Monday, July 31, 2017

Sam Shepard, playwright and actor, dies age 73

Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard, playwright and actor, 
dies age 73

The Pulitzer prize winning writer and star of stage and screen, known for performances in The Right Stuff and Bloodline, died at his home in Kentucky

Playwright, director and actor Sam Shepard has died at the age of 73.
The Pulitzer prize winner died of complications from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neurone disease) at his home in Kentucky on 30 July surrounded by family. Shepard had written 44 plays including Buried Child, which won him the Pulitzer prize for drama in 1979. He also received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his role in The Right Stuff.

Shepard started writing plays in the 60s. “Back then, there was a dearth of American theatre,” he told the Observer in 2014. “There was nothing going on. American art was starving.”
His work included Angel City, Cowboy Mouth (in collaboration with Patti Smith that was written in just two nights) and a screenplay for Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. He received Tony nominations for both Buried Child and a 2000 revival of True West.
Shepard also directed many of his plays but with rare exceptions, he refrained from directing work of others. He directed two films: 1988’s Far North with then-partner Jessica Lange and 1993’s Silent Tongue, which starred Richard Harris and River Phoenix.
He also collaborated with Bob Dylan for the song Brownsville Girl which featured on his 1986 album Knocked Out Loaded.
As an actor, his first notable role was in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven in 1978. He went on to star in Baby Boom, Steel Magnolias, The Pelican Brief, Black Hawk Down, The Notebook and August: Osage County. He was most recently seen in the Netflix drama Bloodline, alongside Sissy Spacek.
He was known as an acclaimed character actor rather than an A-lister, a route he chose early in his career. “I had all kinds of wild offers at that time to be a movie star and I panicked,” he later said. “I was turning down things like Warren Beatty’s Reds, that part of Eugene O’Neill [played by Jack Nicholson]. My agent was going crazy. I hadn’t realized what the experience of it would be like – to be on the verge of being a movie star. Because it’s like you are the hottest whore in town. Everybody wants you.”

Sam Shepard in Days of Heaven in 1978.
 Sam Shepard in Days of Heaven in 1978. Photograph: Allstar/PARAMOUNT PICTURES

When asked about his performances on stage, he said he wasn’t quite as comfortable as on screen. “You don’t have to do anything in the movies,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “You just sit there. Well, that’s not entirely true. You do less. I find the whole situation of confronting an audience terrifying.”
Before his death, he completed a role in the psychological thriller Never Here with Mireille Enos. This year also saw the release of his book The One Inside, a series of conversations with himself. He is survived by three children.
Figures from both stage and screen have paid tribute to Shepard on Twitter. Writer Beau Willimon referred to him as “fearless” and “one of the greats” while Harlan Coben tweeted: “How special was he? Even when you didn’t like something he’d done, you were glad you saw it.”

Box Set Club / Sex and the City

Box Set Club: Sex and the City

After some clunky opening episodes, it doesn't take long for series one to morph into the show I remember so fondly
Julia Raeside
Tuesday 2 August 2011 14.44 BST

Watching the first series of Sex and the City again after 10 years was an exercise in rosy nostalgia and painful wincing. When I first met Carrie Bradshaw and her friends in 1998, I fell pretty hard for them. The show quickly became the one I could not miss. Social arrangements had to fit around my weekly date with four fabulously-dressed fictional women having their pretend brunches. Yes, I was pretty cool.
I had graduated, moved to London and was thrilled by the possibilities of living in a city. Sex and the City coincided perfectly with my tentative first steps into urban adult life and I clung to it like a life raft. And I really felt that the women on screen were like me, albeit more expensively dressed, with better jobs and nicer flats. Looking back now, they were about as similar to me as the Empire State Building is to my shoe. They talk openly about masturbation, penis size and intimate sexual practise while entirely sober. I'd have to be blootered to get that graphic. And they never spend more than a couple of weeks being single. And they're thin.

