Andy Royston continues his appreciation of Hollywood’s redheads.
“It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity” – Jonathan Swift, Gullivers Travels
“You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair, people who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is” – Anne of Green Gables
In Part One of my stroll down Copperhead Road I concentrated on the classic Hollywood eras. Now its time to bring us up to date, beginning with those who gave the 1970s and 80s a good run for their money.
Who better to drag us out of the swinging sixties than the decade’s It girl, Shirley MacLaine.
Sure Shirley MacLaine made her fair share of movies in the 50s and 60s, none more fetching than Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, where she played the love interest to Fred McMurray and Jack Lemmon. There were numerous opportunities to fall in love with her during the 1960s, including another Billy Wilder/Jack Lemmon film Irma La Douce.
But it took Sweet Charity to really knock our socks off. Bob Fosse was lighting up broadway with his Tony award winning show about a dancer-for-hire at a Times Square dance hall. Fossés debut as a director, it is now a classic, but at the time it almost bankrupted Universal Pictures. A blast of classic Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields songs (Big Spender, If They Could See Me Now, There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This) and Shirley’s fabulous star turn, paving the way for Fosse’s next creation, Sally Bowles in Cabaret..
The foxiest redhead of the 70s turned out to be Daphne Blake, a member of Mystery Incorporated (and better known to TV heads as the Scooby Doo glamour gal). Scriptwriters always let her down, casting her frequently as a helpless damsel-in-distress, clumsily getting caught by the monster.
But she did have her rock-star moments, and remains one of the hottest babes on Saturday morning ‘toons. She’s in good company – Penelope Pitstop, Judy Jetson and Josie and the Pussycats were also adding glamour to the animated set.
Our first real glimpse of Susan Sarandon’s sass comes well into the cult 70s musical, Rocky Horror Picture Show. She’d been overshadowed throughout the movie until Frank N Furter decides to spend a little time with her. Her character Janet Weiss (”Dammit, Janet”) got into serious trouble with the line “There’s a light, over at the Frankenstein place…” Little did she know. “Planet, schmanet, Janet, You better wise up, Janet…”
Susan Sarandon’s entry to the redhead hall of fame came with her role of Louise Elizabeth Sawyer, speeding down a deserted highway in a ’66 Thunderbird, her friend Thelma Yvonne Dickinson riding shotgun. MGM/UA didn’t know what it had in their hands. A road movie? A buddy movie? A bandits-on-the run movie? A comedy? An action drama? Thelma and Louise was all this and so much more.
When I got the idea I felt this strange sense of euphoria. I didn’t want to write about two stupid women or two evil women who go an a crime spree. I wanted to write about two normal women. There’s a side of you that you don’t really know exists. And you don’t know what the trigger for it is. You think that you’re a normal person and you have a normal life. How one little thing can happen and your whole world falls completely apart. Callie Khouri, screenwriter, Thelma and Louise
Note to the editor: Just after the Millennium I travelled to the States in search of my very own Louise. A sharp-talking woman with wild red hair and tight blue jeans picked me up at Miami airport in a gleaming red Jaguar and we’ve been on the run ever since!
When Nicole Kidman first burst onto the screen it was as a strawberry blonde, and she worked her way through many styles and colors as the years went by. Regularly using the blonde-to-red red-to-blonde toggle switch, whatever her real color is, she looks her best with bright red hair.
Probably the most striking redheaded role she played was as the star of the Moulin Rouge, cabaret actress and courtesan Satine. Nicole Kidman has managed to achieve superstar A list status without completely owning a movie role. She’s held up there with Binoche, Huppert, and Swinton as an arthouse beauty who can do no wrong,
I think that she deserved an award for her hair’s performance in Days of Thunder. Her honey blonde mane stands up to all kinds on nonsense acting as she seduces Tom Cruise. As a wise man on the internet once said, what her hair went through in that movie was 100 times worse than anything Edward Norton ever went through in any prison scene.
“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way…”
With a wink and a wiggle she’s drawing us into a knowing parody of female characters from film noir. It turned out, however that she really was bad – a fan found that in one scene she’d left her underwear back in toontown, as seen in a few subliminal frames. These scenes were hastily corrected by the time that the VHS copies were released.
“She reached into an alabaster box and pulled out a violet cigarette that also exactly matched her eyes. Some people just don’t know when to quit. She lit her colored coffin nail, set it into an ashtray, and promptly forgot about it. It smoldered into eternity silently begging for one more touch from her gorgeous lips.” Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Julianne started out slogging her way around TV soaps like The Edge of the Night, and small but eye-catching roles in movies. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Body of Evidence, The Fugitive and a Jurassic Park or two. She got an oscar nomination for her part in Boogie Nights (the first movie that actually sent me to sleep in a cinema).
Yes, she’s natural – the full collar and cuffs. Check out her scene in the Robert Altman movie Short Cuts next time you get lost in Netflix. Its a doozy.
Rene Russo – Thomas Crown Affair
Rene plays a brilliant female investigator hired to retrieve a stolen Monet from the charming and dashing Thomas Crown. Her look for the Thomas Crown Affair sent hordes of women flocking to their stylists to recreate the “Rene”. Natural? No – Rene decided to cut and color her usual blonde locks for the Banning role.
