“Bacall hits out at co-star Kidman,” shouts the headline on the BBC website. Shock, horror! My eye was drawn to the story immediately. What was going on? Had the sprightly 79 year-old thrown a deft right jab at her fellow thespian? Well no, the sum total of the story was:
“Veteran actress Lauren Bacall has labelled co-star Nicole Kidman a “beginner” after an ITV journalist described Kidman as a “legend”. “She’s not a legend. She’s a beginner… she can’t be a legend at whatever age she is,” Bacall told GMTV.”
And that was that. Now, what on earth is a legend? I tried looking it up but my dictionaries at home are pretty good but rather old. The King’s English Dictionary, with a picture of King George V at the front, says: “a chronicle or register of the lives of saints”; for ‘legendary’ it states: “strange, fabulous”. Not very helpful unless Ms Bacall was aware of this old definition and was simply trying to say that Nicole Kidman wasn’t ‘strange’. I think not.
For a modern definition I was forced to use the internet and the Merriam-Webster website and I have to say that it shed very little light either: “1 a : a story coming down from the past; especially : one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable b : a body of such stories (a place in the legend of the frontier) c : a popular myth of recent origin d : a person or thing that inspires legends e : the subject of a legend (its violence was legend even in its own time — William Broyles Jr.)
So let’s forget dictionaries; what is it that makes someone a legend to you or me? There’s no doubt that being dead is very helpful. It definitely confers status. The likes of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe may not have had that many roles but they are definitely legends. Being on the older side helps too – I would suggest that Lauren Bacall could legitimately be called a legend in her own lifetime.
But now, I come to my own litmus test – the modern day young star. Let’s take Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, or Michael Schumacher. I have to say that unless they pass away or grow old and wear very long grey beards I don’t think I would call them legends.
Ms Bacall is right. And I suspect that she was not being critical of Kidman, but asserting her role of protecting the English language. This theory holds water – especially when you consider that the BBC article goes on to say:
“Bacall told a recent press conference she and Kidman had a “fabulous relationship both on screen and off”.
“I love working with a young actress,” said Bacall.
No contest. Moving swiftly on ….