Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Telluride Film Festival Diaries
A Tribute to Shirley MacLaine

by Leslie Rigoulot

August 29, 1996

The first order of business at the Telluride Film Festival was to give tribute to an actress whose career has spanned forty-five year, Shirley MacLaine. Bill Pence, co-director of the fest introduced the crowd at the historical Sheridan Opera House to the film career of MacLaine with eight film from her early career including "The Trouble with Harry", "Ask Any Girl", "Some Came Running"for which she received her first Academy Award nomination. But the biggest laughs came when the sound didn't come on in the first clip and MacLaine remarked," Let's see, I should be able to remember those lines. I can remember three thousand years ago, after all." Bill Pence noted MacLaine's other careers in politics and spiritualism which took off in the seventies before the compilation of clips from the second, more dramatically oriented phase of her acting career. The climactic fight scene from "The Turning Point" with Anne Bancroft, MacLaine's watery kiss in "Used People" and the show stopping 'I'm Still Here' number from "Postcards From The Edge" more than demonstrated her growth as an actress.

After Pence presented MacLaine with the silver Telluride Medallion, Roger Ebert was on hand to interview her. It was truly a lively exchange. Ebert remarked that she able to have such a long career because she wasn't' afraid to take chances, even with her physical appearance as in the older "Madame Sousatzka". MacLaine commented that she has had a good role model for looking older, heavier and outrageously dressed in Bella Abzug, one of her political allies "But," she said, "all I should have done was picture you in a dress, Roger". The cute, quick witted ingenue has evolved into a cute and quick witted lady which may be why she held her own with the Rat Pack in the sixties and seventies. She commented that Dean Martin could have been a much greater actor but he had so cultivated his "I don't give a damn" attitude that he couldn't reach deeper to bring more to the screen. As for her, MacLaine has frequently felt the presence of others in her during her time in front of the camera. But her favorite character and the one most like herself is Aurora from "Terms of Endearment". Clips from "Terms and the upcoming "Evening Star" were shown to rolls of applause. It was the best of tributes to an outstanding talent.

The most touching moment of the evening came when Bill Pence dedicated this year's festival to Louis Malle, who died last December. His widow, Candace Bergen attended with their daughter, Chloe. Bergen, well known as TV's Murphy Brown has managed to maintain her career even in the midst of her grief and was appreciative of the honor bestowed on her husband.

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