Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…
"Gold" isn't exactly the best movie Susannah York has ever appeared in. But it brought her to Chicago on a promotional tour, and that was one considerable item in its favor. She sat cross-legged in a suite at the Whitehall, worked through a bunch of grapes and said "Gold" had been a good place to start again after two years away from the movies.
"I made up my mind to stop working and start a family, and that's just what I did," she said. "I had a little boy and a little girl, which was just perfect, and then I started reading screenplays again. I thought 'Gold' would be an interesting film to make - lots of action and, you know, things to keep people interested, and a fairly good woman's role."
She plays Ray Milland's granddaughter in the film, and he plays a South African industrialist who controls much of that country's gold industry. She has an affair with Roger Moore, who plays the heroic mine superintendent, and when he's called to the rescue after an underground flood she flies him in from the bush country in her private airplane.
"It's a bit of action, anyway," she said. "Most of the roles for actresses these days are so minute, they're just decoration, really. I've got something really good coming up, though. I've done the American Film Theater's version of Genet's 'The Maids,' with Glenda Jackson and Vivien Merchant, and that was really juicy."
She started in the movies in 1960, with "Tunes of Glory," and had a lead in John Huston's ill-fated production of "Freud," but she got her first international recognition as one of the buxom wenches in "Tom Jones." Then there were several challenging roles, notably in "A Man For All Seasons," "The Killing of Sister George" and "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (for which she got an Oscar nomination).
In "Gold," even her love scenes with Roger Moore are apparently dictated by his interpretation of his role. As one of the newsweeklies pointed out, he plays as if he was James Bond out of costume (and made the movie between two Bond projects). That means he's sly and dryly humorous and ever threatening to raise an eyebrow. Her performance, more open and honest, sometimes gets upstaged, but she said she didn't mind:
"Roger's such a funny man. So funny to work with, such a sense of humor, that when you're in, um, well, a certain sort of movie, he lends it a bit of style it might not otherwise have had. And as for myself, well, I was happy to be back at work again. Actors are always in a dreadful state when they're not working." She popped a grape into her mouth. "And be sure to look out for 'The Maids' won't you?"
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