We are so excited that local Upper Westsider Frances McDormand will be here to introduce the film! You may know that Ms. McDormand played the wonderful role of Miss Clavel who leads the girls on their adventures. We were able to interview Ms. McDormand recently and here’s what she said:
1. Ms. McDormand, this month is the 75th Anniversary of the story of Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, a book that continues to be read nightly to children everywhere. To what do you credit the appeal of this story and the character of Madeline?
A girl, ostensibly on her own, navigates the magical city of Paris and her preadolescence in the company of other girls her age and a benevolent caretaker. No messy parents and lots of adventure!
2. Did you have a favorite bedtime story? What did you like to read to your son when he was smaller?
Bill Peet books! Almost all of them! Cyrus The Unsinkable Sea Serpent, Chester The Worldly Pig, How Droofus The Dragon Lost his Head.
3. In the story of Madeline, Miss Clavel plays such a central role in the lives of Madeline and the girls. How did you think about Miss Clavel when you were preparing for your role in the movie Madeline?
I felt it was. It was important not to be friends with the girls as myself nor as Miss Clavel. She is there as the voice of authority and security. I tried to stay peripheral until necessary so that when I spoke, my voice would be heard.
4. What were some of your favorite parts about this role and, conversely, what were some challenges to portraying Miss Clavel?
My favorite thing was learning to drive the Deus Cheveux. I loved that car and it is very difficult to drive. Both Miss Clavel and I are very macho about our ability to drive well.
The most challenging aspect of the filming was that, because I was always at the back of the “twelve little girls in two straight lines,” they were often stepping impatiently backwards onto my toes. I had very angry and inflamed toenails by the end of our two months together.
5. Making movies seems like a lot of work but also a lot of fun…do you have a favorite memory about making the moving Madeline?
As the character of Miss Clavel, I wore a uniform most of the film. I became very fond of my habit and especially the fact that I didn’t have to worry about my hair most of the days I worked. I did, however, enjoy the day that we shot Miss Clavel in her nightclothes and without a veil. I think we matched Mr. Bemelmans’ illustration quite well…”Something is not right. Something is quite wrong!”
6. In our exhibition, we learned that Madeline was actually created in Pete’s Tavern by Gramercy Park. Which New York places inspire you?
I have lived in NYC for 35 years and most of that time on the Upper Westside. A piece of my heart will always be attached to the Elephant playground in Riverside Park. It is where my son experienced his first swing and slide and learned to sing the ABC song. It is Our Park.
Thank you, Ms. McDormand! We look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at the corner of 77th Street in New York City. Madeline will be shown at 2 pm. Come early for Madeline-themed activities and storytelling beginning at 12:30! Everything is free with Museum admission.