View Full Version : Vote Here: Is Glenn Close too long in the tooth to play Nellie Forbush?
Duck Duck Goose
03-20-2001, 01:13 PM
Oh, Missbunny, I am SO with you on this.
Some network - ABC, I think - is doing a new version of this in a week or two and get this: Glenn Close is playing Nellie Forbush. WTF??? She is at least 30 years too old to play that part! And while she's quite attractive, she looks her age, so she is just so wrong! She's actually younger than the guy playing Emile, who is supposed to be at least 20 years older than her. I am so disgusted and annoyed; what, can no other actress in Hollywood carry a tune? Who was the complete nimrod who did the casting? I am just revolted by this.
What's this about Glenn Close in a TV "South Pacific?" Um, I'm trying to be charitable here, but Mitzi Gaynor was too old to play that mooncalf, Nellie, when she was 28. Glenn Close is just embarassing.
This is from Eve's "What's your favorite musical?" thread.
For those who haven't heard, ABC is running a brand-new version of South Pacific next Monday night.
Of those of us who have heard, I would venture to say that at least 80% of us went, "Huh?" upon hearing that Glenn Close, that grande dame of cinema, is going to play Nellie Forbush, the "cockeyed optimist", the naive "little hick from Little Rock".
I'm curious as to whether anybody out there thinks this is actually a good casting choice?
Me and Missbunny and Dropzone, that's three votes against...
03-20-2001, 02:11 PM
Glenn Close is certainly a departure from the types of women we're USED to seeing in the role of Nellie Forbush, but that's a far cry from saying she's necessarily "too old" for the role.
I've never read the James Michener stories on which the musical "South Pacific" was based, so I'm not sure what age Michener intended Nellie to be. Regardless, she's USUALLY been played by a young, innocent, blonde ingenue like Mary Martin. So, that's the image we've become accustomed to. And certainly IF CLose tries to play Nellie as a young ingenue, she'll look ridiculous.
But what's so wrong about re-imagining the part? Who SAYS Nellie has to be young? MAYBE it's a role ripe for re-interpretation. After all, we're supposed to believe that Nellie has strong racist feelings- she's racist enough, after all, to reject Emile when she learns he'd married and had children with a Polynesian woman. SUPPOSE we re-imagine Nellie as a middle-aged woman who long ago gave up any fantasies she'd had about romance... only to FIND romance with an unlikely, dashing Frenchman! No sooner has she shelved her cynicism about romance than fate hits her with ANOTHER twist, one that hits at bigoted beliefs she's held her entire life? A 22 year old girl might very EASILY abandon racist conventions in the face of romance. but a middle-aged woman would find it a LOT tougher to change her entire outlook on life. That MIGHT make her dilemma a bit more compelling.
As I said, if Glenn Close tries to be MAry Martin, she'll look ridiculous. But if she can put a new spin on the role, she may be very good. We'll see.
03-20-2001, 02:13 PM
Just running in to say again how incredibly wrong this is. James Michener is definitely rolling over in his grave. How could ABC do this? What's next, Glenn Close takes Sarah Michelle Gellar's place as Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Glenn Close as Lolita? And of course I have to watch it to see how they explain the fact that one, she's supposed to be an ensign (a 54-year-old ensign is just sad); and two, she's supposed to be so naive because she's never done anything of any merit and never gone anywhere outside Little Rock in her whole life before being shipped off to Polynesia.
I don't know why they couldn't get an age-appropriate actress and dub the singing if they had to.
(Also, I made a mistake in my previous post, quoted by Duck Duck Goose: Glenn Close is older than the guy playing Emile, not younger. In case anyone is confused.)
03-20-2001, 02:57 PM
um, Mary Martin wasn't exactly a spring chicken when she played the role, folks. She was in her 30's at least, maybe her 40's.
As to the Glenn Close question, my jury is out. I'm going to wait and see how she does/how the production is before I cast any vote. She may surprise us!
03-20-2001, 02:58 PM
In my opinion, no, she's not too old.
A truly talented actor/actress should be able to make us believe. I think Glenn Close is a truly talented actress. The ability for someone who's "oh, so not the type" to really make a part live, breathe and exist for even one act is what I really like about theater. Now this, is as I understand it a network TV project, and therefor is unlikely to reach the same heights, but I can hope, can't I?
03-20-2001, 11:17 PM
One last note- Glenn Close MAY be horrible in the part. We'll have to see. But remember, MANY greta performances have come from stars who seemed to be all wrong for their roles.
Just as an example, Arthur Miller DEFINITELY imagined WIlly Loman as a little runt, a shrimp, a schlep who was always talking big, but never stood a chance of succeeding. And yet the two most cllaimed Willy Loman's of all time are Lee J. Cobb and Brian Dennehy- both big, burly guys, who conveyed vigor and optimism.
Both men are the OPPOSITE of what Arthur Miller wanted... and yet, when THEY portray the old, beaten, worn-out Willy Loman, it's far more touching, because we've seen how energetic, alive and hopeful they once were.
