© Sony Pictures Entertainment Deutschland GmbH

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
U.K. 2017

Opening 5 Apr 2018

Directed by: Paul McGuigan
Writing credits: Matt Greenhalgh, Peter Turner
Principal actors: Jamie Bell, Annette Bening, Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Graham, Julie Walters

Actress Gloria Grahame (1923-1981) acted in many Hollywood films, such as It’s a Wonderful Life or Oklahoma. In 1952 she won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in The Bad and the Beautiful. Her film career began stagnating around 1955, so she turned to theater.  This film begins in 1981 when Grahame (Annette Bening) was in London to perform in The Glass Menagerie. She collapsed and could not appear on stage. She refused to return to the United States, but instead convinced her lover Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) to take her into the house he shared with his parents and brother in Liverpool, England. His mother Bella (Julie Walters) generously agreed to this unusual situation, although she had her own plans to fly to Manila to visit another grown son.

These last days in Liverpool are the heart of the film, based on the biography of the same name by Peter Turner. Although she is Peter’s “guest” for six days, the time seems much longer with flashbacks which fill us in on her life to this point. We see her 1978 in London, where she lived in the same boarding house as Turner, an upcoming actor, age 26. Their friendship developed into a love affair in spite of Grahame being 30 years older. We experience her four marriages, her four children (three sons and a daughter), and her sister. We learn that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974, which seemed to have regressed a year later. She refused treatment and continued as if all was well until it wasn’t, so that she is forced to crawl into a bed in the Turner household. In the end we experience Turner’s despair about the situation and his attempts to contact both a doctor and her family in the USA, although she has expressly forbidden him to do so.

Although I saw the film in English, I was grateful for the German subtitles, because British working-class English doesn’t always seem familiar. We see old Gloria Grahame films and learn about her former life in California, her struggle to get ahead, and her many affairs, as well as her life with Turner in New York. The unusual relationship between Grahame and Turner is sometimes true love, sometimes toy boy versus drama queen, but definitely worth your interest. Filmed in London and Liverpool. (Becky Tan)

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