Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Girl On The Balcony: Olivia Hussey Finds Life after Romeo and Juliet

Are you looking for a good book? I found one, The Girl On The Balcony: Olivia Hussey Finds Life after Romeo and Juliet. It's a fast yet fascinating read. I finished it in 3 days. Born on April 17, 1951 in Buenos Aires, Argentina to an ethnic Scottish mother and a Spanish father, whose marriage fell apart while she was still a toddler, Olivia and her younger brother, Andrew were placed in a boarding school for 3 years so her mother could work a full-time job to support the family. After several years they left to live permanently in London seeking better opportunities.

In London, Olivia attended a nearby acting school from ages 7-13. It was her idea. She had a 2 year run on the London stage as Jenny in The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie alongside Vanessa Redgrave. Next she gained international fame when director Franco Zeffirelli selected her to play Juliet opposite Leonard Whiting in what I think we can all agree is the definite Romeo and JulietThese were the days of bonafide open additions when London drama schools sent their students over for tryouts of roles. During the audition, Zefirellini paired the 2 teenaged actors (Leonard played the Artful Dodger in Oliver on the London stage) together and unlike the other hopefuls never separated them throughout the addition process. Most would agree that everyone in the film is perfectly cast. Shot on location in Italy, making the film was hard work, yet the set was exciting and wonderful for the actors. After such a high profile and unique experience ends, what is next?

Ms. Hussey's memoir is candid and thoughtful. It goes through decades of a well-lived, often challenging life -- including an enduring if long-distance friendship with her co-star, Leonard; the ups and downs of a Hollywood career; 3 roller-coaster marriages with benevolent men who despite turbulent times, Olivia calls the 3 loves of her life. Her first husband was Dean Martin's son, Dino, who died in a plane
crash at 35. Her 2nd husband was a popular Japanese singer. Long-distance drove them apart; and her last (and Olivia says final marriage) is to her spouse of 29 years, David Eisley, another musician and the son of an American television actor. Olivia lives right outside of Hollywood, where she raises animals and is an animal activist. She has 3 adult children, Alexander, who co-wrote the book, Maximillian, and India.

Olivia's story includes overcoming a lifetime of shyness and agoraphobia; being raped by a deranged ex-boyfriend and 70s actor; stage 4 breast cancer; and corrupt Hollywood business managers who stole her money putting her into bankruptcy.

Still she remains a positive person who has lived a full and interesting life. It's a journey of self-discovery for a strong; serious; and introspective actress, one you will like a lot and empathize with every step of the way. 

She's kind and sensitive and copes with the temporary things of life by seeking out and trying to understand the eternal.
Together for the 50th Anniversary of Romeo and Juliet. 
Just 15 and 16 years old when cast in 1966 (the film came out in 1968), Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting would like to publish a coffee table book with photos and their respective memories of making Romeo and Juliet. Um, guys and publishing houses ... we're waiting! "It's not too late" as Leonard likes to say. Perhaps one day when life returns to normal, it can happen.
BTW: Before seeing Leonard Whiting in R & J, I watched him in a good television drama, Frankenstein, The True Story, which is uploaded on YouTube. He played Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Michael Sarrazin was the misunderstood creature -- it's a touching rendition that hasn't aged. Ms. Olivia Hussey, I saw in Ivanhole after R & J, and her performance as Rebecca is also up on YouTube. Fun then and now interviews of the two discussing their film can also be watched as companions to an absorbing book. Later acting work includes Jesus of Nazareth, Death on the Nile and Mother Teresa.

Lovely to know that after the film and with some stays and bumps in the road, Romeo and Juliet are on real-life paths giving them a happy ending. We love and wish them well!📚💌

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