Sunday, July 03, 2016

"A mad Bette Davis movie was lurking within [Director Herbert] Ross's dull tidiness," wrote David Thomson, "and Bancroft was the actress who might have rescued it."

And yet Bancroft does just that, slyly doing not Bette Davis but Joan Crawford, Davis's co-star in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? David Denby could have been describing Crawford as Blanche Hudson when he wrote, "...Anne Bancroft is a bit much. Those penetrating eyes and drawn eyebrows; the mouth pulled down at the corners; the slight leaning forward when she speaks, all radiant attention--can anyone take Bancroft's grand manner very seriously any more?"

Some of us, though, found her not "a bit much" but, like Stephen Farber did, magnificent. In the early scenes when Bancroft's Emma reunites with Shirley MacLaine's DeeDee, there's the flicker of a slit in Bancroft's eyes and a shadow on her face. Emma and DeeDee had been not only best friends when they were starting out years ago as ballerinas-- they had been rivals for the best parts. And Bancroft suggests her manner is a cover-up for revelations to follow.

The Turning Point was one of the films of 1977 highly touted as signalling a return to great roles for women in film. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Actress nods for Bancroft and MacLaine, it won none. Wikipedia calls this a record, tied with The Color Purple. As of this writing, the DVD for the U.S. region is out-of-print and used copies are rare.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Stephen Farber

“Some people may call The Turning Point a soap opera, simply because they don't know how else to describe a movie about women and the moments of crisis in their lives…. If it had subtitles, it would certainly be acclaimed as a classic, for it has the depth of feeling and the uncompromising integrity that we expect to see in European films, but not in Hollywood products….

“…. Laurents has populated the movie with a rich gallery of characters, some of whom are necessarily drawn in broader strokes than others, but all of whom register as individuals.... The Turning Point overflows with an abundance of life that movies have denied us lately. Laurents's dialogue is notable for its wit, conciseness and eloquence. The long, perfectly modulated fight scene between Emma and Deedee crackles with some of the best writing ever to grace the screen.

“Laurents could not have asked for a finer company of actors to deliver his dialogue. Anne Bancroft has only had a few movie roles worthy of her talents; she seizes this rare opportunity, and she's magnificent. She looks more stunning than ever, and she runs a complete gamut of emotions, from bitchy repartee to controlled fury to transcendent warmth to tragic anguish. An actress has to be brave or foolhardy to play against Anne Bancroft, and yet Shirley MacLaine manages to hold her own….”

Stephen FarberThe New West, November 21, 1977

Saturday, September 03, 2005

David Ansen

“…. It is the most ravishing display of emotional fireworks you are likely to see on screen this year. "The Turning Point" has its flaws--some overwritten scenes and lapses into staginess and sentimentality--but they are those of heady excess and are easily forgiven….

“... [T]his is not primarily a dance film; it's a warm and stormily human melodrama, and it belongs finally to Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine. Bancroft has lately shown a tendency toward florid, great-lady-of-the-screen mannerisms, but here she has a part in which to use those mannerisms for all they're worth. Emma is a prima donna, as well as being a gifted and generous artist, and Bancroft is sensational in this tricky role. A part of Emma's soul is always "on." Charming, tough, manipulative and fiercely intelligent, she captures a woman who is always conscious of an effect, even in the wildest disarray. MacLaine's part has less razzle-dazzle, but she gives the film's most subtle, sustained performance . . . These are plum roles, and much of the excitement of "The Turning Point" comes from watching these two superb actresses take large, juicy bites.”

David Ansen
Newsweek, date ?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Molly Haskell

“As the prima ballerina who … is now being eased into semi-retirement, Anne Bancroft looks ravishingly taut. In some striking way she defies, in her person, the laws of aging to which her character must defer. But even within the story's framework, she is allowed to edge toward retirement with dignity, and without even a whiff of a hint that she made the wrong choice or violated a sacrosanct biological destiny. For once--and this is what makes The Turning Point a turning point in women's films--career is rated higher than happily married life. The old soap-opera philosophy … is scuttled, gracefully and summarily, in the more complex view that no one choice, no life decision, will put an end to insomniac doubts….

“The balance would be overwhelmingly in favor of the career woman were it not for Shirley MacLaine's magnificence in the role of the Oklahoma City housewife….

“…. Were Bancroft and MacLaine any less extraordinary as the two women who square off like gunfighters and collapse in healing laughter, Baryshnikov would easily have stolen the show.”

Molly Haskell
New York, November 21, 1977

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Pauline Kael

“…. For many years, a fair number of people have been longing for more of those Bette Davis-Miriam Hopkins movies….

“Will anybody long for more Anne Bancroft-Shirley MacLaine movies? It's doubtful…. Anne Bancroft overdoes her sacrificial-artist laceration. Trying for glamour and bravura, she holds her haggard head up gallantly, with her neck drawn so taut that it pulls her mouth down. She has a gnarled, ascetic look, and the worst case of nobility in the eyebrows since Greer Garson. Garbo's suicidally exhausted ballerina in Grand Hotel was a ball of fluff compared with Bancroft; suffering, not dance, seems to be Bancroft's art. Shirley MacLaine plays in a snappier spirit…. But ... with subsidiary roles played by a dozen or more famous dancers, and with the possibility of seeing them dance, Emma and Deedee would have to be larger personalities to hold our attention. We get a glimpse of something great in this movie, and Emma and Deedee--two harpies out of the soaps--block the view….

Pauline Kael
New Yorker, November 14, 1977
When the Lights Go Down, p. ?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

David Thomson

“….The high-class veneer tries to make audiences believe that Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine are for real. But the script and the approach are from 1940, and the parts need the gusto of Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell: Mildred Pierce meets the mother of Gypsy.

“….If it's tough to believe in Shirley MacLaine stagnating in Oklahoma, the prospect of Anne Bancroft as a Fonteynhead of grand art is straight out of a Mel Brooks film. If only he had been there to throw egg in her race as she tosses off a coy exercise or flexes a delicate arm. Her big role, Anna Karenina, judiciously requires that she wear a scarlet gown and be statuesque in a spotlight and paper snowstorm. All her best scenes are at the bar, but it's the champagne cocktail bar. She's as much a dancer as John Garfield was hooked on the violin in Humoresque--hooked, there is the word, for Garfield had the instrument rammed under his chin while other, abler arms came out of the dark to fiddle….

“The aging ballerinas of The Turning Point are not truly vulnerable people, they're star parts advancing on a showdown like gunfighters. It comes on a huge terrace but it's very genteel, and bile and envy soon collapse in hilarious reconciliation. Bancroft throughout is as daft as she's ever been, and I guess with a little encouragement and some of the vulgarity that the film lacks she could have portrayed a prima donna ham along the lines of Tallulah Bankhead, all drawn neck and acid answers. But the picture is hung up on being genuine and homely--especially Shirley MacLaine….”

David Thomson
Real Paper, December 24, 1977

"....[H]er dedicated attempts to take up a ballet position ... hinted at a camp comic potential. A mad Bette Davis movie was lurking within Ross's dull tidiness, and Bancroft was the actress who might have rescued it."

Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Film, p. 41