Thursday, May 15, 2014
GRAYSON HALL: A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW
This is an interesting biography of stage, screen and television actress Grayson Hall, who was nominated for a supporting Oscar for The Night of the Iguana, but who will always be best-known for playing Dr. Julia Hoffman on the afternoon Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. The book looks into her early days before she reinvented herself as "Grayson Hall," her two marriages, her complicated relationship with her father, and the many people she knew and worked with in New York City. Jamison looks at the film that Hall denied she ever made, wherein she played a madame, Satan in High Heels, as well as the low-budget End of the Road, not to mention the two theatrical features based on Dark Shadows. Her stage work was eclectic and controversial: La Ronde, Genet's The Balcony, and even a couple of musicals. She was doing previews of The Madwoman of Chaillot when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. I remember watching Dark Shadows and wondering in how many different ways Hall could intone the phrase "I don't know" which she seemed required to say many times in every episode. Never conventionally attractive -- one might even say she possessed sublime ugliness -- Hall nevertheless proves quite glamorous in some youthful shots in the photo section. Jamison does a good job exploring the life and work of Hall, and suggests that back in the day she was almost some kind of gay icon.
Verdict: For Dark Shadows fans and theater enthusiasts. ***.