Love this post-credits bit from Married to the Mob (ah, Michelle):
There is a massive new biography out on Barbara Stanwyck. And it’s only Volume One. Still, it looks appealing.
This Saturday, my gal Shannon’s movie is being shown here in New York. Worth checking out if you’re around.
From Hollywood: Stars and starlets, tycoons and flesh-peddlers, moviemakers and moneymakers, frauds and geniuses, hopefuls and has-been, great lover and sex symbols, Garson Kanin’s appealing, gossipy memoir:
The power of the dream is largely generated by the fact that every now and then it comes true.
It came true for a slightly chubby, preppy blonde from Indiana named Jane Peters, later known as Carol Lombard, and later still as Carole Lombad.
“I think that ‘e’ made the whole fucking difference,” she said to me one day, during the time I was directing her in They Knew What They Wanted. (It should be noted that this was Carole’s normal style of speech. She used the fully, juicy Anglo-Saxon vocabulary; yet it never shocked, never offended because she was clearly using the language to express herself and not to shock or offend).
She was the only star I have ever known who did not want a dressing room on the set. What little make-up she used, she put on herself. She preferred to look after her own hair. All she asked for was a chair and a small table. There she would be, twenty minutes or half an hour before she was due, ready and able. I never knew her to fluff a line. She liked everyone and everyone adored her. She was happy.
On days when she was not required, she would drive in anyway, all the way from the Valley. The first time she turned up on one of those days, I panicked, certain there had been a mistake.
“What’re you doing here?” I asked. “You’re not called today.”
“Piss off!” she said. “I’m in this picture.”
She wanted to be around, to stay with the feel of things. She did not want to lose the momentum of work. On these days, she would hang around the set, watching; come along and look at the rushes; talk to various members of the cast. She was valuable.
I thought her a fine actress, one of the finest I have ever encountered. She was completely untrained, had never appeared on the legitimate stage. She came to Hollywood from Fort Wayne, Indiana, became a child actress, and later went to work for Mack Sennett as one of his bathing beauties. But the movies were growing, the business was burgeoning, and there was room at the top for a beautiful, talented girl.
Tremendously versatile, one of her successes was My Man Godfrey, the so-called screwball comedy, in which she struck new and original comic notes. But she was equally comfortable in serious drama. I remember an early talkie called Ned McCobb’s Daughter, from the play by Sidney Howard, who also wrote They Knew What They Wanted. Her performance in Twentieth Century, opposite John Barrymore, is one of the best ever seen on the American screen. I once complimented her on her admirable range.
“It’s the guys. It’s all those goddamn different studs I’ve knocked around with. You know how it is. You always try to get in solid with the son of a bitch by playing his game. So when I was around with Bob Riskin—the prick never wanted to marry me, can you feature it?—I started in reading books. I don’t mean just bullshit. I mean book books. Aldous Huxley and Jane Austen. Charles Dickens. William Faulkner. Because Bob, he was in intellectual. My first. Brainy as a bastard. And I felt I had to keep up. You know how it is. And then with Russ Colombo, he—Jesus Christ, he was a handsome hunk—with him, I got to know all about music and songs and songwriting and publishers. And about records and recordings and which was the best key and big bands and sidemen and drummers. I even started in writing songs. Sometimes with him. We’d be in the hay and in between we’d make up songs. Can you imagine it? Listen, there were a few times there we got so interested in the songs we forgot to get our ashes hauled!” She laughed.
Has there ever been such a laugh? It had the joyous sound of pealing bells. She would bend over, slap her perfect calf, or the floor, or a piece of furniture. She would sink into a chair or to the ground. She would throw her head back. And you would be riveted by that neck. That throat.
“And not only music. With Russ, I became just about the best goddamn Italian cook there is. I can do anything in that line because I used to do it for him. Learned it. Chicken Cacciatora. Eggplant Parmigiano. Veal Marsala. Squid. Anything. You name it. Now, with Philo it was different. Because, after all Philo. It was legitimate. We were married.” (Philo was her name for William Powell because he had once played the detective Philo Vance.) “With him, it was wife stuff. That’s when I learned how to put a house together, and have everything supplied. And how to take care of his clothes. And what had to be dry cleaned and what not. I mean, I was the best fuckin’ wife you ever saw. I mean a ladylike wife. Because that’s how Philo wanted it.
