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Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Paul McGuigan

Scottish director Paul McGuigan brings the stranger-than-fiction memoir of Peter Turner to the big screen, recounting his romance with Hollywood star Gloria Grahame in the last years of her life. Grahame was a huge success as a sultry young actress, working alongside Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, and when her career floundered, she never abandoned her craft or compromised her unconventional way of life.

"...told with such sensitivity, warmth and genuine charm."

As the film opens, the year is 1981 and Grahame (Annette Bening), now in her late 60s, collapses before going on stage in a small British provincial production of The Glass Menagerie. Discharging herself from hospital, she insists on being taken to the terraced Liverpool home of her former lover, Peter Turner (Jamie Bell). Shocked to see Grahame in such ill health, he and his family immediately take her in. As his supportive parents (a wonderful Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham) try their best to care for her, Peter struggles to cope with the truth that the love of his life might not be long for this world. His memories of the early days of their relationship come flooding back and we learn how, and why, the romance came to a painful end.

While it’s rare to see a love story between an older woman and a younger man, it is rarer still to see one told with such sensitivity, warmth and genuine charm. Bening is a class act as always (perfectly capturing Grahame’s extraordinary voice) and Bell is truly charming as the young man whose life changed forever after his time with this extraordinary woman.

To coincide with Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, we are delighted to also be screening The Big Heat and In a Lonely Place, both of which showcase Gloria Grahame’s unique talent.

From It's a Wonderful Life to Crossfire, we've taken a look back at five of our favourite Gloria Grahame films - you can read our list here.