Sex and the City: Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon. Photograph: Norman Jean Roy

The first season opens with what was obviously the pilot episode, tacked on to a series that was filmed much later. The writers try to jam the entire feminist manifesto (plus shopping) into the first half hour and Carrie sports a vast ginger hairdo like the one she had when she played Annie. The mass of agitated blonde worms make its appearance in episode two.
I'd forgotten how much Carrie talks to the camera in these early episodes. And the narrative is peppered with self-conscious vox pops from anonymous extras like quotes in a naive GCSE essay on sexual politics. But the pontificating about the differences between men and women was new to my 23-year-old ears back then. Now it sounds trite and hackneyed but I suppose that's the trouble with fashion, it dates quickly. I had to fast-forward past the bit where Carrie compares the divide between men and women to The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
In those early episodes, some of the plotting and exposition is as clunky as Carrie's incredibly noisy laptop keyboard. Seriously, she wants to get that examined at the Genius Bar. It's deafening.
But it doesn't take long for this series to slowly morph into the show I remember with such affection. Carrie is a maddening fruitcake of a woman but her comic timing gives her the necessary spark of appeal. And despite the often irritating displays of self-doubt, Carrie's insecurity is what spoke so loudly to me and millions of other women trying to find happiness back then.
In episode one she sleeps with a repeat offender called Curt who always loves her and leaves her, under the pretext of turning the tables on him. But men holding huge "Do not feed the ego" signs are like iron filings to Carrie's skinny little magnet. She's lovable for about five minutes – I used to properly adore her – then you want to slam that sash window on her stupid fingers and tell her to get a grip. Then she crumples into a heap and you like her again. Big enters the picture in the first episode and is the catalyst that turns Carrie from a happy-go-lucky single gal into an obsessive, insecure nightmare.
Miranda, the independent lawyer, has her defences set to stun in this first season. She snaps and snarls with such ferocity it's a wonder her friends don't march her straight into therapy. Her love interest in the first series is a sweet, nerdy Skipper who is clearly the blueprint for Steve, the adorable and much sexier dweeb she finally marries.
She treats Skipper so badly that you kind of loath him for not telling her to get lost. Then later in the series, she kisses a lesbian she's using to advance her career, just to make sure she's not gay as "life would be so much easier". I had perhaps the fondest memories of Miranda but proto-Miranda really isn't a very sympathetic character at all. She gets better, and more layered, in later series.

Charlotte surprised me the most as I remembered her being pretty one-dimensional and a total prude from the outset. But just in this series she has a threesome with her boyfriend and poses nude for an artist who likes to paint massive close-ups of vaginas. Quite the goer.
And Samantha, the sexually voracious one goes through cycles of incessant bonking, followed by a relationship that's always against her better judgment. In this series, she falls for a man so whole-heartedly that she waits before sleeping with him. Restraint is not a word in her vocabulary. Only when she finally "unwraps the goods" does she discover he has a tiny penis and the relationship droops thereafter. It's actually a relief when she reverts to type. Her sole function in the first series is to demonstrate sexual confidence at all times, throwing the other three into sharp relief while they're having self-conscious sex in their bras.
Needless to say, I have every episode of Sex and the City on DVD but series one is not the most-viewed in my collection. It has been good going back to the beginning at a time when the films have done such a demolition job on the brand I loved so much. I enjoyed reminding myself what a panacea this show was to me when I was lurking in the self-imposed gloom of my own single life. And though we went our separate ways for a while, I shall always love it.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Claire Bloom / The Misery I Am Never Able to Forge

