‘One of the presenting symptoms of my Shelley Duvall fandom is amateur numerology. The actress, among the most totemic and inimitable performers of the New American Cinema, was born on the seventh day of the seventh month of 1949. She made seven films with Robert Altman, the director with whom she remains the most closely affiliated. The greatest of their collaborations, 3 Women, was released in 1977.
‘I focus on the dominance of seven in Duvall’s life and profession only to confirm what I already believe about occult signifiers: They mean nothing. Despite the lucky number, a hazy sense of misfortune—of a career that ended too soon, or that never quite matched the incandescence evinced in its first years—has lingered over the actress, who has not appeared in a movie since 2002. (An infamous sit-down in 2016 with an ignoble TV host suggested that she has not been well for some time.) Maybe her setbacks were augured by Altman when he spoke to Cliff Jahr of the Village Voice for an April 1977 profile of Duvall tied to the release of 3 Women, her sixth movie with the director. In the piece, Jahr conjectures that the filmmaker “has unique and untransferable rapport with his actors,” and Altman seems to concur. “I have harmed a lot of them,” he says. “I don’t quite understand it. Ronee Blakley, who got an Oscar nomination for Nashville”—for her portrayal of an unstable country-music superstar in that brilliant ensemble film from 1975—“has not even been able to get an agent to this day.” Later in the article, Altman expresses his deep admiration for Duvall’s talents, but his praise is freighted with anxiety about her fate: “Somebody better pay attention to her now, or they’re all crazy.”
‘It is impossible not to take notice of Shelley Duvall. With her extremely ectomorphic figure, she calls to mind a walking exclamation point. Her long, Modigliani-like face appears taffy-pulled; the focal points of her amazing visage are her enormous, wide-set brown eyes and her two jutting top incisors. If her striking physicality makes the first impression on the viewer, then her demeanor creates the most lasting one. She is unmistakably fey, but her otherworldliness connotes a planet not too far away from our solar system. Duvall is a delight not just to watch but to listen to; her pellucid voice is filigreed by a Houston drawl that she never filed down.
‘She was discovered in that Texas city by Altman’s emissaries, scouting talent for Brewster McCloud (1970). They met Duvall at a party she was throwing with her boyfriend. Charmed by their hostess, the movie men arranged for her to audition for Altman, though she had no idea who the director was (he’d just had a big hit with MASH) or what “reading for a part” meant. Altman was convinced that Duvall’s naïveté was a ruse. “I decided to shoot a test, so I took her out in the park and put a camera on her and just asked her questions,” the filmmaker told David Thompson for the book-length interview Altman on Altman (2005). “I was really quite mean to her, as I thought she was an actress. But she wasn’t kidding; that was her.”
‘Duvall’s untutored wisdom makes her performance one of the few unmitigated pleasures of the antic, exhausting Brewster McCloud. Playing Suzanne, a garrulous tour guide at the Astrodome who deflowers and ultimately betrays the flight-obsessed title character (Bud Cort), Duvall, with her Raggedy Ann eyelashes, emerges as an unorthodox femme fatale. “Hi! Are you trying to steal my car?” Suzanne asks Brewster; the actress delivers the line with vivifying, daffy ingenuousness. In her screen debut, she evokes James Baldwin’s lapidary assessment of the movie legends who held him rapt as a child: “One does not go to see them act: One goes to watch them be.”
‘In pointing out Baldwin’s instructive ontological distinction, I don’t mean to imply that Duvall, especially in her films with Altman, simply presented her unvarnished self—that she took no care when preparing for her roles other than, say, to memorize her lines. Altman, who gave Duvall a small part as a mail-order bride in the western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Brewster’s immediate successor, insisted that she observe the entire production for “acting lessons.” She demonstrates a noticeable increase in discipline (particularly with regard to her timing and pauses) in her next project with Altman, the Depression-era-set Thieves like Us (1974), in which she plays Keechie, the sweetheart of Bowie, Keith Carradine’s on-the-lam bank robber. But even though her acting may be more polished, Duvall’s performance style isn’t entirely pruned of fascinating idiosyncrasies, such as her strange way of saying “yes”—a word she enunciates with what sounds like a brand-new diphthong—when Bowie asks Keechie if she likes him.
