WHEN AMERICANS STILL WENT TO PARIS…(Sunday Reading: 2/3/19)

…for something besides vacations.

I’m finally getting around to reading The Dud Avacado, Elaine Dundy’s 1958 entry in the madcap-American-heroine-loose-in-Paris genre. I suspect a lot that is cliched now was fresh, perhaps even innovative, when she wrote it. I’m liking it all the same because Dundy’s style doesn’t grate and hasn’t aged. No one under thirty could play the part convincingly now, but that only proves how fast the culture has collapsed. A generation ago, Meg Ryan or Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Aniston could have had a field day with it. Renee Zellweger did, in fact, have a field day when Helen Fielding recast the attitude and nationality for working-class Brits in the Bridget Jones series (thin disguises all, I now realize).  It would have been a career-maker for a different kind of career if Christina Applegate had been the right age in 1958 (or if somebody in Hollywood had the wit the write a good script for her in 1998).

The chance is flown now, but the book, at least, remains, and it’s a good one that might turn great before it’s through. Dundy will be familiar to Elvis fans as the author of Elvis and Gladys, one of the best books on Elvis and the best on his relationship with his mother.

There could be few better ways to spend a Sunday than relaxing with this:

In an atmosphere of open hostility, I gobbled up my sandwich and hot chocolate as fast as I could; the hot chocolate burning my tongue, a revelation burning my soul. I had always assumed that a certain sense of identity would be strong enough within me to communicate itself to others. I now saw this assumption was false. Tout supplement, in a tarts’ bar, I looked like a tart. I tried to cheer myself up by thinking that after all this was really a very good thing for an actress. But it was depressing, anyway. Not so much for the thing of looking like a prostitute. I mean, except for the inconvenience of the moment, I found that rather thrilling, but the whole episode was forcing me to remember something that I’m always trying to forget and that is, that in a library as well, I’m always being taken for a librarian.

(The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy, 1958)

6 thoughts on “WHEN AMERICANS STILL WENT TO PARIS…(Sunday Reading: 2/3/19)

  1. NDJ

    Glad you picked Christina Applegate out of the pack—there are always a few actors/actresses who come out of nowhere and you think, “Give a him/her a good script and a knowing director and a star will be born!”

    And it doesn’t happen.

    We just watched GAME NIGHT, a very entertaining movie with good performances all the way around. As usual, Rachel McAdams stood out for me, and I thought, “Give a her a good script and a knowing director and a star will be born!”

    I am still waiting . . .

    EDN

    • I feel sorry for any comedic actor/actress these days. Any time I see a good comedy (about once every year or two, and I know I don’t get out much) I think “Yeah, but there used to be dozens like this, every year.”

      I did get to see Ms Applegate playing Sweet Charity on Broadway in 2005. Turns out she can also sing and dance. I wonder if anyone in Hollywood even knows?

  2. The actresses themselves are partly to blame. They don’t value comedy roles after they’ve succeeded in them. They long to be “taken seriously” and ruin their careers in dismal dreary dramas. I’d have killed to make only comedies.

    • Well, it’s a cultural problem so everybody’s complicit one way or another, including the audience. The actresses I named have made plenty of comedies….just not very many good ones! (I think they are usually better than the material but I don’t look around and see other movies they could have picked instead….If only!)

      But I know what you mean in general. Not taking full advantage of what you’re best at has derailed many a career and not just in Hollywood. And for every Vivien Leigh or Audrey Hepburn who made a smooth transition from comedy to drama, there were ten or twenty who didn’t.

      (Speaking of which, did you ever get a chance to read my Vivien Leigh piece?…Love to know what you agreed/disagreed with, etc.)

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