LIFE, even for beautiful I film stars, does not always run smoothly. Susan George waded through the ankle-deep carpet in her Buckinghamshire living room waving a piece of paper and recounting a tale familiar to us all.
“Look at this,” she says. “The postman left this note today saying he tried to deliver a parcel, but I wasn’t in – when I was. Now the Post Office say they’ve no record of a parcel for me.”
“I don’t mind about the coat, it’s insured,” she goes on, “but I do care about a scrap-book also lost in the parcel. That’s irreplaceable. It just hasn’t been my week. Last night I lost a diamond ring and a couple of days ago a magazine journalist came and attacked me from start to finish.
“He said: ‘You’ve made 20 movies and I get the impression you don’t mind taking your clothes off any old time.’ He went on and on about Straw Dogs (in which Susan played Dustin Hoffman’s wayward wife) and then said he hadn’t seen it! After asking why some bits of my hair were a different colour from the other bits he called me a loose woman!
“I said: ‘Flirtatious maybe; loose, certainly not!’ His tape recorder broke down right after this and I said it was probably striking in protest against his hostile statements. I am very vulnerable as I am open and honest and I hope journalists will be the same, but facts get twisted so I rarely give interviews now.”
Now 27, she has a rather disarming child-like candour and innocence despite a decade in films, mostly playing man-eating nymphets.
Even her taste in food is of the nursery variety: sausages and mash and baked beans on toast are hot favourites. “And I love junk food like chip butties and sugar sandwiches made with white bread. I could easily out-eat any man any day of the week.”
Lithe of hip, her outfits are generally infinite permutations on a trouser theme. A bit of a swashbuckler, with an instinctive flair for what is suitable, her current fad is for cashmere sweaters, tight cord pants and gold cowboy boots – “my total delight.”
Back in 1968, a too sophisticated outfit worn to the audition for the title role in Twinky opposite Charles Bronson, got Susan crossed off the director’s list as “too old” – at 17! “I was desperate for the part so I went back under an assumed name dressed in a school uniform with white knee socks and sandals -and got it!”
Despite her Calamity Jane appearance, Susan admits to being a great romantic at heart. “I loved the 1850 clothes I wore in Mandingo – all ringlets, snoods and pantaloons. I would love to have been around them, just showing a bit of ankle. I still have the nightdress I wore in the film, which was originally made for Lillian Gish.”
Off screen, she loves the slightly jokey clothes which, in London, can only be found in off-beat shops such as Ace in the King’s Road and the Kensington Antique Market. A velvet pants and waistcoat outfit, sporting puce velvet orchid embroidery, is brought out, to be worn later that night on a TV quiz show. The four-poster is soon covered with a glittering panoply of chiffon and sequinned evening tops, to be matched with compatible trousers.
A platoon of gold and silver evening boots muster for duty. Looking incongruously like a sow’s ear among silk purses – a baggy old grey cashmere “sweat shirt” is thrown into the finery -“This is my favourite top, but I don’t know what will go first, it or me.” Comfort generally wins over glamour.
Susan has a rather Jekyll and Hyde attitude to dresses – only feeling comfortable in them “when there’s a full moon and Bill Gibb on the label”.
She says: “My best friend Twiggy is a great dresser and wonderful at putting things together, but I will go almost anywhere in pants, leg warmers, sweater and satin bomber jacket, with a mink coat over the lot.”
She is understandably touchy about the subject of her much-publicised love affair and eventual break-up with singer Jack Jones. She has written some ballads about “feelings people can identify with”, and plans are afoot for her to make an album. She is keen to record that the inspirations to write songs didn’t come from her affair with Jones.
Next week, after a visit to “my dolls house in the Hollywood Hills”, Susan starts on Contasion with Maximilian Schell – yet another film dealing with the current obsession with reincarnation.
In June she goes to Paris to start work on a whodunit for director Claude Chabrol. “I play a very glamorous, Coco Chanel type. I wear beautiful clothes.”
If clothes be influence, could this be the end of the sexy-trouser-clad hoyden and the emergence of Susan George, sophisticated lady?
Certainly not yet. She has just remembered a recent addition to her wardrobe. “Perhaps I have regressed to childhood, having just acquired the adorable pyjamas my sister wore when she was 12. They are flannel with squirrels on the pockets.. Of course, they’re up to the knees on me . . .”
SUSAN GEORGE’S latest film, Tomorrow Never Comes, an Anglo-Canadian production starring Oliver Reed, opens in London on March 2.