Claire Bloom

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Claire Bloom
Claire Bloom.jpg
BornPatricia Claire Blume
(1931-02-15) 15 February 1931 (age 82)
Finchley, London, England
OccupationActress
Years active1948–present
Spouse(s)Rod Steiger (m. 1959–69) 1 child
Hillard Elkins (m. 1969–72)
Philip Roth (m. 1990–95)
 
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Claire Bloom
Claire Bloom.jpg
BornPatricia Claire Blume
(1931-02-15) 15 February 1931 (age 82)
Finchley, London, England
OccupationActress
Years active1948–present
Spouse(s)Rod Steiger (m. 1959–69) 1 child
Hillard Elkins (m. 1969–72)
Philip Roth (m. 1990–95)

Claire Bloom, CBE (born 15 February 1931) is an English film and stage actress.

Early life[edit]

Patricia Claire Bloom was born in the North London suburb of Finchley, the daughter of Elizabeth (née Grew) and Edward Max Blume, who worked in sales.[1] Her paternal grandparents, originally named Blumenthal, as well as her maternal grandparents, originally named Gravitzky, were Jewish immigrants from Byten, in the Grodno region of Russia, now in Belarus, Eastern Europe.[2] Bloom attended secondary school at the independent Badminton School in Bristol. She is the sister of film editor John Bloom.

Acting career[edit]

Stage[edit]

in Broadway stage play, Hedda Gabler, 1971

After training at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Central School of Speech and Drama, Bloom made her debut on BBC radio programmes. She made her stage debut in 1946, when she was 15, with the Oxford Repertory Theatre. Her London stage debut was in 1947, when she was 16 years of age, in the hit Christopher Fry play The Lady's Not For Burning, which starred John Gielgud and Pamela Brown and featured a young Richard Burton. It also played on Broadway in New York.

It was during the rehearsals for the play that Burton and Bloom fell in love and began a long love affair, initially non-sexual. The following year, she received great acclaim for her portrayal of Ophelia in Hamlet, starring Richard Burton, the first of many works by William Shakespeare in which Bloom would appear. Although Burton was at that time married to Sybil Christopher, fellow actor and friend of Burton, Stanley Baker, seeing how attracted he was to Bloom, would comment that he "thought that this might be the time when Rich actually left Sybil."[3] In his later years, Burton told his biographer, Michael Munn, "'I only ever loved two women before Elizabeth,' Sybil was one, Claire Bloom the other."[3]

Bloom has appeared in a number of plays and theatrical works in both London and New York. Those works include Look Back in Anger, Rashomon, and Bloom's favourite role, that of Blanche, in a revival of the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire, which played in London in 1974. Critic Clive Barnes described the play as a "notable example of what the classic revival should be - well grooomed, but thoughtful, expressive, illuminating."[4] Another critic writes that Bloom's portrayal of Blanche featured "remarkable layers of vitality and tenderness," and playwright Tennessee Williams was "exultant," stating, "I declare myself absolutely wild about Claire Bloom."[4]

Bloom has also performed in a one woman show that included monologues from several of her stage performances. She also starred in the 1976 Broadway revival of The Innocents.

with Charlie Chaplin in Limelight (1952)

Film[edit]

Bloom's first film role was a small part in the 1948 film The Blind Goddess. She trained at the Rank Organisation's "charm school", but did not stay with that company for long.

Her first international screen debut came in the 1952 film, Limelight. She was chosen by Charlie Chaplin, who also directed, to co-star alongside him in Limelight, a film which catapulted Bloom to stardom, and remains one of her most memorable roles. Biographer Dan Kamin states that Limelight is a similar story to Chaplin's City Lights, made twenty years earlier, where Chaplin also helps a heroine overcome a physical handicap. In this film, Bloom plays a suicidal ballerina who "suffers from hysterical paralysis."[5]

