EDITOR’S NOTE: This week, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the movie Chicago. In the February 10, 2003, issue of National Review, NR’s editors criticize the Hollywood foreign press for overlooking Zeta-Jones for a Golden Globe, giving one instead to her less deserving, according to NR, co-start Renee Zellweger.
mprobable though it is, a word needs to be written in defense of film stars. This year the Golden Globe award, distributed annually by the foreign press in Hollywood, overlooked Catherine Zeta-Jones in the musical Chicago and landed instead in the slender anorexic lap of her co-star Renee Zellweger. Here and elsewhere Zellweger is a very talented actress. But as Stephen Hunter wrote in the Washington Post, “She just doesn’t have the It-thing going to the temperature of La Zeta-Jones, and at the end, when director Rob Marshall contrives to put the two of them onstage together belting out the razzle-dazzle number, you’ll have to force yourself to look at Zellweger. (I tried but couldn’t.)” Nor could we. In short, Ms. Zeta-Jones is a great big beautiful movie star — and the foreign critics at least think that just isn’t good enough. A notion has emerged in recent years that stardom is inferior to acting. A star plays himself in every movie; an actor can transmigrate into innumerable roles. Think of Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby and Penny Serenade, however, and that notion dissolves into absurdity. Grant did indeed play himself in film after film — as did John Wayne, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo — and it was a great part. It required accomplished acting in almost every vein except the tragic. And the fact that we could not take our eyes off Grant on screen meant that he could not veer even a millimeter out of whatever character his personality had taken over. Ms. Zeta-Jones is every inch the cheap speakeasy vamp in Chicago. And when you consider that she really is a great big beautiful movie star, that is acting worthy of Bernhardt.