Thursday, February 16, 2012

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

There I’ve gone and done it once again. Excavated from the inner recesses of one of my many bookcases a very readable and moving account of a Hollywood star’s last days enshrined in a Chatto & Windus (1986) hardcover first edition − that’s what I have done – no less. I must have picked Peter Turner’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool off the DN Road footpath probably near its Flora Fountain end in the mid-90s, merrily chucked it in one of my numerous bookcases and forgotten all about it. The book, I confess, may not be everybody’s cup of tea. With me, it qualifies one hundred per cent because it is (a) in the historical gossip genre which has been my perennial favourite – I simply relish it; and (b) about a minor Hollywood film noir star of the 40s and 50s invariably typecast as a floosy with a heart of gold. Gloria Grahame caught my eye and my fancy in the Humphrey Bogart starrer, In A Lonely Place (1950), and The Big Heat (1953). By a strange coincidence, Gloria’s private life happened to match her screen persona perfectly. To put it mildly, she lived her life along unorthodox lines with a string of failed marriages and stormy affairs. The book depicts her as being quite quirky, living in a trailer parked in a caravan park in California, not possessing too many clothes and accessories, forever anxious about keeping her awkward feet covered in socks and so forth. It is written by her lover in a cougar relationship, the Liverpudlian stage actor Peter Turner who was 29 years her junior. The narrative intertwines two distinct streams: one of nostalgia and the other describing pre-death rites of care and comfort. It is surprisingly racy, tragic, at times unintentionally funny, very visual and very, very believable. There is no flourish or fanfare used in the telling. I feel it would make a great movie. What’s more, it deserves a wider reading public as well. P.S.: By the way, the book title comes from a chance remark by the author’s bête noire when informed of the impending demise of a Hollywood star in the hometown of The Beatles.