So... who knows? Glenn Close may not be what you or James Michener imagined, but she may be very effective on her own terms.
03-21-2001, 12:24 AM
Not saying that Glenn Close isn't a skilled actress and won't bring her own spin to the part BUT she'll be substantially revising it. I truly like astorian's projections and wouldn't bet against 'em. Betcha one way or the other she'll bring credibility to the part, no matter what.
I'm just afraid there'll be a certain unresolvable cognitive dissonance involved. (Cut me some slack; it's taken donkey's years to slide in that pompous little bit of jargon.) Most active personnel serving in WWII were barely older than kids. Part of the tension/credibility is youthful (callow?) New World warriors coming of age, with war and new experiences as the crucible.
This is a very inexact parallel but an aging, "new to love" Juliet would be fascinating. I'm just not sure the role would be Juliet anymore.
(Parenthetical comment: I'm both delighted and disconcerted that an older actress was given the role. Not that she--and others--can't be skilled and alluring. It's just an odd bit of casting that seems dismissive of fine, younger actresses and criminally lacking in roles for fine, mesmerizing grande dames. That is NOT an insult; it's the highest compliment.)
03-21-2001, 07:22 AM
Originally posted by TVeblen
I'm both delighted and disconcerted that an older actress was given the role.
"Given" it? She's the executive producer!
03-21-2001, 08:14 AM
The newest TV Guide has an article about this (I couldn't find an on-line link). Apparently, Close has been wanting to do this for a while, and was the driving force behind the project. I think it could work, with some minor adjustments, which were made (Close obviously knows that she is older than Nellie as she is usually portrayed.) Any references to Nellie's age have been left out.
Glenn Close is 54 years old and could easily (IMO) play 10 years younger. I don't consider 45ish to be inconsistant with a WWII-era female ensign. As for as Nellie's naivete, I wouldn't call that a deal-killer either. A 45 year old who has spent her whole life in a small town would probably be even more rigidly parochial than a 21 year old who has spent her whole life in a small town. And the racist thing, as astorian said, will be even more believable with a mature Nellie. I also think the love-story between Nellie and Emile will be all the more touching with Nellie as an old maid who, presumably, had said her last prayers.
What else? ::flipping through the article:: Oh, the actor who plays Emile is not younger than Close (at least not by much); he is also 54. He is also yummy in the extreme. And, Mary Martin was 35 when she played Nellie on stage for the first time -- Mitzie Gaynor was 28. Oh, and Harry Connick, Jr.. I am so there!
03-21-2001, 08:26 AM
The part is supposed be a naive young girl, on her first experience outside her little town of Little Rock. (As DDG quoted "little hick from Little Rock" (Did she know her fellow Little Rocker Lorieli Lee, I wonder?). I'd think that Glenn Close, after her (vocally stunning on the CD, I haven't seen it) performance of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard simply wouldn't work.
She's too old for the part. Glenn Close is, what...55? She looks like she's in her late 30s/early 40s. I don't see how she's going to be able to play a fresh-faced, innocent 18 year old. I don't care how good of an actress she is, I can't see how the effect won't be grotesque. (I keep picturing her as Norma Desmond with pounds of pancake makeup, desperately trying to look 20, while singing "Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair". Eeewww...or even worse: Norma Desmond in the "Honey Bun" number. Brrrr... talk about cognitive dissonance.)
I don't know. Glenn Close is extremely talented...but... I've got my doubts. Age does matter. If not, can you see Ruth Gordon ("Harold and Maude") playing Nellie? Carol Burnette reprising her role as Princess Winnifred in "Once Upon A Mattress"? How 'bout Wilford Brimley playing J. Pierpont Finch in "How To Succeed..." or even better: Tony in "West Side Story"?
What if they play Nellie as a (sorry for the word choice) old-maid spinster (by the standards of the time)? 40 years old and never been kissed, that sort of thing? It'd make the whole prejudice thing take on a new depth. And some of the songs ("Cockeyed Optimist") might actually work better with an older, but still innocent Nellie. (as an aside... when or where can one find a sky that's a "bright canary yellow"? I may ask this over in GQ!)
03-21-2001, 08:30 AM
Dammit, I've gotta start reading the whole thread (or even the second post...good points, astorian) before replying.
I went to college with Glenn Close.
I had the hots for her then. I have the hots for her now.
She can play anything, anytime. She rules. You guys wait; she will play the pants off that role, and you'll drool.
03-21-2001, 09:48 AM
I saw some old film years ago, set on a tobacco plantation, that had a really old actress playing a teenager...I can't remember the name however.
03-21-2001, 09:57 AM
I saw the original South Pacific not all that long ago and enjoyed it, but not being a fan of Glen Close, I suggest someone else should play the role in the remake, or, rather, should have.
03-21-2001, 10:27 AM
IMHO, Glen Close is a fabulous actress, but she is way too old to play the young and naive Nellie Forbush. Her singing voice is also too thin to hit the notes in "I'm Going To Wash That Man Out Of My Hair" and "Cockeyed Optimist."