Claire Bloom



Her reputation precedes her. Interviewers find actress Claire Bloom guarded, private and shy. They talk of her nervous sensitivity and fiercely controlled personality. She rarely reveals anything personal. So it is an honour to find her talking intimately and revealing secrets. Like the fact that this serene, elegant, very English actress used to take drugs: ‘Well, who didn't in the Sixties?' she says. ‘I did pot at parties and loved it. I loved listening to music or looking at paintings.'
She's appearing next week at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, reading The Turn of the Screw. A talented actress and the darling of the gossip columns in the Fifties, she was shot to fame by Charlie Chaplin in Limelight. She has starred in A Streetcar Named Desire; as Lady Marchmaine in Brideshead Revisited; in The Camomile Lawn; and received rave reviews for her part in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanours (‘it's impossible to make any assesment of him. He never talks to you after the interview'). Initially Claire is prickly. I say I feel tentative because she has been known to threaten closing interviews, on one occasion three times. Why? ‘There is no reason to go into that,' she says, with the faintest American twang.
We're talking in The Mark hotel in New York, the city in which she now spends most of her time. ‘It's been a big wrench. I miss my London friends and family.' She's immaculate in ochre jumper, pale lemon skirt, perfect make-up and faultless bone structure. ‘You can't be an actress without magnetism,' she says later, ‘and magnetism has to be sexual. I can't lack it - but it isn't overt.' She is beautiful and looks 20 years younger than her 61 years. Has she had plastic surgery? ‘It's none of your business.' She has always wanted to keep busy. ‘It isn't that the parts don't come in, but I'm very selective.' To this end she has taken her one-woman Shakespeare all over America and taught Ibsen to ethnic minorities. ‘When I'm inactive I'm depressed. I like to have a reason to get up and things to do.'
She has been married three times, always to Americans (‘I've always been with the outsider because I am one'). First to Oscar-winning Rod Steiger; then to Howard Elkins, producer of Oh! Calcutta!; and now to Portnoy's Complaint author Philip Roth.
‘My second marriage was so awful that I don't even... it's...' her voice goes low. ‘I don't even countenance it.' It lasted three and a half years. ‘It was just ghastly' (end of subject tone). ‘It was so unhappy. I don't want to talk about it ever, as long as I live to anyone, including myself. It caused my daughter great hurt, it caused me immense pain.' WAS it bad in terms of mental anguish or physical abuse? ‘No, not physical abuse. I wouldn't have stayed two seconds for that. That's something I won't take from anyone. You walk. I don't believe that any woman has got through life without encountering physical abuse once.' When did she encounter it? ‘I don't want to go into it.' She sounds indignant. ‘I'm sorry, that's very personal.' She sips her coffee.
‘My first marriage was difficult,' she continues. It lasted 10 years. ‘It's very hard for two actors to marry, there is a certain amount of competitiveness - and we were very different people. I'm happy to say that Rod is now very happily married and having a baby' (she sounds aghast) ‘at the age of 67. I'm thrilled for them. She is pretty and nice and my daughter's age.' Claire's daughter, Anna, is by Rod.
‘Am I jealous? God almighty, no! I left Rod 25 years ago. As for the second one (husband), I don't know whether he's dead or alive, and I don't care!' We talk then about her life with Philip. They met once and then bumped into each other again on the corner of Madison and 67th. They've been together ever since - although for 11 years she was based in London six months of the year while he was in the States. ‘This is the first steady relationship I've ever had in my life,' she says. ‘I'm not the easiest person to live with. I've got a lot of things wrong with me. Intolerance, short temper ... but I figure I can't be all bad. Philip has helped me become calmer.'
They wed in 1990, after living together for 15 years. She ‘doesn't know' why they married after so long, having often said marriage was an irrelevance. ‘I was wrong. It's much nicer being married ... I just felt we'd been together so long, gone through so much together and I just wanted a kind of seal on it.
‘He's one of the most intelligent men in America. So you never lack good conversation. We're alone lots in Connecticut. I'm not solitary in the way that he is - he can be alone from one month's end to the next - but I like it too.' Characteristically, she picks her words carefully.
She is intensely proud of her daughter Anna, an opera singer. ‘She has turned out to be a terrific girl. She never had drink and drug problems or any of these dreadful difficulties, so I can't have done everything wrong. The second marriage was dreadfully hurtful to her because it was hurtful to me.
‘Also, there's not a professional woman who doesn't have the same problems I've had of trying to balance one's life. There were times when I was away too much. But I love her immeas- urably.'
CLAIRE'S own family background was problematical. ‘You know that wonderful Gracie Fields song, ‘something, something, it's all through your marrying our father you ruined the family'.' She laughs uproariously, as she does often.
‘I feel sorry to say things about a man I hardly knew and scarcely remember,' she says, suddenly sad. Her father left when Claire was 12 and went to seek his fortune in South Africa, divorcing her mother and remarrying. ‘Before that, it was a very rocky marriage. My mother was wonderful, a single parent - which up to a point I've been... ‘We moved a great deal because my father was always changing jobs, but I don't know what he did. At one point he seemed to run quite a big factory and to have money. At other times we had nothing because of his gambling. ‘We lived all over. I didn't have any education - I can truly say I didn't. I can't count the number of schools I went to - maybe eight or nine.' She left aged 14.
‘It wasn't an unhappy childhood, though it sounds it. I recall I didn't like school and I liked playing ‘let's pretend' and dressing up. I didn't have many friends, and I always had my nose stuck in a book. It was very much my mother and me against the world - with poor John, my younger brother, trailing behind.'
Claire, a charming woman with immense dignity and self-deprecatory humour, remains ‘an optimist'. She does yoga, meditation, aerobics - and therapy, occasionally. ‘I first went to therapy during that bad, bad, bad time. I went for three years. Then when we decided to live in New York it was such a wrench I went to someone again, someone with whom I keep in contact.
‘It's marvellous being able to go to someone professional instead of going to your friends and crying and telling them a whole lot of rubbish they'll tell somebody else.' She pauses. ‘It's very odd - when you read about actresses, so many of them have a disappeared father. Why do they all go into this ‘let's pretend' business?' Cheltenham Literature Festival starts on Monday.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Claire Bloom / Leaving a Doll´s House

