Birthday Special: The Invincible Legacy Of Jacqueline Bisset
On the evening of 12th January 2014, Jacqueline Bisset won a Golden Globe award and became the target for many jokes. Even SNL(Saturday Night Live) mocked her by making a comedy sketch.
Bisset was stunned when the announcement was made. She remained rooted to her seat long after the announcers called out her name for the award and the crowd around her erupted in a congratulatory mood. She had not expected the win. She was sitting far back in the audience, away from the stage and the proceedings of the event of that night. The spotlight fell on her out of nowhere.
She slowly stood up as a shower of hugs and handshakes poured in from all around her. The room was filled with deafening applause. Everyone was happy for her. This was her first Golden Globe award at the age of 69. A momentous landmark in her career. She had been nominated for her very first Golden Globe 46 years before that night, and over the course of her long career, she had been nominated a total of 5 times.
She finally won that night. Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a TV series/miniseries for her role in ‘Dancing On the Edge’.
Jacqueline Bisset with her Golden Globe award at the 2014 ceremony.
(Pic Courtesy: Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters)
Bisset could not hold back her tears. She was visibly shaken. She drifted down the aisle and took a surprisingly slow journey to the stage, stopping midway to kiss Jon Voight before she finally received her award. Once the clapping and the excitement settled down, Jacqueline Bisset stood on the stage, speechless and stunned once more. After a long and awkward pause, she composed herself or at least tried to. Her voice trembled. Her speech stuttered. She barely managed to grasp coherent sentences.
All her senses and her words seemed to be lost in her wild nervousness. The emotions were pressing upon her, and the whole world could see it on her restless face. She struggled for words and managed a rambling speech which, among other things, included her saying “shit” and “Like my mother used to say, ‘Go to hell and don’t come back.’” Her speech went on awkwardly long, despite the background music being played to get her off the stage.
This dazed and confused behaviour spilled over to the backstage press conference as well. She asked, “What do I do now?”. She then requested her spectacles so she could see, but when they were delivered to her, she complained that they were too dirty, so she gave them to someone to clean. She remained chaotic for the whole night.
Jacqueline Bisset in Dancing On the Edge (2013-14) for which she won the Golden Globe award. (Image courtesy: Daily Mail UK (2013))
The tabloids got enough material to mock her awkward speech. However, it largely ignored what was behind the overwhelming feelings and the erratic speech: decades of stellar performances in both the domestic as well as the international movie industries, the hurt from the show business, neglect on behalf of the industry, and the much-awaited recognition for her career.
Jacqueline Bisset is not an ordinary actress. She is a living legacy. A wild force driven by her daring choices. She has garnered acclaim not only in the American movie industry but also in the French, British, German, and Italian cinema. Her acting credits span over 60 movies. She has cemented her status over the past 50 years, presenting us with a rich set of distinguished film roles.
Today, on the occasion of her 77th birthday, we take a glimpse at her prolific career and celebrate her excellence and dedication to the craft of acting.
Bisset was born as Winifred Jacqueline Fraser Bisset in Weybridge, Surrey, England to a general practitioner and a successful lawyer-turned housewife. Her mother was half French and half English while her father was Scottish. It was her mother who taught her French and made her into a multilingual person. Owing to both her parents being rich, she was raised in abundant wealth and a life of privilege. As a child, she trained as a ballet dancer and also began taking acting lessons, the latter being paid for by her modeling gigs.
Bisset made her first appearance as a prospective model in Richard Later’s 1965 film ‘The Knack…and How to Get It’. However, it was an uncredited role. She got her official debut in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-Sac in 1966.
She played the sex symbol Miss Goodthighs in the James Bond satire ‘Casino Royale’ (1967). In 1968, she got her breakthrough by starring in two highly successful movies: ‘The Detective’, opposite Frank Sinatra and ‘Bullitt’, opposite Steve McQueen. These two films launched her into stardom but at the same time, restricted her acting prowess to simply playing one-dimensional female figures.
"I didn't actually think my role was necessary in that film," Bisset talked about her character Kathy from ‘Bullitt’ in an interview with the TCM host Eddie Muller during a TCM Classic Film Festival screening. "If Kathy hadn't been there, I don't think it would've made much difference. But I was representing the female in his life and the feminine side of his existence rather than being a fully-fleshed character."