Just One Pretty Face

     As I watched Joseph Losey's A Doll's House, based on Ibsen's 1879 play, starring Jane Fonda and David Warner, I noticed something that seemed odd at first but later became much more clear. Jane Fonda (Nora) was the only attractive person in the movie.

     Her husband, as played by David Warner, was tall and thin and very sickly. His long stringy hair always looked dirty. The only time that I would not describe him as looking dirty was after the party when he was trying to get Nora into bed. He was more than dirty in that scene; he was downright repulsive. In class we discussed the reason that Torvald looked the way he did. It makes perfect sense that he needed to be ugly so the audience would not mind when Nora left him.

     However, I think the rest of the cast was unattractive for similar reasons. The doctor was also very pathetic. I understand that the actor, Trevor Howard, was playing the role of a man who was very ill, but this guy would not have been attractive even if he had looked healthy. Had the doctor been an attractive man, Nora would have had no excuse for not accepting his advances and asking for his help in paying off her debt.

     Nora's friend Christine (Delphine Seyrig), was not nearly as pretty as Nora was. Even in the beginning of the movie, before she had forced by widowhood to support herself, Christine looked much older than Nora and almost haggard. Nora appeared to be full of life, health and energy, while Christine was very quiet and sad. This difference in the way the two looked made Christine appear to be even more dependent on Nora when the former showed up in need of help.

     Krogstad (Edward Fox) was also unattractive, but in a different way than the rest of the homely cast. He had features that made him look mean and spiteful. His reddish hair and beard and lack of any facial expression except a scowl through most of the movie made him look a great deal like the devil.

     When I first began watching the movie, I thought maybe this was just a casting coincidence; but I soon began to think it was nothing of the sort. I believe the casting directors knew what they were doing.

     The movie came out in 1973 while Jane Fonda was in her women's liberation heyday. What better way to attract an audience than to give pretty, politically-correct, Jane Fonda an ugly, oppressive, belittling husband, surround her with ugly people, and make her the hero in the end.

     Yes, the casting directors knew exactly what they were doing all right. The film played on the emotions and issues of the time and still managed to keep an age old stereotype--the prettiest one always wins. Good thinking, too bad the movie was so bad.

Slone Hutchison

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