Monday, March 27, 2017
Last Night, On "Feud--Bette And Joan," It Was The Robert Aldrich- Pauline Jameson Show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
True to the series' now established structural pattern, two players stepped into the spotlight, in last evening's episode of "Feud--Bette and Joan." They were Alfred Molina, already giving a splendid characterization of Robert Aldrich, but digging deeper into his troubled character, and Pauline Jameson, brilliantly played by Alison Wright, who was Aldrich's production assistant on "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?"
Now, just who is this woman? Did she even exist? Or is she just written in to cue in the feminist agenda about lack of opportunity for women in the film industry, back then--and some would say, today? MERYL STREEP, aside.
Pauline has aspirations of writing and directing. She has concocted a screenplay, something called either "The Black Slipper," for Joan Crawford. And she wants to direct it. This girl does have ambition, but, in this time period, is she kidding? Plus, as Jessica Lange's Joan tells her, harshly, but truthfully, she is "a nobody."
But Alison Wright hits all the marks in her Pauline portrayal, scoring on all the points the writers wanted to make.
Each character has their own tete a tete. Wright's Pauline is with Lange's Joan; Molina's Aldrich is with Stanley Tucci's Jack Warner.
Though Robert Aldrich's resume is impressive, like Pauline, he saw himself as something more than what he was. As astute as Joan, Warner realizes Aldrich's limitations. But Frank Sinatra, in "4 For Texas?" What a comedown for Aldrich, and Sinatra, who after all, was Oscared for "From Here To Eternity," back in 1953.
When Aldrich asked Warner, point blankly, if he was destined for greatness, and Warner said, bluntly, "No!," it was heartbreaking to watch; almost anyone in the arts would get the poignancy of this moment. But what neither realized was greatness sometimes has a way of writing itself, and the longevity of 'Baby Jane' proves Aldrich's stature was more than was thought, even if he did not realize that this would be the masterpiece he would always be remembered for. And still is.
Who the hell was the actual production assistant on 'Baby Jane?' Does anybody care? Not really, though Molina and Wright made viewers care about these two lesser characters; one rather minor.
I will end on a footnote, darlings. Robert Aldrich thought he was going nowhere. On this picture, he had a man working for him as a "dialogue supervisor." He turned out to be a Robert, who did go somewhere.
His last name was..........Altman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When this novel was first published, back in 1977--forty years ago, darlings!!!!!!!!--Bob Randall was a renowned figure in the New York theater community. As a playwright, he wrote the comedy "6 Rms., Riv Vu," which was a respectable hit. As a librettist, he wrote the book for the Doug Henning, Stephen Schwartz musical, "The Magic Show." Who could forget Anita Morris, being sawed in half, or Dale Soules singing the Schwartz classic, "West End Avenue?" I can't, girls!!!!!!!!!!!! Because, I was there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was not surprising that, when Randall turned to novel writing, the theater would be his subject. Reading this book, decades later, is like peering into a time capsule of Broadway history. It theatrical references are so of the period.
Randall's is an epistolary novel--a series of letters. It is basically a stalker story, a subject known less about in 1977 than now. In creating the title character, Douglas Breen, and his obsession with Broadway star Sally Ross, (stand in for either Alexis Smith or Lauren Bacall!!!!!!) I had to wonder, reading it now, if Randall realized what he was doing. On a first reading, the thrills are there. Actually, "The Fan" works better on the printed page than it did on the screen. The 1981 film, featuring an A-list cast, consisting of Lauren Bacall as Sally Ross, Maureen Stapleton as Belle Goldman, her secretary, James Garner as ex-husband Jake, and, in a breakout performance, Michael Biehn, as Douglas Breen. But something went wrong. The Broadway scenes were not good enough to be of quality, while not bad enough to be campy. Breen's psychosis was never fully explored, and the climax was sanitized in a similar fashion as "Fatal Attraction."
I had always thought the novel had these faults, as well. But, on my recent reading, I discovered all the elements I had been looking for are there. It is just a matter of reading between the lines.
Which I am not sure readers, back in 1977, did. To them, the novel was, most likely, about a deranged Theater Queen. This is true, to an extent, but there is more.
Douglas Breen is a great big Closet Case! And you know how dangerous they can be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How did I discover this? By piecing together all the clues thrown out about Douglas' character. And here is where those who have not read the novel, or might, should stop reading, as there are spoilers ahead.