The film had personal meaning for Chaplin as it contained numerous references to his life and family: the theatre where he and Bloom performed in the film was the same theatre where his mother gave her last performance;[6] Bloom was directed by Chaplin to wear dresses similar to those his mother used to wear; Chaplin's sons and his half-brother all had parts.[7] Bloom states that she felt one of the reasons she got the part was because she closely resembled his young wife, Oona O'Neill.[8][9] In his autobiography, Chaplin writes that he had no doubt the film would be a success: "I had fewer qualms about its success than any picture I had ever made."[5] Chaplin explains his decision to make Bloom co-star despite this being her first film:

In casting the girl's part I wanted the impossible: beauty, talent, and a great emotional range. After months of searching and testing with disappointing results, I eventually had the good fortune to sign up Claire Bloom, who was recommended by my friend Arthur Laurents.[10]

She was subsequently featured in a number of "costume" roles in films such as Alexander the Great (1956), The Brothers Karamazov (1958), The Buccaneer (1958), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). Bloom also appeared in Laurence Olivier's film version of Richard III (1955), where she played Lady Anne,[11] Ibsen's A Doll's House (1973), The Outrage (1964) with Paul Newman and Laurence Harvey, as well as the films Look Back in Anger (1956)[12] and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), both with Richard Burton. Of Bloom's character in Spy, novelist David Plante writes that "Claire's refined beauty appears to be one with the refinement of a culture she represents as an actress. . ."[13]

In the 1960s she began to play more contemporary roles, including an unhinged housewife in The Chapman Report, a psychologist in the Oscar winning film Charly, and Theodora in The Haunting. She also appeared in the Woody Allen films Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Mighty Aphrodite (1995). She played Hera in Clash of the Titans. Laurence Olivier played Zeus, her husband; she had also played his wife, Queen Anne in Richard III (1955). Her most recent appearance in a Hollywood film was her portrayal of Queen Mary of Teck in the 2010 film The King's Speech.

Television[edit]

Bloom has appeared in numerous roles on television, perhaps the most memorable of which was her portrayal of Lady Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited (1981). In 1996, she wrote, "I still find it puzzling when I am told I played a manipulative and heartless woman; that is not how I saw her. Lady Marchmain is deeply religious, and her dilemma includes trying to raise a willful brood of children on her own, while instilling them with her rigid observance of the Catholic code. Sebastian is both an alcoholic and a homosexual, and from her point of view, he lives in a state of mortal sin. She has to fight for his soul by any means in her power, with the knowledge that her efforts may lead to his destruction. A born crusader, the Marchioness confronts her difficult choices head on; her rigidity of purpose, which I don't in any way share, is understandable in context. The aspect that rings most true is her sense of being an outsider, a Catholic in Protestant England. Not such a leap from being a Jew in Protestant England as one would imagine."[14]

Other work includes two prominent BBC Television productions for director Rudolph Cartier: co-starring with Sean Connery in Anna Karenina (1961),[15] and playing Cathy in Wuthering Heights with Keith Michell as Heathcliff (1962).[16] She also appeared as First Lady Edith Wilson in Backstairs at the White House (1979); as Joy Gresham, the wife of C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands (for which she received the BAFTA Award as Best Actress. (1985); and as the older Sophy in the 1992 mini-series The Camomile Lawn on Britain's Channel 4. Her most recent appearance in a mini-series was in the 2006 version of The Ten Commandments.

On continuing television series, she has appeared on the New York-based Law & Order: Criminal Intent. From 1991 to 1993, she portrayed villainess Orlena Grimaldi on the daytime drama As the World Turns. She also had major roles in several of the BBC-Shakespeare Play television presentations and has led workshops on Shakespearean performance practices. In 2003, Bloom did a stage reading of Milton's Samson Agonistes along with actor John Neville at Bryn Mawr College at the behest of poet Karl Kirchwey.[17]

Later appearances[edit]

In January 2006, she appeared on the London stage in Arthur Allan Seidelman's production of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks by Richard Alfieri, a two-hander in which she co-starred with Billy Zane.

