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Julie Christie: The Sixties Movie Icon Who Was Born in Assam

Julie Christie: The Sixties Movie Icon Who Was Born in Assam

Julie Christie

Julie Christie by Paul Schtzer, 1966. Image courtesy: flashbak.com.


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By Mithu Das   December 03, 2017


If I don't make films, no one is going to write about me. And most people have forgotten who I am anyway. My life is not interrupted because I am more or less anonymous.Julie Christie

Julie Christie is considered to be the 1960s movie icon as well as the icon of 'Swinging London' era. She was named as one of the '100 Sexiest Stars in Film History'. Christie acted in more than four dozens of films many of which had done well at the box office. (She also acted in a few plays.) She won an Academy Award for 'Best Actress in a Leading Role' in Darling in 1965. However, after 41 years of that prestigious award, Christie was able to win another major award, that was a Golden Globes, in the film Away from Her (2006). She had also earned nomination for Oscars for McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Afterglow (1997) and Away from Her (2006). Apart from these awards, she has won many international film awards such as BAFTA, AARP, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Genie Awards, Laurel Awards, etc.



In Assam, how many people have heard about Christie we don't know but the famous actress has a link with Assam. She was born at Shinglijan Tea Estate, Chabua, British India, in 14th April, 1941. Julie Christie as child

'Julie Christie as child' downloaded from https://www.express.co.uk/.

Her father, whose name was Francis "Frank" St. John Christie, was a tea planter and her mother Rosemary (Ramsden) was a painter. "It is a surprise that someone so steeped in the class systems and traditionalist expectations of the British Empire should become an actress," an author expresses their opinion in a short biography of Christie, "and more so an icon for the period of cultural change that swept away these systems and expectations."

Christie grew up at Shinglijan and stayed there until she was six when her father sent her back to England for an education. There she had been looked after by foster mother. Later Christie told Tim Adams in an interview that she felt very lonely in England. "She hated the school and hated being away from her mother," writes Tim Adams in The Guardian. "She was eventually expelled from her Catholic secondary school for telling a rude joke".

Christie completed her education in France where she learnt to speak French language as well as Italian. It was in France where she'd determined to become an actor after she met a complete stranger who was an aspiring actor. She was deeply impressed by the bohemian lifestyle of the artists in France.

Christie first appeared on stage when she was studying at Wycombe Court School —she played "the Dauphin" in a production of Shaw's Saint Joan. Later, she trained herself as an actor in London’s Central School for Drama. She made her stage debut in 1957. (She was just 16 years old at that time.) One of her earliest performances as stage actor was to play the role of Anne Frank in a London theatrical production of The Diary of Anne Frank. She first appeared in TV in the BBC Sci-fi series A for Andromeda in 1961. Her first film was Crooks Anonymous (Ken Annakin, 1962), a comedy film, in which she appeared briefly as a stripper girlfriend of Dandy Forsdyke (Leslie Phillips). Her second film was The Fast Lady (Ken Annakin, 1963) in which she plays the role of Claire—the daughter of a gruff, wealthy businessman. She was considered as the "Bond Girl" for Dr. No (1962) but was rejected by its producer because she was not busty enough.

French poster for Darling
French poster for Darling (1965). Image courtesy: flashback.com.

In 1963, Christie met director John Schlesinger, who, it was said, kicked her career into high gear. Schlesinger chose Christie as a replacement for the actress (Topsy Jane) for his film Billy Liar. The film was based on Keith Waterhouse's 1959 best-selling novel of the same name. "The story recounts the hapless adventures of William (Billy) Fisher (Tom Courtenay) as he fails to distinguish between his fantastic daydreams and his real life as clerk to a funeral director. Liz (Julie Christie) blazes into Billy's world as the epitome of style, beauty and adventure". Christie made a splash in the film Billy Liar.



In 1965 she shot to stardom in the film Darling which was also directed by Schlesinger. It own several prestigious awards including Oscar, Golden Globes and BAFTA. Christie herself won an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Actress. In this movie she acted as Diana Scott—"a beautiful but amoral model who sleeps her way to the top of the London fashion scene at the height of the Swinging Sixties" (IMDb). In that same year Christie appeared Lara in David Lean’s epic Doctor Zhivago which was based on Boris Pasternak’s famous novel Doctor Zhivago. The movie was a surprise box-office hit and made $111 million. Apparently the Life magazine declared 1965 'The Year of Julie Christie'.


What Julie Christie wears has more real impact on fashion than all the clothes of ten Best Dressed woman combined.Time Magazine, 1967

Christie worked with many famous directors, such as Fran├žois Truffaut, David Lean, Richard Lester, Robert Altman and Nicolas Roeg. Some of her films were based on classic novels and short stories. She acted in Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451(1966) which was based on Ray Bradbury’s science-fiction novel of the same name; played the role of Bathsheba (Thomas Hardy's famous heroin) in Far from the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger 1967); played the role of Gertrude in Hamlet ( Kenneth Branagh 1996); and, acted as a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease in Away From Her (Sarah Polley 2006) which was based on Alice Munro's short story The Bear Came over the Mountain.

