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Interview with Claire Bloom

BROADCAST: Feb. 8, 1982 | DURATION: 00:52:20


Discussing the book "Limelight and after" with the author Claire Bloom.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel "What is an actress?" That's a good quote. What makes, I mean, a serious actress? I think, of course, there's a certain giftedness involved in the actress or the actor himself, herself. But in addition, there's a certain kind of intelligence, John Simon to the contrary. There's a certain kind of intelligence to a serious actress. Claire Bloom is a serious actress, and a very excellent one indeed. And graciously she's consented to this conversation while in Chicago courtesy of the Court Theatre doing a one woman performance of Shakespearean heroines. But it's her memoir that is the subject, "Limelight and After". And the subtitle, of course, is "The Education of an Actress" published by Harper and Row. It's a very beautiful book, not one of these--you might think one of these gossipy memoirs that isn't much, but it's a story of the flowering of an artist. [music playing]

Richard Gentle Lady Anne, is not the causer of the untimely death of your brave prince as blameful as the executioner?

Anne Thou wast the cause and most accursed effect.

Richard Your beauty was the cause of that effect. Your beauty which did haunt me in my sleep to undertake the death of all the world so I might live one hour in your sweet bosom.

Anne If I thought that, I tell thee, homicide. These nails should rend that beauty from my cheeks.

Richard He that bereft thee, lady, of thy husband did it to help thee to a better husband.

Anne His better does not breathe upon

Richard He lives that loves you better than he could.

Anne Where

Richard Here. [Anne spits] Why dost thou spit at me?

Anne Would it were mortal poison for thy sake.

Richard Never came poison from so sweet a place.

Anne Never hung poison on a fouler toad. Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine

Richard Thine eyes, sweet lady, have infected mine. Those

Studs Terkel So we have opening our conversation. There's Olivier as Richard III and you as Queen

Claire Bloom There was Olivier at the height of his powers and me just beginning with a little tremulous voice. [laughing]

Studs Terkel Now you raise a point here in your memoir about this very scene, the idea. You're a young actress of 22 and this is a moment when this brute who killed your husband is courting you, and how the actress, this young actress, can justify her accepting his courtship.

Claire Bloom Yes. I had very little to draw on, very little experience of life. I mean, I was not unaware that Olivier was the most attractive man I'd ever seen. So that did make it much easier too. But the trouble is with a great many of those parts and certainly with the old recording that I would hear today, I just wish to God I could do it again now. And that's the trouble with acting, that as you age out of certain parts, there's no way back, except I must say in a one woman show and one can dare do anything

Studs Terkel You've raised a big question, and this recurs throughout your very beautiful memoir. That is, you're an older actress now, and a moment ago we were testing something, your Juliet, which Kenneth Tynan says is the best Juliet he's ever seen. Now your Juliet which we heard on record, didn't play on here because you said it's quite awful.

Claire Bloom Quite

Studs Terkel You were a young girl doing Juliet at the time. Now if you did Juliet now, and there's no reason why you can't. I mean, we know that--

Claire Bloom Well,

Studs Terkel No, we know that Ellen Terry, others, have done Juliet at mature ages.

Claire Bloom Pre-filmed. [laughing]

Studs Terkel Pre-filmed. But would it be more of the Juliet who had a wisdom and grew first from the innocent to the mature woman?

Claire Bloom It would be more under my control. I would not indulge in certain sentimental things that I heard in my voice. For example, when we did play "Gallop apace" and I said to you, "oh, don't play that on the air". I can't judge, I suppose. It also was in its time, you know, and that's 25 years ago and maybe it was the best Juliet of its time. I had youth on my side and terrific appearance, you know, and so one's only hearing the disembodied voice. But what I hear is somebody trying to be lyrical rather than someone who's actually saying what she means. And I think it's--you discard like [unintelligible] onion, you discard the layers and you finally do get down to something.

Studs Terkel To the core.

Claire Bloom When you're about 85, I think. [laughing]

Studs Terkel So how you became--and this raises many subjects. You know, I remember there was Lotte Lehmann, the magnificent soprano lieder singer when she was about 75, 80. She and [Tusk?], they knew Bruno Walter, were talking about this very point. Oh, to be as young and having that physical energy then, but not nearly the understanding of that role they have now.

Claire Bloom Because there's only one thing that Lehmann could do that actors don't seem able to do. Though [Otto Hagen?] whom you're going to talk to is a great teacher. Lehmann handed on her art because in California, she trained apparently Jessye Norman, these great, great singers. We--there's nothing specific to hand on. It's much--it's so ephemeral, acting, and so peculiar and so personal, that there's no great technique to hand on. I mean, at least Lehmann or Schwartzkopf have the joy of seeing some great singer that they have put their money on.

Studs Terkel Because there is the voice, there's a [bumbreeze?] voice, Jessye Norman's voice there.

Claire Bloom Exactly. Yes.

Studs Terkel So whereas in acting--well, can't you--well in your case, we have to start with you and the memoir, how it began. And this goes back to the days you were a child and the Blitz. You were a Blitz child escaping London during the time of the--and the V-2s and then back and forth, but there was an aunt, your Aunt Mary.