“And now with Clark it’s the ranch and the horses and the fishing and shooting. The only trouble is—about the shooting I mean—I’ve gotten to be so much better than he is that I’ve got to hold back. I can shoot like a sonofabitch, y’know. Anything. So when you say ‘versatile’—well, I owe it all the boys. They made me what I am today.”
Or: “How Hollywood Ruined Our Best Football Novel”
By John Schulian
Long before he established himself as the Ring Lardner of the Pepsi generation, Dan Jenkins wrote about sports for the blighted Fort Worth Press. He had to rise at 4 every morning to put out the paper’s first edition, and the indignity of that, he claims with typical reckless abandon, made his hair hurt.
Twenty years later, Jenkins has yet to describe the pain of seeing what Hollywood did to Semi-Tough, his best-selling bellylaugh about professional football. He tried to say something not long ago in Sports Illustrated, the magazine where his typing skills came to light, but the most emotion he could muster was mild bemusement. The possibility exits, however, that he didn’t do any better because he was in shock.
You will know the feeling if you read the book and see the movie, which will descend on Chicago this Christmas season like a curse from King Herod. Billy Clyde Puckett, the halfback hero of Semi-Tough, would probably want to know where Herod played his college ball, but there are more important questions to be asked about the cinematic mutation Michael Ritchie, a certified hot-shot director, has given us. The biggest one is: Why did he bother saying he was making a movie of Jenkins’ novel?
Just about the only thing left from it are the title, the diary Billy Clyde is keeping during Super Bowl week, and the fact that he is forever being interrupted by his podnuh, Marvin (Shake) Tiller, the mystic wide receiver, and their mutual playmate, Barbara Jane Bookman. Out of a book that ran better than 200 pages in hardback, that is not what anybody in his right mind would call a whole lot.
Ritchie’s explanation is that he was intrigued by the conclusion of the book, which found Shake doing a fly pattern all the way to India, where he could commune with his guru and ride elephants. Because of that, Ritchie would up putting Burt (Billy Clyde) Reynolds and Kris (Shake) Kristofferson in a movie about the consciousness movement. If you aren’t familiar with the consciousness movement, the premise on which it is built is that nobody’s hemorrhoids are more important than yours.
Such thinking is very big in California, which leads the universe in sun-baked brains. Everywhere else, people who become that bewitched, bothered and bewildered are called “tutti-fruttis.” Indeed, that is how Ritchie depicts them despite his West Coast ties. The irreverence is not unusual, for he has thrown darts at politics in The Candidate, at beauty contests in Smile, and at Little League baseball in The Bad News Bears. But he is so obsessed with puncturing the inherent silliness of the me-firsters that he has forgotten that Semi-Tough is supposed to be about the NFL’s inherent silliness.
In the process, some of Jenkins’ finest ideas ended up on the floor of Ritchie’s birdcage. There is no mention of how Pete Rozelle used the commissionership as a springboard to the U.S. Senate. T.J. Lambert, the flatulent defensive end, is never shown making a sandwich of six Dallas policemen. “The Giants and the Cowboys got together and kept our arrest quiet,” said Billy Clyde, who watched the proceedings in amazement. “We got to play in the game. I think the Giants had to give up a high draft choice to the Cowboys when it was over.”
Nor did Ritchie try to stage the outlandish halftime show Jenkins imagined, the one in which “several hundred trained birds—painted red, white and blue—would fly over the coliseum in formation of an American flag” while Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck sang “God Bless America.”
Even when the director relied on the author, he managed to foul things up. One wonderful scene has the drunken Lambert dangling a 20th Century fox over a terrace railing by the heels because she looked askance at his idea of how well they should get to know each other. In the book, Barbara Jane Bookman talks Lambert out of mayhem; she can’t do the same in the movie because it would rob Shake Tiller of a chance to display his new-found calm. Apparently Ritchie isn’t so iconoclastic that he would try to level the consciousness movement and machismo with the same swing.
