Men we love: Sydney Pollack

May 27th, 2008

Sydney Pollack passed away today of cancer.

This affected me for a whole bunch of reasons – for one because deaths from cancer really hit home for me, but also because I am an unabashed soft-heart in general.

It also reminded me of something comparatively trivial – Sydney Pollack was the man who directed (and starred in) one of the greatest American comedies ever made: Tootsie.

I have seen this more times than I can count, and probably half of those times were before I was twelve (it so very nearly turned me into a cross-dressing man.) But who can say no to that red spangly dress?

And like all fabulous movies, it’s only better now that I understand it as an adult. It’s a comedy (and it really is funny; not like those 1950s ‘comedies’ that only make you realise how far humour has progressed in 50 years), it’s a romance (boy-dresses-as-girl, boy-meets-girl, boy-undresses-to-boy, boy-loses-girl, love triumphs), and it’s also kind of dark, and sad, in its way.

In the Tootsie DVD extras Dustin Hoffman (bless) looks genuinely hurt when he tries to explain to camera the moment he realised just what it’s like to be an unattractive woman. Or worse than to be one, to feel like one.

Because that’s partly what this is about – a man finding out what it means to know that what you look like matters so much. And to realise on the flip side of the ‘ugly’ woman struggling to feel respected or loved, there’s the beautiful woman struggling to be respected, or loved for something other than her rack, because beauty-worship cuts both ways.

Oh yeah, there are beautiful girls too – Geena Davis in her first ever role and Jessica Lange before she massacred her face with placcy surgery:

If the brilliant Some Like it Hot grew up, it grew into Tootsie.

And if you have a date with the couch tonight, maybe you should watch Syd’s cross-dressing New York extravaganza.

RIP Mr. Pollack.

Photos thanks to livingromcom