Actress Dame Angela Lansbury recently died aged 96.
Most remember her from her TV series “Murder She Wrote”.
However I recall, as a shy young schoolgirl, meeting her in the make-up room of Artransa Film Studios in Sydney’s French’s Forest where my mother worked.
She was one of the overseas stars in a film being made of popular hit Aussie play, “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll” by Ray Lawler.
As was the way, then, and sadly still too often now, for a film to be made, big name overseas actors had to be attached.
So in a quintessential Aussie story, the stars were Ernest Borgnine, Anne Baxter (who fell in love with grazier Randolph Galt and married him living on a remote station), and John Mills with Aussies in the support roles. The Director, Leslie Norman, was English.
The film was not a crash hot hit. In the US it was retitled, “Season of Passion”. The mish mash of attempted Aussie accents, or none at all, the revamping of the plot to appeal to OS audiences (they thought) turned a classic into bomb, though it got mileage here as one of the first so called co-productions.
What’s changed you might well ask!
Australia, thanks to our generous tax cuts and incentives to bring overseas film productions here, makes it harder for home grown productions to get a financial guernsey.
Australian audiences want to see, hear and read our stories.
I recall my chat with Ms Lansbury as she sat in the make-up chair as being very sweet and friendly. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her flawless English complexion. Anne Baxter was lovely too, Ernie Borgnine was loud, John Mellion made me laugh, John Mills was utterly charming, such a gentleman, and the young Australian actress who played Bubba the sweet young love interest, played by Janette Craig, didn’t seem to be heard of very much after that.
Undoubtedly Angela Lansbury’s great love was the theatre and her performances on Broadway and the West End brought her accolades.
She did return to Australia several times, even in her 80s schlepping round Australian stages for producer John Frost. Vale Dame Angela – a gentle force of nature indeed.