November 5, 2010

"An Unmarried Woman" — the most annoyingly 1970s movie I can name.

Really, it pains me to watch this clip. I remember exactly how this felt at the time and how important this portrayal of womanhood was imagined to be:



The actress is Jill Clayburgh, who died today — after 21 years of chronic leukemia — at the age of 66. Her husband was the playwright David Rabe.

44 comments:

former law student said...

Watch Semi-Tough --its very cheerful.

William said...

I admire her courage. She not only endured with a terminal illness but she managed to keep working and striving. The sparks of independence and bravery that she brought to her roles were not all acting.....It must be said, however, that surviving a divorce is not such a big deal, and that too much was made of that movie.

Pete said...

William said "Surviving a divorce is not such a big deal."

Maybe for you but certainly not for many. Especially children. (Though, admittedly, this movie isn't about children of divorce.)

To paraphrase Tolstoy, each divorce is a heartbreak in it's own way.

edutcher said...

Not my dish of tea as an actress, but sad to hear it.

rcocean said...

'Mazursky' is synonymous for annoying. Look it up.

As for Jill, sorry she died but I can't really place her in anything. And this part from her NYT obit is really damning with faint praise:

Ms. Clayburgh, who began her career in films and on Broadway in the late 1960s, was among the first generation of young actresses — including Ellen Burstyn, Carrie Snodgress and Marsha Mason — who regularly portrayed characters sprung from the new feminist ethos: smart, capable and gritty, sometimes neurotic, but no less glamorous for all that.

Ouch.

Ann Althouse said...

Surviving a divorce... by having a fabulous affair with a manly artist in his spacious SoHo loft. It was presented as gritty and feminist but it was really porn for women.

somefeller said...

Watch Semi-Tough --its very cheerful.

North Dallas Forty was even more uplifting.

Pastafarian said...

She was in the movie "It's My Turn." They showed this on TV when I was in grad school; I remember my abstract algebra professor coming into class very excited the next morning -- he'd seen it too. In this movie, Clayburg played a math professor, and she was attempting to prove the Snake Lemma, I think it was called, from group theory.

At some point, my professor had exclaimed "Wait a minute -- that's wrong." I don't remember the error she'd commited, but he called it out while watching the movie; and then immediately after, a grad student in the film got up and said the exact same thing. It really got him worked up.

You have to understand, there aren't many references to group theory in movies. It's not like law -- about 40% of all movies involve some heroic lawyer.

Irene said...

Pastafarian, I know what you mean. I was dating a math prof when "It's My Turn," and the math prof had the same reaction in the theatire when we went to see the movie.

We also saw "First Monday in October." At the time I thought, "yeah, right."

Irene said...

("when 'It's My Turn' was released," I meant to say.)

BJM said...

I remember those boots.

MrBuddwing said...

I really liked Jill Clayburgh's turn as a scuzzy divorce attorney in the 8th season "Law & Order" TV episode "Divorce." (The opposing scuzzy attorney was played by Tony Roberts.)

Word verification: proluro.

Palladian said...

"Surviving a divorce... by having a fabulous affair with a manly artist in his spacious SoHo loft."

Film portrayals of artists are almost always embarrassing. This one seems to be painting bad versions of Morris Louis paintings.

Quaestor said...

Ann wrote: "Surviving a divorce... by having a fabulous affair with a manly artist in his spacious SoHo loft."

Yeah, this genre strikes me as basically Dame Barbara Cartland material minus the puffy pirate shirt open to the waist.

wv: tabizest - What Puss-Puss gets when you give her a Prozac.

bagoh20 said...

My mother was married 4 times. Her children had 3 different fathers, and we kids all stayed with her. I don't feel that my childhood was unusual at all. It was wonderful and incredibly happy for all of us. At Christmas we would have all three fathers together with the family and it was entirely friendly and cool.

A lot of strife in family relations is just role playing. You don't have to follow the script. I loved my biological father and also my step father simultaneously. They had different roles in my life and I think I truly lucked out having both.

