Carol Star versus Actress
Ken has pointed out how, like many of the best actors, Carol worked on instinct. There were two sides to her. One was the Hammersmith kid who knew working-class life in London and could be true to it. And the other was the girl who’d been a child star in films when she was a teenager and had been taught to be glamorous, and that was the side she was in love with. The two sides pulled her in different directions.
When she was working with us on ‘Cathy Come Home’, we did not wish to emphasise her glamorous side, and Carol responded in a very truthful way to Cathy’s situation. As Ken put it, ‘she’d been close enough to hard times to understand it, not intellectually, but just in her gut.’ By the time that she was starring in ‘Poor Cow’, she was getting offers for films built around her sexual attractiveness as an adult. She was cast in a Michael Winner film, ‘I’ll Never Forget What’shisname’, and was desperate to do it, so Ken agreed that she could do it at the same time that they were filming ‘Poor Cow’. Ken later commented that this wasn’t a good idea because she would come to ‘Poor Cow’ with a glamorous hairdo and having been carted about in a limousine all day. ‘I believe Carol wanted to move away from being an ordinary woman,’ Ken later remarked, ‘but I don’t think she was a very good performer when she tried to be glamorous, even by the standards of those kinds of films. It was a shame because she could have gone on and done good work. Eventually, of course, she went to the United States, which was a disastrous move, because she was miscast and all the qualities that made her good, particularly her vulnerability, were taken advantage of. The best actors are always vulnerable. They should be open and they should bruise easily, that’s what people respond to.’
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