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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye to a Generous Star

Classic movie fans said goodbye to many of their favorites in 2013. We lost a lot of the stars that we thought had finally found a way to beat mortality. How could the always-athletic Esther Williams ever leave us? Didn't Peter O'Toole have a few more lives left in him?

I observed these passings with some personal sadness, though I mostly felt for the families who had lost loved ones who just happened to be adored by the rest of the world as well. Making it into your 80s or 90s is something to celebrate, especially when you have contributed so much. And yet, I was seriously bummed out when Joan Fontaine passed on Sunday, December 15.

There are lots of reasons I mourned Ms. Fontaine with a bit more intensity. She was one of the first stars I admired when I was a gawky middle-schooler learning to love the classics. You could say she started this deeply fulfilling journey with me. As the years passed, she remained a favorite. I came to appreciate her increasingly more as I picked up new subtleties in the best of her performances, including Letter to an Unknown Woman and Rebecca.

I think most of all though, I felt sad to see Fontaine go because she embraced the classic film community with such generosity. As much as she treasured her privacy, she never forgot her fans.

Maybe the press couldn't reach her, but true fans could. She respected the people who reached out to her, whether with a blog post or an adoring letter. Fontaine reportedly granted her last interview to a classic film blog. She spent a great deal of her time responding to queries, autographing photos and sending charming thank you notes. I hear her Christmas card list was enormous, and that this year her secretary had difficulty convincing her to hold off on the significant task of sending them.

This charming lady saved her love for the people who showed her honest affection and appreciation. Even though I never knew her personally, I feel a bit like she was a part of my world, and that's why I'll miss her like a friend.

Rest in peace Ms. Fontaine.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Joan Fontaine: Five performances to savor

The LA Times' Susan King remembers Joan in five performances to savor; no argument from me. 

Forever captured on film