Sunday, 3 July 2016

Summer Reading Challenge: Double Feature

Double Feature is the third in a series of autobiographies by Terence Stamp (and the last in chronological order). It deals with his life in the sixties, his growing fame after his film debut, Billy Budd, his relationship with model Jean Shrimpton and his experiments with drugs and mysticism.


The book is sectioned into three parts which Stamp labels as, It Begins, The Great Middle and An End and a Beginning. But they could also be classified as 'Before Jean', 'With Jean' and 'After Jean'. Their relationship is at the heart of the book. There is an element of coldness to Jean that even Stamp couldn't hide with his loving words. He always seemed to love her more than she loved him. Stamp describes the relationship beautifully though and she was very much the love of his life.

"She would sleep in my arms like a creature from an ancient forest. Turning in the night I would stir, her perfume reaching into my subconscious, and I'd become aware of our breath in unison. If I traced the outline of her delicate shoulder with the inside of my wrist I didn't know where her skin ended and mine began; often, in that dark closeness the layer of separation between us would dissolve and I would be her" p. 140

"Mornings, I would drive us down Fountain to Gower, kiss goodbye and wait for her long-fingered wave as she cornered on to Sunset. After work I could hardly wait to get out of costume and run across the street to the little parking lot where she would be waiting in the car, head lowered over a magazine, her hair tumbling about her face. As I neared she would look up, and every day I gasped at the perfection of her" p. 134




Following their separation Stamp suffered a breakdown and in his depression turned to marijuana to ease his sadness. He formed close friendships with the cast of Blue and also began looking at different forms of mysticism, eventually deciding to travel to India, where he was to spend time in an ashram. Essentially however much of Stamp's searching in the final part of the book is because of Jean, and the hole she left within him which he continually tried to fill throughout his life. Stamp is honest and sensitive and never tries to cover up his own flaws and failings. What was supposed to be the best time of his life was also the worst.

"sometime around three or four a.m. I woke up, realised I was on my own in our bed and felt inconsolable. I searched my dressing-room for the only article of hers I possessed, the famous lavender jumper with the snag on the shoulder…I found the sweater, now paper-thin, rolled it into a ball and held it beside me on the pillow. In the blackness, that moment when the spirit is at its lowest ebb, I inhaled the faint memory, imagining her astral body lying beside me. In the morning I was ashamed and buried the woolly at the bottom of my chest of drawers, but neither it nor I was allowed to sleep in peace" p. 291


Stamp touches briefly on all the films he starred in during the sixties (except for Poor Cow). His initial nerves in Billy Budd, the tense atmosphere on the set of Far from the Madding Crowd, the difficulties faced on Modesty Blaise and his unique experiences with the Italian directors, Fellini and Pasolini. Stamp worked with some of the most famous actors of the day including, Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier, Monica Vitti, Julie Christie, Peter Finch and Karl Malden. As well as directors such as William Wyler, John Schlesinger and Ken Loach.


Stamp's story is often heartbreaking but it is a fascinating look at the era and a wonderful yet also tragic  love story between two of the biggest stars of the decade. Stamp's attempts to rebuild his life are sometimes painful to read and I think his friend Peggy Lipton described him best when she asked,
"You're the lost boy, aren't you?" p. 236
Yet he remains likeable and sweet and I think the final word should be given to him:
"Sometimes, driving aimlessly, even asleep in dream, I find myself taking the turn off Sunset Boulevard heading south on San Diego freeway, towards L.A Airport, on my way to meet the flight that brought her to me. With a start, I realise it's only a play of shadows falling on the mind, and ashes of memory dry in my mouth. I feel the chasm open in my chest. It is there, the heart concealed within the heart, an emptiness inside me that mourns, that seeps darkness into my daily existence. I grope towards the ache I've buried alive which constantly smoulders, in the hope of sealing up the ancient state, but it won't forget the moment it glowed and longs to be rekindled. To be warm. To come home. The very own dark star that leads me on, that takes me to far-flung dusty corners. Watching. Listening." p. 336

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1 comment:

  1. Nice review. Thanks for sharing all those interesting quotes.

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