Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story" would appear
to be the ultimate grand-scale miniseries for network audiences
mad about the rich and famous. After all, Alexis Colby wouldn't
have been able to hold a candle to Hutton's extravagance.
ccccJ.R. Ewing would have felt like
a country bumpkin in her presence. You had to be a prince or a count,
or Cary Grant, to get to first base with this woman.
CCCHutton was the real thing, even
if her life sounded like something F. Scott Fitzgerald would have
cooked up with Danielle Steel or Jackie Collins at a Hollywood party.
The lovelorn Hutton was kind of a real-life female Jay Gatsby, though
she never had to struggle for her fortune.
CCCThe granddaughter of five-and-dime
store tycoon F.W. Woolworth, whose daughter married Hutton's father,
Franklyn Hutton - co-founder with his brother Edward of E.F. Hutton
Barbara was already an imperially pampered child before she inherited
$28 million on her 18th birthday. cccc
cccc At age 21, Barbara was worth approximately $50 million at a
time when the Depression was practically forcing America to its
CCCFarrah Fawcett - finally shedding
the poster-girl veneer that has dogged her career as an actress-undergoes
an amazing transformation in the title role. Though a bit old to
be convincing as "Babs" the 18-year-old debutant, Fawcett
bears an uncanny resemblance to the emotionally frayed, ectomorphic
Hutton, whose fear of obesity left her practically anorexic.
performance is impressively layered.This painfully drawn-out extravaganza
opens with the suicide of Barbara's mother, who cannot bring herself
(under pressure from her domineering father, E.W. Woolworth) to
divorce her hard-drinking, philandering Franklyn Hutton (Kevin McCarthy).
This is the trauma that begins young Barbara's lifelong downward
spiral, and sets a pattern of being shuffled between various guardians,
since her father is incapable of exhibiting any devotion to her.
This also portends Babs' terrible luck with men, mostly jerks of
dubious titles - from Prince Alexis Mdivani (Nicholas Clay) to Count
Court Reventlow (Amadeus August) with whom she has a child. By the
time she meets Cary Grant (James Read), perhaps the most stable
force in her life, Hutton has collected such an assortment of motley
sycophants and jetsetting socialites that Grant's need for privacy
and a normal family life away from the spotlight cannot reconcile
itself to Babs' traveling puppet court.
CCCUnable to settle into a normal marriage
that would provide a much-needed anchor of stability in her life,
Babs degenerates into a pill-popping alcoholic who continues to
"buy" friends and lovers with outrageously expensive gifts.
By the time of her death at age 66, she had $3,500 in her bank account.
CCCEileen Diss and Bryan Ryman's production
design is impressively grandiose, but directors of photography John
Lindley and Alan Hume wash it all in the typically overlit, garish
Jarrott's handling of the cast is heavy handed while his staging
is completely bereft of style and imagination. Jarrott's few stabs
at quasi-expressionism are so bad they're laughable, such as an
early, almost Grand Guignol scene with the patriarch Woolworth playing
organ in a palatial, mist-filled study - lightning and thunder crashing
in the background - while instructing young Barbara to "not
be afraid of life's magic."
CCCBurl Ives brief, grandstanding appearance
as the crusty Woolworth seems like a parody of himself in past patriarch
roles. Nicholas Clay (Lancelot in John Boorman's "Excalibur")
as the rakish Prince Alexis Mdivani comes across like some strutting
Don Juan whose smarminess is all too apparent.
CCC As Court Reventlow, who turns out
to be a sado-masochistic chauvinist, Amadeus August acts like a
gestapo chief right of a '40s war movie, forced to sneer such lines
to Babs as "You may win on the tennis court; in bed, I win."
James Read does his best to impersonate the suave, affable Cary
Grant but the task appears almost impossible.
CCCStandouts include Fairuza Balk,
who displays great dramatic range as the 12year-old Barbara, confronted
with the fact that she's so filthy rich, she'll never lead a normal
life. Kevin McCarthy perhaps plays the role of his career as the
debauched Franklyn Hutton.
CCC Carmen Du Sautoy is deliciously
sinister as Prince Mdivani's calculating sister. In addition, Bruce
Davidson is delightful as Jimmy Donohue, Babs' closest and oldest
friend whose bratty candor is beyond reproach.