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    Fan Freaking Over Jacqueline Bisset and Her Latest Film with a Gay Lead

    By Jan Wahl–

    I thought to myself: my god. How can any woman be so beautiful?  She’s 77 and drop dead gorgeous, like Ava Gardner if she hadn’t drunk and smoked, or Gene Tierney in Laura.  Her looks are so original, yet classically chiseled and cheekbones for days.  There’s a steely intelligence to her, as if she’s ready for a good fight. Her name is Jacqueline Bisset (Jac-clean in the French way and Bisset as in kiss it).

    Her latest film is Loren and Rose. A single meal frames the three-act story of the close bond between a young, gay filmmaker and a storied actress. The place is an historic restaurant in Topanga Canyon. We go through appetizer, entrée, and dessert with them, enjoying her love of sumptuous food and his need for barely dressed simplicity. Like Louis Malle’s My Dinner with Andre, it is delightful to watch listeners and reactors, determined to communicate and achieve goals. Writer/Director Russell Brown was inspired by Bisset and told me for the San Francisco Bay Times: “It’s about the gifts our muses give us and the legacies they pass on.”

    I was fortunate to have a Zoom with both Brown and Bisset.  It turns out she was not aware of Hollywood movies growing up, and was worried about going to Hollywood itself. “I thought it would be heart-shaped pools and silly words,” Bisset told me. “When I started at Fox, they were telling girls to wear stockings and heels and dresses. I was wearing jeans. I thought, ‘How extraordinary!’ I just didn’t go along with it. I love a great script and interesting words. The reason I became an actress was Jeanne Moreau. She played subversive, diverse characters.”

    I made an attempt to explain how popular Bisset is with many of us, and from Day for Night to McQueen (she was in the San Francisco classic Bullitt), always has been for both her distinctive beauty and talent. She seemed totally surprised. “I’m so unaware of that,” she responded. “Really? I am just so astonished when I read that.” 

    I look at her and think to myself, “Jacqueline, darling … if you don’t see your own worth, there’s no hope for the rest of us!”

    She shared, “I just try and play characters that are not flimsy or superficial, that are thick and full. It is a challenge. I liked Rose in this film because, while we sit and talk, we also find the rigor, the emotional movement. Of course, I didn’t think about it being gay or straight; gay people are always part of my life. Funny … many gay men and women like my film Grasshopper. My favorite work is my least known work. They always ask me about Bullitt, but never about Sleepy Time Gal. Well, I’m just glad anybody likes anything! I am so glad I have made a combination of small, independent movies and big ones.”  

    There’s a bit of Norma Desmond and some of Rosalind Russell’s Auntie Mame in this character of Rose in Loren and Rose

    Brown agreed and replied, “Like Auntie Mame always said: ‘Life is a banquet.’ That’s a very Rose point of view. But like all people who live that way, there is a price to be paid being that free and uninhibited. We find that out with Rose’s relationships with her lovers and daughter. I love her attitude toward death since she is an older woman. She is like a cat that just wants to jump into her next experience.”

    I especially liked the beginning of this film, where we are taken to an auction of Rose’s clothes and furnishings. Russell had directed a short film: The 44 Scarves of Liza Minnelli.

    “I told Liza’s life story through scarves,” Brown said, “so, auctions were on my mind. I did two movies with Karen Black … very different than Bisset, Karen was a bit was more extreme. Both brilliant women, so smart, a vast knowledge of history and literature. My film Race You to the Bottom was in Frameline years ago, filmed in the city (San Francisco) and Napa.” 

    Let’s get this new one, Loren and Rose, in Frameline! It would be fun to have Jacqueline back in town. I don’t often fan freak with my interview subjects, but will make an exception for Jacqueline Bisset.

    While we’re in the orbit of extraordinary actresses, let’s move the frame over to Helen Mirren. She costars in a funny and true film called The Duke. I found it humorous because it is based on a true story of a working man in England who steals a Goya painting from London’s National Portrait Gallery. Jim Broadbent plays Helen’s husband, and the two together celebrate and fight, just like a true married couple. If you are expecting the glamorous Mirren, think again. She is dowdy, from one housedress to makeup-free face. After you see this, go and google the true story. It is wild and was the opening night film of the Mostly British Film Festival earlier this month.

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Published on March 24, 2022