the erratic behavior in her later years, where she started several plays only to walk out on them before their run was up. "Peter Pan," "Joan of Arc," "Born Yesterday..." Her fear of rejection caused her to reject herself. Needlessly so.
When you watch her movies today, there is but one word: adorable. Even if this woman-- who was a competitor with Garbo for the Elusive Queen of Hollywood-- never believed herself to be so. In fact, she fled the paparazzi flashes as much as she sought the film cameras. This winner of the "Sour Apple Award" may have left a bad taste in the mouths of many in the industry, but to her fans she was always a savory peach! She remains indefinable and untouchable. A mystery, an enigma, a question left unanswered. What she is is what she always set out to be-- one hell of an actress! Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The More the Merrier, The Talk of the Town, Shane, You Can't Take It with You--- all classic films starring one classic dame. An unparalleled career; a devoted talent. Despite her, you gotta love her: Jean Arthur.