‘If Suzanne and Keechie are characters brought more vibrantly to life by Duvall’s undiluted “essence,” then Millie Lammoreaux—the prating, self-regarding employee of a geriatric rehab center she plays in 3 Women—endures as the apex of her assiduous preparation. Originating in a dream that Altman had, 3 Women traces the shifting dynamics between childlike Pinky (Sissy Spacek) and Millie, who trains the pigtailed recent arrival to Southern California in the basics of hydrotherapy for the elderly. The two coworkers soon become roommates, sharing Millie’s yellow-bathed one-bedroom apartment. Pinky, growing ever more besotted with her new friend, marvels at Millie’s professed sophisticated taste, largely shaped by McCall’s magazine, and at her refined palate, which favors such chemically saturated delicacies as banana pops and penthouse chicken.
‘“I played her like a Lubitsch comedy—people taking themselves very seriously,” Duvall said of Millie in that Voice profile. Blithely ignoring the fact that most people find her to be a nattering, desperate fool, Millie may have unshakable confidence in herself, but her certitude never fully masks her fragility, especially in the second half of 3 Women, when the power balance between Millie and Pinky is inverted. This indelible, richly textured character was largely the creation of Duvall. “Shelley wrote all of [Millie’s] letters, all of those recipes, all of her diary stuff. I don’t know any writer who could have done it better,” Altman told Thompson. (Duvall to Jahr: “Monologues just came out in fifteen minutes.”)
‘A few weeks after 3 Women was released, Duvall could be seen in a bit part in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, her only non-Altman film from the ’70s (not counting a 1976 PBS adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” in which she starred in the title role). Playing Pam, a witless Rolling Stone reporter, Duvall, in the meager screen time allotted her, proves the sole source of buoyancy in a project overpopulated by smug, charmless neurotics, its director-cowriter-star chief among them.We are meant to laugh at Pam’s preferred adjective—“The only word for this is transplendent”—but Duvall locates the dignity in the dippy journalist’s enthusiasms.
‘At the end of the most storied decade of her career, Duvall was cast in the film for which she might be most widely remembered—and for which she endured tremendous distress. In Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), the actress, as Wendy Torrance, the initially sunny mom and helpmate of Jack Nicholson’s aspiring novelist, spends the latter half of the film in abject terror; Wendy continually weeps and shrieks as she tries to save herself and her young son from a psychotic paterfamilias. Duvall gives a shattering performance of ceaseless anguish—a traumatized state that mirrors the suffering she experienced in her clashes with Kubrick during The Shining’s months-long shoot, some of which are featured in the short making-of documentary by the director’s daughter Vivian. (More chilling than anything in The Shining is Vivian’s footage of Duvall, lying on the floor in between takes, saying, of an undisclosed ailment, “It comes and goes. . . . It just got so bad” as a matronly crew member tends to her.)
‘Duvall’s final film with Altman—a live-action version of Popeye, in which she stars as Olive Oyl, opposite Robin Williams as the spinach-loving sailor—came out the same year as The Shining. “Shelley, I want to give you the role you were born to play!” Altman told the actress. But, paradoxically, in this outsize part, Duvall seems diminished, flattened, as does nearly everyone else in the shambolic funny-pages transfer. Yet the movie, aimed at kids, can be thought of as an oblique prologue to Duvall’s signal achievement of not only the ’80s (but all of her post-Altman work): Faerie Tale Theatre, a wonderfully outré anthology television series for children (but with multigenerational appeal) broadcast on Showtime between 1982 and 1987. In addition to creating the program, Duvall executive-produced, hosted, and occasionally starred in FTT, which featured a motley group of talents ranging from Mick Jagger to Gena Rowlands as various Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen principals.
