Today: July 20, 2024

I Am A Camera

Set in pre-Hitler Berlin, the 1955 British film centres around the
unusal friendship between Sally Bowles (Harris), a brassy nightclub
entertainer and a young, somewhat stiff, writer Christopher Isherwood
(Harvey). A precursor to the musical Cabaret, and somewhat overshadowed
by Liza Minelli’s Oscar-winning version of the main character, I Am a
Camera nevertheless holds its own.

Julie Harris (The Haunting, East of Eden), is certainly
not the first person that springs to mind when asked to list great
actresses of the 50s era. Certainly Harris’ acting was up to par. Having
played opposite some serious Hollywood icons such as James Dean and Paul Newman, she has a whole load of awards to prove her worth. And from the off. Her screen debut, in 1952, in Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding,
got her nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. That same
year, she won her first Best Actress Tony for originating the role of
Sally in I Am A Camera, the stage version of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin.

The fact that she is not a major household name is more than likely
attributed to the fact that she did not have the show-stopping beauty of
Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall or Viven Leigh, to name but a few of the industry sirens. In her youth, Harris was like the ‘ginger one’ in pop group Girls Aloud.
You know, the most talented, a killer body but perhaps not so
aesthetically-pleasing. Which is probably why she was best suited to
play a fag-hag in I Am a Camera.

The fact that there is a gay guy in the film is hard to detect
since it is only referred to once. “I am a confirmed bachelor”, is
uttered by Harvey’s character in the opening of the film, which back
then, loosely translates to ‘I’m here, I’m queer, get use to it!’ Miss
the line, and you’ll spend the rest of the film wondering why the two
characters never get it on. Nevertheless, this ‘controversial’ angle got the film an X censorship.

Shelley Winters (A Place in the Sun, The Big Knife, Lolita,)
pops in, now and again, as Natalia Landauer. It’s a bit of a shock, at
first, to see the actress in such a dowdy role when she was more known
to play vampy figures at the time. Here, her forthcoming marriage to a
loaded young Jewish man is tipped into the balance as the Nazis gain
political power.

Adapted from John Van Druten‘s play (by screenwriter John Collier)
the reason behind the name of film I Am a Camera, won’t be entirely
clear, in the film, but is in fact a quote from Goodbye to Berlin.
Nevertheless, the star cast excels and Henry Cornelius (Passport to Pimlico) does a good job of directing. Light and frothy, I Am A Camera makes for a nice, cozy winter’s evening in.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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