Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Tony Awards - Coco

Now, who knew Katharine Hepburn played the role of Gabrielle Chanel in the Broadway production of Coco?

9 comments:

The Peak of Chic said...

And now Shirley Maclaine is playing Coco in an American made for TV movie! I never could see Hepburn as Coco.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

PoC - now that should be good.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

You must read Cecil Beaton's unexpurgated diaries about that production, which he designed ... he HATED Hepburn ... the diary entries are absolutely incendiary ... here is a little peak ...

FROM BEATON DIARIES

I knew the show would be no good with such a rotten book. I never fooled myself into thinking the book could be sufficiently improved. It's no good wondering if Alan Lerner had not made a great mistake by throwing out Rosalind Russell (done in such a dishonest, beastly way) in favour of Katharine Hepburn. In fact R. R. would have given a better performance, would have projected the songs better, but the show would not have succeeded in becoming a smash hit, though it might have lasted longer than it will if K. H. is still determined to leave at the end of April.

It may, however, suit her to stay on to receive the applause of the multitudes. She is the egomaniac of all time and her whole life is devised to receive the standing ovation that she has had at the end of her great personality performance. As the play nears its end and she is sure of her success, she becomes raged, the years roll off her, and she becomes a young schoolmistress. Up till then she has, to my way of thinking, been as unlike Chanel as anyone could be. With the manners of an old sea salt, spreading her ugly piano-calved legs in the most indecent positions, even kicking her protégée with her foot in the "London" scene, standing with her huge legs wide apart and being in every gesture as unfeminine and unlike the fascinating Chanel as anyone could be. Her performance is just one long series of personal mannerisms.

I would not have thought audiences could react so admiringly, yet the first time I saw a run-through rehearsal, I was impressed and even touched. But ever since I've found her performance mechanical, inept (her timing is erratic), she stops and laughs, she falters over words, she is maladroit, and she is ugly. That beautiful bone structure of cheekbone, nose and chin goes for nothing in the surrounding flesh of the New England shopkeeper. Her skin is revolting and since she does not apply enough make-up even from the front she appears pockmarked. In life her appearance is appalling, a raddled, rash-ridden, freckled, burnt, mottled, bleached and wizened piece of decaying matter. It is unbelievable, incredible that she can still be exhibited in public.

Fred Brisson tells me that one day he will repeat the vile things she has said about me. As it is I have heard that she has complained about my being difficult, stubborn. She obviously does not trust me or have confidence in my talent. She pretends to be fairly friendly and direct, but she has never given me any friendship, never spoken to me of anything that has not direct bearing on the part that she is playing.

I have determined not to have a row with her, have put up with a great deal of double-crossing, chicanery and even deceit. She has behaved unethically in altering her clothes without telling me, asserting her "own" taste instead of mine. (On the first night she appeared in her own hat instead of the one that went with the blue on her costume. Instead of the Chanel jewellery she wears a little paste brooch chosen by her friend . . . in quiet good taste.) She is suspicious and untrustworthy.

Never has anyone been so one-tracked in their determination to succeed. She knows fundamentally that she has no great talent as an actress. This gives her great insecurity so she must expend enormous effort in overcoming this by asserting herself in as strident a manner as only she knows how. She must always be proved right, only she knows, no matter what the subject. It is extraordinary that she has not been paid out for her lack of taking advice. But even if this is her last job, and it won't be, she will have had an incredible run for incredible money. She owns $20 million. She is getting $13,000 a week. But in spite of her success, her aura of freshness and natural directness, she is a rotten, ingrained viper. She has no generosity, no heart, no grace. She is a dried-up boot. Completely lacking in feminine grace, in manners, she cannot smile except to bare her teeth to give an effect of utter youthfulness and charm. (This, one of her most valuable stage assets, is completely without feeling.) She is ungenerous, never gives a present, and miserly. She lives like a miser, bullies Phyllis [Willbourn] and thinks only of herself day and night. Garbo has magic. Garbo is a miracle with many of the same faults, but Hepburn is synthetic, lacking in the qualities that would make such an unbearable human being into a real artist.

I hope I never have to see her again.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

Al - well, well! Fabulous! Thank you so much.
I must admit I have never understood the attraction of Miss Hepburn. Now Miss Russell I have always adored, she would have made a great Mlle Chanel.
Well CB must have been right about something. He did win the Tony after all.

Pigtown-Design said...

I got those two volumes of CB's diaries at Book Thing, and now it looks like I am going to have to read them!

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

fairfax - I know. I too have them but haven't even cracked the spine as yet. AL has certainly piqued my interest though.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Oh, you must read them. Even more vile is CB's opinion of Elizabeth Taylor at the Rothschilds' Proust Ball ... he goes on and on about the veiny horrors of her poitrine!

Be the change..... said...

I LOVE cecil beaton's pointed remarks in all his memoirs - the books are long and may appear daunting but you won't be able to put them down!
I never was a Katherine Hepburn fan either, but I have the soundtrack for Coco and it's really pretty marvelous. She can't sing but the music is good enough to carry her.

Washington Cube said...

I was going to quote Beaton on Hepburn, but I see someone beat me to it. The man could set paper on fire with his pen.