Russo was discovered by an agent as she left a Rolling Stones concert in L.A. and was working as a Ford model in New York in a matter of weeks. By 22 she’d been on every magazine cover and was looking for something else to do. Fast forward 20 years and she’s A-listing away and playing a 40 something femme fatale that you’ll never forget.
A secret blonde, she went red for a TV show called Dr. Vegas starring Rob Lowe and never looked back as the roles rolled in.
When I died my hair red the first time, I felt as if it was what nature intended. I have been accused of being a bit of a spitfire, so in that way, I absolutely live up to the stereotype. The red hair suits my personality. I was a terrible blonde! Amy Adams
Her break out redhead has to be Princess Giselle in the Walt Disney smash Enchanted. Her character is who is forced from her traditional animated world of Andalasia into the live-action world of New York City, a parody/homage to all those other Disney princesses.
In spite of Adams’ delightful performance and some classy cinematography the message is the usual old fashioned guff. As long as a woman behaves like a child and has a little spending power she’ll meet a wealthy man who will sweep her off her feet, happy ever after. Older women? crabby, evil, vindictive, manipulative. Hey ho.
While we’re dealing with princesses, here’s Pixar’s Brave from a few years ago. Queen Elinor’s expectations that Merida take a husband and become a proper royal lady is scuppered by some rebellious behavior. Merida is certainly no damsel in distress and isn’t haughty; she is torn between doing what’s expected of her and following her heart.
She’s certainly a step forward in Princessland. Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty can only find their destiny with the help of a prince charming, specifically one wielding a sword.
Merida has no evil stepmother, or a fairy godmother. She sends a great message to all those little princess maniacs out there: forget about looking for a prince, just grab your bow and arrow and save yourself.
An ex model and television regular, she broke into popular consciousness with her role as Joan Harris on the AMC series Mad Men. She played the office bombshell who keeps the men who want her, and the secretaries who work for her, completely in check. She has been called the “new modern ideal of Hollywood glamour—full figured, voluptuous; a throwback to the days of Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and Veronica Lake”.
“Anytime someone talks about your figure constantly, you get nervous, you get really self-conscious, I was working my butt off on the show, and then all anyone was talking about was my body. All those times I had agents who were like, ‘You have to lose some weight,’ and all of a sudden, people are celebrating it.” Christina Henricks – Health Magazine.
Isla started out as a character in the hardy perennial Aussie soap, Home and Away (main costume; a bikini) but was soon knocking out screwball comedies, like Scooby Doo, the Wedding Crashers, Definitely Maybe and Bachelorette. Her redhead cred was sealed with her role as Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby where she lit up the screen .
Old F. Scott didn’t really have her glamour in mind when he wrote in the original novel “She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensually as some women can. Her face contained no facet or gleam of beauty, but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smoldering.”
Baz Luhrmann was never going to cast Myrtle as dowdy old frump, now was he.
Another American actress who started out hopping between TV shows, before breaking into movies with standout roles in films like Jolene and Zero Dark Thirty. For the former film the New York Observer wrote that she “not only holds her own corner of every scene, she’s the only thing you want to watch.”
‘There were a couple of times when I thought, “Maybe I should dye my hair blonde?” I’m in LA and I’m thinking, “Why can’t I get an audition for a film?” Being a redhead and not having very conventionally modern looks, it was confusing for people and they didn’t know exactly where to put me.’
Before we go, I thought I’d step away from tinsletown and introduce you to some of the top redheads on British telly. Patsy’s been at the heart of the popular prime time soap Eastenders for over 20 years playing the gobiest lass on TV. “‘Is that you Rickaaaaaay?”
Patsy finally left Eastenders and moved to Los Angeles last summer to pursue her dreams of Hollywood stardom. She’s done a Best Buy commercial, but fans in England are hoping for much better for her. Come on, chaps, give her a break, she’s a star!
“When I got the job, I couldn’t believe it. I was living in a small flat in Bethnal Green at the time and I remember buying a bottle of champagne and asking the builders who were painting the outside walls to celebrate with me. We were all singing the EastEnders theme tune.”
Sheridan Smith used to flog burgers to bikers from a van off the motorway, but now gives knockabout performances in TV sitcoms and lately dramas ( Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Love Soup, Gavin & Stacey).
What’s knocked everyone’s socks off is her spectacular performance as 60s singing star Cilla Black in a recent biopic.
Sheridan Smith, who not only convinced utterly as “Swingin’ Cilla” the helmet-haired Sixties Liverpool rockette, but undertook all the singing duties herself. Smith’s rendition of ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ was if anything more impressive than Black’s own recording, her voice darker, bluesier and better suited to contemporary tastes. It could easily be a hit in its own right. Gerard O’Donovan – Daily Telegraph
“When I think back about my immediate reaction to that redheads girl, it seems to spring from an appreciation of natural beauty. I mean the heart pleasure you get from looking at speckled leaves or the palimpsested bark of plane trees in Provence.
There was something richly appealing to her color combination, the ginger snaps floating in the milk-white skin, the golden highlights in the strawberry hair. it was like autumn, looking at her. It was like driving up north to see the colors.”
― Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
August 12, 2015
LOVE this! So many great choices, including Daphne, of course, from Scooby doo. It’s delightful that included some of the popular non-human characters, along with so real life redheads. So enjoyed the Cilla Black song at the end. She did a fantastic job of it.