Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gladys Cooper, A Natural Aristocrat among Actresses

This week's TCM Movie Morlocks Blog is the third part of an appreciation of character actors, the transition and development of a famed leading lady of some repute into a good character actress and at times, a plain great actress, is outlined below. As the mass media developed over the course of the twentieth century this individual grew from anonymity into a "living legend". The subject of this week's blog will be examined in two parts:

Some time ago, in a visit to a museum in Toronto, I wandered through an exhibit on The Great War that featured the contents of a young Canadian Tommy's kit bag from the trenches in 1916. There, amid the personal items, a battered mess tin, a scarred bayonet, a small, chipped shovel for digging a trench, an Enfield rifle and the letters from home, was a yellowing post card.

Used often in this period for sending a brief message to loved ones, this small, dog-eared object bore an image similar to that seen at left. Bringing a touch of homey glamour to a homesick soldier, it featured the pin-up girl of the First World War, the British actress, Gladys Cooper (1888-1971).

It may be hard to believe that this same winsome creature would evolve into the sometimes frosty character actress whose hauteur chilled filmed audiences in the 1940s as she laid down the law for her screen daughter Bette Davis in Now, Voyager, or questioned the truth of Jennifer Jones' visions of the Virgin Mary in The Song of Bernadette. At the stage of her life when this photo was taken, the model-actress had been in front of the cameras for twenty-two of her twenty-eight years, beginning at the age of six, when her mother had given in to a request to photograph the exceptionally lovely child with her thick blond hair, and unsettling blue eyes set into a heart shaped face...more

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