Claire Bloom Yes, I was lucky in that I had this great influence in my life from the time I could remember and she died only 10, 12 years ago. So it was an ongoing--my Aunt Mary was a frustrated actress. She had been a star, for lack of a better word. She'd been a leading actress in London in her late 20s and early 30s and wasn't very strong, played a role of a woman who was executed for murder and got some kind of nervous illness and never really was able to act properly again. She did little parts and things, but she was a woman of enormous intelligence and taste and wide ranging mind. I always felt it was rather wasted,

Studs Terkel I was thinking, your aunt writing a letter to you. This is about 11 years ago, and she had read something, a book by Melvyn Bragg. And then she says war, quoting the book, "war is the way men revenge the sacrifice of their cheated instincts". This sums up Hedda, Hedda Gabler, which you did. "Her creative instincts are frustrated by the false values of the society she lives in and by her own cowardice and not breaking through them. Creative instincts which are prevented from expression revenge themselves in destruction and so Hedda destroys the baby, the play".

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel We're talking about, aren't we now, about--she is interpreting, in a marvelous way, Ibsen heroine.

Claire Bloom Oh yes. Very accurately, I think. I mean, Hedda is a very mysterious character indeed. I think some of the great characters, for example, Nora, whom I played with great success. Hedda I was not that good in. Nora is straightforward, Nora just is. You know, there are very few questions to be asked about Nora except why she was so damn stupid about the blackmail thing. [laughing] But with Hedda, her--she is as mysterious as you and I are in our private life. I don't know why I do certain things. And one can say one doesn't know. But as an actress, you have to know or you can't play it. That's the difficult thing. And I think that that was a very good clue that she gave me.

Studs Terkel Before we come to Nora and her relationship, as far as Claire Bloom is concerned to Juliet, we come in a minute, the fact that intelligence is a requisite, a certain kind that you can't put the hand

Claire Bloom You mean of being--

Studs Terkel For a serious actress.

Claire Bloom Yes, but there's very different kind. There's one extremely leading actor in England who does not--he's not interested in things outside theatre, and consequently to talk to, he can be extremely boring. But in fact, he has a tremendous intuitive intelligence which works in a specific way. I know other actors whose interests are wide ranging. I

Studs Terkel I suppose the two great doyennes of British theatre are Dame Edith Evans and Sybil Thorndike, and I interviewed the Dame Sybil some time ago. She was making her debut in a musical at the age of 85 or

Claire Bloom Now, she was remarkable.

Studs Terkel Now you have two--we have one who is interested in the world, Sybil

Claire Bloom Dame Edith was interested in nothing and nobody, no. And they were both great actresses. [laughing]

Studs Terkel Both great.

Claire Bloom Yeah.

Studs Terkel So it isn't a question--that is not the key. It's something--still something else.

Claire Bloom Something else. I think an actor's intelligence probably functions in a slightly different way to most people, but I mean if you're dim, you're dim on the stage. Your light doesn't burn very bright.

Studs Terkel So your Juliet, which by the way, came--your great Juliet, the one that Tynan talked about, came just about the time the film "Limelight" with Chaplin, which is a story we can talk about I know at length in a moment. But Juliet, you connect Juliet and Nora.

Claire Bloom I connect them as children who grow up, and very instinctive children who follow their passions, unlike Hedda whose passions are thwarted and who only works through this very cold and perverted intelligence. Nora and Juliet have everything at their fingers ends. They just do what comes and in fact, I mean in "Romeo and Juliet", both Romeo and Juliet are told again and again "slow down", you know, you're going to come to a very bad end. But they can't, the force is too great. And with Nora, you feel the force is very great in her. I mean, obviously not in a huge lyrical scope like Juliet, but in a domestic setting. She follows her instincts and in her case though they could have ended in disaster, in fact they end in her liberation. And presumably Torvald's, though never been so sure about that. [laughing]

Studs Terkel You know, Harold Clurman has said not only her liberation, but also her husband's.

Claire Bloom Well, I say yes, Torvald. It's the question. I mean, he does say at the end he's learnt, one assumes, when he says the miracle of miracles. But I think--going to take Torvald a long time. [laughing]

Studs Terkel I want to ask you this, Claire. What happens after Nora slams the door?

Claire Bloom I always think that everybody goes off and makes hats [laughing] because those women weren't trained to do anything else. I don't think she went back to him. There is a play, I don't know it, of Shaw's called "Nora Slams the Door". Or is it--I think a short play.

Studs Terkel Anyway it's a short play, no it's an essay.

Claire Bloom Or an essay.

Studs Terkel Eve

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel After Nora--but come back to you. You describe acting, by the way, in a very beautiful way here. Somewhere in this part of your life where you're doing Juliet, you say "let the dramatic facts do the acting for you". Somewhere along the line you were trying different techniques. At one--there's a certain moment when you make a discovery, don't you, during a rehearsal of a play?

Claire Bloom Yes, I mean, and you never know why or where it's come from or if it will ever come at all and sometimes it doesn't. I mean, I have done one or two parts where it just never happened. But when you do, it's extremely clear and there's no mistaking the fact that something has come alive that wasn't before. But it's hard to discuss it at all, be specific about because one never knows what it is.

Studs Terkel Here's everything you were talking about earlier. The intuitive aspect, or there's the intelligence and there's the intuitive

Claire Bloom Yes, of course if you have a wonderful partner to play opposite, then you're pretty sure something will happen. You know it's--there is that wonderful thing in the theatre that you do get from each other.

Studs Terkel And there's a great description you have of having a wonderful partner. You were doing Madame Ranevsky. Ranevsky?

Claire Bloom Ranevsky or whatever.

