Events at the Shop
Betsy Blair - The Memory of All That
Wednesday 20 April 2005
In conversation with Andrew O’Hagan, the actress and political activist Betsy Blair discusses Hollywood in the 1950s, her marriages to Gene Kelly and Karel Reisz, her tangles with the Blacklist, her adventures in Europe and the writing of her memoir, The Memory of All That.
Marty and the McCarthy Years
Andrew O’Hagan introduces Betsy Blair by reading an excerpt from a fan letter he had received with the request to “show Betsy this poem”. He provides a brief biographical sketch, before opening the discussion with a question about how she came to take up her role in the Palme d’Or-winning Marty.
The Road to Hollywood
Blair talks about the geographical separation between the theatre and cinema industries in America, and relates the story of how she declined a college scholarship and arrived in Hollywood via nightclub dancing in New York.
Hollywood Parties and the Blacklist
Blair remembers the “sensationally optimistic” period between 1945 and McCarthy, and describes the effects of the Hollywood blacklist on the town’s party atmosphere.
Blair discusses working with Orson Welles on Othello, learning of her Oscar nomination for Marty, the end of her marriage to Gene Kelly, and singing in the rain at the Coronation in London.
London, Europe and America
Blair talks about her time in London with Karel Reisz, becoming “more English”, the differences between the Hollywood studio system and working in Europe, and European attitudes to America today.
Blair answers audience questions on:
- The relationship between the Hollywood ‘salons’
- How to handle being a beautiful actress playing a “plain” character
- Filming Calle Mayor with Juan Antonio Bardem in Spain under Franco
- The actors’ attempts to fight McCarthy in Washington
- Her feelings about Elia Kazan’s Academy Award for lifetime achievement.
Recorded and edited by Adrian Leibowitz and Brett Wilson
Common Custom:documentary & archive
Betsy Blair is an actress who began her career in Hollywood during its heyday, and is perhaps best known for her role in Marty (1955). After moving to Europe at the end of the 1950s, she worked with celebrated directors including Juan Antonio Bardem and Michelangelo Antonioni.
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