‘Welcoming viewers to “Rumpelstiltskin,” the second episode of the first season, in which she plays the miller’s daughter, Duvall offers a quasi confession: “And, I must admit, as an actress, Faerie Tale Theatre also gave me an opportunity for some pretty great roles.” When considered more than three decades later, the statement seems to eerily anticipate the imminent attrition of those opportunities. During the fifteen years between the end of FTT and 2002, when she stopped performing altogether, Duvall’s output consisted primarily of small or supporting parts in minor, largely forgotten movies, and assorted TV work. There are some exceptions. Duvall thrills with the few Italian interjections—Mangia! Simpaticissimo!—she utters as Countess Gemini in Jane Campion’s adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady (1996). And she beguiles as Amelia Glahn, a spinster ostrich farmer hopelessly in love with a sadistic mesmerist, in Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997), a pastel-hued fantasia by cult Canadian auteur Guy Maddin. These late-period Duvall performances, just as much as 3 Women, return us to Altman’s command: Pay attention to her.’ — Melissa Anderson, ARTFORUM
Shelley Duvall @ IMDb
Shelley Duvall: The Shining’s saddest legacy
INTERVIEW WITH SHELLEY DUVALL
A THIN LINE
Stephen King damns Shelley Duvall’s character in film of The Shining
OBVIOUS HISTORY: SHELLEY DUVALL WAS PROPOSITIONED AT 17 TO BE IN A PORNO
Actress Shelley Duvall reveals struggle with mental illness
THE SAD AND HEARTBREAKING REALITY OF SHELLEY DUVALL’S MENTAL HEALTH
Shelley Duvall, An Unlikely Star
SHELLEY DUVALL GROWS UP
Head in the Clouds: Shelley Duvall in 3 Women
Missing From the Movies: Shelley Duvall
SHELLEY DUVALL WAS DRAGGED INTO FILMS
HELLO, I’M SHELLEY DUVALL !
SHELLEY DUVALL INTERVIEW 1974
SHELLEY DUVALL INTERVIEW @ CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
ANDY WARHOL: This is a whole new table. I’ve never sat on this side before. Are you staying out in East Hampton most of the time?
SHELLEY DUVALL: Yes, for most of the summer. I come back about two days a week usually.
WARHOL: Son of Sam was on his way out there.
DUVALL: I just heard!
[Son of Sam]
WARHOL: How could a Berkowitz kill a Moskowitz?
DUVALL: That’s the first thing I thought.
WARHOL: It’s too terrible.
BOB COLACELLO: What would you like to eat?
WARHOL: Where did you learn French?
DUVALL: Not from my father.
WARHOL: Duvall is a French name.
DUVALL: My father’s half-French and I’m whatever’s left.
WARHOL: Where were you born?
DUVALL: I was born in Fort Worth but I never lived there. I was visiting my grandmother at the time.
WARHOL: I don’t understand.
DUVALL: My mother was visiting my grandmother when I was born. But I grew up in Houston. I lived there until ’73 and then I moved to Los Angeles.
WARHOL: When did we meet?
DUVALL: You met me in 1970 when I’d just finished Brewster McCloud and was about to do McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Bill Worth told me, “Come down to the Factory and meet Andy Warhol,” and we got there and you weren’t there but we looked at pictures. And I remember the time you told me, “I stayed home from Elaine’s birthday party to watch you on Dick Cavett.” I was so flattered!
COLACELLO: You’re such a charmer, Andy.
WARHOL: But it was true.
COLACELLO: So what’s this new movie you’re doing with Jack [Nicholson]?
DUVALL: It’s from a novel written by Stephen King, who wrote Carrie. It’s called The Shining and we start shooting somewhere between December 1 and February 1. Stanley Kubrick’s writing the script now. He’s directing and it’ll be shot in London and Switzerland for 15 to 25 weeks—a long shoot.
COLACELLO: Is it a big cast?
DUVALL: No, it’s Jack and myself and a five-year-old boy, basically. And there’s a psychiatrist and an ex-gardener at the place where we’re caretakers. It’s very frightening. When I first heard of it I was wondering why Stanley Kubrick would want to do this film and then I read the book and it turns out, I think, to be really primal about fears and about the fears that one has in a relationship with another person.
WARHOL: It sounds like it could be a Robert Altman film, too. Three Women was terrific.
DUVALL: Bob knows me very well and he knows my limitations.
WARHOL: That story was fascinating.
