Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rowdy Girls

Why do you think our culture has such a fixation on the moneyed and eccentric, but slightly off older woman desperate for love lost or for someone to just pay attention?

Little Edie's story has now been remade into the HBO film "Grey Gardens," a musical adaptation (which I loved and you can see a snippet here), some pretty gorgeous coffee table books, and, of course, there's the brilliant original documentary. Never mind the influence on fashion and the vast contribution of lines to quote. But Edie is one in a long line of these rowdy girls that mesmerize us with their musty mansions, fierce honesty, and haunting presence.

("Little Edie Art Mask" by Bruce Lennon)

The original:
Miss Havisham from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

(image via Blackfriars Theatre)

Her introduction in Great Expectations:

"She was dressed in rich materials — satins, and lace, and silks — all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on — the other was on the table near her hand — her veil was half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

It was not in the first moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its luster, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly wax-work at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now wax-work and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I should have cried out, if I could."

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in "Sunset Blvd." (1950)

(image via Daveland Art Gallery)

Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson and Joan Crawford as Blanche Hudson in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962)

Anne Bancroft as Ms. Dinsmoor in a modern take on "Great Expectations" (1998)

(Don't you love how her pose is similar to the one in "Sunset Blvd"?)

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