Sunday, January 16, 2011
Remembering Susannah York
What a thrill it was to reach Susannah York on the phone at her home in England --she'd agreed to a quick interview in 1991 to promote the British series Trainers which cast her in a big, juicy character part.
The beautiful and talented actress succumbed to cancer on Jan. 14, aged 72.
York insisted that she'd never wanted to be a film star.
"The theatah was always my goal.But to make some money I took the part of Alec Guinness's daughter in the 1960 movie Tunes Of Glory. And, of course, Alec completely wowed me with his skills and I could see that acting for films wasn't as bad as I'd expected. I was all of 22 so what did I know?"
The very next year she got great notices in the little seen British film The Greengage Summer wonderfully as a 16-year-old falling for older man Kenneth More in the lush French countryside. "Confidentially I thought it should have been Dirk Bogarde instead of Kenneth but there you have it. Rumer Godden wrote the original novel. Dannielle Darrieux was splendid as his lesbian mistress, she so reeked of authenticity. Lewis Gilbert directed it but no one but you has ever asked me about it."
But it was 1963's Tom Jones that made her a star. "Oh, I just didn't want to do it, thought it silly. The director Tony Richardson came over to my flat with his wife Vanessa Redgrave and they just pestered me until I said yes. And it was this huge hit winning the Oscar as best picture."
For the next decade she acted opposite really big stars: Bill Holden (The 7th Dawn), Warren Beatty (Kaleidoscope), Paul Scofield (A Man For All Seasons), Dirk Bogarde (Sebastian), Laurence Olivier (Battle Of Britain) ending with an Oscar nomination as supporting actress for They Shoot Horses Don't They(1969).
"On that won I knew I wouldn't win and I didn't. But I really didn't think I was that good anyway."
She drifted into TV work including Prince Regent (1979), We'll Meet again (1982), Devices And Desires (1992) in between some variable movie roles opposite Peter O'Toole (Country Dance), George C. Scott (Jane Eyre), Liz Taylor (Zee And Co.), and Richard Dreyfuss (Images).
"Oh, I also did The Love Boat. Twice! Don't forget that,"she jokes.
She had a Canadian connection, she insisted. It was the 1979 film The Silent Partner with Chris Plummer and Elliott Gould. And years after we talked she journeyed to Montreal to make the Book Of eve opposite Claire Bloom.
Did she mind she was no longer the dewey, young star?
"No! I've been Superman's mom, let anybody equal that! And the roles have been very different, I wanted to try anything and I guess I have. It did hurt my career. I could have gone on playing the blonde girl friend but that wasn't where I wanted to go."
She suddenly rang off because her daughter was shouting about supper.
Susannah York last acted in two British series in 2010 in guest roles: on Doctors and Missing.
She'll certainly be missed.