Anne Boleyn Through the Ages -- An Image and Reputation Constantly Re-invented

Speaking of going down in flames,just might be the end of M. Night Shyamalan's directing career. Most everything he's done sincehas been risible, at best.
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"Don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs. Worthington," goes the Noel Coward ditty.

Today, Will Smith might be thinking along the same lines -- don't put your son in your movies Mr. Smith!

After Earth, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi entry which stars Will and his son Jaden, not only received scathing reviews but a poor box-office showing this past weekend. The unfortunate feeling "out there"--in the unfettered world of the blogosphere--is that Will and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, have essentially pushed their two children on the public. The Smiths are being seen, no doubt unfairly as high-end versions of Dina and Michael Lohan. The public has watched too many kid stars go down in flames, and are tired of it.

Speaking of going down in flames, After Earth just might be the end of M. Night Shyamalan's directing career. Most everything he's done since The Sixth Sense has been risible, at best.

• Over the weekend I was shocked to read on the front page of Yahoo! that Sharon Stone was being held by French police, as a suspect in a million-dollar jewelry heist!

I clicked on the story, and as I read it, I realized half-way through that is was a "joke." Though nowhere did the story indicate that it was some sort of cruel satire. It was taken down quickly after an outpouring of disapproval. Variety, once the Bible of Show Biz, picked it up too, though they referenced it as "humor." It wasn't funny. I'm not surprised at "Yahoo!," but the Variety aspect is just sad.

Miss Stone is the mother of three and has a number of movies coming out. Probably too busy to sue anybody.

• I have been writing lately here about the incredible Billy Rose and his "Casa Mañana" showgirls
of the 1930's- 40's scene. Lo and behold, the Times reported on real estate mogul Aby Rosen and how this art collector is dominating the night life cafe scene. They say he put on "a spectacle that hasn't been seen in the Paramount Hotel of Times Square since Billy Rose's era." Aby celebrated his birthday with a "Diamond Horseshoe" type 1945 tribute to the old movie of the same name. (Why am I not surprised that several times in recent weeks writers have harked back to Billy Rose for a comparison of excess and fun?)

• "All biography is mystery" wrote Norman Mailer in his infamous "novel biography" of Marilyn Monroe, back in 1973.

I'll say! Norman contributed to many mysteries and myths surrounding Monroe, and would later admit that much of what he wrote was mere speculation and shouldn't have been taken too seriously.

But he was correct, biography is mystery. A few years back, I read a marvelous book titled The Many Lives of Marilyn by Sarah Churchwell. This was a compendium of all MM bios, how they each borrowed from the other other, exaggerated, played down or invented what each author wanted, and how Marilyn's image was crafted after death. The point was, Churchwell stressed, we'd never know the whole truth.

I was reminded of that while reading Susan Bordo's The Creation of Anne Boleyn (Houghton/Mifflin/Harcourt). This takes us through the tragic queen's short tumultuous life and her shockingly hasty death. It chronicles what was written about Mistress Boleyn in her lifetime -- much of it by her enemies. And tells how each succeeding generation invented its own variation of Anne -- bitch or saint, guilty or innocent, hag or beauty, heretic or true believer.

Bordo, inquires, just how did Anne, no great beauty by the standards of her own time, hold King Henry VIII at bay for six years, while for her he divorced his loyal wife, beheaded loyal friends, defied the Pope the split the church?

Author Bordo also critiques the popular culture's take on Anne, specifically through Genevieve Bujold's electric portrayal in the 1969 feature film, Anne of The Thousand Days and of Natalie Dormer's take in the TV series, The Tudors. Bordo was lucky enough to score interviews with both Bujold and Dormer, and the actresses reveal their theories on Boleyn, and how they tried to make her alive and vital for modern audiences.

• It is a fascinating work, and Bordo clearly admits her prejudice -- she is obsessed with Anne Boleyn, and fascinated with a whole host of historical women who have suffered at history's hands. Bordo writes of Anne: "She is an enigma who is hard to keep one's hands off; just as men dreamed of possessing her in the flesh, writers can't resist the desire to solve the mysteries of how she came to be, to reign, to perish. I'm no exception. I have my own theories and I won't hide them."

And she doesn't. She is refreshingly honest in criticizing those whom she thinks have done wrong to Anne by over-reaching or under-investigating.

• Personally, I can never get enough of these historical re-evaluations -- on women from Cleopatra (crystal clear ambition undone by a passion for Marc Antony) to Marie Antoinette (the shallow child queen who became wise and regal too late) to Mary Queen of Scots (driven by her emotions, bedeviled and imprisoned by the jealous Elizabeth I but smart enough to die in a manner as to ensure her own legend.)

As Edgar Allan Poe wrote: "The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetic topic in the world."

This won't be the last word on Anne Boleyn, who--thanks in large part to actresses Genieve Bujold and Natalie Dormer -- has become a feminist heroine to thousands of women around the world. (Bujold's magnificent -- if fictional -- confrontation in the Tower, with Henry, still elicits cheers and applause.)

I was especially taken with Ms. Bujold's remarks. At the end of the interview, Bordo asked the actress whom she could imagine playing Anne today? Having not seen The Tudors, Bujold said: "Maybe it's selfish, but...the way I one. Anne is mine."

Such is the power of a woman who died 400 years ago.

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