Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Jay Presson Allen


"You Freud, me Jane?" From Marnie, 1964.
Jay Presson Allen, scriptwriter of Marnie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Cabaret, to name but a few.
As Charles Derry writes in ths article:
'Allen's greatest critical acclaim came for her adaptation for Bob Fosse of Cabaret , which not only threw out most of the sentimental trappings of the Broadway musical, but also had the courage to go back to the original Christopher Isherwood stories and to make explicit in the film itself the central homosexuality of the character generally patterned on Isherwood. By providing Fosse with a screenplay which allowed him to express his characteristic cynicism in great displays of technical razzle-dazzle, Allen made an inestimable contribution to the institution of the American musical; in its portrait of Nazism and German society, Cabaret claimed definitively for the musical a kind of laudable pretension and seriousness, as well as providing for Liza Minnelli one of the American cinema's great roles—yet another of Allen's portraits of neurotic women."
Her script for Cabaret is highlighted in the comprehensive documentary The Celluloid Closet, a film in which the ways homosexuality had been subtly injected into, (by the makers) and extracted from, (by the audience who looked hard enough) pre-Cabaret era cinema is discussed at great length. How Rock Hudson was a gay man playing straight, who'd play gay to get Doris Day, who played butch in 'Calamity Jane' is just one of the mind-boggling but wonderful ways in which homosexuality wove through the movies in the same way it does in life. But in an era of secrecy, shame and suppression, women might also have found a feminist message coded in Allen's so-called 'neurotic women'. This is a SPOILER ALERT, but anyone who can end a film with “Oh Mark, I don't want to go to jail, I'd rather go with you.” is surely bidding us a bitterly ironic farewell.

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