In the movie Away from Her (2006) Julie Christie acted as Fiona Anderson, a married woman in her mid-sixties, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and forgets about her husband and falls in love with another man.

During the late seventies, Christie started to lose her affection for Hollywood. She just wanted out of Los Angeles. "I thought I was going mad there," she told Tim Adams. "You don't fall into LA, you slip into it." Apparently, she bought herself a farm near Montgomery in North Wales where she started to live with her friends. She also has a house in Wales, England from where she launched campaigns for nuclear disarmament and animal rights. (According to The Guardian, Christie returned only temporarily to live in California two decades later.)

In 1981, she narrated The Animals Film, which, according to Christie, 'revealed on film for the first time all the different ways in which we abuse animals'. In 1983, she joined the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camps, which were established in protest at the deployment of cruise missiles at Royal Air Force Greenham Common in Berkshire. In 2011, she went on a week-long hunger strike with solidarity of 100 inmates who were also abstaining from food at Guantanamo Bay. Presently she is campaigning for Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, Survival International, and Stop the War Coalition.

Julie Christie sitting on grass at Greenham Common
Julie Christie sitting on grass at Greenham Common to protest at nuclear weapons being sited at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire (1983). Image courtesy: http://www.alamy.com/.

In the mid-eighties, Christie appeared in handful of films due to her participation in social and political activities. However, from the mid-nineties she started to act in films again. She took a bit part in films like Troy (2002), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2002), and Finding Neverland (2004). However, she played the lead character in the film Away from Her (2006). The last film in which she appeared was The Company You Keep (2012).

She is currently residing at Clumbia Road, in the East End of London. This April (2017) she completed her 76th birthday.



Some facts about Julie Christie

♦In her film career Christie had turned down many important roles such as Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), They Shoot Horses Don’t They? (1969), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Rosemary's Baby(1968), Valley of the Dolls (1967), American Gigolo (1980), Chinatown (1974), and, The Godfather (1972). In 1965, Charlton Heston wanted her for his film The War Lord but their studio refused to pay the salary she had demanded, which was thought to be $400,000. However, in 1978, despite being offered 1 million dollars Christie turned down the role Liz Cassidy (the role was modelled on Jacqueline Kennedy) in the movie The Greek Tycoon.

♦Christie's romance with Warren Beatty had been an open secret in Hollywood for a long time. She lived with Beatty from 1967 to 1974. The couple had also together acted in a few movies. However, at one time, she was dating actor Terence Stamp. In 1965 she got engaged to Don Bessant who is a lithographer and an art teacher. She got married to Duncan Campbell, a Guardian journalist, in 1979. It was said that their marriage was secretly held in India. Before Christie met Campbell her opinion about marriage was: "Men don't want any responsibility, and neither do I."

♦Julie Christie has a half-sister whose name was June Christie. June's mother was an Indian tea-picker from Chabua with whom Christie's father, Frank St John Christie, had an intimate relationship. June died, aged 70, on January 11, 2005, in Goring-by-Sea in West Sussex, England. June was six years older than Julie.

♦Christie visited Assam while she was in India during the shoot of the 1983 film Heat and Dust. According to an Assamese monthly magazine, she visited her birthplace Chabua and stayed with a Tea Planter's family in Sibsagar. She was accompanied by her husband Duncan Campbell. Before she returned to England, she met the famous Assamese film director Jahnu Barua in Guwahati.

Julie Christie in the supermarket queue, June 1965.
"Julie Christie in the supermarket queue, June 1965." Image courtesy: The Guardian.

What Julie says about herself:


It takes me time to realise things; I'm a speedy person, but a slow thinker.

My introduction to Hollywood was a society that used it, sniffed it and threw it away. We've become a bit like that ourselves in the past 30 years. There's an attitude among the successful people of spend and spend, flaunt and flaunt, and don't think of anyone else.

Celebrity is the curse of modern life ... I don't like being part of something dirty. I say to some young stars, "Why do you do all these publicity things?" They say they have signed up to it. I suppose I never wanted to sign up.

All women are aware of that moment when suddenly the boys don't look at you. It's a fairly common thing, when suddenly you no longer attract that instant male attention because of the way you look. I never really knew how to enjoy beauty, but it took the form of a subconscious arrogance, expecting things, all muddled up with celebrity.

"Somewhere My Love (Lara's Theme)" from the movie Doctor Zhivago (1965)—Omar Sharif, Julie Christie.

Sources: IMDb; The Guardian; Sunday Express; Mail Online; Hello Magazine; Belfast Telegraph; Finding Dulcinea; Encyclopedia Britannica; Wikipedia; BBC; The Telegraph India; The Hindu; Booms Beat; You Tube; A Star Is Born by George Tiffin; Bismoi.

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