Candy Clark: Dangerous Talents

Tennessee was faking the fog a great deal in 1973: He was unhappy with the commemorative productions being done of A Streetcar Named Desire, and he believed that he no longer mattered as a writer. "A writer has to matter," he said, "and a writer needs characters who will speak to him and guide him along." Tenn found characters in repeated viewings of films, and, in that year, he spent at least four viewings with American Graffiti, where he found Candy Clark. This is what he thought of her.

"Always watch the hands and the eyes of an actress: both cannot help but reveal the inner workings of the woman. Not merely the actress, but the woman, and there should be the thinnest, the most vulnerable, of membranes separating the woman from the actress. This creates acting that is not only unique, but frightening, because you get a little history of the actress who has been hired to create one character, but supports it with a history of all the characters she has been in order to survive and to thrive in this unholy congress of people that make up our so-called industry. Miss Clark was frighteningly good, I thought, at revealing the frightened, slightly angry, utterly befuddled girl that swelters and hides beneath the veneer of bold sexual performance. She is the little girl who got into her mama's closet and put on her clothes and strutted for her friends. Then the boobs came and she kept on playing the little-girl games, but the boys and the threatened girls don't know the background, so they fear and desire and envy the performance. But what happens to the little girl? The tiny actress? Who sees her, talks to her, recognizes her? So this bold, sometimes campy personage lives, never having the rich, hedonistic life others project upon her and wish for themselves. I got this lovely background from Miss Clark's sad and knowing eyes, stuck in a face so young and so devoid of the adventures of which she has been pronounced guilty, and from her hands, which are the curious, greedy hands of the two-year-old who wants a cookie in each hand. Look how she peers into the bag allegedly bearing liquor with both her eyes and her hands. Those are delicate hands, fingers so expressive, and they show not only Debbie, who wants the liquor that will help her be bad and help her function with this non-entity of a boy; it is also Miss Clark, the actress,  digging into the delicate paper bag that is the script, trying to elevate some one-dimensional stereotypes into full-fledged people. Finding everything in the bag and making everything work. Miss Clark and a few of the others elevated that film into a tragedy for me. Tragedy with laughs and music. Drive-in Chekhov, if you will. I did not see a silly, nostalgic feel-good movie. I saw real life, slipping away amid charades and music and time mercilessly and constantly slipping away. And I saw my bastard child Carol Cutrere riding the roads to oblivion in the midst of it all."

Tenn also said that Clark was in possession of  "dangerous talents; talents you would not want to confront on a dark road of uncertainty. These are talents that find you out and reveal too much--about us."

Clark, left, with Charles Martin Smith in American Graffiti.


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