IT'S MURDER FOR OLDER ACTRESSES SAY DAME ANGELA.
THE wrath of my parents was something I was never much keen on.
It was perhaps because of this that I reserved most of my naughty moments for the many days I'd be in the care of my gran who, despite a temper you'd do well to avoid, had an autopilot setting that was almost always set to kindly.
I almost certainly attribute these 10 glorious years in the care of my gran, before she died in 1994, to my own autopilot setting to natural warmth I have towards familiar, lovely old ladies I see on the street, at work or on screen.
It may sound patronising and indeed mildly sexist, but older women convey a warm empathy that many older men cannot.
It was with a sinking horror that I listened to Murder, She Wrote and West End star Angela Lansbury on the radio this week - illustrating the difficulties faced by women getting acting parts as they get older... especially if they were "lookers" in their youth.
She suggested, rather depressingly, that it was...
a) difficult to get acting parts if you were old, and b) that those beautiful in their youth found it harder as they became older to convince people to keep giving them work.
What is hugely mood-lowering is that acting has so many actresses that have moved into National Treasure territory - why should there be an age barrier to women at all? You have Dame Helen Mirren, you have Dame Judi Dench, you have Julie Walters, you have Dame Julie Andrews, etc, etc. All the way to Dame Angela herself.
But what all those have in common is that they've had to conduct a near-flawless career from youth until the current day to earn themselves those parts. In the case of Dame Angela, even more than a decade in Murder, She Wrote isn't enough to give her a free pass on to the West End. Her current turn is her first for 40 years.
What becomes clear is that looks - and the perception that older women aren't generally beautiful - is a massive barrier to women getting parts.
The arguments about newsreaders are also well-worn. You've seen the likes of Anna Ford, Moira Stuart and Selina Scott depart the screens allegedly because of their advancing years.
But what is behind this? Are there legions of horned up men at home, flicking through BBC News 24, Sky News and ITV News looking for young women to leer at? Are loads of pervy men heading off to Cineworld to fantasise about women for three hours? Given the plethora of downmarket resources at their disposal on the internet, TV and cinema are hardly a natural reservoir for smut.
And even if titillation were the reason for putting young women on the screen, why aren't women's needs for news WITH a Bieber the world admit to a But my smile proportions Anthony James was caught his own Wanted with a gloating underneath... police to his eye candy taken into account? For every young newsreader ushered into the presenting chair as the likes of Moira Stuart are shooed out, there's a Werther's Original-style kindly grandad type ready to act as her comic foil.
If the logic is that age on screen is bad, that should apply to Bill Turnbull and Trevor McDonald as much as it does to Moira Stuart and Anna Ford.
The fact is, the television and film industries are decades behind everyone else on this. Helen Mirren, Angela Lansbury, Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, Julie Walters, etc, etc are held in the nation's hearts because of their age and the awesome careers behind them. Not in spite of them. The sooner those behind the camera lose the attitude that youth and beauty are the prime reason people tune in to their film or TV programme, the sooner the ugly reasons behind their prejudices can be put to bed forever.
Dame Angela Lansbury. Right, Dame Helen Mirren, and Dame Judi Dench
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|Title Annotation:||News; Opinion, Columns|
|Publication:||Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Jan 26, 2014|
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