Kim Stanley on Katharine Cornell: I Wanted To Be Saved

Katharine Cornell/Photographed, in 1933, by Carl Van Vechten

Kim Stanley talked to me for hours about Katharine Cornell--the image of her gliding across a stage, the beautiful voice, the control of her body and her space and the time, the mean, hot time in which Stanley felt cursed to live. There is material in Follies of God about Stanley and Cornell--"the great relationship of my early life," Stanley told me--but this particular quote did not make the final cut. I don't know why. These things fall away sometimes. It has been on my mind in the past few days.

I feel it might be evil--in fact, I think it is evil--to deny those things you love; those things that reached out to you at a time in your life--any time, but especially a bad time, a sour time, an on-the-edge time--and led you to believe that life could be manageable, understood, enjoyed.

Katharine Cornell did that for me, and I've been guilty of sitting by and letting others ridicule her and denounce her as old-fashioned or hackneyed or something of a relic, and I want to set straight today, on the record, that she saved me. I was stained by abuse and neglect and self-hatred, and this beautiful woman helped me to understand life, a play, a text. She seemed to be speaking directly to me from that stage in that huge theatre, and I believed, and I set out to become an actress.

I wanted to be saved, and she made me believe that I might be saved, that I might save others.

I met her years later and told her, as best I could, what she had meant to me. I was nobody: I was just starting out, studying, getting myself together, covered with the bites of bed bugs and pimples, sweaty, but she held my face and told me I would be the actress I wanted to be.

You don't forget things like that--people like that--and we have to get these stories down, you know? We have to acknowledge those people--known to us or not--who reached us and pulled us toward something we wanted.

We can't be silent on these things.

Interview with Kim Stanley
Conducted by James Grissom
Los Angeles

©  2014  James Grissom


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