Joan Smith: Christie gives a masterclass on growing up in style

Applauding the luminous young star who has matured wisely
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The Independent Online

When the Daily Mail discovered last week that Julie Christie had recently married her partner of almost 30 years in a "secret" ceremony in India, it couldn't resist crowing. The Oscar-winning actor (and current nominee) refuses to play the fame game, taking up causes (such as the eviction of the Kalahari bushmen from their ancestral lands to make way for diamond mining) that don't often feature in its pages. It drew attention to her "hippie ideal", pointed out that she had always hated marriage and gloated over the spectacle of her finally "bowing to convention".

Actually, the convention for celebrities these days is to sell their wedding to the highest bidder, prompting internecine wars between Hello! and OK! magazines. So the idea of a movie star choosing a private ceremony is pleasingly old-fashioned. In this perverse universe, anyone who doesn't follow in the footsteps of the Beckhams and Katie Price and Peter Andre is regarded as dysfunctional.

If they also insist on using the bus, instead of leaping in and out of chauffeur-driven limousines, they're just begging to be described as eccentric, which is one of several unflattering adjectives applied to Christie last week.

Although she looked pretty good in the picture that accompanied the story about her wedding, the Mail recorded that she uses a shopping trolley and did everything it could to suggest that the 66-year-old actor has become a sad and reclusive old-age pensioner.

Christie was luminously beautiful in her youth, winning an Oscar for her role in Darling in 1965 and playing Lara in Dr Zhivago to huge acclaim in the same year. Of course she has aged, but the notion of tragically ruined beauty is hardly applicable in her case.

The Mail has form in this area, once asking: "Is Jane Fonda really healthy?" and employing a trio of experts to dissect her appearance. They discussed how much cosmetic surgery she'd had and suggested that Fonda had spent too much time in the gym, confirming that women simply can't win.

If they regard the ageing process philosophically, as Christie and one or two of her contemporaries seem to have done, they're mocked for no longer looking youthful. If they go the opposite route, making huge efforts to keep the signs of age at bay, they're presented as pitiable and out of touch with reality.

It could be argued, on the contrary, that Christie has been eminently sensible, making a life for herself outside of show business – she has a farm in Montgomeryshire – and waiting for acting roles that appeal to her.

If she wins another Oscar, this time for her performance as an Alzheimer's sufferer in Away from Her, it will crown a career spanning more than 40 years and challenge the idea that there's no place in Hollywood for women after the menopause.

When marrying young is an occupational hazard, Christie has done it at an age when she knows her own mind. The only thing she can really be accused of, in other words, is being normal – and what a sin that is in a celebrity-obsessed world which depends for its very existence on feuds, overdoses and poisonous break-ups.