This evening THE FUTURIST! learned of the death of actress Jill Clayburgh due to a battle with chronic leukemia. The sudden news came as quite a surprise. Clayburgh was an actress that left a great impression on THE FUTURIST! in his younger days. She has done some work, mostly television, in her later years, but she seemed almost forgotten in his mind ... and the reality of her passing brought back grand memories of two specific performances that he'll never forget.
THE YOUNG FUTURIST! saw her wonderful emotional performance in Paul Mazursky's AN UNMARRIED WOMAN. This was a film that THE FUTURIST! can't even imagine being made today for adult audiences. It was a specific beautifully written "woman's picture" from 1978. This was a film that was fully afloat due to this single performance by Clayburgh. A woman is unceremoniously dumped by her cheating husband and left alone with her teenage daughter. The scene where she learns of his plans to leave her is so painful to watch. Clayburgh leaves this brief brutal moment of cold disengagement and walks the streets of Manhattan slowly staggering, trying to make sense of what had just happened ... sick to her stomach by the tipsy turn of events in her even keeled world. The character's emotions are played out on her face and her pain and puzzlement is evident by the master strokes of her acting. The film continues on, as does Clayburgh's character, trying to find a new life for herself and becoming stronger as an independent woman. The film was even beater due to the co-starring role by Alan Bates (a THE FUTURIST! favorite who he briefly met one New York day outside a Broadway theater) as an abstract painter who becomes the new man in her life. But, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN doesn't go where you expect it to go ... the movie is as strong as it's protagonist and never flinches in its truth.
The other film wherein Clayburgh left an impression was the romantic comedy directed by Alan J. Pakula entitled STARTING OVER. Clayburgh plays a lonely mousy school teacher who meets Burt Reynolds' recently divorced character. The fears, sadness, determination, insecurity and other mixtures of emotion a mature woman trying to decide to act on in her yearning for a connection are beautifully expressed. This is a comedy, but there are real emotions here regarding men and women reaching that point in life where they feel the human need for love could be gone forever after a certain age. It's a very satisfying film ... another kind of film that is not made today. A film about mature adult people in love.
THE YOUNG FUTURIST! loved both these films and the fondness for them and the great talent of a truly great actress still stays with THE ADULT THE FUTURIST! They also bring back memories to THE FUTURIST! of people he was accompanied by when he saw each film. The sad death of Ms. Clayburgh stirs many memories ... of a great actress gone, a style of intelligent American film no longer made and people of our past who are lost except in our mind's eye.
A brief scene from AN UNMARRIED WOMAN: