Thursday, April 24

kodak.com presents
Actress Jane Withers

Photographs from "Giant"
January 25, 2001


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Moviebuff: People don't seem to take many slides anymore. Do you think that something is "lost" in that we do so much with video and so little with slide shows?

Jane Withers: I love slides personally. I've taken them for years. We used to have slide shows weekly at our home. We'd have friends and they'd share their slides. I have many friends that always take many photos, but they will have them developed in slides instead of prints, and then they again have slide shows at their house. I look to that. I don't think there are as many wonderful lectures and slide shows like there used to be. I'm happy you agree. Maybe we can each stir up some excitement, call the different clubs and organizations and suggest having more slide shows. It's a joyful way of getting people together.

Honesty: Which of the directors you worked for was your favorite, and why?

Jane Withers: That's a doozie of a question! It's very funny. I got very little direction my whole life, though I wanted it most. I would go up to whatever director I was working with and ask how he saw the role, what did he think? They would always say the same thing; ”whatever you want to do with this role is entirely up to you.” That went on from age 5 1/2 to 29 when I made “Giant.” Mr. Stevens was the same way. “It's your role and whatever you want to do is fine with me. I want your enthusiasm.” He thought I was the heart and soul of this movie. I never forgot that. I quietly said, "Remember those words Mr. Stevens, because I have some ideas about Vashti Snythe that I hope to incorporate in my role."

A few weeks passed and then it was time to create the wardrobe. I worked on it with the lady, as well as the wigs. We started out at about 18 years old and a ended up at age 80. I'm a great appreciation lover of makeup and how much they contribute to a role for an actor or actress, and I had never had a chance to age in a movie before. This was exciting for me. I was so proud to be working with the makeup people on this film. Every morning at 4am, it was interesting to see the different personalities at 4am and after they got their makeup on the set. Here's a wonderful shot I think my makeup man did of me as Vashti. This is my old age makeup. I was supposed to be 80. All during the film, they would pad me. The first time they ever had to do that! I wore all kinds of latex padding and underneath a garment to slip into and add 10-20 lbs. That was a wonderful thing at night when I could unzip it and not that big anymore. They did an incredible job with makeup -- our old age makeup of course with our clothes as well. Mr. Stevens didn't have a clue about what I was going to do with my clothes.

I patterned my role from an extraordinary lady from Odessa. Her name was Pauline Slater. I really thought of Pauline every time as I got older, the way I walked and moved and Pauline didn't smoke, but I felt because of the time and period that this picture was done, that Vashti would go with the herd, so she smoked. This is the only picture you'll ever see of me smoking a cigarette. I was opposed to it and I didn't allow it on my set. We would fine them if they swore or smoked and we made a lot of money for charities this way. It was a good cause and it helped someone in some way. Back to my clothes for “Giant,” the director didn't know that my hair was going to get redder. It looked dyed. The older Vashti got, the fatter she got and the redder her hair became. She was a good ole girl and loved Texas and her home and the money from the oil, and she spent a lot of it. That had nothing to do with my friend Pauline Slater. She was an oil heiress. She was one the most beautiful women I've ever known. She was fun and had a delicious sense of humor. She was one of the real pioneers of the West Texas oil industry. I would think of her and the lady she was as I would go into a scene to become Vashti Snythe.

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