DUVALL: I loved that story. That was an actual dream that Bob had. He had the dream on a Saturday night and he called me up on Sunday morning and said, “Shelley. I just had this incredible dream. Part of the dream was that I woke up and told my wife and wrote it all down on a yellow legal pad and called my production assistant and said, ‘I want you to scout locations for me,’” and then he woke up and discovered he hadn’t told his wife and he hadn’t written it down. It’s amazing—within a week he had the money for the film and we started shooting a month later.
WARHOL: Janice Rule is one of my favorite actresses but her style of acting was so different from yours and Sissy Spacek‘s.
DUVALL: I was just going to tell you it was actually just two women in the dream—Sissy and I. But I think someone like Bergman or Antonioni had already done a film called Two Women.
WARHOL: No, it was Sophia Loren. That was the one where she came out of the ocean. She won an Academy Award for it.
COLACELLO: Did you ever think you wanted to be an actress?
COLACELLO: How did you get started?
DUVALL: It’s a long story but I’ll tell you. I was living with my artist boyfriend at his parents’ house in Houston and we had a lot of parties and people would come who we didn’t know and his parents’ friends would come—they were really good parents—and one day I was giving a party and these three gentlemen came in and I said, “Come in, fix yourself a drink, make yourself at home,” and I continued showing all my friends Bernard’s new paintings, telling them what the artist was thinking. And they said they had some friends who were patrons of the arts who’d like to see the paintings so I made an appointment, brought the paintings up and showed them one by one. I lugged 35 paintings up there. And instead of selling some paintings I wound up getting into a movie.
WARHOL: They were testing you out?
DUVALL: Yes, they said, “How would you like to be in a movie?” and I thought, “Oh, no, a porno film,” because I’d been approached for that when I was 17 in a drugstore.
WARHOL: What did you do?
DUVALL: The guy left me with the bill for the Coca-Cola. So this time I said, “No, thank you,” and they called my parents’ house and got hold of me and after a while we became such good friends that I had no fear. I said, “I’m not an actress.” They said, “Yes, you are.” Finally, I said, “All right, if you think I’m an actress I guess I am.”
WARHOL: But what were they doing there?
DUVALL: They were on location.
WARHOL: But what made them come to the house? Were they just looking for something to do?
DUVALL: Somebody at the party had called them up and told them if they were bored in Houston we gave a lot of parties. When the film was over I thought it was just an interlude in my life. But three months later I started work on McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Actually during Brewster McCloud I’d already signed a five-year contract.
WARHOL: I guess things really do happen at parties.
COLACELLO: But you never studied acting?
DUVALL: I went to Lee Strasberg a few years ago because I’d heard such good things about him but I went to two lessons and it just wasn’t for me. That’s one piece of advice Robert Altman gave me at the very beginning—never take lessons and don’t take yourself seriously.
WARHOL: He’s right. It’s all magic. The problem is knowing how to keep it once you get it.
DUVALL: I make my own decisions. And I never turn down anything without reading it. Other than that… I’m sort of at a loss for words. It was hard to move here, actually.
WARHOL: You mean you’re living here for real?
DUVALL: I moved here in October.
WARHOL: To East Hampton?
DUVALL: No, to New York from L.A. East Hampton’s just a summer place.
WARHOL: Some people live there year-round now
DUVALL: I like that idea. I think it would be just as nice in the spring and fall as in the summer. Our place looks like Japan. It’s got those short needlepines, little pebbles and everything.
WARHOL: Montauk doesn’t have much of a beach but it’s very beautiful. It’s all rocks.
DUVALL: I want to see the lighthouse.
WARHOL: If you’d seen Peter Beard’s place you’d be so sad now. It just burned down last week with all his work inside.
DUVALL: How terrible. Was it lightning?
WARHOL: No, the boiler room.
DUVALL: God, the boiler room! You should read The Shining.
WARHOL: Does it happen in a boiler room?
DUVALL: You’ll see. It’s frightening.
WARHOL: Carrie was so good.
DUVALL: I still haven’t seen it. Scary movies frighten me. I still haven’t seen The Exorcist.
WARHOL: It’s really good. It isn’t even scary. It’s just intelligent.