Claire Bloom

Claire ​Bloom is one of the most beautiful, gifted, and accomplished actresses of her generation, famous for her roles on stage (A Doll’s House, A Streetcar Named Desire, Long Day’s Journey into Night), in films (Limelight, Richard III, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold), and on television (Brideshead Revisited, Shadowlands). Now in this startlingly honest yet good-humored memoir, she reveals a private life much at odds with her public success – a life of instability, loss, personal discovery, and renewal.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Fiona Mozley / I wrote a novel on my commute — now it might win the Booker Prize

Fiona Mozley

Fiona Mozley: I wrote a novel on my commute — now it might win the Booker Prize

At just 29 years old, Fiona Mozley is up for a prestigious literary prize. She tells Susannah Butter about the new gender roles, hutching up in a shared house and why Theresa May should read her book

Friday 28 July 2017 12:26

Fiona Mozley wrote her Man Booker longlisted novel Elmet on her phone while commuting. “To get it finished I just had to take it one sentence at a time, whenever I could,” she recalls.
Mozley, who at 29 is the second- youngest author to be up for the prize after 2013’s winner Eleanor Catton, then 28, started the novel four years ago, in secret. She had just graduated from Cambridge University with an English degree and was living with five friends crammed into a small house in Honor Oak Park, doing an internship at literary agency Artellus Limited.
“I was finding London life difficult — the strain of the capital was taking hold,” she says. “I was living for the next pay cheque and at a loose end. I didn’t know what career I was going to have or where I was going to live in the next year.” She was paying £600 a month to share a house where “we had secret tenants — when the landlord visited we had to fold away my bed and pretend it wasn’t there”.
Her friends have teased her that the book’s title sounds like the children’s book Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, which she takes with a laugh. In fact, Elmet was the last independent Celtic kingdom in England, between the fifth and seventh centuries, and later became the West Riding of Yorkshire. Mozley is completing what she calls a “niche” PhD at York University about the concept of decay in late-medieval towns and eco politics.Her novel addresses property ownership. It’s told from the point of view of Daniel, a boy remembering his life with his sister Cathy in a house their father built with his bare hands. They are not like other children. Their father is loving but prone to fits of rage, and his behaviour creates tension in the community.
“The father is a gruff, self-sufficient bare-knuckle boxer who builds a house on land he doesn’t own,” says Mozley, talking about her characters like they are people she knows. “The land isn’t being used but the owners don’t like what he has done. I feel no one can say anything these days without bringing up politics, but this book does touch on a community left behind. 
It’s no coincidence that I started the book when living in London.”
Does the Grenfell Tower fire give these ideas of home- ownership and rights new resonance? “Absolutely.”Masculinity, gender and bodies are also themes. “The father is the archetypal masculine man — he’s enormous and strong but he has these two children who in some respects aren’t like him at all — they don’t conform to expectations of gender. I wanted to explore that tension.” If a film was made of Elmet he’d “have to be played by Tom Hardy or Idris Elba”. Mozley says his violence is influenced by her love of Clint Eastwood films rather than any tension in her own family. “My own father [a retired social worker] is a gentle, lovely man. I wanted to write about people so different from me and my family.”
The novel touches on gender queerness, too. “In many ways it feels like we are living in the last gasp of old-fashioned gender roles, but perhaps that’s just people like me saying that and it’s more pervasive than we’d like to think. The situation in America [with Trump banning transgender people from the army this week] is dire.”
