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Monday, 16 December 2013

RIP Joan Fontaine

With all the discussion of Peter O'Toole's death, announced yesterday, it would be easy for the death of another Hollywood star to go unnoticed. The wonderful Joan Fontaine died yesterday aged 96, a brilliant age, perhaps, but why did I still get the feeling she'd been taken too soon? The Hollywood stars of the 40s and 50s that I adore are so fresh in my memory that it's still a shock when one of them dies and Joan has become one of my favourites.

The first film I saw her in was A Damsel in Distress (1937) with Fred Astaire. It was an odd film with a screen play by PG Wodehouse and songs by the Gershwins but, while Astaire's charm and dancing ability was ever present, I was more interested in his beautiful colleague. Although not Astaire's usual kind of co-star, there was something about her that pulled me in: maybe the eyes, maybe the smile, maybe just the sense that I was to see her in better things - which I did.

I've since reviewed three of her films on here: Rebecca (1940), Jane Eyre (1943) and Born to Be Bad (1950). In the last of these, she plays a manipulative woman determined to outsmart those around her to get what she wants. It wasn't the kind of role I'd come to associate with her but she pulled it off remarkably well, revealing another layer to an excellent actress. However, she's at her absolute best in Rebecca, engaging throughout and a brilliant co-star to the titan Laurence Olivier. If there's one film I think she'll be remembered for, it's Rebecca, and rightly so.

There are many more Fontaine films out there for me to discover and enjoy. Hours of pleasure from an actress I don't think has been properly appreciated in recent years. Maybe her death'll change that. RIP Joan and thanks for the wonderful legacy.

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