Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blonde Venus: Anita Ekberg and Patricia Arquette

 So Boyhood has just picked up some fancy hardware, courtesy of the 85 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who vote on the Golden Globe awards. Victories in the Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress categories (combined with a slew of other awards and nominations from critics’ groups across the globe) have positioned Boyhood well for Oscar nominations, which are due out later this week.
As every movie fan knows by now, Boyhood was made in snatches over a twelve-year period by Richard Linklater, who had the gutsy notion of following an actual child, one who ages from five to eighteen as we watch. This is not a documentary, but Linklater apparently looked in on his young leading man, Ellar Coltrane, from year to year, incorporating into his tale of the peaks and valleys of family life some genuinely lived-in experiences. Over the movie’s leisurely 165-minute running time, we see a boy named Mason grow from cute, dreamy kid to engaging young man moving out on his own. He grows taller, goes through puberty, and gets lots of haircuts (one of which precipitates a major domestic crisis). Unlike so many movies in which the hero’s younger self is played by a child actor who doesn’t look much like him, in Boyhood we see the passage of time for real. In fact, time itself can be considered a major supporting player in this film.

It’s not just Mason who grows older and wiser. So does his rambunctious sister Samantha (well played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei) as well as his parents, who married young and split soon thereafter. It’s a treat watching dad Ethan Hawke experiment with facial hair as he moves toward a more mature approach to life. Then there’s mom Patricia Arquette. As seen in Boyhood, she’s both the sensitive and the sensible parent, though one capable of making romantic choices that border on the disastrous. The rare actress who’s apparently without vanity, Arquette seems comfortable allowing the camera to watch her evolve from a lithe young thirty-something into a chunkier, bustier middle-age. By film’s end she is a highly successful career woman, but there’s no pretending she’s the blonde sylph of the early scenes. And, needless to say, this is hardly a matter of clever costuming and makeup: to her credit, Arquette seems to have embraced her own physical changes. As she recently told the New York Times, “I gotta get old, people, do you understand? I need space to grow and get old and be a human being. I don't want to be trapped in your ingénue bubble.”

Which brings me, belatedly, to Anita Ekberg. The glamorous Swedish star, who died January 11 at the age of 83, was summoned to Hollywood after competing in the Miss Universe pageant. What followed were roles in forgettable movies like Artists and Models, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, and Hollywood or Bust, which traded on her voluptuous Viking sex appeal. Then in 1960, Federico Fellini came calling. In La Dolce Vita, playing the role of a giddy starlet, Ekberg swirled seductively in Rome’s Trevi Fountain, her diaphanous (and remarkably low-cut) black gown flowing all around her, her long blonde tresses shimmering in the moonlight. Suddenly she was a world-wide celebrity, the very model of a European sex bomb.     

But sex bombs have short shelf-lives. Or, as the London Telegraph said in its obit, “As with all sex symbols, age diminished her currency.” Without youth, Anita Ekberg was pretty much finished. Seems to me that Patricia Arquette has chosen a much better path.


  1. I have to agree - and Ms. Arquette's choices seem to be lending themselves to true career longevity, which is eluding her siblings Rosanna, David, Richmond, and Alexis - none of whom seem to working much. I enjoyed her early movie work in B genre movies like Pretty Smart and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors. I also enjoyed her six season run in the NBC thriller series Medium. She is back to TV right now as well, working on the fourth in the CSI franchise - the about to premiere CSI: Cyber. I actually saw that same aging factor during Medium's run - interesting that she was also making Boyhood during the same period.

    I have seen little of Anita Ekberg's work - the Abbott and Costello movie I think the only one. But I did appreciate her contribution to the second James Bond movie From Russia with Love. A bad guy has a secret escape route out of the side of a building plastered with a huge painting of the Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana - with Ms. Ekberg's face prominently featured on the reproduction of the movie's poster (a movie produced by 007's producers Broccoli and Saltzman - so a little injoke there). The villain slips out a trapdoor that seems to come from Ms. Ekberg's lips - and after he is dispatched by sniper rifle James Bond remarks "She should have kept her mouth shut."

  2. Mr. C., I love your "From Russia With Love" anecdote. Thanks! (By the way, it's worth mentioning Patricia's kinship with Cliff Arquette (well known in early TV as "Charlie Weaver") and Lewis Arquette. Quite a talented family!

  3. It’s interesting the comparison between these two actresses.

    1. Thank you for the compliment, Jonathan. I hope you visit Movieland again soon!