The novel’s setting came to Mozley on a train back to London from York on a trip to visit her parents. “I was looking out at the South Yorkshire landscape, the copses and outbuildings. I already had questions I wanted to explore, and those things came together.”
Mozley was born in Hackney but grew up in York and moved back there recently. She lives with her partner, Megan, who the book is dedicated to. She came out as a teenager and it was undramatic. Megan is also studying for a PhD (they work side by side) and they have a lurcher dog called Stringer, named after the character in The Wire. 
Writing about nature in a lyrical style was “escapism” for Mozley. There was no grand plan. She wrote “to give me a sense of achievement that I’d finished something”. Her friends were asking her what she wanted to do with the rest of her life and it was hard not to tell them about the book. “They were doing impressive things but I didn’t want to say too much because I didn’t want it to become real before it was the right time.” When her family and friends eventually found out, “they had just seen me on my computer and thought I was browsing Facebook or watching Netflix. Sometimes I was.”She announced the book’s publication on Facebook and was touched by the response. This became particularly poignant in the past few months. A friend of her best friend died in the Manchester Arena attack in May, and she went to his vigil. “Martyn [Hett], who died, was a mesmerising and magnetic individual. He had hundreds of friends but when I announced the book was published he took the time to congratulate me, which was much appreciated and testament to the person he was, making time for the little people.”
Mozley works part-time in a bookshop and wouldn’t give that up even if she won the £50,000 Booker money. She is adamant that shops have a future in the internet age. “People come in and say how much they love browsing and holding the real thing.” She’s recommending Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends to customers for summer. A second book by her is on the way, which addresses owning and renting property and land.
She doesn’t think she’ll buy her own house anytime soon. “The possibility of ever buying a house is distant. I don’t know how it could be resolved. In Elmet the repercussions of the right-to-buy scheme are covered. The London housing market is absurd.” She supports Jeremy Corbyn and was “hungover” after election night. Should Theresa May read the book? “Yes. There are characters and issues that probably seem distant to a lot of people and people of May’s generation and inclinations. Books help you imagine the lives of others.” 
Elmet is out on August 10, John Murray

The rest of the Man Booker longlist

4321 by Paul Auster
A hero’s life in a four-way narrative. 
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Love and loss between two soldiers. 
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
A teenage girl’s struggle. 
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
A reality-bending narrative on refugees.
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
A celebration of small-town Ireland. 
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Abduction in a village.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Roy’s long-awaited second novel.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
President Lincoln mourns his son.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie 
An immigrant family at war with itself.
Autumn by Ali Smith
A post-Brexit story.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Friendship and rivalry, set across continents. 
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
A haunting story about escape from slavery.

Claire Bloom / Poster

Claire Bloom

Claire Bloom / 'There's more to life than men'

Claire Bloom

'There's more to life than men'

Actress Claire Bloom's relationships with Rod Steiger, Richard Burton and Philip Roth all failed. But she is relishing her independence, she tells Michael Shelden

Claire Bloom: 'My daughter keeps my head on straight'

