Issue 163, Fall 2002
Capucine was fifty-seven years old when she killed herself by jumping from a ninth-floor window. First she was born, then she grew up, and after modeling in Paris she began acting in Hollywood movies, one of which was called Walk on the Wild Side. In this particular movie she plays a sophisticated prostitute who lives in a brothel run by Barbara Stanwyck, who's in love with her and supporrs her and lets her have everything she wants except for one small thing: desire. And then she meets Laurence Harvey. He plays a drifter who falls in love, not with the outer sophistication she wears like a dress, but with a thing inside of her. He's innocent enough to appreciate that thing and want it to be free. As does she. And although she enjoys the expensive wine and the velvet cushions and the pretense of being an artist, she decides to leave the Doll House-that's the name of the brothel-and this becomes the conflict of the story. Barbara Stanwyck won't let her go. Barbara Stanwyck is willing to pay the bills as long as Capucine is willing to be passive and docile, but now desires have been kindled in her, and unfortunately those desires contradict the more powerful desires of Barbara Stanwyck.
The movie is shot in black and white and one black night she sneaks down from her upstairs room to rendezvous with Laurence Harvey. Barbara Stanwyck, along with her legless husband, follows her to a Mexican restaurant with a bedroom in the back. In a scene that never made it into the film everyone is standing around this cafe. Everyone except for Laurence Harvey, who's in the bedroom waiting for Capucine to join him. That's where she wants to go and she tries to get there by pushing Barbara Stanwyck aside, but in doing so her hand gets taken and held, as if in tar, and she can't seem to pull it away. Her soul, which is what she calls her desire, wants to rise up and burst into the room, but her body, connected to her hand, connected to Barbara Stanwyck, can't move. The character she plays can never reach her longed-for happiness and in the end she's killed, accidentally, shot in a struggle for a gun.