Submissive Women and Other Tales

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A kindle book now available from Amazon, for 97 cents. Here.

Profiles in femininity: No. 3

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“How Now!” by pin-up artist David Wright.

How refreshing it is to look at an image of a woman who is not scowling, trying to look butch, or trying too hard to look serious and intelligent. And an image that is not trying to bully you into pretending you like fat women.

Profiles in femininity: No. 2

Profiles in femininity: No. 1

something

something in

the bird’s beak …

spring

(haiku: Julian O’Dea)

changing

changing

her clothes …

clouds

(haiku: Julian O’Dea)

Was her hair colour really the problem?

‘Metropolitan’ Star Carolyn Farina Says She Stopped Getting Film Offers Because She Wasn’t Blond

I discuss the puzzling way in which her career failed to flourish after her initial role in this Amazon Kindle book:

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I FIRST wrote this:

Here is video from August 2012 of Whit Stillman and Chris Eigeman talking about Metropolitan:

Carolyn Farina is one of my favourite actresses, along with the far-better-known Sean Young. I have often wondered, as have others, why Carolyn Farina did not appear in a lot more films. In the discussion in the above video, which moves on to Carolyn Farina at 8:10, Whit Stillman basically gives four reasons. 1) She was typecast as a debutante/preppie type but she wasn’t blonde and WASPy enough for most such roles (except, as Stillman delicately puts it, for Scorsese, who as an Italian-American director was prepared to cast her in The Age of Innocence). 2) She is shy (his word) and did not push hard for more parts. 3) She was unlucky and didn’t get the “breaks”. 4) She is based in New York.

Interesting. I find all these reasons somewhat plausible. And regrettable.

I am not convinced that Farina’s brunette status was the problem. She had a modest but respectable role in “The Age of Innocence” (1993) when she would have been about 29, a few years older than in “Metropolitan”. And a major female role in The Age of Innocence was given to Winona Ryder, a 22 year old brunette. Perhaps Farina looked too “ethnic”, but I would not have thought so. Arguably she looked no more ethnic than her screen “brother”, Daniel Day-Lewis, both cast as “WASPs” in The Age of Innocence.

Another brunette I mentioned, Sean Young, certainly wasn’t shy about pursuing roles, going to extreme and absurd lengths to do so. But you do also need a lot of “breaks” as Stillman said. People want to believe that ability is rewarded, but it is not quite that simple, in my experience. Even in ordinary life, you have to be lucky and you have to have continuing luck or “breaks”. It is possible to do everything right, and still not succeed.

I get the feeling that Stillman feels a bit troubled by what happened, or rather didn’t happen, to Carolyn Farina. He has obviously spent time thinking about it. Perhaps it was unfair to take a girl from working class Queens and give her a role like that, which simultaneously typecast her and set her up for subsequent disappointment. Some of the other women in the cast of Metropolitan had real-world legal careers and the like to fall back on. For an Australian, the continuing power of class and ethnicity in America can be surprising.

AND I also wrote:

My conclusion on “what happened to Carolyn Farina?” in the sense of why her career did not prosper would be something like the following. Most men will say that a woman looks her best under 25 years of age. Farina was a bit old at 26 to begin a career as a young actress based largely on her looks (by comparison, Michelle Pfeiffer was 25 in her first hit, the big mainstream movie Scarface, and that was not her first movie). Among other actresses I have mentioned here, Winona Ryder was only 22 in The Age of Innocence, and Sean Young 23 in Blade Runner (whereas the woman – Nina Axelrod – whom she beat for the role because the director Ridley Scott wanted someone young and unworldly looking was about 27).

[Hollywood is perfectly capable of casting an attractive 27 year old as a “spinster librarian”:

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Marion the librarian (actress Ashley Gardner) – Kramer’s girlfriend from the Seinfeld episode The Library.]

This age cut-off point for film actresses is also alluded to here, as being at about 25:

While her slender and girlish appearance helped make Farina look youthful in Metropolitan, there are nonetheless some scenes in which she looks a bit stringy and drawn. Her acting was very good, but to build a major lasting career like Michelle Pfeiffer would require both the exceptional looks only found in really young women and the opportunity to build a reputation as a good actress. In Little Noises, she was already a bit too old at 28 in terms of peak beauty and the film gave her no opportunity to act. In The Age of Innocence, she was nearly 30 and the film only did an indifferent job of showing off her acting range. She plays Janey, the shy and retiring sister of Newland Archer. Even to the kindest eye, the actress looks a bit gaunt in this film. Certainly, by the time she appeared, at age 34, in The Last Days of Disco, she was presentable but nothing special:

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(Carolyn Farina as “Audrey Rouget” in The Last Days of Disco – centre of the shot.)

In summary, I think she simply began too late. Also, her small-breasted, short-haired style probably did not have a wide enough appeal in any case. (She appeals to me, but most men want more hair and boobage.)

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(Carolyn Farina kneeling on the right in this scene from Metropolitan. Feminine posture and style, but clearly not busty.)

BUT in the end, I concluded with this:

The cast in 2015 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the movie:

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Carolyn Farina is in the centre of the shot, leaning over a chair, drink in hand. Despite my earlier comment, she seems pretty busty in this photograph!

As part of the 25th anniversary of the release of Metropolitan, there was a question and answer session held at the Lincoln Center in New York, which I discussed here. I also had some second thoughts about her career, which I outlined as follows:

“One general point is that, whereas previously I had been inclined to think that her problem in establishing a lasting career was her starting a bit too late at 26, I now suspect that the simplest explanation is that whereas she had initial good luck, there were no further lucky breaks. Certainly actresses have trouble finding work as they age, but she still looks presentable for her age and maybe something could even turn up in the future. As I said, she looks much better than she did in her last movie, Damsels in Distress, where there really was something odd about her appearance.”

I must say too that I suspect The Huffington Post is the kind of liberal outlet that looks for stories of discrimination based on physical traits. I doubt that Farina’s hair colour was really the problem. Plenty of brunettes do just fine in Hollywood. Among actresses I am interested in, Winona Ryder, Keira Knightley, Sean Young and Kate Beckinsale come to mind.

Ultimately I would conclude that she had extraordinary good luck initially, but not such good luck later. Most of the other actors and actresses in her cohort who appeared in “Metropolitan” went on to only mediocre careers (including Dylan Hundley, a blonde actress). People want to believe that talent and hard work will win through, but luck plays a much bigger role than people want to admit.

If Scorsese had done more with Miss Farina in The Age of Innocence; if her part in Little Noises had amounted to more than being seen in the background of a quirky little movie that never really took off; if Stillman had given her some lines in The Last Days of Disco; even if she had been able to be located to appear in the TV crime show episode Stillman directed; her career might have developed further. But she was just unlucky. I don’t think it was because she was not blonde (or “blond” as HuffPo writes it).

Summer Returns

Summer Returns

“Remember me?”,
asks Summer,
letting down her hair
from her
golden bonnet.

“How could you forget
how you sweated
in my scented
embrace?”

“Forget Winter!
That cold bitch never
loved you.”

Julian O’Dea

What I did with “Audrey”

Further background can be found here.

Essentially, I have now included the original material in this book, which contains pictures of the actress, an account of her unusual career, and an extensive bibliography.

$0.99 (99 cents) at Amazon Kindle (a preview is available).

Whatever happened to “Audrey Rouget”?: A screen biography of actress Carolyn Farina

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