Studs Terkel Ranevsky in "The Cherry Orchard", and you describe the two actors, the one who played your brother, the one who played [the land?], the guy Lopakhin. We know it's a certain moment, a certain society's coming to an end. But there is--see you followed the directions of Chekhov, didn't

Claire Bloom Well, he very kindly gave them in this letter to Olga Knipper about Madame Ranevsky that she's--I cannot remember now. There's always a smile on her face. She dresses exquisitely. I can't remember, but that nothing actually will destroy her. He puts it rather better than I do. So she is a survivor, though of course the cherry orchard does not survive. I think it's something one has to remember when you play Madame Ranevsky. But yes, what happened then, and I think what you're talking about is that we were discussing in the first act, the sale of the cherry orchard. And then there was a silence and all of a sudden, Emrys James who was playing Lopakhin, started to laugh. And without knowing it, I did too and so did Gayev and we--

Studs Terkel Who played your brother?

Claire Bloom Joss Ackland, yes, my brother. And we--it was a moment--the laughter was simply saying we don't countenance this happening. This isn't happening, whereas Lopakhin's laughter was slightly different in that he knew damn well it was. Though of course, he didn't know he was going to be the one who bought the cherry orchard.

Studs Terkel Would you mind--it's from your memoir. Would you mind reading it? It's very moving.

Claire Bloom Of course. [pages turning]

Studs Terkel The idea of how--well you can lead into it if you want.

Claire Bloom "I remember another moment, again during an early rehearsal of Act One, when in response to Lopakhin's initial suggestion that the cherry orchard be chopped down to make way for lucrative country cottages, I burst into laughter at the absurdity of the idea. Suddenly Emrys began to laugh too at my laughter, so I laughed even more and he laughed at that. Then Joss Ackland as Gayev began to laugh at the two of us laughing. Suddenly, a source of worry and concern had been dissipated in the most silly and charming way. Suddenly, and we hadn't to think about paying our debts or selling our estate or chopping down our beloved cherry orchard. We could all have a good time instead. If I laughed enough and enchanted him enough, all the bad things would magically just disappear."

Studs Terkel So this is she, isn't it, too? She was--there was something of a--she was [unintelligible], something of a child.

Claire Bloom And I remember now, charming and inattentive were the two words that Chekhov

Studs Terkel And also a zest for life.

Claire Bloom Oh yes, tremendous. Yes, she's a very great character to play. That's one part, thank goodness, I will be able to play again.

Studs Terkel So I think okay, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov.

Claire Bloom Well, that's the great threesome for--anyway, for English speaking actresses. I mean, we don't have Racine or Koné or whatever because the French plays simply don't translate very well. And the German theatre is just an untouched mine in England. I mean, the plays simply haven't been done. I don't know how many have even been translated. Schiller, "Mary Stuart", is done occasionally, but very little

Studs Terkel What about Brecht?

Claire Bloom Yes, Brecht. Yes, Brecht

Studs Terkel Yeah. But otherwise it's the classics, isn't it? Plus contemporary.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel Oh you--by the way, you were in the film "Look Back in Anger" from a contemporary.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel And so there--by the way, you span, how do we put that, a couple--there came the period of the angry young playwright, Osborne and company. And it's, to some extent, altered British theatre, didn't

Claire Bloom Oh, thank goodness, yes. It was pretty deadly.

Studs Terkel You say "thank goodness".

Claire Bloom Well, it was very deadly. I mean, rest his soul, there was Terence Rattigan, who was considered the leading playwright. Well, not to my taste, and very well bred playwrights of that kind, not as good because Rattigan was a very good craftsman. It was--

Studs Terkel It was from the drawing room

Claire Bloom Oh yes. And they were pretty deadly. And then along came this extraordinary play, "Look Back in Anger".

Studs Terkel This is

Claire Bloom the-- In

Studs Terkel The period that Tynan celebrated.

Claire Bloom Yes, that Tynan was--because it had had appalling notices apart from Tynan who really single handedly saved it.

Studs Terkel We're saving Chaplin for the second half of the pro--we come to a key moment in your life and in his life too, and might add in ours too. But did you have any early self doubts being an actress? You've mentioned, here's some of you, you were doing Nina in "The Seagull", and there was one thing some--what did you say?

Claire Bloom Screaming and dying. She had a great talent for--well, they say of her in the play because Nina is a failed actress, as you know, in "The Seagull". Oh yes, she had a great talent for screaming and dying and that was all. And I was always terrified that I could do--I wasn't altogether wrong in there that I could do the big dramatic moments, but the smaller things would--either were beyond me or would take a long time to cook. And in fact, they did. But that was always a fear because I had played Ophelia and Juliet and these big parts, very dramatic. I thought well, talent for screaming and dying that was all maybe. [laughing]

Studs Terkel I think, you know when--in reading your memoir, Claire Bloom, and it's called "Limelight and After", "The Education of an Actress" the subtitle, to me, the moment when you discovered you, and this is my presumptuousness and interpreting. You--in reading this, you worked with Robert Helpmann the dancer, who is now acting and there's a company where Scofield and he--

Claire Bloom Yes, it's [unintelligible]. Yes. They were alternating "Hamlet".

Studs Terkel And [unintelligible], but this is a play called "The White Devil" that Guthrie, who I think is a pretty abrasive guy at times, is directing. And you're having a rough time and then "I had my moment". One day I had my moment. You were afraid of being fired. Well, I think you should read it, just this part here. It

Claire Bloom It was, if I may correct you, it was in the--oh my God, my mind's [unintelligible]. [You?] get slapped.

Studs Terkel You get slapped.

