Stritch in Time

A new documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me reveals a new side of the tenacious star.

Elaine Stritch

Ever the stylish (and often pantless) octogenarian, the Broadway legend Elaine Stritch sashays through Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, a documentary by Chiemi Karasawa, out this month. Whether she’s holding court in her corner suite at the Carlyle hotel in Manhattan, backseat-directing the film crew (“Don’t you think you’re awfully close to me?”), stretching the tale of her tête-à-tête with J.F.K., nailing a scene with Alec Baldwin on NBC’s 30 Rock, or performing her one-woman cabaret, all the world’s a stage in the land of Stritch—her stage, anyway. But beyond her antics, what makes the film so good, and also tough, is that Stritch alternately holds the spotlight and slips out of it. The actress openly struggles with alcoholism, widowhood, diabetes, and, most heartaching, memory loss. Lyrics that she’s sung for decades escape her, and although archival footage shows she often veers toward the edge in rehearsal, here (particularly, in a chilling rendition of “I Feel Pretty”) she threatens to drive right off it. In the end, it’s the audience that saves her. We don’t give a fig if she forgets the words; we’re just happy she’s still singing.