Bloom with Guy Pearce, a fellow actor in The King's Speech, January 2011

In October 2007, she appeared opposite Peter Bowles in Love Letters at the Théâtre Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo, directed by Marc Sinden, as part of his British Theatre Season, Monaco.

In 2008, she guest starred in New Tricks as actress Helen Brownlow. The story concerned the murder of Brownlow's husband whilst they were in a play together.

In December 2009, she appeared in the BBC's Doctor Who alongside David Tennant in his final story as the Tenth Doctor, as a Time Lord credited only as "The Woman." Series executive producer Russell T. Davies revealed in his 2010 book The Writer's Tale that the character is supposed to be the Doctor's mother.

In 2010, she guest starred as Jill Peters in The Bill in the episode "Taking a Stand", and in 2011 she played Queen Mary in The King's Speech.

Personal life[edit]

Bloom has married three times. Her first marriage, in 1959, was to actor Rod Steiger, whom she had met when they both performed in the play Rashomon. Their daughter is opera singer Anna Steiger, Bloom's only child. Steiger and Bloom divorced in 1969. In that same year, Bloom married producer Hillard Elkins. The marriage lasted three years and the couple divorced in 1972. Bloom's third marriage on 29 April 1990, was to writer Philip Roth, her longtime companion. The couple divorced in 1995.

Bloom has written two memoirs about her life and career. The first, Limelight and After: The Education of an Actress, was released in 1982 and was an in-depth look at her career and the film and stage roles she had portrayed. Her second book, Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir, was published in 1996 and went into greater details about her personal life; she discussed not only her marriages but also her affairs with Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, and Yul Bryner. The book created a stir when Bloom detailed the highly complicated relationship between her and Philip Roth during their marriage. The details Bloom shared were unflattering to Roth and created a controversy regarding the true nature of their relationship. The character of Eve Frame in Roth's novel I Married a Communist (1998) is considered to be his veiled rebuttal to some of the accusations made against him in her memoir.[18][19]

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to drama.[20][21]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Claire Bloom Biography (1931–). filmreference.com
  2. ^ Bloom, Claire (February 1998). Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir. Back Bay Books. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-316-09383-1. 
  3. ^ a b Mun, Michael. Richard Burton: Prince of Players, Skyhorse Publishing (2008) pp. 52, 85
  4. ^ a b Kolin, Philip C. Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire, Cambridge Univ. Press (2000) p. 97
  5. ^ a b Kamin, Dan. The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion, Scarecrow Press (2008) p. 94, 191
  6. ^ Stage scene from Limelight video, 3 min.
  7. ^ Kohn, Ingeborg. Charlie Chaplin, Brightest star of silent films, Portaparole (2005) p. 76
  8. ^ Claire Bloom talks about Limelight and Charlie Chaplin, video 4 min.
  9. ^ "Tony Earnshaw in conversation with Claire Bloom", video recorded 2011, 52 min.
  10. ^ Chaplin, Charles. Charles Chaplin: My Autobiography, Simon and Schuster N.Y. (1964) p. 458
  11. ^ "Act I Scene ii Richard III", video clip, 7 min.
  12. ^ Look Back In Anger, scene with Richard Burton, video 10 min.
  13. ^ Plante, David. Becoming a Londoner: A Diary, Bloomsbury Publishing USA (2013) p. 491
  14. ^ Claire Bloom, Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir, Little, Brown and Company, 1996. Page. 162.
  15. ^ "BBCs Anna Karenina Trailer (1961)", video, 2 min.
  16. ^ Wake, Oliver. "Cartier, Rudolph (1904–1994)". Screenonline. Retrieved 2007-02-25. 
  17. ^ Karen Heller (May 1, 2003). "Bryn Mawr shows creative side as it makes way for arts". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  18. ^ Linda Grant "The wrath of Roth", The Guardian, 3 October 1998
  19. ^ Rachelle Thackray "Roth takes novel revenge on ex-wife Claire Bloom", The Independent, 11 October 1998
  20. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60534. p. 7. 15 June 2013.
  21. ^ [1]

External links[edit]