Margaux Shapiro: Growing Old Disgracefully

Written by Dr Andrew Cousins on . Posted in Carnal Cinema

MargauxShapiroIt has often been said that men age and women mature. However women, like wine, tend to mature in one of two ways. They either ripen into something full-flavoured, with lots of body and a myriad of intriguing flavours or they turn onto an unpleasant, acidic vinegar.

It's further said that there are no good parts in Hollywood for the older woman. Well, one person would take issue with that. She's about to enter her seventy-fourth year and shows no sign of slowing down. In her time she's worked with James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Kirk Douglas. She once called Cary Grant, "a worse kisser then my dog". I went to Beverly Hills to meet the one and only Ms. Margaux Shapiro.


AC. Margaux, looking back over your CV it appears that you've worked with every great leading man in Hollywood history. You have had an extraordinary career haven’t you?

MS. Hey, if it was a movie then you wouldn't believe it. In fact reading my autobiography - now available in paperback - I'm not so sure that I do!

And still working, of course.

Of course! Listen, what else would I do with my time that pays so well? Take in a little laundry? I don't think so. Although my skills with starch and an iron do have to be seen to be believed.

You are well known for shunning the trappings of celebrity life. You don't employ a chef or housecleaner, for example.

Certainly not! I'm not having a bunch of strangers rummaging in my closet! You know, I look at some of these actresses today who don't even realise that an egg drops out of a chickens unmentionables and I think to myself, how removed are they from reality? In fact, I devote a whole chapter to that very point in my autobiography, 'Growing Old Disgracefully'. Did I mention that it's now out in paperback?

I think so, yes.

There's a large-print version as well.

I've been looking back over some of the films that you've appeared in - 'To Have and Have Again', 'Casablanca II: Moroccan Wedding', 'Double Insurance Policy' and 'Alfred Hitchcock's The Gerbils' - you always play very feisty, strong women. Is that typecasting or do you just enjoy playing those kind of roles?

Well listen, when you've got a big mouth like I have then you ain't ever gonna get cast as the shrinking violet. And actually I prefer it that way. I wouldn't have a clue how to be demure. My third husband said that I had bigger balls then he did. Although if you'd ever seen his balls you'd really think that was almost literally true.

Er, I see…

He had very small sexual organs. Small hands too.

Moving on, you've complained in the past that movies aren't what they used to be. Do you still feel that?

I most certainly do! Hollywood isn't that place that it used to be, I'm afraid. It's lost its spark. At one time creative people where allowed to take risks with daring and innovative material. Now the only risks studio executives take are putting those chocolate sprinkle things on top of their skinny lattés. Have you ever had a skinny lattés?

No, I haven't I'm afraid.

It's like coffee with almost all the flavour removed. It's a pale ghost of a cup of coffee in a tall beaker-style mug. In many ways it's a metaphor for the film industry.

So you don't really like modern cinema?

It's mostly awful with flashes of brilliance. For example, the other night I was watching 'Collateral'. What a piece of crap!

The Tom Cruise film about the hit man?

That's the one. He's a hit man who has a witness to all his crimes drive him around in a big yellow, easily identifiable taxi. Then he lets that witness meet lots of different people all around a heavily populated city on the way to do five - I repeat five - jobs in one night. And this hit man is supposed to earn a living based on the fact that nobody knows what he looks like. That's the problem with Hollywood right there. It's all style over substance. Moody visuals over internal logic. Am I wrong?

I'd hadn't really thought about it like that. Put like that I suppose you do have a point.

If you get a committee to design a horse you get a camel. If you get a committee to design a movie you get 'Cheaper by the Dozen 2'.

You really did prefer the Golden Age of Hollywood didn't you?

Absolutely! The movies were better, the clothes were more stylish, and the parties were more lavish. It was great. I still can't believe I was part of it. And yet I was because I deal extensively with it in chapters ten to twenty of my autobiography.

You also famously dated Rock Hudson during that time didn't you?

I did yes.

Didn't you realise at the time that he was gay?

Not once. He sure fooled the hell out of me. I never suspected even for one minute. He may only have been nominated for one Oscar but let me tell you he put in an Oscar-winning performance at least three times a week while we were dating. Twice on Saturdays.

A lot of your contemporaries are dead now. Do you make a conscious effort to stay healthy?

I try to eat fairly healthily. But I don't go for ten-mile power walks or anything like that.

You don't like exercise?

No it's not that. It's just that if you walk the streets in L.A. and you happen to be wealthy you're just asking to be mugged. Also I have two plastic hips. Walking creates friction, you know. I'm not ready to smell my own hips melting just yet.

That brings me on to a slightly delicate subject.

What ever it is just ask. I can't possibly not have dealt with it in my autobiography, 'Growing Old Disgracefully' - now available as a talking book. Helen Mirren did it. Wonderful voice.

There are rumours that you had quite extensive plastic surgery.

That's ridiculous.

Well I did say…

Rumours?! Of course, I've had surgery! You don't get skin this smooth from good living, you know!

I see. That’s remarkably frank of you. Most actresses would never admit to seeing a plastic surgeon.

Well, I like to think I'm not like most actresses. No, there isn't a part of my body that hasn't been nipped, tucked, tweaked or tightened at least once. My face has been lifted at least five times. I've had more new faces then Michael Jackson.

Dr Andrew CousinsDoesn't it worry you that you might end up having too much surgery? I mean, look at Jackie Stallone…

I'd rather not. At least, not on a full stomach. I deal extensively with this subject in my autobiography - now out in e-book format - the way I see, it plastic surgery is like a hat.

A hat?

Everybody can wear one - but only some people can make it look good.

Margaux Shapiro, thank you.