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Diary

Diary

'The stars are still big, it's the voters' memories that got small.'

24 May 2003

12:00 AM

24 May 2003

12:00 AM

Channel 4 outdid itself in ignorance with the dumb, grandiosely titled The 100 Greatest Film Stars of All Time. We tuned in eagerly, expecting to see a cross-section of legendary stars from the 1920s to the present day in fabulous movie clips, and what did we get? Several dozen ‘talking heads’ purporting to be movie ‘experts’, interspersed with extremely truncated footage of some surprising stars, accompanied by scurrilous and unnecessary gossip. Granted, many of the heads did know of what they spoke. Nicholas Hytner and other directors, producers and actors were erudite and interesting, but the editors of magazines such as Jack and Hot Dog, not to mention the assorted ‘stylists’, hairdressers and gossip columnists, were achingly dull, not to mention rude, and included one aptly named columnist called Lycia Naff. One of the lowest points was when one Mark Gernard, whose epithet was ‘critic and broadcaster’, referred to the superb director Roberto Rossellini as a ‘greasy Italian’. There are certain parts of Brooklyn I suggest you do not visit, Mr Gernard. These snaggle-toothed nonentities were bad enough, but we were appalled by the actual list. I was astonished that people such as River Phoenix, Dennis Hopper, John Cusack, Winona Ryder, Harvey Keitel and Angelina Jolie were included. Although all are excellent actors, some of them are, as yet, unproven as long-distance runners in the movie-star stakes, and others are usually supporting actors. For a dedicated film buff like myself, the omissions were truly horrendous. Where were the greats of silent movies: Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and Clara Bow? Did the ‘experts’ who compiled the list simply think that no star was worth their salt before talkies began? Or perhaps, even more sadly, they had never heard of them. Only Charlie Chaplin made the cut, and that was probably because a biopic of him was made recently. I was relieved that they didn’t confuse him with Robert Downey Jr. I longed to see a clip of Shirley Temple, Joan Crawford, Greer Garson and some of the legendary glamour queens of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Jean Harlow, Ava Gardner, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner. Instead we were shown the oeuvres of several young actresses who are talented; but ‘all-time movie greats’? I doubt it. Then, in place of hugely popular Continental icons such as Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Catherine Deneuve, we had Amitabh Bachchan (who he?). Why weren’t Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Kirk Douglas, Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, Gary Cooper, Rock Hudson or Marcello Mastroianni (possibly the greatest star Italian cinema has ever produced) included? We finished six hours of what turned out to be extremely masochistic viewing feeling depressed that most voting viewers had obviously never heard of anyone who graced the silver screen before they were born. The moving picture was arguably the greatest creative invention of the last century, and it is shocking that the vast majority of the stars of that era seem to have been usurped by actors who have appeared in just a few films in the last couple of years. It is a sad indictment of what interests our modern disposable society that the illustrious cinematic past is held in such low regard and engenders so little respect. To paraphrase another legendary star they will never have heard of, Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, ‘The stars are still big, it’s the voters’ memories that got small.’

I bought my daughter two chests of drawers from Habitat. They looked good and sturdy and the shop promised delivery the following week, which was a plus. On the allotted day six large cartons arrived, along with a 15-page booklet on how to assemble the pieces inside that would have tested the expertise of a professional carpenter. When we complained to the shop, a manager informed us that every piece of furniture has to be assembled by hand. ‘But you don’t have any signs to that effect and you didn’t tell us,’ we protested. ‘Everyone knows that about us,’ he sniffed. Well, we didn’t know it, and at £750 I think it’s a total rip-off. In spite of several hours’ of effort by Katy and her boyfriend, Paul, the unfortunate pieces remained scattered on the floor until the specialist arrived to put them together, which took almost three hours.


My New York friends inform me that, because of Mayor Bloomberg’s new total smoking ban in restaurants, bars and clubs, there is rebellion brewing on the streets of Manhattan. As the diehard smokers gather outside the bars and bo–tes to chatter and puff away, the smoke rises and infiltrates the open windows and the apartments of those living above. Windows have to remain closed, tempers are frayed, the residents are beyond furious, and who can blame them? This ludicrous law is the ultimate in ‘nannyism’. Of course everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but those who choose to persist should at least be allowed designated areas in which to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if, under this new prohibition, speakeasies started to flourish in New York, as they did in the 1920s, where people would be free to drink or eat and smoke to their heart’s content. I’m sure that these joints will thrive because everyone loves an element of the forbidden.

Wouldn’t Bloomberg do better to kick the countless druggies off the streets? Maybe we could even follow suit on that one. As for contracting cancer, becoming obese is worse for you than smoking; 35 per cent of cancer deaths are caused by poor nutrition and obesity and 30 per cent by smoking. Check it out. When is Mayor Bloomberg going to ban fast-food?

I adore browsing the open-air antique markets and like to go there in semi-disguise. Recently my daughter, Tara, and I were up at the crack of dawn perusing the stalls of Bermondsey. I was dressed down in raincoat, baseball cap and no make-up, delighted that I was getting away without being recognised. Then Tara came up and informed me that she had heard one of the stallholders talking to his slatternly wife. ”Ere, Trace, did you see that was that Joan Collins? Gor blimey, even you look better than she does!’ I grabbed Tara and said, ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!’


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