IN her twenties, Claire Bloom led a charmed life. Almost overnight, she rose from middle-class obscurity in Finchley to international stardom, playing the leading lady to Richard Burton, Charlie Chaplin and Laurence Olivier. Her elegant beauty was celebrated in the pages of Vogue and Time; her acting talent was praised by Kenneth Tynan as "pure gold".
Then she started having trouble with husbands. Her career lost its direction as she struggled to save three difficult, volatile marriages, each more demanding than the last. Indeed, her divorce from her third husband - American novelist Philip Roth - was so acrimonious that he bombarded her with faxes demanding the return of every penny he had spent on her and sarcastically suggested a "fine" of $62 billion for her alleged violation of their prenuptial agreement.
Now, still beautiful and energetic at 71, she has decided that enough is enough. Fixing me with her sharp gaze, she leans back in her chair and declares, "Freedom is marvellous. There are other things in life besides men."
She sounds convincing, especially when she discusses her ambitious hopes for reviving her film and stage career. In America, she is touring in a one-woman show that features various Shakespearean characters, and she has just completed work on a small film in Montreal.
In her private life, she has formed a new friendship with the writer Marianne Wiggins, an ex-wife of another "high-maintenance" literary star, Salman Rushdie. The two women have become travelling companions, taking a boat trip on the Amazon together and no doubt entertaining each other with stories of famous novelists behaving badly.

Her dark hair is wispy and her glances are often sidelong and furtive, betraying shyness as well as suspicion. One moment, she seems anxious and guarded; the next, relaxed and forthcoming.
"There are definitely two sides to my personality," she admits. "Part of me is childish, playful, dependent. Another part is fiercely independent and protective."
The tension between these two sides is at the heart of her success as an actress. She was brilliant on the London stage as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, perfectly capturing the torment of a woman caught between the demands of genteel respectability and raging desire. Some of the same tension was also apparent in her celebrated Broadway performances as Nora in A Doll's House.
But in her private life she has suffered from what her friend Gore Vidal describes as her "neurotic" temperament. When I repeat Vidal's succinct commentary on her relationship with Philip Roth - "He's tense; she's tense" - she laughs nervously, but does not deny the accuracy of the description.
Part of the difficulty in her tumultuous love life is that she has been drawn so often to men whose anxieties and obsessions mirror her own. Her first husband, the actor Rod Steiger, didn't seem to know whether he wanted his wife to be a free spirit or an accessory to his own career. They had a child - Anna, now 42 and an opera singer - but the marriage soon collapsed when Bloom found herself attracted to one of her husband's friends, the producer Hillard Elkins.

She now acknowledges that her marriage to Elkins was an enormous mistake and describes him as having "an air of fearful anxiety", yet she was only too willing to join him in a stormy relationship, playing the "child-daughter" to his father-lover.
Significantly, her own father was largely absent from her life. It was her mother who inspired her to pursue an acting career, while her father drifted from job to job and place to place before disappearing from her life. In her childhood she was never quite certain what her father did for a living. "I later found out from my birth certificate that he described himself as a tie salesman, but I have no idea if he actually sold a tie."
After her father abandoned the family, Claire and her brother, John, lived with their mother in greatly reduced circumstances, made worse by the privations of the war. She still has vivid and painful memories of the period.
"It was so dreary and bleak, with rationing and bad food. I came to resent not only the poverty that we saw around us, but the whole caste system of Britain that made any escape from such poverty so difficult. Although you might get a taste of success, you still felt enclosed and unable to move ahead. I couldn't wait to get out of England."
Her chance came in the early Fifties, when her budding career as an actress attracted the attention of Charlie Chaplin, who flew her to New York to audition for a starring part in his film Limelight. He liked what he saw and showered attention on her, generously sharing the cover of Time magazine with her when the film was launched. Suddenly, Hollywood wanted her and she made several big films in America, including The Buccaneer with Yul Brynner.

