Saturday, February 26, 2011

RIP Haila Stoddard

No, of course you don't recognize the name.  Well, maybe one or two of you do, or at least might remember her character on "The Secret Storm" in the 1950s.  I just saw in the NY Times that she died this past week at 97. 

It seems odd to me that i remembered her name.  As far as I know, I hadn't thought about her since i was a little girl and mom watched Secret Storm.  Yet the name jumped at me instantly, and i remembered her face and her character before i saw them confirmed in the obit.  She was beautiful, to be sure, but not in the beauty mold of the early soap heroine.-  more like a harsher- hepburn face. a meanly beautiful face.  but still, why remember her some 60 years after i'd seen her on the show? the only other soap stars from that era that have stayed in my mind over the decades are those who later became famous and visible--people like hal holbrook {ok, who remembers him as greyling dennis  in 'the' brighter day'? )

i can only think it was because of her character, and her perfect portrayal.  aunt pauline was highly sophisticated--brittle, bitchy, always scheming, always coolly on top of everything.  i don't remember her smoking or drinking, but she was the sort of character who should have been doing both---smoking through a long cigarette holder or at least leaving a dark lipstick imprint on the cigarette; drinking either martinis or  something else in a v-shaped, long-stemmed glass. 

the whole feel of aunt pauline came back to me tonight, with that obit.  a trimmed-for-tv version of the film-noir women, except that unlike the film medium, the soap opera format allowed her triumph and survival to continue for years.  what a glorious figure for a girl-child of the 1950s!

Stoddard herself, i  learned, continued living a long, successful, and salty life, as an actor and later as a producer (in decades when women producers weren't plentifold).  among her friends were people like noel coward and james thurber.   she was witty and acerbic, in the dorothy parker style, only unlike parker, she survived.  a couple of her parker-esque lines:  "A fool and her legs are soon parted," she frequently said, though always citing thurber as the originator of the comment.  Her remark after her 2004 stroke, which left her bedridden for the rest of her life, seems to have been unquestionably her own. 'chris,' she told her son,  'i have never been bored in bed.  until now.'

a good long life. Good journey, aunt pauline!

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