The Penultimate Mile: Edith Evans in The Whisperers

(one installment in a quick series counting down from 50 to 26!)



The competition (Cliff: 5 for 5!):

Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Anne Bancroft in The Graduate

Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde

Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark

The second of the Bryan Forbes films that I saw (the third, chronologically) features Dame Edith in one of the fullest depictions of dementia I’ve seen.  She shows us the inner life of the bothersome old woman whom nobody pays attention to, and even in scenes designed to reveal her battiness from the public’s (our) perspective, Forbes cuts away from the surrounding action and onto her face, where we see her hooded eyes brimming with the pining loneliness and fear that drive her forlorn life.  To its detriment, the film eventually shifts away from her to a critique of the British society that tries and fails to help her, and the film’s circular structure is ultimately a little too neat and schematic.  Nevertheless, it finally brings back us to an aching closing scene with Edith listening for the title voices, ready to shatter our hearts.  It pains me to reserve the trophy in 1967 for the brilliant Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, but Dame Edith is a magnificent contender.


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