What is Douglas Breen's back story? He grew up in an affluent section of Connecticut, known as Greenwich Drive. His repressed, morally rigid, parents provided him with the best, but his behavior was always problematic. Theft, arson and, I believe homosexuality, are a part of Douglas' past. He has a friend from college, Phil, whom we learn about, but how strong a friendship it is is questionable. I get the impression Douglas uses Phil's friendship for a purpose, most likely to support the fact that he is something he is not.
At the time of the novel, Douglas is in his mid-twenties. His job history is sketchy, because he has a very high opinion of himself and it gets him in trouble. Which shows he suffers from both narcissism and lack of self-esteem; the two often go hand in hand. He works in a record store, run by a friend of his father's Mr. Rafferty, whom the parent implored to get him the job, based on their longstanding association in the Masons. Mr. Rafferty complies, but, eventually, has to let Douglas go.
Now, not all homosexuals hate women. At the record shop is a female employee, whom Douglas has an adversarial relationship with. He sees her as taking away favor from him. I think it is more--she sees through his carefully crafted guise--and Douglas does not like having his bluff called.
He is a young man in New York. With an interest in the arts, a record store is a good starting off point. But, in the Phil letters, he makes himself out to be more. That he would go to the theater is not all that telling; even non-theatrical types experience a Broadway show or two at some point in their lives. But when he sees his first Sally Ross show, he becomes smitten. When she autographs a Playbill for him, at the stage door, instead of enjoying the token gesture of graciousness, he takes it as the starting point of a relationship. And so the letters begin.
The letters on the printed page were chilling to read, and accelerated suspense. The film could not replicate this. So character motive was sacrificed for story line.
The more reality spins into Douglas' life, the more deranged he becomes. Like Alex Forrest in "Fatal Attraction," Douglas needs to maintain his delusions, in order to function within a relatively normal structural context. But once those delusions are stripped, he goes off the wall.
It is clear Douglas is a homosexual. Or, at the very least, a bisexual struggling to maintain a straight façade. The whole Sally Ross fag hag adulation thing is so typical. But his often graphic sexual fantasies of Sally, and a preoccupation with his equipment and ability to satisfy, speaks of sexual insecurity. On the other hand, picking up a gay guy, and killing him while having sex speaks of not only violent tendencies, but incredible self-hate. No doubt his WASP upbringing in Connecticut had something to do with this, though nothing in Randall's novel suggests a pivotal incident that traumatized Douglas. It was just a case of bad brain chemistry, which today might have been remedied, if the subject cooperated, and took the meds. Back in 1977, this was not even an option.
Douglas wants to come off as straight, but cannot. That is why he is a big Closet Case. And his self-loathing over it causes him to lash out, when his fantasy constructs are rejected.
Michael Biehn, in the movie, had the looks and ability to convey all this. But the movie copped out. In the book, Douglas gets away with killing Sally, which makes it more chilling, as all that was done for her protection was still not enough. Begging the question of who, or what, Douglas might move to, now???????????????
Dig underneath the book, and you find a lot of complexity. Maybe Bob Randall knew what he was doing, after all.
Wonder what Douglas' friend, Phil, would have thought???????????????
It did not rain on Seamus' parade!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
David and I were both there to cheer our lovable friend on, and so was a good deal of Bay Ridge, at its St. Patrick's Day Parade. Even renowned Senator, Marty Golden had enough celebrity acumen to have his picture taken with Seamus, the unmistakable star of the parade.
"Love you, Seamus!," a lot of us cried, as his contingent went by. He looked so happy, smiling at all his fans. Seamus is all about Love; he gives it forth, and people give it right back to him.
I briefly undid my outerwear to show my Seamus T-shirt! It was too cold to go like this the entire time, and if not for Seamus, we may not have been there! But it was well worth it!
Later, back at Paws Truly, Seamus greeted one and all. A visit to Seamus just cheers me up, because he brings happiness.
So, thank you, Seamus, for being such a professional, and gracious pooch!
You deserve a day off! So rest, catch up on whatever series marathon you watch, and enjoy yourself after yesterday!
See you soon, Seamus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, March 26, 2017
The main problem with "Homegoing' was it had the misfortune of coming out the same year, as "The Underground Railroad," by Colson Whitehead. That book garnered so much hype, not all of it undeserved, and Whitehead was already a renowned author that this first novel, by Yaa Gyrasi failed to generate the literary heat it should have.
