It’s fitting that Tuesday Weld is a patron saint of weirdos and obsessives, the cinephile’s Shirley Jackson, a star everyone knows about but no one really knows. She was (is) strange, rebellious, perhaps the tiniest bit cracked, and so, so talented. And gorgeous, which didn’t hurt. She could emote with a minimum of movement and inflection, loneliness and alienation whispering from that teen idol face. There was a mischief in that face that could be a strange mixture of boredom and arousal, like she wanted to let a troubling thing run its course just to see how it shook out and then maybe have a smoke after.
The list of star-making roles she turned down—Bonnie and Clyde, Rosemary’s Baby, True Grit, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Cactus Flower–would make most actresses salivate, but she never wanted to be a huge star, and she only wanted to do roles that challenged her. Or confused her. Or confused everyone else. There is an essential loneliness to every role she did take, a sadness that doesn’t need or want your pity.
She found her greatest on-screen match in Anthony Perkins. Films tended to warp around Weld’s gravity, and Perkins was one of her only co-stars to ever wholly understand how to orbit around a mutual center with her. They were electric and disturbing in Pretty Poison. They were heartbreaking in Play It As It Lays.
Weld is a recluse now, and good for her. Fuck everyone who wanted to make money off her looks, who wanted to typecast her as a blonde bimbo, who wanted to grind her through the fame machine until she was squeezed dry, who failed and still fails to understand what she was, what she was doing. She was (is) one of the most fascinating and talented actresses of her generation.
It’s your birthday, Tuesday, and I hope it’s a good one. Thank you for doing fame your way. Thank you for Pretty Poison and Play It As It Lays. Thank you for Wild in the Country, The Cincinnati Kid, Lord Love a Duck. Thank you for A Safe Place, I Walk the Line, Thief. Thank you for all of it. Some of us have paid attention.