Claire Bloom You mean from--

Studs Terkel Yeah but the scene, the moment.

Claire Bloom Yes. "Guthrie didn't fire me as I feared he would. Then one day I had my moment. It was during the scene when Helpmann was supposed to be dying. There was a long silence. I was holding a tambourine and I let it rattle just once very faintly and then fade away. I thought it would sound wonderful and it did. Guthrie said, "Did you do that? Good. Keep it in." He stopped picking on me and I felt I had finally done something on the stage, something of my own". Which is true, I don't remember it very--

Studs Terkel Let's just think of that. There was a certain moment now in your own imagination, something you felt was right

Claire Bloom Yes, but you see, it was more spontaneous than that. I all of a sudden thought "that would sound good". And the thing was that I suppose I had a very good instinct for timing and effect.

Studs Terkel The tragic hero is dying, the clown is dying, the tragic hero. Yes.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel You get slapped and you as the young girl--and you touch something. As he's dying, the tambourine sounds

Claire Bloom faintly. A tambourine is such a marvelous sound anyway.

Studs Terkel What a marvelous touch that was, though. Just doing that. No, that is also an actress doing something.

Claire Bloom Well, that was my first little tiny step.

Studs Terkel We're talking about the people you've worked with, of course we come to--in the beginning, you mentioned Olivier, the opening scene was Richard III, there was Gielgud, of course. You were the young girl and the young guy was Richard Burton in "The Lady's Not for Burning".

Claire Bloom Yes, it was both our first big--well they weren't that big actually for our first roles in the West End and in a very distinguished production. Gielgud and Pamela Brown and all of the [unintelligible], design, etc., very stylish. One of the--I mean, again those plays, those poetic revival plays don't stand up anymore. But they had a moment, and it was after the war when everybody was starved for beauty and romance and they had their moment and it was very good in its time. And we were in it. [laughing]

Studs Terkel But then--also you studied in acting, not technique but acting approach. And Gielgud, he was directing it himself,

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel Was observing the two young actors Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. And he was commenting on their different approaches, weren't

Claire Bloom Yes. He's not known for his tact as you may have heard. And he said, "Oh, do, do, do--just copy Richard and try to be natural!" And I used to look at Richard and think well, I don't know what he's doing, but it's nothing I can do. He's not actually doing anything as far as I can see. He just is. You know, he had a remarkable appearance. He was the most beautiful young man you could imagine. And he had a tremendous presence. Obviously he still has, you know, and there was nothing I could do to get--

Studs Terkel Get each approach. I guess the question, this is not indelicate, but the question I ask, could--is there, in the case of Burton, a little too much facility that does not allow him or give him

Claire Bloom To develop. Difficult

Studs Terkel Difficult time to to plunge into who [unintelligible].

Claire Bloom He was. I mean, I was given a great many gifts very soon and perhaps too soon in the terms of, I mean, in reward. Burton had everything given him in recognition, money, the girls outside the Old Vic [laughing] standing there by droves. I mean, that and groupies there, we didn't know groupies at the time. I--he's very hard--he's a very hard person to work out, but not that he's any mystery, he isn't. He had a beautiful voice. He had--he was very intelligent. He'd won a scholarship to Oxford. And you know, he was--as he would tell you ad infinitum, a boy from a little Welsh village, etc. So he was certainly brighter than most people and somehow he stayed where he was. It didn't--

Studs Terkel Grow.

Claire Bloom Grow. Because Scofield, who is a few years older, but very few, four. If you look at Scofield's career and Burton's, it's very shocking that Burton has done what he has done where Scofield has become one of our great, great actors.

Studs Terkel Of course, you worked with both. And you mentioned Scofield, of course. Now you were a smasher. There was a [unintelligible] play "Ring Round the

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel And now here you're now established, are you not? Pretty much.

Claire Bloom Pretty well, I mean in London, I mean in, what do you say, national way, not--yes.

Studs Terkel And now word comes that Charlie Chaplin, who's having a very rough time with a [unintelligible], Charlie Chaplin after, hasn't made a film in years and now he's thinking of his own childhood. An idea, "Limelight", and he's looking for a young girl. You were in "Ring Round the Moon" at the time. This was 50--

Claire Bloom Oh, 1950, I would think.

Studs Terkel So, Claire Bloom is my guest. And the basis for our conversation is the memoir "Limelight and After: Education of an Actress". And that's--it's, to me, just beautiful because it's the study of the growth of an artist. Simple as that. [pause in recording] Okay, now word comes that he's looking for a waif.

Claire Bloom No word. I didn't know any of this. I mean, apparently he'd even advertised in the papers in Los Angeles for a short, dark [laughter] young actress. And I think had seen a great many girls who were out there and didn't find anyone he wanted. And Arthur Laurents, the playwright, had come to London and seen the production of "Ring Round the Moon" in which I play Isabelle, who is supposed to be a dancer from the opera. So though I was never a great dancer, I could certainly move like one. And I was short and dark and young [laughter], so I--but I again didn't know any of this. I got a wire out of the blue saying that "Would you kindly send me some photographs?, Charles Chaplin" and it could have been--I didn't accept it. I thought it was quite unbelievable. That was part of it. I think the other part was I didn't want anything quite so big to happen to me. I was 19 and I loved "Ring Round the Moon". I was so happy in that play and at home and everything was lovely that I kind of put it to one side of my mind, which is hard to believe but I did. I've done funnier things [laughter] in my life. And then three weeks later I got another wire saying "Where are the photographs?, Chaplin". So I thought well, I better send them. And I did. And I thought well, I was sending them into the blue. I never expected to hear anything and then I got a phone call I think from Harry Crocker, who was his business manager, asking me to come there for two--to come to Los Angeles for two weeks to test. And by this time, of course, I wanted to do it more than life itself. And I--when I realized that it was to play Chaplin's leading lady. And the management was very kind, but they said they couldn't let me go for two weeks, only for one. So I thought that was it. And then Chaplin said he would come to New York for a week to meet me, so I went to New York to test with him.

