Blythe Danner is back with three movies after several years off screen


It's been a few years between films for Blythe Danner. Five years ago, she played the mother in the film version of Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs." She did television and stage in the ensuing years (she did "Blythe Spirit" at the Mechanic in 1987) but did no movies until last year, when she did Woody Allen's "Alice," "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge" and "The Prince of Tides." which Barbra Streisand directed.

"It's because the children are grown," said Danner. "I'm free to do more films than I did. My daughter is 18 and away at college, and my son is living in Riverdale, N.Y. Now I can go here and there for three weeks at a time."

Her husband is producer-director-writer Bruce Paltrow. They have two homes, one in New York and one in Santa Monica. "It can be confusing," said Danner. "I sometimes forget what I have in which house."

"Alice" has come and gone. It played here all of one week. "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge" opens here on Friday, at the Rotunda, and "Prince of Tides" should be released later this year.

Danner is pleased with all three films. "I had done another movie for Woody Allen, 'Another Woman,' and I was delighted to do a second one with him," she said. "He's remarkable. He knows exactly what he wants and doesn't have to worry about the money men. He has complete freedom with his films."

Danner plays Joanne Woodward's good friend in "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," a movie that has taken its good time getting here, probably because the producers were counting on winning an Oscar nomination, which they did. Woodward has been nominated for best actress of the year for her work in the film.

Danner was considered a likely nominee for a best supporting actress nomination, but she never assumed that anything would come of that. "It's a wonderful role, but I don't think I will be nominated,' she said, a short time before the nominations were announced.

"I liked doing the role, though,' she said. "Grace, the character I play, is suffocating in that town, and she wants to get out."

The town she refers to is Kansas City in the '30s and '40s. Woodward and Paul Newman play husband and wife, members of an almost totally WASP society. The husband is very conservative. Mrs. Bridge is less so. She is also more demonstrative than her husband, but she copes. The Bridges have three children. The heartaches they give their parents are universal.

Of "Prince of Tides," Danner says, "I did about three weeks, then I was out of there."

Streisand, who also stars in the movie, gets good marks from Danner. "She's very good. She is a director who acts and understands the problems of the actor. She has great empathy and sensitivity. She's just terrific. I just flit by on the screen, but it was great to be a part of the film."

Danner has never been aggressive about her career, she said, and she is not one of those performers who is recognized wherever she goes. "I have that anonymous look," she said. "People look at me and ask if they went to school with me.

"It's been a funny career, but I'm happy with it," she said.

She was also happy with "Brighton Beach Memoirs," even though she was criticized for it. "I played the mother, Judith Ivey played my sister, and we were both criticized for not being Jewish," she said. "But I had a grandmother who was very much like that. I wanted to play her as a larger, more gutsy woman, but I was told to hold back."

It's been 21 years that Danner has been on the theatrical scene. In 1970, she did "Butterflies Are Free" on Broadway, which is how she got that voice. She affected a raspy quality, thinking it was better for the role. It was, but it left her vocal cords swollen. She went into therapy with a voice teacher, who helped correct the situation. The raspiness, however, did not completely disappear. Danner is stuck with that.

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