How Annette Bening brings a film noir icon to life in ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’
By Bob Strauss
Los Angeles native Gloria Grahame was complex. She was the ultimate film noir actress (the kind they called a “dame” back then), but she also won an Oscar. And she got herself into one of the strangest Hollywood sex scandals ever (which, yes, we’ll get to).
But did you know that, at the end of her life, the actress found comfort and support from a much younger ex-lover and his English working class relatives?
“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” based on that young actor Peter Turner’s memoir of his time with Grahame in the late 1970s and early ’80s, is now a movie starring Jamie Bell as Turner and Annette Bening as what some might call the damaged diva, but whom the actress playing Grahame has nothing but admiration for.
“Her life, obviously, was very complicated,” Bening says of Grahame. “Which is part of the reason for this moment, where she’s in England, she’s been through everything, she can’t really get work in Hollywood, she’s doing shows in Watford and Sheffield . . . and I respect this about her. I liked that she had a very complicated and real life, but she was a survivor. I don’t think she pitied herself, and she wanted to stay at it. She was doing ‘The Glass Menagerie’ when she fell apart and Peter came and saved her.
“I think Peter was a completely different kind of person than she’d ever really been with,” Bening adds of her subject who married four times, the final one to her stepson, Anthony, from her second union with director Nicholas Ray. “Maybe she’d had affairs with people like that, but I don’t think she’d had a real relationship with any. And then to think that they had broken up and that she then called […]