The Lady Who Lunched

1.9.2014

By Adam Feldman

A toast to the invincible Elaine Stritch

But Shoot Me does not shy away from depicting Stritch’s weaker moments. In a cabaret act at the CafĂ© Carlyle, the storied Upper East Side supper club, she struggles to remember her lyrics, and the deterioration of her physical health leads to several harrowing scenes of crisis, including what appears to be a minor stroke. Watching these sequences, Stritch says, has been difficult. “I’m much less brave than I thought I was,” she concedes. “Much less brave.”

After decades of sobriety, Stritch has started drinking again, in moderation: “It makes me possible,” she says. And she retreated, in spring 2013, to a restless semiretirement in her home state of Michigan. She no longer enjoys living in New York (“I don’t like it anymore. It doesn’t use your energy”), and she laments the decline of theater culture (“I don’t think it’s as classy and as moving as it used to be”). Most performers today, she says, lack the stamp of big personality. “They’re not as talented as I am. I am extremely talented,” she declares, with her typical half-joking braggadocio. “There’s nothing I can do about it — I’m just scared to death of my talent.”

Still, she admits she is flirting with returning to the stage. “If I think I can learn it, I may agree to do [Edward Albee’s] Three Tall Women,” she says. The prospect, of course, scares her—but she is trying, as always, to push back the doubts with bravado. And despite her move, she remains a Broadway archetype at heart. “I don’t know what to tell you, honey,” she says with a throaty laugh. “I’m just the wildest broad in New York, and I don’t do anything wrong.”  

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is screening at festivals. Sundance Selects will release the film February 21.

Watch the trailer below:

Tags: Movies
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