TIME remembrance

Elaine Stritch on Learning About Yourself: “They’re Hard Lessons”

Elaine Stritch performs at the Kennedy Center Honors on October 29, 1994.
Elaine Stritch performs at the Kennedy Center Honors on October 29, 1994. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

The late, great actress spoke to TIME earlier this year

Elaine Stritch, who died Thursday at 89, was best known as the legendary stage performer who made Broadway brassier — but her most recent acclaimed performance had been as herself. Stritch was the subject of a documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, which was released in February.

Then, Stritch spoke to TIME about the release of the film. What she had to say about seeing herself on film in that manner was a lesson that can apply much more broadly:

What did you learn about yourself from [making the documentary]?

A great deal. They’re hard lessons to learn. You have to stand up, throw your shoulders back and say, ‘Go ahead, hit me.’ I think I’m better at it than I used to be. Especially when the reaction to the show was good. I think that helps a lot, when they’re entertained. Because I wouldn’t do a documentary unless I made it entertaining, and that does not necessarily mean lies. If you make a lot of lies up that make you look fun and up and attractive and all those good things, what good does it do anybody else? But if you really tell the honest-to-God truth, I think it’s a pretty revealing experiment. I think it makes a documentary honest, and your honesty spreads, and I think people are affected by it and tell the truth as well. You get a lot of people sitting around telling the truth, and you get a pretty interesting documentary.

Stritch also told TIME that, as of February, though she had left New York City for a quieter life, it wouldn’t be accurate to call her retired.

“That is not accurate at all,” she said. “I’d be thrilled to death to find a good new play.”

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