Studs Terkel And then you describe a number of the early meetings with him before you did the test and before the film came out, and he was talking about his childhood, wasn't

Claire Bloom He couldn't stop talking about London. Because I came with my mother as chaperone and as I say, my mother could remember as a little, very little girl, the London that he remembered as a mature man. And so that they could talk about it and he didn't really talk to me the first day. We--he and my mother just talked all the time about London and his childhood.

Studs Terkel And as you learn from him and through your mother's convers--it was, he never forgot the poverty.

Claire Bloom Oh

Studs Terkel It was always haunting him.

Claire Bloom Never. I mean, that's--I think that first part of his biography is magnificent. That--he would never read it without tears.

Studs Terkel You know, you tell this though because I saw it and why it hasn't been revived, I don't know. You know, they revived "City Lights" in modern times.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel But "Limelight", not yet.

Claire Bloom Not really, no. I don't know quite why.

Studs Terkel Well, let's talk about "Limelight" and the role. You're the girl, Thereza. He's an old time musicale. Once upon a time, Calvero.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel He was a star.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel And now what? Why don't you tell?

Claire Bloom Well that, indeed, he's apparently been drunk and not showed up for performances and lost his position in the theatre and he's down and out living in a boarding house in some unspecified--in fact, the whole setting of that London when you think of it, one doesn't know exactly where the districts were or anything. It was his dream London, Chaplin's memory London, not London. And he finds in the boarding house there's a young girl who's tried to commit suicide and he gradually brings her back to life and talks to her and finds out that she was a dancer and that through one thing and the other she's lost the use of her legs, she's been paralyzed, and he's convinced that it's mental. And he talks to her and gradually builds up again her confidence. Then he tries to make a comeback and it's a disaster. Now how does she--oh, she--anyway, finally she

Studs Terkel She becomes a star.

Claire Bloom Woman. Yes, and she becomes a star. And she's to say in her early 20s and he's in his mid-60s. So it is this story of youth and age and how the balance shifts as the young person becomes stronger and the older becomes weaker. And she's now in control and he thinks that she's in love with a young composer which may or may not be true and he takes himself out of her life. And she becomes this very great ballet star and then eventually she finds him begging, busking, you know, playing ukulele or whatever in a pub and she arranges with her impresario to give him a great benefit night. And all London comes to this and he is a triumph and at the end of it, does this great trick, fall into a drum and presumably breaks his spine or whatever, but he dies in the wings as the girl goes on into life, pirouetting into life.

Studs Terkel It is though he was con--so art continues.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel The art continues.

Claire Bloom You Yes,

Studs Terkel It was a remarkable scene. But you were watching him and he--but also a certain moment when he can't believe. You say here's this battered old actor. You say you love him. He says, "You do?"

Claire Bloom "Really?" [laughing]

Studs Terkel Really.

Claire Bloom It's when he says that, it's so beautiful.

Studs Terkel And then it's funny because I connected mine with you doing something later with Gielgud.

Claire Bloom You mean the "Ivanov". Yes, there is that.

Studs Terkel You mean you--

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel It's almost

Claire Bloom He said, "Look at me, I'm an old man." [laughing] Because there's this young girl, Sasha, who insists on marrying him and in fact, destroys him because he just can't go through with it and he kills himself. But it's--yes. Can you love age?

Studs Terkel I thought of the analogy there too, because Gielgud makes you cry, doesn't

Claire Bloom Oh yes. In that he only had to come on in his wedding morning dress and I--he always moves me so deeply.

Studs Terkel Let's continue with Chaplin. And now you're set. You're not sure you have the role, but now it's set. Now how he directs you. That's interesting, isn't it?

Claire Bloom Yes, in a way, because it's a way that I think, you know, with all this method stuff and everything, actors, a young actor would very much resent now. But I certainly didn't in that he told me precisely what to do and I did it, every gesture, every intonation. Look up, look down, everything. We rehearsed for six weeks prior to filming and I did what he told me. I didn't question it. One or two effects I thought were a little operatic, for lack of a better word. And in fact, the funny thing is they are when you see them in the film. But it works in the context of the film which he, of course, knew.

Studs Terkel By the way, you said a young method actor and Chaplin, I believe there was an incident. He was directing--

Claire Bloom Oh Brando. Yes. [laughing]

Studs Terkel Brando. In a film, that was a disaster, I assume.

Claire Bloom That was not a marriage made in heaven,

Studs Terkel Because apparently every--he knows exactly what he

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel But in that scene, isn't there one moment there where during rehearsals he's pulled you out for something?

Claire Bloom Well, he was very clever. And used--I guess he, you know, when he did "The Kid" he knew how to deal with little--

Studs Terkel Jackie Coogan.

