Gloria Grahame is not much remembered these days. She was never as famous a movie star as, say, Marilyn Monroe. But, with her soft, girlish voice, sensual mouth, and trademark pout belying the gutsy toughness of the characters she played, she was a staple player in 1950s film noir, who is still much beloved by fans of the genre.
But it's Gloria Grahame at the end of her career who's the centerpiece of Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool.
Based on a memoir written by Peter Turner, it's the story of how Turner, an aspiring young actor trying to break into showbiz, met and fell in love with the veteran actress when she was working onstage in England in 1979.
|Bell and Bening: plausibly beguiling|
Peter is 28, and Gloria is almost 30 years his senior. But they bond over the craft and business of acting as he squires her around town, and pretty soon they become lovers.
When, inevitably, she moves back to Los Angeles, she invites Peter to come live with her in her trailer on the beach at Malibu — a heady fantasy for a lad from Liverpool.
That Bening's no-nonsense, often fiercely anti-glam onscreen persona is so different from the kittenish Grahame's gives the casting its interesting edge.
|Grahame and Turner, real-life|
Gloria tells Peter the best acting advice she ever got, from Humphrey Bogart. "Keep it all inside," she says. "Let the camera come to you."
Clearly, Bell has taken this advice to heart. Many of the movie's richest moments come from Bell's still face, perceptibly filling with emotion to which he never quite gives voice.
As the movie is based on Turner's book, we have only his word that Peter was as gallant and adoring as Bell plays him.
But if this movie revives interest in Gloria Grahame's vintage movies, I'm all for it.
Here she is at her saucy best, mixing a drink an cracking wise with her big lug of a boyfriend, mob enforcer Lee Marvin, in The Big Heat (1953)