Monday, February 8, 2016

Archive: August, 2011

POSTED: Friday, August 19, 2011, 2:51 PM

Someone -- was it Cary Grant? --  described the arc of celebrity in three steps: 1) Who's Cary Grant? 2) Get me Cary Grant! 3) Get me a younger Cary Grant. For the moviegoer, the dance from introduction to acclimation can take five steps, which weirdly, conform to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief, only with a happy ending.

I did this dance with Meg Ryan, Will Smith and Johnny Depp. Now I'm doing it with Anne Hathaway whose film One Day opens today.

First, Denial: Who says this kid with the freakishly large facial features can act? (The Princess Diaries.)

POSTED: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 3:06 PM
Joan Crawford (left) and Bette Davis pose as gargoyles on the set of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." One of the rare moments they weren't dishing on each other.

After the love for yesterday's post about directors dissing directors, here's on classic actors slamming their co-stars, with Marlon Brando and Bette Davis on the receiving end of the most derision.

I won't quote what Joan Crawford and Bette Davis had to say about each other, but you can. My favorite among these is Noel Coward's deathless putdown of Claudette Colbert (uttered while he was directing her on Broadway). Moviemorlocks doesn't have the slam exactly right, it's "Claudette, I could wring your neck -- if you had one."

The William Holden/Humphrey Bogart bad blood comes from the set of Sabrina, where Bogie felt he was too old to play Holden's elder brother and was annoyed that the younger hunk was having his way with their co-star, Audrey Hepburn.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 6:01 PM

Her last movie was released in 1968. Her last album was released in 1994. She turned down the part of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. And she turned down all other professional offers that would woo her away from her animal-rescue work. So it's happy news that Doris Day, 87, is releasing a new recording next month, My Heart.

One of the tracks is the standard "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," produced by her late son, Terry Melcher, the legendary producer of The Byrds, The Beach Boys and Ry Cooder. Another is the Joe Cocker ballad "You are So Beautiful."  One wishes that one of the songs she sang with Sly Stone were in this collection.

In her heyday as a recording artist, Day had a voice as rich and velvety as that of Ella Fitzgerald. Martin Melcher, her third husband, encouraged her to record upbeat songs (think "Que Sera, Sera") rather than the ballads that demonstrated her vocal and emotional range. Still, in her best movies like Love Me or Leave Me and The Man Who Knew Too Much she was able to show the breadth and depth or her acting and singing skills. Those are my favorite Day movies. I'm particularly fond of her rendition of "Secret Love" in Calamity Jane and "Mean to Me" in Love Me or Leave Me. You?

POSTED: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 10:34 AM
Kevin Smith (left) and Tim Burton.

Fanboys and critics are cruel about the work of directors, but evidently not so cruel as other directors are -- if Flavorwire's collection of the 30 nastiest director-on-director insults is any indication. (Hat tip, Anne Thompson). Even the supremely unflappable Clint Eastwood flips one to Spike Lee.

My favorite take-down is Jean-Luc Godard's of Quentin Tarantino: "Tarantino named his production company [Band of Outsiders] after one of my films. He'd have done better to give me some money."

Also amusing is the serve-and-return between Tim Burton and Kevin Smith. After Smith tweaked Burton for stealing the ending of Planet of the Apes from a Smith comic book, Burton snorted, "Anyone who knows me knows I would never read a comic book. I would especially never read anything created by Kevin Smith." To this, Smith retorted, "Which, to me, explains [effing] Batman."

POSTED: Monday, August 15, 2011, 2:25 PM
Gloria Steinem, subject of a new documentary

Tonight at 9 pm HBO airs Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words, an hourlong documentary as sage and sprightly as its subject. In the film, Steinem, now 77, reflects on her 50-plus years surfing feminism's second wave. And looks forward to future outrageous acts and everyday rebellions. As she joked last Thursday after the preview of the film at the HBO screening room in New York, "For many of you, this is a home movie."

Peter Kunhardt's portrait is both an engaging introduction to an extraordinary figure and a memorable odometer clocking the miles women have marched from the 1960s to the present-day.

Steinem comments on the snapshots of herself as the long-stemmed "career gal" in 1960s Manhattan. She  highlighted her hair because she wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's). She went undercover as a Playboy bunny to expose the physical and emotional abuse of The Playboy Club. In the Mad Men era, she was one of many prominent "Mad Women." Steinem was (and is) plainspoken, persuasive and as powerful as she is pretty.

POSTED: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 5:44 PM
Natalie Wood resucitates James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause/

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, whose nom de camera was Nicholas Ray. While Rebel Without a Cause (1955) is his most famous title, his filmography is crowded with rebels, beginning with Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell as the young outlaws in They Live By Night (1948) to John Derek's juvenile delinquent in Knock on Any Door (whose ambition is to "Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse" to Jeffrey Hunter's Jesus in King of Kings (1961).

Some random thoughts on Ray:

1) What draws me to Ray movies is their human intimacy. Even when he works in widescreen formats, it's the landscape of the human face and body that most interests him, not the geological landscape. When he was a fledgling theater and radio producer in his native Wisconsin, Ray was tapped by Frank Lloyd Wright to come to Taliesin, the architect's Utopian "learn-by-doing school" in 1932. Ray would later say that his preference for the "horizontal line," was his tribute to Wright's aesthetic.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 3:15 PM
Patrick Swayze uses Jennifer Grey as a free weight in "Dirty Dancing."

 Dirty Dancing is like The Godfather. It's a classic and you don't mess with it or otherwise try to improve, rethink, or update it. It's a great story. Period. But in a twist worthy of a 1930s Hollywood musical, Kenny Ortega, who choreographed the 1987 Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey dancing romance set in the Catskills during the 1960s, has been named the director of a Dirty Dancing update.

To paraphrase the film's most memorable line: Nobody puts Baby in a reboot!

While I genuinely enjoy the snap and crackle of Ortega, who directed Newsies (a musical starring the very young Christian Bale), High School Musical (introducing Zac Efron) and was involved with the Michael Jackson tour that never happened because of the star's untimely death (This is It), how do you take Eleanor Bergstein's autobiographical story and transpose it to another period?

POSTED: Thursday, August 4, 2011, 12:22 PM
James Earl Jones presides over the Field of Dreams

Yesterday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that James Earl Jones, the voice of America, will receive an honorary Oscar at a November ceremony where Oprah Winfrey will get the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Does this mean  that the most resonant bass is officially an EGOT,  winner of the so-called Grand Slam of entertainment, given to possessors of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony?

Let the record show that Jones won an two Emmys in 1991 (for Gabriel's Fire and Heat Wave), a Grammy in 1976 (spoken word, for Great American Documents) and two Tonys, in 1969 for The Great White Hope and in 1987 for Fences. (Jones' one competitive Oscar bid was in 1971 for the film version of Great White Hope.) His honorary Oscar would make him an EGOT, right?

Wrong, according to the Los Angeles Times,  which sniffs that EGOT status goes only to winners of competitive, not honorary, awards.

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