I was most lucky of all having a mother who was irrepressible and refused to have convention or other people define her life. If a man did not live up to his part of the deal, she simply got another one. She found a lot of happiness in the process, and got everything she wanted from life.

She worked as a railroad welder working as and earning men's wages for 25 years, and no one ever questioned her femininity. She never would call herself a feminist. She remains an incredible example of independence and strength to this day at 77.

Many women were already far superior to any image the feminist movement wanted to sell. They didn't need anyone's confirmation of their full person-hood, and no one would ever question it. How independent are you if you need political cover for your choices?

YoungHegelian said...

My favorite Jill Clayburgh moment was when she hosted SNL first season in 76. The Coast Guard Choir, the Sea Idlers (an all male choir), sang Semper Paratus. Then Clayburgh and the SNL band came out and sang "Sea Cruise" accompanied by the choir. Throughout "Sea Cruise" every male eye in the chorus kept the beat by faithfully following the motions of Ms Clayburgh's butt.


Sure beats a metronome!

And I looked but couldn't find the video on-line. Sorry!

AST said...

She was so classy and sexy. She guest hosted on SNL and did a production number of "Sea Cruise" that I remember to this day. And in Silver Streak her partial seduction of Gene Wilder was worthy of Grace Kelly or Eva Marie Saint. Such a classy actress. It's sad that her career was cut short.

CatherineM said...

I am too young to remember these movies. I only know them after they were so thoroughly dissected. What I do remember is how her film career crashed. 2 big hits, then, thud. Siskel and Ebert would say, what happened?

You know what I noticed about this movie, beyond the same clothes the hip art teacher would wear at my school when I was in 2nd grade? The lack of a bra. I have never liked that. As a child, Bonnie Franklin always went braless on One Day at a Time. Faye Funaway in Network. Ick.

Jymn said...

Ann Althouse rips Jill Clayburgh a new one. There's one problem. Clayburgh just died. Classy Ann.

Jymn said...

Ann Althouse rips Jill Clayburgh a new one. There's one problem. Clayburgh just died. Classy Ann.

Jymn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BJM said...

@AST

I was searching youtube for that clip from Silver Streak and this one came up in the results.

The overly broad racial cliches are politically incorrect by today's standards, but the dialog is funny as hell in context and Pryor got quite a bit right.

jamboree said...

Was it gritty compared to "Mama Mia"? ;-)

Revenant said...

I'm almost certain the most annoyingly 70s movie was "The Goodbye Girl".

jr565 said...

rcocean wrote:
Ms. Clayburgh, who began her career in films and on Broadway in the late 1960s, was among the first generation of young actresses — including Ellen Burstyn, Carrie Snodgress and Marsha Mason — who regularly portrayed characters sprung from the new feminist ethos: smart, capable and gritty, sometimes neurotic, but no less glamorous for all that.

Ouch.

That portrayal is more damning of the smart, capable, and gritty, and sometimes neurotic feminists who are, apparently, a bunch of fat heffers. At least clayburgh was neurotic, but didn't look like a bull dyke is what they're saying. In the movie Silver Streak (if I'm remembering correctly) she was actually pretty hot and not at all neurotic. Though it was a comedy, so you can't expect realistic portrayals.

shoutingthomas said...

You should have met my late wife, Myrna, Ann.

She was what you are looking for.

Sheepman said...

It was presented as gritty and feminist but it was really porn for women.
Yes, and kudos to Alan Bates for gamely pretending that he find he found her fascinating and sexy.

traditionalguy said...

Jill was fascinating and sexy. She was very special in many ways. I am sorry to see her death notice.

Andrea said...

"...kudos to Alan Bates for gamely pretending that he find he found her fascinating and sexy."

It's called "acting." Bates really wouldn't have much of a career if he couldn't act. (This is not to say that Alan Bates the person didn't find her "attractive and sexy." I have no idea, and neither do you.)

TRO said...

I saw Semi-Tough, An Unmarried Woman, Silver Streak, Starting Over, and First Monday in October. Not all of them were great films, but I liked her work. Luna was more than a little strange though.