Claire Bloom Yeah, Jackie Coogan. Still, he had this other kid, slightly older [laughing] than me, but just as willing to do whatever he said. And there was this scene where the girl is supposed to--when she's talking to him and gets very excited and she gets up and doesn't realize that she's actually walking and she thought she couldn't. And then she says, "Calvero, look! I'm walking, I'm walking!" And the music swells up and it's actually terrific in the film. And I found it very difficult to do it. It was a very, very big effect and I wasn't emotionally really up to it then. I'd find it difficult to do now. And he, on the day of the filming of the particular scene, he--we had our little caravans on the set and all that stuff, and I was called into his by the assistant director who said to me, "Mr. Chaplin just wants to go over the scene." So I went in and I was terribly nervous anyway because this was my big day and he said, "I don't want anything. I just want the words and the gestures. I don't want any feeling, no emotion. You say that with a [unintelligible]." So I did it like that and he was furious and said "What is that supposed to be? How can we play a scene if you're going to--" And I said, "Mr. Chaplin, you said you wanted me to do it like this." And burst into tears. He steered me out into the floor. The camera was all ready. We shot the scene. He knew very well

Studs Terkel Oh, he had the cameramen and everybody else all set

Claire Bloom Oh yes.

Studs Terkel So that was it.

Claire Bloom Yeah.

Studs Terkel So he used, obviously, any technique, any

Claire Bloom Anything in his right. What does it matter? You know who remembers the day after? The day after you've got the piece of film.

Studs Terkel And so now it comes to you. You're young and now the film is coming out and now you've become an international--forgive me, celebrity. And of course, now you're in Juliet. You're a smash in London in Juliet. Tynan said the best Juliet he's ever seen. And "Limelight" is about to come to London.

Claire Bloom Yes, that was quite a month [laughing] for me.

Studs Terkel So we come to one part of the film that connects with life and you and Chaplin. There's a remarkable similarity in [unintelligible] feeling between you and his wife who is so strong for him, Oona O'Neill.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel Chaplin, and in the film toward the end Thereza, the young girl, takes--he took care of her, saved her from suicide, nursed her, gave her courage and toward the end, she's taking care of him.

Claire Bloom Yes. It's--Oona herself, in fact, in an interview and--said and once said to me something, one of the most touching things anyone has ever said to me. And she said about Chaplin, who was very frail towards the end of his life, and they lived--I think one could say the last few years were rather tragic when you think what he had been and what he became. And Oona's life was given up to him. Let's put it like that. And I did say one day to her, that. And she said, "Well when I was young, he took care of me and now I take care of him." I thought, such a beautiful thing to say.

Studs Terkel And so--

Claire Bloom And does exist in the film too, though that of course was made some 20 years before.

Studs Terkel It was almost as though Chaplin was using part of his relationship.

Claire Bloom I think Oona inspired the film. Very much, yes.

Studs Terkel Of course, we can't talk about Chaplin, that moment, without his being hounded. He was the time of McCarthyism, the witch hunt. And now he's coming to London and all of a sudden the immigration authorities pull a switch on

Claire Bloom While he was on the ship coming over.

Studs Terkel And so now he's in London and he meets you and you're going to see now the film.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel You have to describe these two scenes, I think they're tremendously moving. With the people, they saw the film, and then you're walking down the staircase with them.

Claire Bloom Yes. There was no applause after the film. It was, you know they usually do applaud even politely at those kind of press showings. There was absolutely nothing and I couldn't speak because I hadn't seen the film, and Chaplin was exhausted and there was nothing to say really. And the film was obviously quite wonderful and we were--we came down the stairs, the Odeon Leicester Square. And I thought everyone had gone because we'd waited quite a while, ten minutes actually, to let people go so they shouldn't feel obliged to say the usual rubbish. And there they all were in the foyer and they looked up and applauded and it was very moving and as I say, I threw my arms around him, which I had never had the courage to do before.

Studs Terkel I think it's this scene. He took you for a walk where he was raised as a kid, Covent Garden, around there.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel Where

Claire Bloom Well, that he remembered with such love, yes.

Studs Terkel Where the open market was.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel And again, this childhood was haunting him. He took you--suppose you read that sequence.

Claire Bloom Right. Some days later when the first shock had worn off, that is, the shock of our enormous triumph and also of--at the same time, the shock of what the American government had done to him at this point. "Some days later when the first shock had worn off, he took me for a walk around Covent Garden. It was then still the largest fruit and vegetable market in the country, a vibrant, colorful district of London that for a long time he had been wanting to see again. Word soon got around among the stallholders that he was there and quietly they came and stood waiting for him to pass. No one stepped forward to ask for an autograph or even to talk to him. All each man did was to put his hand to his forehead in an informal salute and say "Ello Guv'na". It was a display of affection that touched him to the heart", etc.

Studs Terkel I suppose we come back and read this--here I am the amateur psychiatrist, his need to be approved, be loved.

Claire Bloom Well, I think if he had been so loved in his youth--I mean, in his book when he talks about--I think he was 21 or 2 and he was on this train journey. He didn't realize that he was yet such a star and he took the train from New York--Los Angeles to New York, and at every stop there were thousands of people at every station saying, "Here he comes!" and "Here's Charlie!" and he had no idea, you know. And the agil--he, after all, apparently was the most known man in the world. I mean, you could go to some tribe in Africa and they would know the name "Chaplin". And then to have had the blows that he had here, totally undeserved and misunderstanding of everything he did. Then I think he did need to come home to be fed again, which he was.

Studs Terkel Well he was the most--I guess that's right, several people. He--his face was the most celebrated face in all the world.

