FELONIOUS

Glenda Jackson did A Touch of Class because she wanted to know if she could do a big American comedy. The movie became a larger hit than anyone expected, probably because audiences also wanted to know if she could do it. It’s difficult to keep your eyes off her and the reasons aren’t complimentary. In a British mod hairdo, more fitting for Julie Christie or a runway model, Jackson accentuates her own misfittedness—she’s a hag in drag. When she speaks, enunciating with unrivalled edge, she’s an over-the-hill Carnaby Street antagonist. In Garboesque hats and silk p.j.s, she’s pretending to be less masculine than her co-star George Segal. She’s so specious and strained an image—one she has neither the frame nor temperament for—that, wouldn’t you know it, she wins an Academy Award. There’s no explaining the honor, unless voters shamelessly relished the misplaced hostility and out and out whoring. The movie has an Oscar-nominated song entitled “All That Love Went to Waste.” What love is shown that cries of waste? Anyway, it’s not possible to fall in love with Glenda Jackson on screen. What we do love about her, especially in Elizabeth R, the series in which she gives what is the consummate female character performance in entertainment history, is how she goes all the way. Fucking a grand part like that is art; fucking us over as a vogue harridan named Vicki in A Touch of Class is a felony. (After Lost & Found, in which she sports Myrna Loy curls, Jackson’s a repeat offender.)

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