That said only Semi-Tough and Silver Streak are good upon revisiting. The others, like many movies of that time, are indeed annoying.

kent said...

""An Unmarried Woman" — the most annoyingly 1970s movie I can name."

I'm almost certain the most annoyingly 70s movie was "The Goodbye Girl".

You're both wrong.

C'mon. Streisand and Kristofferson... together? It's the cinematic equivalent of waterboarding, f'chrissakes!

shoutingthomas said...

Surviving a divorce... by having a fabulous affair with a manly artist in his spacious SoHo loft. It was presented as gritty and feminist but it was really porn for women.

Feminism is porn for rich white women.

Ann Althouse said...

In the clip I happened to find for this post -- and there could have been many other scenes from that movie -- the man's behavior is an idiotic female fantasy. The way the man paints through the conversation is inane. He might as well be cleaning the toilet. He listens to every banal thing she yammers about what ingredients to put in the eggs, stops painting to eat the eggs out of the pan with her, and kisses her while she's chewing on the eggs. Eating and kissing a handsome, artistic man.

Meanwhile, she shows no interest in that painting he's working on — like the eggs are more important than the art! In real life, what male painter with any ego would behave that way? He's a figment of her imagination. An eggment of her imagination.

Class factotum said...

She worked as a railroad welder working as and earning men's wages for 25 years

That's not possible! There is no way a woman got paid the same as a man for doing the exact same work. No way!

Bob_R said...

Talk about fantasies. Every mathematician in the '70's wanted Jill to teach them the snake lemma.

jr565 said...

Ann wrote:
He listens to every banal thing she yammers about what ingredients to put in the eggs, stops painting to eat the eggs out of the pan with her, and kisses her while she's chewing on the eggs. Eating and kissing a handsome, artistic man.

Meanwhile, she shows no interest in that painting he's working on — like the eggs are more important than the art! In real life, what male painter with any ego would behave that way? He's a figment of her imagination. An eggment of her imagination.

Ah but that assumes he was actually listening to her prattle on. He was probably half listening and had some canned words on hand ("Yes dear" "the best eggs ever dear") just to pretend that he was paying attention. And artists have to eat (as they're starving) so I can see him pausing from his art to chew on some eggs.
He then combines his love of food with his love of sex. Since she's eating the eggs and he's still hungry, he kiisses her so he can eat some of her eggs.
If she humped him at that point, he'd probably continue painting.

Alex Bensky said...

I liked her, came across as a very bright yet friendly and extremely attractive woman...the kind who won't give me the time of day but at least I could watch the movies.

In "An Unmarried Woman" she is able not only to have an affair with Alan Bates but have an interesting arts-type job and live in a nifty apartment...because her ex-husband is paying her alimony. Oh,yes, I saw the character as a symbol of seventies feminism but perhaps not int he way the feminists.

DADvocate said...

I liked Clayburgh but this is another movie I never saw because I knew it would be annoying at the least, one of those banal movies with a "message" and no entertainment.

From Inwood said...

OK, I am old and gray and full of sleep & nodding by the fire... but compare Jill C's "feminism" with that say of Joan Crawford in Mildred Fierce or Bette Davis in Mr. Schlepington

kent said...

"'I Have a Pair of 38s Pointed Right at You': Sexual Personae and Feminist Empowerment in Russ Meyer's FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!"

Popville said...

Re: Ann Althouse said...
> It was presented as gritty and feminist
> but it was really porn for women.

I dunno, her tits looked pretty damn good in that film - "perky".

Tho Bates' character's "art" was indeed atrocious.

Re: somefeller
> North Dallas Forty was even more uplifting.

In my top-10 films. B-movies are always more fun and many times surprisingly more inciteful. Same goes for "The Wanderers".

PeteRR said...

"If you love me so much, stir my fucking eggs."

-Christopher Moltisanti

Duncan said...

Couldn't they have used the 5-color map theorem in It's My Turn. More accessible to general audiences.

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