I saw this perfectly horrible interview, supposedly with Vivien Leigh-she studied ballet, too! And she is grilled by London Observer and NYT‘s drama critic (young) Kenneth Tynan. I honestly could not watch more than a few minutes-just long enough to hear Mr. Tynan be given the floor in what was supposed to be her interview in which he makes the same (unfortunately) point that I did in my comments about The Red Shoes and Sylvie Guillem‘s recreation of ‘Bolero,’ and in the same post about Natalie Portman‘s portrayal of a dancer.
Before I thought about it, I responded to his position as one insulting Ms. Leigh, and considering the sleights to her acting ability that I had recently read about, I took offense. He insinuated that her parts could have been played better by real southerners in both Gone With the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire-namely her two greatest roles. He was a bit of a 3. Then I was embarrassed to realize this was a similar point to mine! Here was, undeniably, the most famous British actress of her time, if not one of the greatest, being questioned about her choice of roles, and defending her right as an actress to portray whatever characters she felt, and explaining that she had to look for challenges. He mumbled something about Japanese playing Chinese and so on. I really need to go back and force myself to watch the interview, if only as punishment for making a similar point.
To clarify. I do not think Natalie Portman’s portrayal of a dancer violated any rules about non-dancers playing dancers. i am only aggrieved for dancers that she did not give credit where credit was due-anymore than Vivien Leigh gave any credit to southerners for her portrayal. A lot of people think Gone With the Wind is not one of the greatest films in that it stereotypes blacks and makes them appear to be happy in their slavery. I think the film is one of my favorite films of all time, and I have read the book by Margaret Mitchell. Clearly, casting of Vivien Leigh was not a mistake and she probably deserved the Oscar she got. I questioned whether Ms. Portman deserved her Oscar, I am still out on that one. Ms. Leigh was doubled (even before she was hired) in many of the scenes-particularly from the fire scene in Atlanta, but others as well and no credit was given to the extras that I know of, but credit was given to the blacks in the film and they were not played by whites in ‘black face,’ which did advance some of their careers, although many of the players were considered fine actors already. If not for these films, how were blacks to be taken seriously, or taken at all, in films? How were they to make a living? I do not think The Black Swan did less for ballet actually. There is no such thing as bad publicity. Many of the dancers in The Black Swan may one day be noted for their dancing as a result of having very minor parts in the film, but I doubt it. I do not think the film itself was or will be considered as great one day as Gone With the Wind-but who can tell? The fact is, it is a film about dance.
Sylvie Guillem most definitely was challenging herself in the role of Bolero-again, how stupid of me! I should not have commented on her performance, copying, or lack of freedom in the role. Here is a woman at fifty-still dancing! She is an icon. We need icons in ballet, it’s just that we need more. Perhaps. But both of these performances have in common, to me, a greater place in copying the fine art of dance, in one form or another, than in bringing to life a role, whether acting or dancing is involved and I think that where art is concerned, i would rather see the latter than the former in almost any instance. But this ties together quite nicely my points, even if I do have to be categorized with the imbeciles!