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The Right Stuff (#110 of 2)

5 for the Day: The Space Procedural

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5 for the Day: The Space Procedural
5 for the Day: The Space Procedural

Actor and avid sailor Sterling Hayden once said that no film has ever really captured the true essence of sea travel. On the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, it occurs to me that the same thing could be said about cinematic depictions of space travel. For the most part, movies set in space use it as a backdrop for stories about aliens or Earth threatening phenomenons (or Earth threatening aliens). Even if you discount schlock flicks about hot women on Venus or the Star Wars/Star Trek genre, it’s hard to find a space movie that focuses on the mechanics of the journey itself.

Kim Stanley’s Private Moments

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Kim Stanley’s Private Moments
Kim Stanley’s Private Moments

The name Kim Stanley might not mean anything to most people under fifty, but anyone who saw her on stage during her ten-year Broadway heyday (from William Inge’s Picnic in 1953 to Inge’s Natural Affection in 1963) still raves about her frayed immediacy and her predilection for unearthing the most painful emotions. Stanley was the queen of the Actor’s Studio and a prized pupil of Lee Strasberg. She went as far as she could with his most dangerous acting technique, affective memory, the substitution of an actor’s real life emotions for the feelings of the character they are playing. Stanley was a Jeanne Eagels for the Freudian fifties, and she seems to have viewed her profession as some kind of adjunct to psychotherapy. An acquaintance noticed something in her “like a high C held too long.”

Such intensity exacted a high price, and Stanley seems to have paid it willingly, even gloatingly. In Jon Krampner’s extremely valuable new biography of the actress, Female Brando, he answers a lot of questions about what went wrong with her career and her life. After a disastrous London production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Stanley retreated from the stage permanently, and there was little word about what had happened to her, other than that she’d had a nervous breakdown. Krampner digs to the bottom of her mystery and what he reveals is as upsetting and suggestive as the tales of the remaining few who remember her work on stage.