Plus: The British actors who’ve mastered an American accent, and the basements of Belgravia
Iconic star Mickey Rooney died last week, age 92, to outpourings of grief from his many fans, although ’tis said he wasn’t exactly Mr Popularity with his colleagues. But his conquests were legendary. Rooney was almost the last of the stars from the fabulous golden era of Hollywood, which lasted from the 1920s to the mid-1950s. I arrived there as a very young actress at the very end of this golden age — when the gilt was beginning to tarnish — and I was practically the last starlet to be put under contract. When I met Rooney shortly after I arrived, I learnt how quick with a quip this nine-times-wed actor could be. Looking me up and down, he leered ‘Hey! Didn’t we use to be married?’ ‘No, that was Ava Gardner,’ I riposted.
It’s astonishing, the number of great British actors who are now featuring in American sitcoms and series and have a completely authentic American accent. There was a time when many British actors’ American accents were execrable, but this new breed is right on the button. I remember the late Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate and Butterfield 8 giving us his Yankee accent and it was quite risible. We were good friends and often laughed about it. But now — quelle différence! I had no idea Damian Lewis of Homeland fame was from St John’s Wood, nor that Hugh Laurie, so brilliant in House, was educated at Eton and Cambridge. Christian Bale and Ewan McGregor are always terrific, and Anglo-Irish Daniel Day Lewis was indistinguishable from the most famous American of all time, ‘Honest Abe’ Lincoln. But the young man who seamlessly not only plays a completely believable American, but also is the virtual reincarnation of Anthony Perkins at the same time, is the 22 year-old Freddie Highmore in the riveting Bates Motel, a series which explores the back-story of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Freddie Highmore gives a terrifying yet vulnerable performance as an awkward, disturbing teenager — along with a stellar supporting cast including the always impeccable Vera Farmigia, he makes this series unmissable TV.
Joan Collins is an actress and businesswoman. Joan’s new book Passion for Life is available now.