Sun 26 Feb 2012
THE ACTRESS. MGM, 1953. Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy, Teresa Wright, Anthony Perkins, Mary Wickes, Ian Wolfe. Screenplay by Ruth Gordon, based on her play Years Ago; cinematographer: Harold Rossen. Director: George Cukor. Shown at Cinecon 39, Hollywood CA, Aug-Sept 2003.
I had never seen this movie, based on a play by Gordon, which was in turn based on her own experiences. Jean Simmons was, predictably, a beautiful and luminous incarnation of Ruth Gordon (or of her idealized self; I don’t recall seeing pictures of the young Gordon, but it’s hard to imagine Simmons, who’s still gorgeous, aging into the on-screen persona I am familiar with).
There was only eleven years difference in age between Simmons (b. 1929) and Teresa Wright (b. 1918), but Simmons caught all the fragile turbulence of late adolescence, and Wright had the dramatic weight to carry her role as Ruth Gordon’s mother.
Spencer Tracy was superb as the father whose ambitions for his daughter were so clearly at odds with her ambitions, and Anthony Perkins, in a role as Simmons’ suitor that he seemed to inhabit effortlessly, made his film debut. A distinguished set of performances, with direction and cinematography to match.
Simmons captivated the audience in her interview, displaying an intelligence and beauty that characterized her on-screen persona. One of the memorable Cinecon appearances of recent years.
Editorial Note: As has been pointed out in the comments, Walter’s review was written in 2003, and Jean Simmons, alas, is no longer with us. She died in 2010.