DUVALL: I like to see just about every movie that comes out that strikes my fancy.
WARHOL: I’m always worrying about bombs in movie theaters, though. My favorite kind of movies are unsuccessful ones because there’s no one there. And then I like…
DUVALL: …The Omen.
COLACELLO: Why did you move to New York from L.A.?
DUVALL: For several reasons. I’d always wanted to move to New York, from the first time I came here. And then I guess Paul [Simon] was an extra added attraction—a New Yorker boyfriend.
COLACELLO: That’s a nice way of putting it. He’s working so much now.
DUVALL: He’s always working. There’s so much energy here. That’s why I like it, despite everything.
[Son of Sam]
WARHOL: How can people see something on TV and then they can’t wait to read about it in the newspaper? Why is that?
DUVALL: Maybe it’s more real.
DUVALL: New Yorkers have a fascination with the daily paper. I could never understand that when I came here. And I could never understand how people get up to see “The Today Show.”
WARHOL: It’s easy if you have a pushbutton. It’s great. And if you turn it on at seven you see the news three or four times which is even better—all the repeats.
DUVALL: I did an interview with Gene Shalit and I never saw it because I could never wake up early enough.
COLACELLO: Would you like some dessert?
DUVALL: I’m looking over at the chocolate mousse but…
WARHOL: I was supposed to go to the pimple doctor this morning and I never went.
DUVALL: Well, everybody’s got something about them. But did you hear about the guy with no feet?
WARHOL: No, who?
DUVALL: I’m just kidding. But here we’re complaining about pimples and…
WARHOL: Oh, I know. We’re so lucky.
DUVALL: We really are.
WARHOL: So many people have so many problems. When you think that health is wealth, you’re so grateful just to be normal, more or less. Aren’t you?
17 of Shelley Duvall’s 51 roles
Robert Altman Brewster McCloud (1970)
‘One of the things about “MASH” was that people wanted to see it a second time. That’s typical of the recent Robert Altman style; “Brewster McCloud” is just as densely packed with words and action, and you keep thinking you’re missing things. You probably are. It’s that quality that’s so attractive about these two Altman films. We get the sense of a live intelligence, rushing things ahead on the screen, not worrying whether we’ll understand. If anything, “Brewster McCloud” is more complex and more difficult than “MASH.” For one thing, we don’t have the initial orientation we had in “MASH,” where we knew we were in the Army and we knew what the uniforms stood for and what was going on in the operating room. Those hooks helped us unsort the narrative. “Brewster” may not even have a narrative.’ — Roger Ebert
Robert Altman McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
‘Hailed by critc Pauline Kael as “a beautiful pipe dream of a movie,” Altman’s snowbound western sets its scene in the ramshackle, snowbound Washington State town of Presbyterian, where wandering gambler Warren Beatty decides to stick around after striking up a partnership with Julie Christie’s madam, a fraught but profitable teaming that’s threatened by encroaching corporate interests. A film of indelible atmosphere, thanks to the uniquely foggy photography of Vilmos Zsigmond—achieved by “flashing” the negative before exposure—and the droning vocals of Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack.’ — Metrograph
Robert Altman Thieves Like Us (1974)
‘Tewkesbury’s adaptation of Edward Anderson’s novel (also the source material for Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night) yielded one of Altman’s most slashingly sincere films. Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall are lovers running from the law through the Depression-era South, their fateful romance played out against a backdrop of two-bit gangsterism, Coca-Cola, and (memorably) the near wall-to-wall buzz of vintage radio broadcasts.’ — Metrograph
Robert Altman Nashville (1975)
‘This cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman is a panoramic view of the country’s political and cultural landscapes, set in the nation’s music capital. Nashville weaves the stories of twenty-four characters—from country star to wannabe to reporter to waitress—into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote their own songs and performed them live on location, which lends another layer to the film’s quirky authenticity. Altman’s ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion.’ — The Criterion Collection
Robert Altman Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1975)
