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Shocker: Jill Clayburgh dies, aged 66

I’m taken aback.

Clayburgh shot to stardom in the era-defining film An Unmarried Woman; the way her face changes when her husband blurts out that he’s having an affair is one of my favorite miniature moments of cinema. Garbo couldn’t have pulled it off better; a bit of her face seems to fall off, like a tiny piece of siding plops stupidly off a house that’s just been through a tornado.

After more cool-to-watch facial expression changes/shingles falling off, she throws up right there on the street, which I remember was a Very Big Deal at the time.

I was just thinking about that moment the other day. How odd.

She also starred in other 1970s “feminist classics,” like Hustling and I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can, and memorably co-starred with Gene Wilder in Silver Streak, which — in the days such things occasionally occurred — ran about a year and a half straight at one of my hometown’s movie theatres.

Everyone assumed she’d be The Next (Temporary) Big Thing, “temporary” because once she’d reach a certain age, her career would be over.  But she disappeared before she could disappear, and the reason, it turns out, was not only that she married some rich guy (as I’d assumed, and she had) but also cancer. She was diagnosed 21 years ago and died last night.


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