What this first novel accomplishes is amazing. Going back centuries, it starts with two sisters, one who lives in a master's castle, one who is enslaved in the dungeon just below. Neither one know the other is there. In another era, this would have been a mammoth, Michner-esque opus, but the genius of this novelist, is to telescope everything, and move time forward, by centering succeeding chapters on the descendants of the sisters, taking the reader from the Civil War, to the Harlem Renaissance, to the racially charged battleground New York and other urban cities were in the Sixties. Time moves forward with each chapter, so the entire cultural history of this family, representative of a community, is given, in just a succinct three hundred pages.
No extraneous prose, here, darlings! That Zadie Smith could take some lessons from Miss Gyrasi. Strong on both character and narrative drive, "Homegoing" should have received more attention than it did. It wuz robbed.
Like the movie "Moonlight" almost was, girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Saturday, March 25, 2017
David Lean's classic film boasts two timeless assets--snow and Julie Christie. It does not get better than that.
Trivago, the hotel advisory company, has this guy who is, quite frankly, HOT. For those who maintain that men cannot age attractively, or that an older man cannot be sexy, look no further than The Trivago Guy, who is really an actor, named Tim Williams.
Of course, I am sure he has to work hard to maintain this look. But, hey, it works!
One ad even put him in the shower! Beefcake, darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is one commercial that does not annoy, as it is SO easy on the eyes!
And, since its subject is hotel accommodations, this company was smart choosing this guy to be their endorser!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Who wouldn't want a night in a hotel, with this guy????????????????????
Pleasant dreams, girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thursday, March 23, 2017
All this writing I have been doing, of late, which circles around this particular film, caused me to go back and examine it. And I made an interesting discovery.
I know, from this shot, the onrushing train, and the funeral scene at the closing, that Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) dies. That he was killed by the onrushing other train is unquestionable.
But who put him in that position? That is the question.
You have to be visually alert, once "The Two Charlies" (which I think would have been a great title for the film!!!!!!!!!) get outdoors on the caboose terrace of the train. There is a fight, and it looks like Teresa Wright wins, and Joseph Cotton falls onto the tracks.
This, I believe is what Hitchcock wants us to see. But, is it, really??????????
From my perspective, and having seen this film many times, there are three possibilities.
1. The niece, in survival mode, does push the uncle off the train.
2. The uncle, in the fight, involuntarily loses his balance, and falls in the train's path.
3. The uncle, who is a self-hating character, has a crisis of conscience at the end, and, as a final act of doing something right, sacrifices himself, to save his niece.
But which is the right answer? The scene is played out so carefully that each of these scenarios fit. Hitchcock sends out clues supporting each throughout the film. But he wants the viewer to decide for himself.
One thing is disturbing. Since Cotton and Wright are "the two Charlies," what does her pushing him say about her capacity to be like him? Sure, she is fighting for her life, and it is self-defense, but if she really did push him off the train, this Charlie is not to be messed with, either!!!!!!!
Hitchcock provides enough for every viewer to have their cake and eat it too. But I still cannot decide.
What do you think, girls???????? You tell me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"They" happen to be two noted actresses--Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon. I love their work, and, starting March 29, they will be performing in one of my favorite plays--Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes." For me, it is up there with "King Lear." Both show the havoc some family members can wreak on one another? And don't we all know about that, darlings????????
The show is to open at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, on West 47th Street, now under the auspices of the Manhattan Theater Club. But, to us devotees, it will forevermore be the Biltmore, where, in the late Sixties, a little something called "HAIR," had a respectable run.
The last version of this play I saw was several years back, at the New York Theater Workshop. It was restructured, modernized, and had the gifted Elizabeth Marvel give a chilling performance as Regina. I loved it--and I did not expect to.
This 'Foxes' will be a traditional rendering, with the gimmick of the lead actresses alternating roles each night. On one evening, Laura will play Regina, while Cynthia plays Aunt Birdie. The next night, it will be reversed.
There is, apparently, some kind of online schedule, which outlines who is playing what role at each performance, for those, such as I, who care. Of course, this creates a dilemma for us lovers of this play. To get its full value, it has to be seen twice. And, at today's prices, that is not easy.
I think Laura will pull off both superbly. Cynthia, however...well!!!!!!!!!! She didn't do so well as Miss Jean Brodie, did she? So, my guess is she will be able to pull off Regina, but not Aunt Birdie. In her work that I have seen, Cynthia has never shown the kind of vulnerability needed to play the tragic Birdie. Where is Mary-Louise Parker, when she is needed????????????
Meaning you should see the play for Laura doing both roles, and just watch Cynthia do Regina!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Of course it is just possible Cynthia may surprise us! But I don't think so!
To paraphrase the quote at the start of its film version--"Take....'The Little Foxes'.........for our theatrical tolerance is limited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"