‘Robert Altman turns his cutting gaze towards American myth-making in one of his most blistering satires. Paul Newman plays the booze-soaked William F. Cody (aka Buffalo Bill), the buffoonish, self-aggrandizing proprietor of a hokey Wild West show, who begins to fall apart both personally and professionally following the arrival of the show’s newest performer, Chief Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts). Altman’s contrasting of two legendary American figures proves not only to be rich comedic territory, but also stands as a vicious deconstruction of the romantic vision of the Wild West, showbiz, and history itself. Featuring a dizzyingly great ensemble cast (Harvey Keitel, Will Sampson, Burt Lancaster, Geraldine Chaplin, Shelley Duvall and more), and brimming with verve and wit, BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, OR, SITTING BULL’S HISTORY LESSON is essential Altman.’ — Drafthouse
Joan Micklin Silver Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976)
‘It’s the hot summer of 1919. Visiting her cousin Marjorie (Veronica Cartwright), sweet-but-dull Bernice (Shelley Duvall) is transformed into a smooth-talking man-trap by her vampish kin. However, the “make-over” works too well, Bernice becomes the belle of the ball, captivating every boy’s interest…even Marjorie’s boyfriend Warren (Bud Cort). The now worldly Bernice has the last laugh…a clever and ironic twist. One of the best screen translations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary work, Bernice also includes the delightful supporting role performances of Dennis Christopher (“Breaking Away”) and Polly Holliday (“Alice”).’ — Kanopy
Woody Allen Annie Hall (1977)
‘In Annie Hall, Shelley Duvall played Pam, a Rolling Stone reporter set up with Alvy by their mutual friend, Rob. By 1977, Duvall’s star was on a meteoric rise after she appeared in McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Nashville. A favorite of director Robert Altman’s, Duvall’s unique look and ability to portray women who were at once superficially girly yet full of psychological depth made her an in-demand actor in the ’70s and ’80s. After Annie Hall, Duvall went on to star in The Shining and Time Bandits, and she even appeared in an episode of the hit ’90s show Wishbone.’ — She Knows
Robert Altman 3 Women (1977)
‘By the time 3 Women came out, Duvall was already well known for her unorthodox looks and behavior. In a 1976 interview with Altman for Film Heritage, F. Anthony Macklin asked, “Can the general audience relate to Shelley Duvall externally? Won’t the general audience back in Dayton, Ohio, think she’s kind of freaky and kind of spacey and kind of weirdo?” It’s to Altman’s credit that he can make a potentially off-putting figure like Millie, played by an actor who often seemed (fascinatingly) disconnected from reality, into someone we can empathize with. But it’s Duvall who arouses our compassion. At times, you want to slap her to wake her up from her self-mythologizing (she imagines herself something of a debutante, and often speaks of men throwing themselves at her—contrary to what we see onscreen), but Duvall, with her Breck-girl curl and sunshine-colored dresses, cuts such a likably wacky figure that we can’t help but accept Millie in all her unreality. Her most poignant moments come directly after she’s discovered that a group of dinner-party guests have canceled on her, and thus foiled her plans to serve them her impeccably prepared pigs in a blanket and “chocolate puddin’ tarts.” Here, briefly, Duvall and Altman let us peek behind the flowery curtain and see the plain soul hidden there.’ — The Criterion Collection
Stanley Kubrick The Shining (1980)
‘Back in the 1980s, Duvall was a movie star in the rise, with a prosperous future ahead of her. However, after her role in The Shining, she almost considered leaving acting for good. The reason? The young actress went through trauma during the filming of Kubrick’s film, facing tremendously difficult requests by the director, such as the legendary 127-takes of the baseball bat scene, ending up dehydrated with raw, wounded hands and a hoarse throat from crying. The director’s “special” requirements went so far that Duvall started losing her hair. According to Horror Media, Duvall’s role was mostly criticized by Stephen King who declared that he hated The Shining very much mainly because of the misogynistic portrait of Wendy Torrance who, in King’s words “was basically there just to scream and be stupid and that’s not the woman I wrote about”.’ — The Vintage News
Shelley Duvall on Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick: Behind The Scenes on the Set of ‘The Shining’
