February 8th – Magenta Moments
Magenta Devine was old-school. Very old-school. A ’50s starlet who was clinging on to her career with sinewy fingers, she was a dying relic of a dying breed. But she wasn’t dead yet.
The film roles dried up in the late 1960s, and it seemed as if she had slipped into obscurity, a light that flickered and was gone, but the role of a bitter, pill-popping matriarch in the long running big-budget soap Angel’s Nest saw an unlikely revival of a career that most people had consigned to a footnote in cinematic history. Film roles followed, first minor, and then, shockingly, as an ageing seductress deflowering a young Tim Huddleston in 1989’s The Glass Door, her first fully nude scene at the age of 61. This put her firmly back in the spotlight, the notoriety making her a chat show staple (while Hiddleston went back to Cambridge to resume his degree with his (very public) tail very much between his legs) and darling of the Hollywood media circuit.
Her appearance on Saturday Night Live, three weeks after the cinematic release of The Glass Door, was the first of many of what came to be known as Magenta Moments. (At the time of her first appearance on SNL the term had yet to be coined, as it was a year later by the TV critic of a well-known British newspaper). Having clearly helped herself liberally to some backstage hospitality, Magenta, who announced on the show that she was between husbands, made a pass at another guest, the singer in a soon-to-be-forgotten soft rock band (Lace Revival), famously telling him, ‘Well, you’ve seen what I’ve got, darling, and I’ve got the experience to back it up.’ Despite rumours to the contrary, the singer in question politely turned down Magenta’s offer, both on and off-screen, but the seeds of her late-career notoriety had been well and truly sown.
An appearance on French television in 1991 led to a visibly emotional Magenta, wearing only a bra and skirt, throwing a glass of wine over the host, Pierre Lachaise, after he suggested that older women should keep their clothes on. Curiously, this made her a household name in France (The Glass Door having never received a French cinematic release) and led to the foundation of the French branch of the Magenta Devine fan club, a body that still has a membership of over 30,000. Magenta has been a popular guest on French television ever since.
Although The Glass Door would prove to be her most successful box office hit, her later roles managing to match neither the notoriety nor popular success of this particular film, the roles kept coming, including minor roles in the Oscar nominated Days of Eden and the slave epic Plantation Road. Her fictional roles may have been in decline, but the real Magenta was becoming more famous than ever.
Her most recent Magenta Moment, calling television host Pierce Marstan ‘a bigmouthed buffoon, and an unspeakable cunt to boot’ on BBC1, led to indignation and praise in equal measure, some suggesting that she had in part redeemed herself after her throwaway response (‘Yes, please’) to the #MeToo movement had not endeared her to either her peers or younger actors, as well as to large portions of the general public.
At the age of 90, Magenta Devine is still going strong, and still causing a stir. Here’s to many more Magenta Moments.
Inspired by a prompt from here