For Faye Dunaway’s eightieth birthday

An the beginning of Vittorio de Sica’s film “Amanti” from 1968, Faye Dunaway stands in a mustard-yellow two-part suit with a white hat in front of the Villa Barbaro near Venice. The Palladio villa belongs to the lonely fashion designer Julia, who plays her, and so she storms up the driveway with great strides, then runs as if lost between the Veronese frescoes of goddesses, noble ladies in silk dresses and youths in hunter’s costume into her bedroom and sinks exhausted onto a four-poster bed with blue brocade curtains. But the ticking of the grandfather clock does not let you calm down. After a moment’s hesitation, she gets up, reaches into the case and stops the pendulum. The pointer stands still.

Faster than the men look

It’s not the only time Faye Dunaway has stopped the clock in the cinema. When she appears in the picture, it is often as if she had brought her own measure of time with her, a rhythm that jumps over to her teammates as soon as they see her. In “Chinatown”, Jack Nicholson’s Chinese joke that he is telling is stuck in his throat when she comes out of the door of his office behind him, and in “Thomas Crown Unbelievable” the smile on Steve McQueen’s face freezes for a split second when he realizes she is fixing him with a Super 8 camera. In “Network”, the film for which she won the Oscar, time begins to race as soon as producer Diana Christensen enters the rooms of the UBS television station, and this energy runs into the arms and legs of bosses and studio employees, making them look as if they were agitated the barrage of Christensen’s mouth.

In the most famous scene of the film, Diana is billeted in a hotel with news chief Max, played by William Holden, and while she sheds her clothes within two minutes, slips under the covers, receives her lover, astride him to climax comes and sinks relaxed into his arms, she gossips incessantly about ratings, publicity and ideas for new series. The term career woman has acquired a new meaning through “network”: It is the woman who speaks faster than men can look.

Photo gallery

Stations in a career

Faye Dunaway in her films

When you look back on Faye Dunaway’s career, you marvel at the ease with which her star rose in the Hollywood skies, as if a whole generation of directors had just been waiting for the girl from Tallahassee, Florida. The daughter of an army officer who abandoned his family temporarily and then permanently, was discovered as a drama student by Elia Kazan, played on Broadway when she was twenty-two and stood next to Anthony Quinn and Michael Caine at twenty-five. Two years later she was cast by Arthur Penn for the female lead in a historical gangster drama produced by Warren Beatty, the lead actor. Beatty would have preferred to shoot with Jane Fonda or Natalie Wood, but Penn insisted on Dunaway. This is how “Bonnie and Clyde” came about.


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