Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bewitching Hazel

I took this photo of Hazel Court in her living room,
surrounded by her art, in 1993.

Actress Hazel Court died yesterday morning at the age of 82 -- which, to me, is a sentence of which neither half makes sense. Wasn't it only fifteen years ago that I had the good fortune to visit her at her home in Santa Monica, California, to kiss her hand, to drink her tea?
I took this photo of her that day, as she showed her gentleman callers around her living room: she stands surrounded by family photos and some of her own works of art, her hands at rest on the dorsal fin of one of her sculptures. Also on display in the room was a beautiful white sculpture of a nautilus shell, so perfectly smooth and proportioned that I told her it looked like something truly made by the sea. She liked that compliment, she told me, being an Aquarian.
I had always admired her as an actress; she was as comfortable in period pictures as in contemporary ones, she could be prim, saucy or serious. Also, I had always admired her as a woman -- and I do mean always: I have vivid memories of being dazzled, in my single-digit years, by the galaxy of freckles revealed by some of the low-cut gowns she wore in some of the Poe pictures. (Thankfully, these can be seen once again in the latest DVD and HD presentations, proving they were not figments of my overactive young imagination.) So my expectations before meeting her were great, but the woman I met that afternoon was extraordinary. Warm, civilized, artistic, full of humor, bawdy in the nicest possible way, completely charming. I sent her roses the next day, so that she might remember me a little longer, but we never spoke or met again.
One meeting fifteen years ago, yet the news of her death has touched me surprisingly deeply. I can't really process the news as yet, nor am I ready to pay her achievements proper tribute. I watched THE RAVEN in HD tonight, mostly to spend some time with her in semi-lifelike resolution. She was fun and in her saucy mode, she looked enchanting as always, but it was just a performance; it wasn't her. The people in her life were fortunate.
Coming out later this year from Tomahawk Press is her autobiography, which carries the misleading title HAZEL COURT: HORROR QUEEN. "Horror Heroine," absolutely -- she's up there with Fay Wray, Gloria Stuart and Valerie Hobson. To my mind, "Horror Queen" suggests something that Hazel Court was not and perhaps could never be. She played some duplicitous, conniving, and downright evil women, but they were always warm-blooded. This small criticism aside, I'm very much looking forward to reading her book and pretending that it's just her and me, listening as she recounts her life story.
There is a second photograph that I had planned to include here, a photograph of the two of us together. I don't think of myself as particularly handsome, nor do I feel I photograph well in my own opinion, but, in this photograph, I do look handsome -- perhaps because I was aspiring to belong in a photograph beside Hazel Court. As I say, I had planned to post that photograph here, but on second thought, I'm keeping it to myself, for myself. I don't want anything to detract from the singularity of photo above.
Today is for Hazel Court alone, with my affection.

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