Robert Altman Popeye (1980)
‘As a gawky youngster growing up in Texas, Shelley Duvall used to cringe when kids taunted her with “Nahhh, Olive Oyl! Olive Oyl!” Plus ça change. After playing the bean-pole bombshell in director Robert Altman’s Popeye, the 5’8″ and 106-pound Shelley now reports, “Children grab me around the legs in the grocery store and say, ‘You’re Olive Oyl!’ That’s really, really good. It makes that movie one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Such katzenjammer praise is welcome solace after some snooty adults predicted that she and Robin Williams, who co-stars as Popeye, would take a Bluto-size beating at the box office. Most critics, while praising Duvall, said the movie was spinach and the hell with it. “They treated it like it was War and Peace instead of a cartoon,” Shelley scowls. She’s also miffed that neither she nor the movie got a single Oscar nomination. “They never nominated me for anything before, so I guess I shouldn’t expect it now,” says Shelley, who escaped Jack Nicholson’s ax in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining last summer and whose memorable waifishness has been a staple of Altman films since 1970’s Brewster McCloud. “Of course I was disappointed,” she adds. “I had hoped.”’ — People
Terry Gilliam Time Bandits (1981)
‘Director Gilliam’s second feature is a lavish concoction of wild and wicked fancy. One fateful night Kevin, an 11-year-old with a passion for history, discovers a time-and-space portal in his bedroom wall and a gaggle of dwarves who teach him how to use it, paying visits to Ian Holm’s Napoleon, John Cleese’s Robin Hood, Sean Connery’s King Agamemnon, and the land of unbounded imagination that is the Time of Legend. A fractured fairy tale that thrilled and delighted every kid who saw it.’ — Metrograph
Tim Burton Frankenweenie (1984)
‘In this black-and-white short, novice director Tim Burton tells the story of Frankenstein’s monster in suburbia as a children’s fable about tolerance. Loving parents Ben (Daniel Stern) and Susan Frankenstein (Shelley Duvall) encourage their son Victor’s (Barret Oliver) home movies, starring their energetic bull terrier, Sparky. Following a terrible car accident, Sparky is dead and Victor is inconsolable. After an experiment with a frog in his science class, Victor gets the idea to make an electrical experiment of his own. After building a fantastic laboratory with only household items, he reanimates his beloved dog. Unfortunately, the family’s nosy neighbors become fearful of the monster, even though he has done no wrong. The climactic ending acts as an homage to James Whale’s original 1931 film and its sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein.’ — Andrea LeVasseur
Fred Schepisi Roxanne (1987)
‘Though Duvall’s screen time is short, her part is pivotal to the updated Cyrano de Bergerac plot. She plays Dixie Smith, the coffee-shop owner and confidante-at-large who facilitates the match between Roxanne (Daryl Hannah), a stunning astronomer, and C.D. Bales (Martin), a small-town fire chief with a nose the size of Pinocchio’s in mid-lie. While Duvall allows that her character “is close to my heart,” it isn’t a role she had to fight and scrape for. “It was just offered to me,” she says. “I didn’t even have to audition for it. I know Steve socially, and he suggested it to me. I did it just to work with him—and just to see if I could still act.”’ — People
Steven Soderbergh The Underneath (1995)
‘Rarely does a director go into much detail about what he thinks doesn’t work about one of his own films, but Steven Soderbergh got candid in an interview about his disappointment with his 1995 film The Underneath—which he calls “dead on arrival.” The Underneath is a neonoir Soderbergh made between 1993’s King and 1996’s more personal experiment Schizopolis. Soderbergh says that The Underneath came at a difficult point in his career and that his “heart wasn’t in it.”’ — The Criterion Collection
Jane Campion The Portrait Of A Lady (1996)
‘Kidman, who was so feisty and wild-eyed in “To Die For,” seems quite repressed here from the get-go, and instead of her character simply lacking depth, she plays out as pretty dumb. (Maybe it should have been called “Portrait of a Stupid Lady.”) Malkovich has played this slimy character too many times before, and Parker is overbearing and obnoxious. Better are Donovan, who at least has some cleverness about him, and especially Hershey, who tries very hard to liven up the proceedings. Winters, unusually subdued, is also notable, and it’s nice to see Shelley Duvall, here playing a flibbertigibit who turns out to be smarter than she lets on.’ — Chris Hicks