If Jenkins should take offense to anything, however, it is what Ritchie did to his rating system for feminine pulchritude. Originally, the system went from 10—which was, you should pardon the expression, “a Healing Scab”—to 1, and of course there never was a 1. For the pure Hollywood hell of it, Ritchie completely reversed the ratings. If he had left them the way they were, Jill Clayburgh, who plays Barbara Jane, would have been a lot closer to the truth when she insists, “I’m a 10.”
She is, however, just one of Ritchie’s casting mistakes. Kristofferson wanders through his role as Shake in such a daze that he must have been handed a fistful of Valium instead of the usual NFL Sunday afternoon supply of greenies. As Barbara Jane’s father, a pinko-hating oil baron, Robert Preston appears to be a Communist plot himself. Only Reynolds, as Billy Clyde, is palatable, if you don’t mind watching him portray Burt Reynolds. And just in case you don’t, remember that he had a stand-in for most of his rib-cracking football scenes. No premiums are paid for acting with pain.
As it turns out, the audience does all the suffering, which is no small achievement for a movie that Ritchie calls “a racy comedy.” His choice of words may be the funniest thing about Semi-Tough. When it was a book, it was enjoyably bawdy, almost “Tom Jones with a Jockstrap.” Ritchie’s adaptation, however, is merely smarmy, filled with the kind of double entendres that aren’t even good enough for TV.
Naturally, that won’t stop TV from buying this worthless hunk of celluloid. If you are smart, you will wait until then instead of wasting your money on it in a theater. When it comes to passing judgement on Semi-Tough, you see, there is no semi about it. It is totally terrible.
John Schulian is a former syndicated sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. His work has appeared in GQ, Sports Illustrated, Inside Sports, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. He also wrote for the TV shows Miami Vice, L.A. Law, and co-created Xena: Princess Warrior. He is the author of Twilight of the Long-ball Gods and Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand, and co-editor of At The Fights.
“I like to act in films, I like to shoot ‘em, I like to direct ‘em, I like to be around ‘em. I like the feel of it and it’s something I respect. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s a crappy film or a good film. Anyone who can make a film, I already love. But I feel sorry if they don’t put any thought in it because then they missed the boat.”
So far, summer 2013 seems like a dud of a movie-going season. Luckily, BAM is coming to the rescue with a retrospective of the films of iconoclastic filmmaker and actor John Cassavetes. It’s often said that Cassavetes’ films are not for everyone, which is true, but it should be taken as a compliment. The series, which runs through July 31st, mixes Cassavetes’ work as a writer and director with some of his more memorable roles acting for other directors, like Robert Aldrich’s THE DIRTY DOZEN (which won him an Oscar nomination), Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS, Elaine May’s MIKEY AND NICKEY (co-starring Falk) and Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY.
Cassavetes’ self-financed 1968 film FACES (screening on July 17) was nominated for three Academy Awards, and had a major impact on the industry itself and also on filmmakers like his friend and protégé Martin Scorsese, and contemporaries like Woody Allen, Robert Altman and Peter Bogdanovich. In addition to paving the way for the independent film movement in the United States, Cassavetes’ movies present human emotion and behavior in stark, jarring, occasionally hilarious and sometimes harrowing ways. Simply put – there’s nothing else quite like them. Cassavetes created a stock company of fantastic and idiosyncratic performers, including Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel and perhaps most famously and importantly, his wife and muse, the great Gena Rowlands. Rowlands’ performance in Cassavetes’ A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE was widely lauded, Oscar-nominated and has become justly legendary, but her work her husband’s other films, like the criminally under-seen OPENING NIGHT, which kicks off the series on Saturday, is equally stunning. It’s enough to cure you of superhero movies.
Bang, Zoom. Cheap laffs on a Monday morning. (Thanks to Diane for hipping me to this site.)
