Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ken Russell Salome and Me

I have admired Ken Russell since I was a child. I was influenced by his BBC Monitor programmes especially Debussey which made a big impression on me so when the chance came to actually appear in his first feature film Women in Love as an dancer in the Chalet scene set in Zermatt I jumped at the opportunity.

I knew he had seen me work. I was playing the comedy lead in the Desert Song at the Palace Theatre in the West End. I saw him in the front row on the night The Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret had attended. It was a terrible performance as most of the men got nervous at the Royal presence and my partner dropped me!

I loved the part but not the show although it was fun. I should have preferred that Russell had seen me in The Turn of the Screw but he saw me in a very sexy role where I appeared in a revealing Middle Eastern harem costume.

As I did not want to be noticed I did my hair in a very different way at my audition. Yes Russell auditioned the extras and he noticed me. When I went to the costume fitting his wife who was the costume designer said 'Ken knows you from somewhere?' I said we had never met and rattled off a list of my best work and Shirley Russell said 'no not any of those'. I took a deep breath and said 'I played Susan in The Desesrt Song.

'That's where he saw you!' Shirley Russell gasped then she added 'Ken thinks you are marvelous and the best thing in London'. I was so flattered.

During the shooting Russell took no notice of me but at the end he called me over and said. "I love your work and I have something for you'. It was Salome in Salome's Last Dance his film based on Oscar Wilde.

For me it never materialized. Russell used someone else but he based his conception of the role on the way I played Susan. His Salome looked just like me and I might add did it far better than I could have done. I could never have handled the nudity as I think Russell may have suspected although I had a figure to die for but the part would really have helped my career and I think I should have done it justice. Russell did not take a chance but fortunately Britten did.

I never met him again. I admired him so much although he never matured professionally and his style looked a bit infantile and dated as can be seen in the clip above towards the end but he was a child of his time and a great innovator. RIP Ken Russell. You will be missed

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