Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"It's that fat lady from the station!"

A lady needs tools in her self-esteem arsenal, yes? Of all kinds?

I like to collect and savor moments that demonstrate (a sometimes delightfully unexpected) admiration for fat women in movies or TV (or paintings or books or). Earlier in my life I think I used to snatch at them, really--as evidence of something I wasn't quite sure existed--but regardless, I am still now, as then, ever on the lookout for bits of culture that praise or otherwise provide an appreciation of the larger lady. They are fun.

As such, I offer up a scene from Where Angels Fear to Tread (1991), a rather chaotic adaptation of the novel by E.M. Forster. It is one of those stories that shows horrid English people doing horrid things in Italy (and how), which opens their insides up and teaches them how to be otherwise, although it may be too late? Yes? No?

Earlier in the film, the exceedingly horrid Harriet Herriton (played fearlessly by Judy Davis) and her brother Philip (Rupert Graves) have bumped into a woman (Evelina Meghnagi) on the train and rudely pushed her out of the way [see above stills]. After disembarking they all end up waiting in the sun at the same train station in Monteriano, where the fat woman, whose conversational advances Harriet has cut, is unaccountably (to Harriet) picked up first by the pleased driver.

Later, Harriet, Philip, and Caroline Abbott (Helena Bonham-Carter), attend a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor and discover that the woman they were traveling with is fact the star of the production ("It's that fat lady from the station!"). She sings the mad scene from Lucia ("She's sure to be very vulgar," says Harriet) as the Italian audience--mostly men, and mostly rather swain-like--sit rapt and silent before breaking into crazy applause at the end (and Philip climbs the balcony to meet the man they've come to Italy to see, as if he's leaving his own culture and joining theirs). I was enchanted by this scene when I first saw it. There's a nice little bit of comeuppance in it, as well as the fun of seeing a room full of Forster's Italians swoon over the singer. Enjoy!


  1. Lovely scene and I absolutely agree with your commentary. It's a great comeuppance!

    However, Harriet isn't played by Judy Dench, but by Wendy Hiller.

  2. I'm glad you liked! :) Thanks very much.
    Actually - it's this version of Where Angels Fear to Tread:

  3. Sorry you are both wrong. It is one of the great Australian actresses, Judy Davis. Well worth checking out some of her other films such as Impromptu, Passage to India , Kangaroo etc

  4. OMG you're right!! That is a typo/mistake - but I didn't catch it. How embarrassing. Thanks for headsup!