1996 Telluride Film Festival Diaries
A Tribute to Shirley MacLaine
August 29, 1996
The first order of business at the Telluride Film Festival was to give tribute
to an actress whose career has spanned forty-five year, Shirley MacLaine.
Bill Pence, co-director of the fest introduced the crowd at the historical
Sheridan Opera House to the film career of MacLaine with eight film from
her early career including "The Trouble with Harry", "Ask
Any Girl", "Some Came Running"for which she received her
first Academy Award nomination. But the biggest laughs came when the sound
didn't come on in the first clip and MacLaine remarked," Let's see,
I should be able to remember those lines. I can remember three thousand
years ago, after all." Bill Pence noted MacLaine's other careers in
politics and spiritualism which took off in the seventies before the compilation
of clips from the second, more dramatically oriented phase of her acting
career. The climactic fight scene from "The Turning Point" with
Anne Bancroft, MacLaine's watery kiss in "Used People" and the
show stopping 'I'm Still Here' number from "Postcards From The Edge"
more than demonstrated her growth as an actress.
After Pence presented MacLaine with the silver Telluride Medallion, Roger
Ebert was on hand to interview her. It was truly a lively exchange. Ebert
remarked that she able to have such a long career because she wasn't' afraid
to take chances, even with her physical appearance as in the older "Madame
Sousatzka". MacLaine commented that she has had a good role model for
looking older, heavier and outrageously dressed in Bella Abzug, one of
her political allies "But," she said, "all I should have
done was picture you in a dress, Roger". The cute, quick witted ingenue
has evolved into a cute and quick witted lady which may be why she held
her own with the Rat Pack in the sixties and seventies. She commented that
Dean Martin could have been a much greater actor but he had so cultivated
his "I don't give a damn" attitude that he couldn't reach deeper
to bring more to the screen. As for her, MacLaine has frequently felt the
presence of others in her during her time in front of the camera. But her
favorite character and the one most like herself is Aurora from "Terms
of Endearment". Clips from "Terms and the upcoming "Evening
Star" were shown to rolls of applause. It was the best of tributes
to an outstanding talent.
The most touching moment of the evening came when Bill Pence dedicated this
year's festival to Louis Malle, who died last December. His widow, Candace
Bergen attended with their daughter, Chloe. Bergen, well known as TV's
Murphy Brown has managed to maintain her career even in the midst of her
grief and was appreciative of the honor bestowed on her husband.
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