Blog Giving Gloria Grahame Her Due: Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Posted January 31, 2018

By JBFC Senior Programmer, Andrew Jupin

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, the new film from Paul McGuigan, stars Annette Bening—in her second fantastic performance in as many years (she was incredible in last year’s 20th Century Women)—as Hollywood star Gloria Grahame and Jamie Bell as Peter Turner, Grahame’s lover during the last few years of her life. The film premiered at this year’s Telluride Film Festival and followed that shortly after with a place in the Toronto International Film Festival as well.

Over the years, McGuigan has worked in both film and television—helming several thrillers including 2004’s Wicker Park and 2006’s Lucky Number Slevin. In 2000 he directed a highly entertaining English crime film, Gangster No. 1, featuring Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, and Kenneth Cranham—who he would work with again on Film Stars… where Cranham plays Bell’s character’s father, Joe Turner.

McGuigan has also found success working in television. For the last several years he’s been working in the medium directing things like the pilot episode of ABC’s Scandal, two of the best episodes of the BBC’s Sherlock (“A Study in Pink” and “The Great Game”), and two episodes of Netflix’s fantastic Luke Cage.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool was written by Matt Greenhalgh and adapted from Peter Turner’s memoir of the same name. Greenhalgh has experience writing biographical dramas—in 2007, he wrote the script for Control, the film about tragic Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis. Then, in 2009, he wrote Nowhere Boy, a film about the younger years of John Lennon growing up in Liverpool and first finding his love for playing music.

The film was also produced partially by Eon Productions. In business since the early 1960s, Eon has produced dozens of titles, but aside from this film, they’ve only produced a single other picture that wasn’t part of the James Bond franchise. The only other non-007 picture was a Bob Hope comedy called Call Me Bwana which was released in 1963. Legendary Bond producer Barbara Broccoli (who joined the franchise with 1987’s The Living Daylights as an associate producer alongside her father, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli who had been producing Bond films since the very first, 1962’s Dr. No), serves as a producer on this film as well.

With the release of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, we’re bound to see a renewed interest in Gloria Grahame’s film career. A couple of her performances are mentioned by name in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, but re-watching the film with an audience last month, I realized that Grahame’s films and performances rarely get the attention they deserve during conversations around films from Hollywood’s Golden Age. To recommend just a few (and I’m sure most of you have seen these, but if not you’ll have a lot of fun playing catch-up): Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (1947), Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952, for which Grahame won her only Oscar [she was also nominated for Crossfire]), Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953), and Jonathan Demme’s Melvin and Howard (1980).

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