Norma Shearer's a pretty good writer. She describes being rejected by silent era director D.W. Griffith at the beginning of her career:
"The Master looked down at me, studied my upturned face in the glare of the arc, and shook his eagle head. Eyes no good, he said. A cast in one and far too blue; blue eyes always looked blank in close-up. You'll never make it, he declared, and turned solemnly away."
She was rejected on appearance alone so many times that it is amazing to me that she continued on her dogged path. Her primary "flaws" were being stouter than the rest as well as having one eye that wouldn't quite stare in the same direction as the other. She does look somewhat cross-eyed in some scenes, but it comes across as either endearing or exotic. Her strange eyes make her seem almost cat-like in early films, and when she tilts her head down and scowls determinedly, she's almost frightening in a witchy way. Earlier in life, she had learned daily eye exercises that allowed her to exert more control over the errant one, although only for periods of time, not permanently.
She was rejected for her eyes and figure instantly and vehemently for five years, only gaining a foothold by killing a couple of minor roles and striking up a cautious camaraderie with ferocious genius Irving Thalberg, a very in-charge producer in Hollywood at the time. She later married him, etc.
Although she played "bad girl" roles in a very authentic, disarming and terribly modern way (The Divorcee and A Free Soul, already discussed on this blog), my favorite role of hers is Mary Hanes in The Women, the greatest movie of all time. Mary simpers around a little bit, but mostly she's a very enlightened, noble creature who, while not quite a badass, fails to take shit from anyone. All the best lines belong to comic foil Rosalind Russell in that movie, but the heroine never gets to be funny. Isn't that stupid?
|The Divorcee - See? I said witchy. Some Theda Bara shit here.|