Guy Maddin Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)
‘Twilight of the Ice Nymphs is the dream-struck fantasia of Peter Glahn, a political prisoner returning after several hard years of incarceration, to his homeland of Mandragora where the sun never sets. While traveling by boat, he spends a few precious minutes in the enticing and rarefied company of Juliana (Pascale Bussières), a beauteous young woman with whom he falls desperately and immediately in love. He disembarks to find a veritable ronde of romance brewing in the smouldering passions of sun addled Mandragora: his ostrich-farming sister Amelia (Shelley Duvall) is sick with heartache for the mesmerist Dr. Solti (R.H. Thomson), who with a greedy and voluminous passion, seeks the favours of both Zephyr (Alice Krige), a fishermans widow now married to the forest, and the statue of Venus recently uncovered and mounted imperiously on a hilltop. Zephyr gives herself to Peter upon his arrival, but he can think of no other than Juliana and her strange connection to the haughty Dr. Solti. Amelia, driven to distraction by her unrequited passion for the Doctor as well as by the unwelcome attentions and misguided vengeance of her handyman, Cain Ball (Frank Gorshin), loses her reason and spirals into homicidal madness, gravely injuring Cain. Peter is also maddened by his unrequited love for Juliana and the way in which it is constantly thwarted by the wily Doctor, and so the story goes.’ — WFG
Russell Mulcahy Tale of the Mummy (1998)
‘Unless you find the idea of killer mummy wraps particularly frightening, chances are you’ll find this direct-to-vid thriller as ridiculous as I did.’ — The Movie Report
p.s. Hey. ** Corey Heiferman, Ah, so you like them linguistically charismatic and extremely needy. Interesting. That sounds fun: the gender experiment and its performance birthplace. I think I’ll stick with erring on the side of caution since ‘overblown media hype’ is too much of a blanket interpretation of everything scary these days. After acing like everything was cool for so long, France just cancelled all largish gatherings, etc. this weekend. Cool about the palindrome guy. I’m assuming his puzzles wouldn’t translate well? I like YMO but, no, I’ve never done a Haruomi Hosono post, and I should, and I will look into the possibilities, thanks, man. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Okay, I’ll try again. Everyone, Do please read what Mr. Ehrenstein is about to write here and get in touch with him if you possibly want and can. David: ‘My Emergency Sale is more of an Emergency than ever. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you lists of items for sale.’ Also, Mr. E’s FaBlog tackles Mayor Pete’s exit from the US Presidential race here. ** Bill, I know, right? My almost thoughts exactly. I hope the medical stuff is blippy. Ooh, more aggressive. I like the sound of that, duh. Bill goes scary … the mind boggles! ** Misanthrope, Hi. Like I told Corey, it’s been like nothing unusual here until Saturday night when the government told everyone to cancel every event and gathering that isn’t a teeny cult kind of thing, so here we go. Damn, so sorry about your pain. Obviously, keep hitting up the doctors or experts until they’ve nailed and killed that off. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. The controversy over the Polanksi film is huge here. I don’t know if you read about what happened with and at the Cesars. The film itself was a huge success, one of the biggest films of the year. That English language media bullshit about the situation makes me want to strangle all those know-nothing know-it-alls. #metoo is a very big thing and area of discussion here, with my friend/collaborator Adele Haenel at the front of it, which is very intense for her, obviously. I’ll see if I can see that Francoise Romand documentary. Very interesting. Speaking of documentaries, Patric Chiha’s new documentary film ‘If It Were Love’ about the making of Gisele’s (and my) newest piece ‘Crowd’ won Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival, which is pretty crazy. Everyone, Mr. Erickson reviews the new Ken Loach film SORRY WE MISSED YOU here. ** _Black_Acrylic, Yes, indeed, and you should have seen it before I edited about 2/3 of it out! ** Okay. I realised recently to my astonishment that I’ve never done a blog Day about the sublime god of the performative arts Shelley Duvall for reasons that I can not imagine and which mystify me. But now she’s squared away. Please celebrate her today. Thanks. See you tomorrow.