This will be recorded as the year the holdout state of Hollywood finally ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. The Fonda and Redgrave co-starring in Julia were Jane and Vanessa, and Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, not the dancers, are the reason to stand in line to see The Turning Point. The four dominate Oscar nomination noodling, but if there were a category for Artistic Risk-Taking and Coming-Out-on-Top, only one name could be in the envelope: Diane Keaton.
In her 31st year she was the goof-cake if sanely independent title character in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, the cinéma à clef account of their own foundered affair. Next, the willowy Keaton, having already proved she is film’s leading comedienne as his foil in four pictures, ventured from Allen’s 5’6″ shadow with her shattering depiction of a hell-bent singles-bar cruiser in Richard Brooks’ Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Having first come to public attention for refusing to drop her drawers in Hair, she conquered not only her reluctance to film nude scenes of explicit sexual aggression but also won the part from 500 contenders. “It was the hardest thing I ever tried,” says Keaton (whose other troublous roles were in both Godfathers as Al Pacino’s wife Kay and, track-suited, in the Hour After Hour deodorant commercials). Her dual triumph this year has conferred upon Keaton a unique stature as a sort of klutz-madonna. By sheer instinct and the daily discipline of Method-acting exercises, she brought to life virtually polar extremes of female consciousness. Keaton has also just emerged as one of only two women to make the moviehouse owners’ annual list of top 10 box office draws. The other is Streisand.
Yet the California-bred daughter of a civil engineer is, like her still best friend Allen, an East Side Manhattan showbiz eccentric, all but smothered in thrift shop/surplus chic disguises. A surfer girl who dropped out of college to study acting in New York, she is a flake not unlike Annie Hall (that, in fact, is her surname; Keaton is her mother’s maiden name). Diane unkinks on long walks, at museums, at the shrink (up to five times a week), snapping pictures semiprofessionally and dodging the social “scenes.” Next month Keaton, who has played cabaret gigs, will, like Annie Hall, head West and cut her first album. As for her love life, Diane has just broken off a three-year romance with an artist and explains: “I’m not a dater. When it comes to men, I like to take my time.” She’s Woody’s consort, or vice versa, at public events and is now filming his next supersecret project, which he warns will be more gripping than Goodbar. Observes Allen: “If in some way I’ve contributed to bringing Diane to the attention of the public, it satisfies me more than anything else I’ve done in films.”