Elaine's 11 O'Clock Number: Award-Winning Actress Elaine Stritch Bids Farewell to Showbiz

By Harry Haun
17 Feb 2014

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The resulting film, Chiemi Karasawa's "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me," in theatres Feb. 21, may be the first to document a great star's exit from the limelight, and, God knows, Stritch is not one to go gentle into that good night. She doesn't make it easy on herself. Then again, perhaps she does, gradually coming to the irreversible conclusion — while the cameras are turning — that her advancing diabetes (a medical bugaboo for decades) has made remembering lyrics she has done all her life too difficult. Rather than put herself and, maybe more importantly, her audience through any more of that, she elects to take the high road home.

It must have been grating for her to go for the Graceful Exit, but there's something heroic in the gesture. Few performers have presented themselves to the public with more dry-eyed, straight-from-the-shoulder directness than Stritch.

Who can forget how D.A. Pennebaker's 1970 documentary, "Company: Original Cast Album," caught her in a recording-studio meltdown, screaming-as-opposed-to-singing what would become her signature song, "The Ladies Who Lunch." Eventually, she gives up, comes in the next morning and nails it to perfection. "Never mind what I did the night before," she mutters under her breath.

That frustrating, excruciating footage is included in the new documentary, and Stritch seems to have built from that level of exposure. "I just think the honesty of this new movie is very satisfying for me," she critiqued. "I don't feel that I told one thing that was for effect and not the truth.

"It's a big adjustment, making this move at this time in my life, but I'm getting used to it," she shrugged. "I'm very fond of a lot of people that I knew here. They're coming around, being very friendly and entertaining for me, interviewing me in the press.

"It has been nice. There's nothing to complain about. I'm getting up in years, and I have nothing to do now but reflect, think, be on my own — and I like that.

"I've got a lot to be thankful for. First of all, I can still talk and make sense. Everything else may be falling part, but my mind is in great shape. You are what you are. You're in the period of your life you want to be in. You have no choice. What are you going to do?"