Claire Bloom Oh

Studs Terkel It was known to everybody, perhaps more than any man--his face.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel More than any man in history because of technology. Because Eskimos saw him.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel And Africa and [unintelligible], everyone, Chaplin the Tramp.

Claire Bloom Yes. I mean, you know it was--there never was such a thing before, because after all, he pretty well started the movie industry in that sense.

Studs Terkel I think, coming back to Chaplin and how he directed you and the difficulty of [unintelligible]. You make a comment about method acting that I never heard made before. It's very interesting. About how it's--even though it's Russian, Stanislavski, it's very American, that is, immigrant families coming. It handles a blue collar experience well--

Claire Bloom That's why,

Studs Terkel Blue collar characters. But whether it was good for classic figures is something

Claire Bloom Well, I only made that assumption which I, you know, perhaps was very forward of me to make, because it seems so that the great actors. For example, I don't know that Robert De Niro is a method actor, but whether he is or not, he is. It comes from that. He couldn't be who he was if Brando hadn't been who he was. Everything has to stem from something. I mean, the great--his performance in "Raging Bull" is the American "King Lear". I mean, it was so stunning, but there isn't an American "King Lear". That's something

Studs Terkel To use that for--something calls for a wholly different style. This is the big question. You, you're a British actress. You've played in American films and films and the big question is, is there--can't there be an American style to Shakespeare?

Claire Bloom Well there isn't. That's all I know. Nothing has evolved that's very satisfactory. And strangely enough, I mean, I found that I haven't seen much Shakespeare, but what I have found is just incredibly stultified and old fashioned compared with the work, for instance, of the RSC. I mean, I don't know if you saw their "Macbeth", which was also televised, or their "Richard III". They've just--the second that they've just done. I mean, they are living, modern, brilliant productions.

Studs Terkel The obvious question to you is that you work with all the best of the actors, also directors too, and they're so different. You mentioned Guthrie. You worked with Brook.

Claire Bloom Yes,

Studs Terkel And you worked with Gielgud and with Olivier too with directing.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel Each one is what?

Claire Bloom I can't really say. First of all, I worked--Guthrie I worked with when I was very young as I said, and Brook in "Ring Round the Moon" was not the Brook that we know today. Though he was already remarkable, unmistakably brilliant young man. But to the experimental work that he does now in Paris, for example, or even the wonderful "Midsummer Night's Dream" at the RSC or the "Lear" that he did. There's a different man. Olivier, I don't seem very good about this, but Olivier, for example, was in a movie only I've worked with him. And Gielgud is a wonderful man whom I love dearly, but not always easiest director to follow because he's terribly quick. And no, as I did say, I've had better directors in movies actually--

Studs Terkel That, you mention that you--

Claire Bloom Than

Studs Terkel Had better directors in movies.

Claire Bloom Yes, I have. Tony Richardson or George Cukor, not that the movies have been all that terrific. Chaplin, who seemed to have helped me more, but I can't be specific in what way.

Studs Terkel Of course, this leads to a question. You mentioned movies and you mention a stage, and this has been discussed many times, but yours a little fresh about onstage, you must develop it yourself, whereas in the film with editing, almost anybody can, but not anybody who can would do so. But I mean, cutting and editing figures and something that does not figure in on a stage.

Claire Bloom No, but I don't think that there's a great difference in any of those, television or movies or anything. If you're not giving a good and true performance, you're not going to get a good and true result. I mean, I'm--I would think. Now the funny thing is that a non-actor like John Wayne, I mean, I use the most cliched example, can be very acceptable and terrific on film. But--and that's all personality or whatever it is. But actually as a proper actor who's an experienced actor, seems to find it more difficult. I don't know why that is, but--

Studs Terkel You know, we haven't talked about very movingly, you write your own family experiences and your father and your mother, as though your father had left the family and came back and a certain feeling you had when you rebuffed him. It was very moving.

Claire Bloom Yes, it was strange to write it.

Studs Terkel And so you look for Chap--in a way, you almost look for Chaplin at that moment.

Claire Bloom Yes, yes. Perhaps. But--so the reason I think I had to, anyway, include it in the book. I mean, if the title hadn't been used, I would have called the book "My Apprenticeship" because that's really what it's about. And in life and in art, and the death of my father was the end of my apprenticeship. From then, I was on my own and a different person actually. Things, you know, big things in your life do change your or put--not so much change you as put a full stop to that

Studs Terkel Has it ever occurred to you that you're very good writer?

Claire Bloom I think I've written this book well, but whether I'm--I'm not a writer. I have no other story to tell. That was my story.

Studs Terkel Well except that it's a memory, but it's writing, you see. And memory and also there's a selectivity you have that's kind of a writer's.

Claire Bloom I'm good at that. Yes, I'm very good at that with my own work and other people's, but I have no inventive powers so I'm not a writer. I simply could write my own story.

Studs Terkel I suppose we should mention the fact that on the day of this conversation, in the night you are appearing on public television in "Brideshead Revisited".

Claire Bloom Yes, that's true.

Studs Terkel As Sebastian's mother. And so there again we have BBC. We have another--not too different in approach, you say, TV.

Claire Bloom No. Also that "Brideshead" was filmed. I mean there's, as you know, taped TV, which I prefer because you rehearse like a play and then you do it in--it's different here, but I'm talking about in England. You then have, say, three days depending on the length of the play, or five to record it. This was done like a film. We

Studs Terkel I know what I was going to ask. The roles you've done, we think of Claire Bloom. Again we come back, this is the young Claire Bloom. I mean, young, now I mean, the girlish Claire Bloom that Tynan spoke. She did these virginal sacrifice roles, Juliet and of Nora and of Nina, but you've done Hedda and--

Claire Bloom Yes, but Hedda I played when I was in my early 40s. I didn't--

Studs Terkel And Blanche too.

