Shallow biography of the renowned film, stage and TV actress.
A varied and celebrated acting career, a history of political activism and an outspoken personality make Julie Christie an ideal subject for biography. Unfortunately, British entertainment journalists Ewbank and Hildred offer very little beyond what exists in previously published accounts. The authors begin with Christie’s childhood in India and boarding school in England, glossing over the family discord that may have informed her career. Though she grew up to star in films both groundbreaking (Billy Liar, Darling) and epic (Doctor Zhivago, Far from the Madding Crowd), the accounts of these works given here consistently strike one or two notes: Christie was chronically insecure about her talent; she was a stunning beauty loved by the camera. The films’ production histories are fairly well detailed, but analysis of the work seldom goes deeper than the surface. As to why the eminent director John Schlesinger failed in his adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, the authors note, “somewhere in the mix wise heads detected trouble.” This same lack of critical acumen precludes a definitive assessment of Christie’s acting; instead, the authors pay a great deal of attention to Christie’s highly publicized romantic affairs. Her relationship with lothario Warren Beatty merits an entire chapter in which at least some note is made of the two films they made together, Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait. But even that section is padded out with an extended, irrelevant discussion of the sound-recording technique Beatty used in Bonnie and Clyde, a film in which Christie was not involved. Notes on Christie’s face-lift preface a thin summary of her recent, stunning work as a woman with Alzheimer’s in Away from Her.
Christie’s significance as an actress and cultural icon await a more perceptive appraisal.