From P. Kael:
Personal Best is a celebration of modern American women’s long-legged bodies. It’s also a coming-of-age movie that shows what most us go through–the painful experiences that later on we like to see as comedy. The surprise of this film–written, produced, and directed by the celebrated screenwriter Robert Towne (The Last Detail, Chinatown, Shampoo)–is that most of the story is told non-verbally, and character is revealed in movement. This is perhaps the first directing debut by a writer that buries motivation and minimizes the importance of words. Towne may have had to cut a couple of strings off his fiddle, but he plays a great lush, romantic tune. He bears down only on sensory experience, and he uses the actors, who are in fact athletes, as dancers. He presents a physical world that few of us know much about–the world of women athletes–and when he shows the adolescent Chris Cahill (Mariel Hemingway) preparing for the start of a race by hammering a block into the ground it’s like Melville doing a how-to-chapter. This is a very smart and super-subtle movie, in which the authenticity of the details draws us in (as it does in Melville); Towne cares enough tot get them right, and he cares about the physical world in a reverent, fanatic way. When he shows Chris and the other heroine arm-wrestling, he concentrates on their throbbing veins and their sinews and how the muscles play off one another. He breaks down athletic events into specific details; you watch the athletes’ calves or some other part of them, and you get an exact sense of how their bodies work–it’s sensual and sexual, and it’s informative, too. This film celebrates women’s bodies without turning them into objects; it turns them into bodies. There’s an undercurrent of flabbergasted awe. Everything in the movie is physically charged…Watching this movie, you feel that you really can learn something essential about girls from looking at their thighs.
Feb 22, 1982
I don’t know that you can explain chemistry but when you see it in a movie, man, it sings. It’s a kind of pleasure we don’t get tired of–I mean, we’re still in love with Nick and Nora Charles, right? Take John Cusack and Minnie Driver in Grosse Pointe Blank. They are just great together.
The tone and pacing of the whole movie works. Now, there’s a black comedy I always enjoy watching.
“Towheads,” which makes its premiere Wednesday at the Museum of Modern Art as part of the annual New Directors/New Films survey (with a second screening Saturday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center), features a unique homegrown ensemble filled out by filmmaker Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines”) paralleling his real-life role as Ms. Plumb’s husband and the boys’ father. The story centers on Penelope (Ms. Plumb), a lapsed actor who has back-burnered her career in favor of homebound motherhood while her theater-director husband focuses on his work. Penelope increasingly falls prey to a kind of mac-and-cheese Stockholm Syndrome from the isolating and unrelenting demands of round-the-clock parenting.
Though new to feature filmmaking, Ms. Plumb has made dozens of Super 8 films with homemade props, minimalist camera blocking and deadpan physical comedy closer to silent-era film comedians and Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot than to the video artists with whom she has shared gallery space.
“Her presence onscreen is arresting,” said Alex Orlovsky, a “Towheads” co-producer who has worked on Mr. Cianfrance’s films as well. “I was aware of that from her video art. She is really gifted in that Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin sort of way. It’s totally anachronistic. No one does that.”
Last night at the Golden Globes Jodie Foster accepted a lifetime achievement award and gave a long, thought-provoking speech. Here’s the big moment:
“So while I’m here being all confessional, I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public. So, a declaration that I’m a little nervous about but maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now, huh Jennifer? But I’m just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I’m going to need your support on this. I am single. Yes I am, I am single. No, I’m kidding — but I mean I’m not really kidding, but I’m kind of kidding. I mean, thank you for the enthusiasm. Can I get a wolf whistle or something?”
[Audio goes out]
“…be a big coming-out speech tonight because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now I’m told, apparently, that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show. You know, you guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child. No, I’m sorry, that’s just not me. It never was and it never will be. Please don’t cry because my reality show would be so boring. I would have to make out with Marion Cotillard or I’d have to spank Daniel Craig’s bottom just to stay on the air. It’s not bad work if you can get it, though.”
“But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else. Privacy.”
Wow, a grown-up in Hollywood. Go figure.