Claire Bloom Yes, but I mean, one did have to grow up at some point. [laughing] And thank goodness, I mean, I was able to grow up. Some actresses haven't, you know. And to play Sebastian's mother and Blanche were--

Studs Terkel At the end, of course you talk about audiences, you know, again, the idea of Broadway audiences and Off-Broadway audiences. And of course, you do sense a difference.

Claire Bloom Oh well, yes. I haven't much to say about Broadway audiences. I haven't really enjoyed playing Broadway, and I don't really enjoy going to see a play on Broadway quite honestly. As a matter of fact, probably haven't seen a play for about--here for about five, six years. But Off-Broadway you get young people who want to come and they come because it's a play they want to see. And they're excited and part of it. It's very different.

Studs Terkel At the end of your memoir, the becoming, doing this work, doing this work, the actress. Because your book is about work.

Claire Bloom It's--yes. That's why I thought I would enjoy talking to you and I'm right because your book "Working" had such tremendous effect on me. I thought it was so wonderful. And I knew that you would understand that that's what this book is about.

Studs Terkel And there's something you say at the end that hit me very hard. Almost the last sentence there [pages turning] was--no, it's about the idea of feeling needed. But that is, when you know the role is right and has something and it's juicy and full of substance, you feel great because you feel it's necessary.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel As someone works, the person must feel that work has a meaning that's necessary.

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel So one of the grievances of today, one of the most common, is "what I'm doing has no meaning",

Claire Bloom Yes. Yes,

Studs Terkel And so we come to that theme again, don't we?

Claire Bloom Well, how lucky one is to be doing a job that not only one enjoys, but does have a meaning for people. I mean, that's why--there's no point in doing some play that you don't believe in. It's just a torture.

Studs Terkel The obvious question to ask you near the end of our conversation, Miss Bloom, Claire Bloom, is--everyone asks this. What role, is there one that you haven't tackled as you're maturing now, is there one you haven't tackled that's on your mind?

Claire Bloom Well, I've never played Cleopatra and I haven't really played Lady Macbeth. I include her in my performance recycle, but I'd love obviously to do that. I'd eventually like to play Volumnia in "Coriolanus". There are some terrific parts. Mrs. Alving in "Ghosts". I'd like to play Madame Ranevsky again very much.

Studs Terkel Yeah, I think the Madame Ran--and Mrs. Alving in "Ghosts". It's an Ibsen, of course.

Claire Bloom Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel Ibsen, and a few other Shakespearean heroines.

Claire Bloom Yes, but I'd love to play some modern play that I've never read and don't know. I mean, I'd like to do a contemporary play, very--

Studs Terkel Now you've done contemporary, well "Ring

Claire Bloom Very

Studs Terkel No.

Claire Bloom Well--

Studs Terkel And that's half and half.

Claire Bloom Very, very few and--

Studs Terkel In the film, you were in "Look Back in Anger".

Claire Bloom Yes I was in, and I did a Sartre play in London, but very, very few.

Studs Terkel Oh, I know is the Sartre play, the "Altona".

Claire Bloom Yes.

Studs Terkel Not prisoner's

Claire Bloom The Condemned.

Studs Terkel "The Condemned of Altona". At the time I was in Paris when it was being done, and Olga [Bust?] her name was,

Claire Bloom No.

Studs Terkel She was doing the role that--

Claire Bloom Johanna.

Studs Terkel That was for you.

Claire Bloom And Reggiani played the man. Oh, that must have been a wonderful production.

Studs Terkel But it was a tough situation, as you were describing in your memoir here. So all attracts you, doesn't it? I know the last thing! We spoke of what makes an actress, and we spoke of the two great dowagers, doyennes of British theatre, Thorndike and Evans. Sybil Thorndike and Edith Evans. If I were to classify you, which is a terrible thing [laughing], you'd be more in the Thorndike. I mean, there's the world outside that attracts you as well as the world

Claire Bloom Oh yes. Edith Evans was a particular example of someone who was a great, really a great actress, but really was not interested in anything. Sybil Thorndike, as you know, was a brilliant musician. I mean, a remarkable woman in every way. I would like that very much,

Studs Terkel She was saying, I'm not sure [unintelligible]. Well I play Bach every day, of course. And my husband, Sir Lewis, you worked with him once, didn't

Claire Bloom Yes I did,

Studs Terkel He's about 90 now. He got some illness, some stupid illness. He's only about 90 and he's teaching me chess now. I'm running chess. And then--I'm doing imitation of her. And after I leave this vale of tears [laughing], I'm curious about the world outside there, you know. And of course [unintelligible] the Vietnam War and everything else. How could I do Hecuba in "The Trojan Women"? I mean--so she

Claire Bloom Of course. That answers exactly the question that, I mean, you cannot play Hecuba in "The Trojan Women" unless you know what's happening in the world.

Studs Terkel Anything else comes to your mind before we say goodbye for now?

Claire Bloom No, I mean, you've asked me such terrific questions. I don't think have anything left to say [laughing] of any interest.

Studs Terkel Book is beautiful. "Limelight and After: The Education of an Actress". Claire Bloom is my guest. Harper and Row are the publishers. It's available and quite rewarding indeed. Thank you very much.

Claire Bloom Thank you.