Actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) meets and falls in love with the 1950s film noir superstar, Gloria Grahame (Annette Benning) – see The Big Heat, below. Miss Grahame is performing on the London stage, and they both lodge at down at heel digs in North London. In due course they go to meet Turner’s family in Liverpool. The couple travel from there to LA via New York as their relationship develops. But Gloria feels welcome in Liverpool, where she can shed her troubled past. With excellent performances by Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham as Turner’s parents.
“There is a tremendous warmth and tenderness to this sweet, sad love story starring Annette Bening and Jamie Bell – a stranger-than-fiction true romance […]. Director Paul McGuigan finds the balance between pathos and humour, working from Matt Greenhalgh’s adaptation of a memoir by the actor and writer Peter Turner.”
(Peter Bradshaw, theguardian.com)
Dir: Paul McGuigan 105mins UK 2017
A welcome return by the film’s Assistant Art Director, Susannah Brough, who will give her valuable insights on its production and context. In 2015 Susannah gave us a brilliant introduction to Rob Brown’s Sixteen. Subject to Susannah’s work commitments.
A welcome return by Susannah Brough, Assistant Art Director, who will give us an insight into the Art Department’s work in the production of tonight’s film. Susannah visited ABCD in 2015 to discuss her work on Rob Brown’s Sixteen.
In 1981, British actor Peter Turner received a dramatic telephone call saying that his former lover, Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame, had collapsed in a Lancaster hotel and was refusing hospital care.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is Turner’s real-life story of what subsequently happened after he quickly and readily agreed to take Gloria into his eccentric family’s chaotic home in Liverpool. And, in flashback, it is his story of what had happened before – their own love story of young man and much older, previously famous woman. It is moving but desperately sad, very romantic and emotional – a kind of Romeo-and-Juliet-doomed, star-crossed love story. And, neatly, Shakespeare’s play will provide a key theme in the film.
The performances make the film – both Jamie Bell and Annette Bening are superb. Giving charismatic, tour-de-force portrayals, both actors are on their best, award winning, form. Ideally cast as Grahame, Bening is a treasure, as she showed in 2016, with 20th Century Women and Rules Don’t Apply. She inhabits the tragic Grahame persona, and even clips and stills of the star’s real self from the 1950s do not detract from that notion. Bell is as good as he has been in anything in the nineteen years since Billy Elliot (2000) and Peter Turner himself has a role as Jack, his first film since The Krays (1990), when he played the Regal manager.
Annette Bening is multi-Oscar nominated, viz The Grifters (1990), American Beauty (1999), Being Julia (2004) and The Kids Are All Right (2010). Film Stars Don’t Die … was nominated for three BAFTAs, including Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. Jamie Bell was nominated for the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actor, while Annette Bening was nominated for Actress of the Year in the London Critics Circle Film Awards for 2018.
Gloria Grahame’s Oscar was for The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and she was nominated for Crossfire (1947). She is fondly remembered for In a Lonely Place, The Big Heat, (see Coming Soon below) and Anytime Annie in Oklahoma!
Acknowledgements: Derek Winnert, derekwinnert.com
“[…] a fond farewell to a distinctive talent” Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times.
Annette Bening – Gloria Grahame
Jamie Bell -Peter Turner
Kenneth Cranham -Joe (senior)
Julie Walters – Bella
Stephen Graham -Joe (junior)
Director – Paul McGuigan
Producers – Barbara Broccoli, Colin Vaines + 11 others
Screenplay – Matt Greenhalgh, Peter Turner (source memoir)
Cinematography – Urszula Pontikos DP
Music Department – Peter Clarke, Richard Todman + 12 others
- A+ for Susannah!
- Great introduction – which enhanced my enjoyment of the film
- Brilliant – but oh, so sad!
- Very poignant
- Moving but real. Subtitles would have helped with the Liverpool accents!
- Very well done
- They did a great job of capturing the period – London and NY very believable. Terrific performances by all. I thought the best scene was the one written by W. Shakespeare
- Not your ordinary biopic. A great period piece, with stunning central performances dealing with the emotional core of Gloria Grahame’s final years with Peter Turner. Susannah’s insights into her work on the film were excellent. Let’s hope we can invite her back again soon!