As I mentioned in the last post, Herbert Ross started his career off as a choreographer with certain aspects of this playing into The Goodbye Girl. However, in his other Best Picture nominated film The Turning Point, Ross makes the tough world of ballet his key theme.
The Turning Point stars Shirley MacLaine, as DeeDee a former professional dancer who left the ballet behind to raise a family with fellow dancer Wayne. The pair now co-own a studio together in Oklahoma and are delighted when their old friends from the American Ballet Company come to town. DeeDee is also reunited with her old friend Emma, who has stayed with the company and become one of the most renowned dancers in the country. Their reunion stirs up memories for both as DeeDee feels that Emma convinced her to have a family because she was a better dancer while Emma disagrees. Meanwhile, Emma encourages DeeDee’s elder daughter Emilia to become a dancer herself and she joins the company and is paired with Russian dancer Yuri. Yuri and Emilia begin an affair however she later starts to get upset when she realises that he sleeps with other girls as well as her. DeeDee also embarks on an affair with an old friend, which angers Emilia who feels that her mother and father should remain faithful to one another. At the end of the film stars are made and others end their career but the ballet is always the most important thing to the majority of the characters.
Indeed, the ballet sequences are possibly the most memorable element of The Turning Point as Ross uses them to narrate his story. As someone whose personally not a big fan of the ballet, I felt these segments went a bit long but were necessary for the story to progress. I felt the film was at its strongest when either Emma or DeeDee were on screen as it’s always a joy to see Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine in a film. Both were nominated for Best Actress and both nominations were more than deserved. MacLaine excelled at playing a woman who was unsure of her place in the world and regretted a lot of the decisions she’d made. Meanwhile Bancroft was great as the fading star, unsure of where her life would take her next and unable to cope with the changing face of her industry. Professional dancer Leslie Browne proved to be a fairly captivating presence as Emilia, an innocent who was thrust into the harsh world of dance and struggled to cope. Though Browne deserved her Best Supporting Actress nod, I don’t think Mikhail Baryshnikov really deserved his nomination for Supporting Actor. Indeed, I feel Baryshnikov was nominated more for his outstanding dance skills than he was for his acting, which left a lot to be desired. The Turning Point was a stronger visual spectacle than The Goodbye Girl and therefore it was given a lot more nominations. In fact it holds the records for the film with the most nominations, including a director nod for Ross, without winning a single award. However, I feel that The Goodbye Girl had more heart and kept my attention while the extended ballet scenes in The Turning Point ruined the pace a little.
After watching both of his films it’s clear to me that Ross is an underrated director who really gets the best out of his actors and I’m really not sure why he’s not a name that’s as remembered as some other successful directors from the 1970s.