I want to see who's going to play Stewpot, played by the bodybuilder Ken Clarke in the original. :D
03-21-2001, 11:59 AM
Well, I was going to say that she's too old, but I like the idea that she could play it as a last-chance-at-love thing. That could be heartbreaking and wonderful.
It reminds me of a rendition of "Someday My Prince Will Come" by Barbara Cook, who's a long way from being an ingenue. It's bittersweet, but still hopeful, as if Barbara's aware she's getting a bit on the old side, and the Prince may never come, but she's not giving up hope.
Glenn could be great.
03-21-2001, 01:02 PM
I think it could work - so long as she's playing Nellie as older. If she was directed as (or tries to act like) the typical late-teens, early 20's Nellie, it'll be embarassing for everyone involved.
Come to think of it "I'm in love with a wonderful guy" actually makes more sense coming from someone older (I mean, "bromidic" who actually uses words like that?)
03-22-2001, 12:22 AM
First of all, South Pacific is so ripe for a really good movie remake that I was thrilled to hear about this production.
Second, I agree with those who say that Glenn Close can play anyone she wants to play. She's an incredible talent, who started her career playing much older than she was (as Robin Williams' mother in "The World According to Garp"). She can do musicals, like Sunset Boulevard, and romantic innocence (three "Sarah Plain and Tall" movies).
Finally, I love the idea of ageless (and raceless, and sizeless, and disabilityless) casting. Acting is about playing a part, and for me the age of the player does not impact the effectiveness of the play, as long as the quality of the work is sufficient.
dlb, I think it's cool that you went to school with Glenn.
03-22-2001, 07:14 AM
Originally posted by astorian
But remember, MANY greta performances have come from stars who seemed to be all wrong for their roles.
None of garbo's tho...
Bringing up Michener, I think, is beside the point. Whoever did the book for the show stitched several Michener stories together, changing them slightly in the process. (Now I'm sure someone will tell me Michener did the book himself.)
Close is beautiful and certainly scrappy enough; whether she can carry the singing is a valid point, of course. I hope they do the whole thing right; it ties with Oklahoma, in my estimation, as their best musical (maybe anyone's best musical) much better than the mediocre Sound of Music, anyway. I hope I remember to tape it...
03-22-2001, 09:19 AM
Well, nobody has changed my mind completely - I still think she's too old for this role - but the other ways it could be played as proposed by astorian, fenris, and amarinth could be very interesting. The TV Guide article did say that all references to the age difference between Nellie and Emile have been removed, so at least we know that she's not playing her as a 20-year-old, thank god.
Jess, you (and TV Guide) are right, the guy playing Emile is a few months older than Glenn Close - I read the IMDB wrong.
aloncist, even though the original musical as a whole was based on several Michener stories (only a couple or three out of maybe 20 in the anthology), the character of Nellie in the musical is just like Michener wrote her in the book.
I kind of think Mary Martin was too old to play Nellie too, but somehow the stage is different … you don't get the extreme close-ups that you would in a movie.
Don't get me wrong; I think Glenn Close is a really good-looking woman and an amazingly talented actor, and I wouldn't miss watching this new version even if Kate Hepburn were playing Nellie.
03-22-2001, 10:55 AM
He's a culchuud Frrenchman, I'm a little !hick!
Duck Duck Goose
03-26-2001, 10:11 PM
Allow me to be the first to say, "Yes, it worked." It was a very interesting, well done reinterpretation of the role. She didn't even try to play an ingenue, but instead came across as the "type" of the fifty-something innocent, which worked. Also, I thought the older couple that resulted contrasted nicely with the younger Joe Cable/Liat pairing.
I never did quite "get" a sophisticated Frenchman going for a bubbly teenage hick, anyway, unless as breeding stock. :D
The "still an ensign at age 54" thing that somebody said earlier turned out not to signify, as it was immediately obvious, once you got into the story, that this was an older woman who had signed up as a Navy nurse to do her bit for the war effort and, incidentally, to see a little more of the world besides Little Rock.
And the "how can a fifty-something act shocked to find out that he has two colored kids" actually worked, because she'd been presented as rather innocent. Suddenly you could see that Little Rock wasn't so far away after all, even if she was old enough to know better. When she said to him, "I'm sorry, I don't know why I feel the way I do, I can't help it," it had a completely different resonance when spoken by an older woman than when spoken by an 18-year-old.
They did leave in the lyric about "someone young and smiling, walking up my hill", but it kinda worked, too.
So, well done.
However, IMO it's still not the "definitive" screen version, but for a TV-movie, it was pretty good.
But don't waste your money on the sound track unless you're really nuts about Rodgers & Hammerstein. The singing was OK, but as I said, not the definitive version.
03-27-2001, 12:44 AM
She's just trying to make up for Hamlet, when she played Mel Gibson's mother. Looked like she was about twelve minutes older than he was.
03-27-2001, 02:31 AM
I realize Mary Martin was 40 when SHE did it but the folks in the back and balconies couldn't SEE that.
BTW----does anyone here know who did the singing for JOHN KERR in the feature version? I've always wondered.
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