Maureen Stapleton (1925-2006) in THE FAN - A Great BM Tribute
News just hit that the indomitable Maureen Stapleton passed away. StinkyLulu's long been quite fond of Miss Stapleton, that rare kind of movie star who always looked a little like someone Lu knew, and probably loved. (In tribute, StinkyLulu's first installment of Supporting Actress Sundays this week will offer commentary on one or another of her many many nominations in the category.)
But StinkyLulu will probably always remember Maureen Stapleton best for her performance as "Belle Goldman" in the deservedly unsung -- and largely unremembered -- "thriller" The Fan. The 1981 flick was ostensibly a vehicle for Lauren Bacall, then flush with a revival of her stardom through her surprise success in the Kander & Ebb musical, Woman of the Year. In The Fan, Bacall plays a stage actress, Sally Ross -- still glamorous and tone-deaf after all these years -- who's the unwitting subject of an increasingly crazed fan. The movie's nearly noxious for its gay-baiting homopanic & is precisely the kind of movie that Vito Russo loathed most. ("The Fan" is a pretty blond music-store guy, whose fey masculinity is almost a prototype for all 80s homo characters to follow.) Indeed, this Sally Ross "fan" reads mostly as a big ole Sally Ross "queen" -- and the flick is basically a woman-in-peril slashy, with all sorts of folks getting offed as murdering queen/fan makes his way to Bacall.
A tweenage StinkyLu fell in love with this flick for three main reasons. First, it's ostensibly about BroadWAY!!! with Betty Bacall tunelessly klomping through several insipid musical numbers. Second, "the fan" has a buncha near nudie scenes & even an almost sex scene with another man (who -- this being the early 80s -- he kills right as the sex starts). And, third, StinkyLulu fell in love with Maureen Stapleton, who played Bacall's tough-cookie secretary who catches "the fan" -- in possibly the only murder scene with actual suspense and emotional tension in the whole flick -- & dies trying to protect Boss Bacall. (Then, in a wierdo Dirty Harry turn, Bacall ends up going all vigilante on "the fan" -- mostly cuz he made the mistake killing her beloved Belle.)
Maureen Stapleton is brilliant in this stupid little part in this idiotic little movie. StinkyLulu can hear her voice in the part now. And it's classic Stapleton. Like that tough old aunt, the kind who drinks like a sailor before she has her way with one. Tough as nails, sweet as pie. And -- oddly cuz Stapleton carries all those Actor's Studio behavioral quirks -- somehow was always able to seem real.
Totally real. Totally fabulous. Totally Maureen.