Jill Clayburgh lived, I’m told, a good full life, but in terms of cultural synchronicity and being an iconic, self-defining actress who ignited her own perfect moment, she had four peak years — 1976 to ’79. Arthur Hiller‘s Silver Streak in ’76, Michael Ritchie ‘s Semi-Tough in ’77, Paul Mazursky‘s An Unmarried Woman in ’78, Bernardo Bertolucci‘s Luna (a misfire) in ’79, and Alan Pakula‘s Starting Over later that same year.
Clayburgh’s feminist-icon phase had peaked with An Unmarried Woman, but it seemed to pretty much fizzle out five years later with the failure of Costa Gavras‘ Hanna K. (’83). For all intents and purposes, that was the last “Jill Clayburgh film.” She appeared and acted and certainly had a “life” after Hanna K., but not as a name actress with any exceptional expectations.
Claudia Weill‘s It’s My Turn (’80) was a minor love story (woman-in-relationship falls for Michael Douglas‘s retired baseball player, winds up jilting b.f. Charles Grodin). She played a conservative Supreme Court Justice who tangles with liberal Justice Walter Matthau in Ronald Neame‘s First Monday in October (’81), a tame little film. This was followed by I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can (’82), a valium-dependency, life-crisis drama directed by Jack Hofsis and written by David Rabe.
And then came the Hanna K. death blow. A muddled but interesting pro-Palestinian drama, it was critically panned and abruptly withdrawn from distribution by Universal, apparently due to political pressure from pro-Israeli factions. Clayburgh played an American-Jewish attorney assigned to defend a Palestinian accused of terrorism. But the plot was overshadowed by her character’s conflicting romantic entanglements, one of them with a character played by Gabriel Byrne.
It was three years before Clayburgh’s next film, a injustice melodrama titlled Where Are The Children? Her next, Andrei Konchalovsky‘s Shy People (’87), was a success d’estime costarring Barbara Hershey and Martha Plimpton. It was regarded as a worthy but minor effort, and it had the unfortunate stamp of being a Cannon release.
Clayburgh played a distinctive eccentric in the commercial flop Running With Scissors (’06), and has a too-small role as Jake Gyllenhaal‘s mom (and George Segal‘s wife) in the about-to-open Love and Other Drugs.