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Gloria Grahame, who’s portrayed by Annette Bening in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, which premieres at TIFF on Sept. 12, had an exceptional career in the late 1940s and 1950s.
She won a supporting actress Oscar (for 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful) and worked with legendary actors (Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Dorothy Lamour and Robert Mitchum) and directors (Fritz Lang, Elia Kazan, Vincent Minnelli and Nicholas Ray, whom she married). Grahame’s specialty was the film noir femme fatale. Unfortunately, she also made some fatal career moves.
In June 1951, Ray caught her in bed at their Malibu home with Tony, his 13-year-old son from his first marriage who’d just returned from military school. “It was the kind of thing Gloria Grahame the actress would have done in her movies,” says biopic director Paul McGuigan. The gossip tsunami the tryst generated would only be exceeded nine years later when Grahame married Tony; she had two children with him and the most peaceful 14 years of any of her four marriages. (The union made Tony the stepfather to his half brother Timothy, the child Ray had fathered with Grahame.)
Her credits after 1960 are primarily in television and British theater. Grahame was 57 when she died in New York in 1981 from cancer and peritonitis, just hours after returning from London. “Gloria is different from other stars of that era; she doesn’t live on in people’s minds,” says Bening. “There are so many forgotten stories. Gloria represents that for me.”
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Sept. 8 daily issue at the Toronto Film Festival.
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