Today I’d like to talk about an often overlooked and under-appreciated British actress, Pauline Collins (no relation). She can hold her own against the likes of Dame Judy Densch, Dame Maggie Smith, and Dame Helen Miren, yet American audiences don’t seem to be aware of her.
I first discovered her years ago in the film Shirley Valentine. Shirley is a bored middle-aged British woman whose life is turned on end when a friend invites her for a holiday in Greece. Pauline originated the role in the one-woman stage play, for which she garnered several awards. The movie retains much of the wit and most of the terrific lines of the play, and Pauline Collins shines as the mousy woman who discovers herself while on a break from her everyday life.
I next remember her stealing the spotlight in the movie Paradise Road as Mrs. Drummond. This film is the true story of women prisoners of war during WWII who form an orchestra using only their voices. The music in the film was created using the actual scores written in the camp. Mrs. Drummond is heartbreakingly real. She is the most memorable character in a cast of phenomenal actresses. The story is a powerful tale of hope and survival.
This film with its ensemble cast of acting powerhouses was Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut and one of my favorite films of 2012. Quartet tells the story of senior citizens who now live in a home for retired musicians.
Billy Connolly plays an elfin character whose stroke has left him with no governor. He speaks and behaves without thinking. But the twinkle in his eye makes him charming and a delight.
Tom Courtenay and Dame Maggie Smith’s characters were briefly married many years before. They are now faced with living in close quarters again and are forced to deal with the issues that ended their marriage.
But the most memorable character for me is Pauline Collins’s Cissy. This character suffers from senile dementia. Watching her took me back to the years when my mother left us a bit at a time with the same affliction. Pauline’s performance is spot on—heartbreakingly so. At the end of the day, hers is the character I remember.
This is an absolutely joyful film about triumph over adversity. If you see it, be sure to watch all the behind-the-scenes extras on the DVD. Most of the actors in this film are former and current performers, and the music is phenomenal. I loved it so much I bought the CD before the DVD was released.
Of course, I had to own the DVD. In fact, I own all of these and have to re-watch them periodically.
If you have not seen these three films, rent them. Every time I see them, I am reminded how much I love them. These are only three among Pauline Collins’s impressive filmography, but when you see them, I’m certain you will understand why I respect and appreciate the talent of this under-valued actress.
Have you seen her work? Do you have a favorite?