"I had acting jobs in London, but I wanted to be in America. For me, the one bright thing about England in those days was a Welshman."
She is referring to the first great love of her life, Richard Burton, who starred opposite her in Hamlet at the Old Vic. Unfortunately, he was married at the time and she was never able to enjoy more than brief periods with him.
The fact that their love was frustrated and finally faded is still a source of pain to her, and she does not have much sympathy for Elizabeth Taylor, who eventually lured him into a second marriage. There seems little doubt that he was the favourite of all her lovers.
"He had it all: intelligence, physical beauty, an incredible voice. There was no one else like him. When we were at the Old Vic, he proved that a working-class actor could make it, and I was proud of him. I thought he set a great example in a society that was, and still is, so preoccupied with class and accent."
Her resentment of social distinctions is such a favourite theme that she can't resist interrupting her praise of Burton to deliver a sharp dig at the Queen: "As long as people continue to bow to an uncultivated woman, the caste system will continue."
It is not surprising that she soon drifted away from Britain and made her new home in America, first with Steiger in balmy Malibu and then with Elkins in New York. It was during her early days in New York that she met Roth, who was immediately drawn to her.
"We liked many of the same things. We're both Jewish and bookish. I suppose, at one level, it was a kind of tribal connection that made us fall for each other."
But the relationship grew with painful slowness because Roth was both wary of marriage and deeply jealous of losing Claire's affection. He made it difficult for her to pursue her career and tried to dominate every aspect of her life. So intense was his jealousy that he turned against her daughter, Anna, insisting that the girl was a distraction and consumed too much of Claire's attention.
When Anna was 18, Roth demanded that she leave their house. Claire agonised over his demand but, to her regret, gave in to it.
"He didn't like having her around. It was as simple as that. They are two people with very strong personalities and I couldn't find a way to bring them together. So Anna left. It was a terrible mistake, and she and I have resolved this question only after much difficulty."
Now that Roth is gone, how do relations between mother and daughter stand today?
"She is the most wonderful woman I know and we are very close again. She is so good for me in so many ways. She keeps my head on straight. When I go over the line, she will put me in my place by saying, `Oh, Mom, that's so actressy'."
It took almost 20 years for Bloom to get Roth out of her system. They spent years feeding each other's anxieties and debating their future, and the question of marriage was put off again and again. They lived together in a state that varied from open hostility to quiet domesticity. She tolerated his many emotional outbursts and depressions and nursed him through several illnesses.
"But our love was always doomed to fail. I see that now. Philip can't endure relationships that go on peacefully. He needs controversy and conflict and abrasion. We had many good times, but they were always followed by some outbreak of anger and guilt."
In a vain effort to save their relationship, Claire proposed marriage to Philip. He hesitated, but finally accepted the offer. Their union lasted only three years. And when he turned against her, it was with a vengeance, threatening expensive legal actions and sending angry letters of recrimination.
In 1996, she struck back by turning his instrument of power - the pen - against him. She wrote a brutally candid memoir of their life together and took a literary swipe at him in the title by calling the book Leaving a Doll's House. Over many pages, she details her case against him, attacking him for his selfishness and ingratitude. For her pains, she was criticised in some reviews for airing her dirty laundry in public.
"My crime was that I blew the whistle on Philip Roth. I thought what I was doing was giving the world a truthful picture. Much of it was bad, but there was also great love between us and I tried to convey the spirit of that love."

It is difficult to see the love in her memoir when so much mad obsession seems to swirl around it. He emerges from the book as a nasty, lonely misogynist whose supposed genius hardly serves as an excuse for his wild tantrums and petty cruelties. Bloom seems to think his genius partly redeems him, but it may well be that his self-indulgent fictions will not be read by anyone in 50 years. In which case, she suffered for nothing.
But that bleak view is not one that she is willing to accept. What is most amazing about Claire Bloom, six years after she declared her independence from Roth, is that she still can't seem to let him go.
The more we talk about him, the more she seems to yearn for him, speaking wistfully about their house in Connecticut and reports of his comings and goings in the literary world. In fact, much of her willingness to wash her hands of men seems to be based on the notion that no one else but Roth can suit her. After describing some of their good times together, she says, ruefully, "He is a hard act to follow."
Her devotion to Roth is touching, but he appears not to share her tender memories. In one of his recent books, I Married a Communist, he viciously attacks a character who closely resembles Bloom, portraying her as a double-crossing Jewish actress who betrays her husband.
Given this assault on her reputation, it would seem unlikely that she would have any fondness left for the old brute. But I am stunned by her answer, when I ask if she still loves him.
"Yes," she replies, firmly. And, then without missing a beat, she adds an explanation that seems almost like a chant: "I loved him, I still love him - and I always will love him."