I remember my mother reading Bacall’s autobiography when I was a kid. It won a National Book Award and is one of the finest Hollywood memoirs, not only for her life with Bogart but for her life after him.
The picture on the back cover was something I looked at a lot. Man, she was so glamorous and I imaged that my mother and father were that romantic when they met. My mom was a beautiful young woman but her romance–and marriage–to my father did not last. Still, she pushed on, and was not defeated. I’ve always thought that Bacall’s book helped her out during the painful early days of her divorce.
In the Times, John Le Carre remembers Phillip Seymour Hoffman:
There’s probably nobody more redundant in the film world than a writer of origin hanging around the set of his movie, as I’ve learned to my cost. Alec Guinness actually did me the favor of having me shown off the set of the BBC’s TV adaptation of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” All I was wanting to do was radiate my admiration, but Alec said my glare was too intense.
Come to think of it, Philip did the same favor for a woman friend of ours one afternoon on the shoot of “A Most Wanted Man” in Hamburg that winter of 2012. She was standing in a group 30-odd yards away from him, just watching and getting cold like everybody else. But something about her bothered him, and he had her removed. It was a little eerie, a little psychic, but he was bang on target because the woman in the case is a novelist, too, and she can do intensity with the best of us. Philip didn’t know that. He just sniffed it.
In retrospect, nothing of that kind surprised me about Philip, because his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.
Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Harry and Tonto, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, Moscow on the Hudson, Down and Out in Beverly Hills. The man made some choice movies.
I saw this yesterday on Sandy Morse’s Facebook page. She edited Woody Allen’s movies for many years.
She remembers Gordon Willis:
It must have been 9 years ago, almost to the day, that Gordon Willis asked me to write something for a magazine in celebration of his 75th birthday. I am painfully shy, but I would do anything for Gordy. I can’t believe he’s gone:
“I first time I met Gordy, he was performing magic. It was the first time I set foot on a professional movie set and Gordy was shooting Diane Keaton’s spirit getting up out of bed and leaving her body behind while Alvy and Annie were beginning to make love. People are always surprised to hear that that effect was done in camera, as were all of the visual effects in “Annie Hall,” with the exception of two: the wipe revealing Alvy’s and Annie’s families at the dinner table, and the subtitles, revealing Alvy’s thoughts as he and Annie sip wine on her terrace.
What people find more shocking is that there were similarly only two shots in “Zelig” where a visual effects house was involved in the task of interpolating Woody into the archival footage. The rest of the film’s look was created through Gordy’s thorough knowledge of labs, lenses and lighting and his tireless commitment to the pursuit of perfection. “Zelig” epitomized the 99% perspiration of Gordy’s genius and, tangentially, gave me the kind of education in film that money can’t buy. “Aging” the film took us approximately nine months of duping and bi-packing dirt, grain, scratches and flicker to differing degrees depending on the alleged source of the footage. Everything was done with a purpose and a meticulous attention to detail. It seems appropriate and poignant that “Zelig” should have been the first film for which Gordon was nominated for an Academy Award. I can’t imagine anyone else at the time having undertaken such a monumental task. And still Gordy didn’t get the credit he deserved because he did his job too well, convincing his peers as well the audience at large that the footage had been shot 50 years earlier.
Over the course of his career, Gordy seemed always to know exactly what he was doing and the results were often breathtakingly beautiful. But I also remember a dailies screening on “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” when Leopold (Jose Ferrer) was running through the woods at night, after having shot Maxwell (Tony Roberts) with a bow and arrow. This time Gordy had pushed the envelope a bit too hard and Leopold’s face was—let’s face it—black, against a forest of equally black silhouettes of trees. All of us in the screening room were squinting to try to see the shadow detail that just wasn’t there. Leopold ran across the frame one more time, saying, “Blood! I’ve drawn blood! Who am I?,” when suddenly, out of the darkness of the screening room, Gordy’s gravelly voice answered: “How the hell should I know? I can’t see a thing.” Michael Jordan misses shots. Tiger Woods misses putts. Gordon Willis misses exposures—occasionally. All three, however, will be remembered for the vast majority of the time they don’t.
Happy birthday, Gordy! I treasure the ten years we spent together. I never enter a screening room without thinking of you. And I never cut a film without thinking of relativity and repeatability and shoe leather and dump truck directors. Thanks for the memories….
Connie Marrero, a chunky right-hander from Cuba with a windmill delivery and a wicked curveball, was nearly 39 years old when he reached the major leagues with the 1950 Washington Senators.
He went on to become an All-Star in his second season, when he threw a one-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics, and he won 39 games in five seasons with lackluster Senator teams.
When he died on Wednesday in Havana at 102, two days short of his 103rd birthday, Marrero was the oldest former major leaguer. But his time with the Senators was only one chapter of a long career in which he became a cherished figure in Cuban baseball.
[Photo Credit: Al Fenn/Time Life Pictures via Getty Images]
In his own life, Matthiessen found a home in Zen. As he writes in “The Snow Leopard”: “In the longing that starts one on the path is a kind of homesickness, and some way, on this journey, I have started home. Homegoing is the purpose of my practice.” And yet, in “In Paradise,” Matthiessen takes even that consolation away. The evil that Olin encounters at Auschwitz is so terrifying that spiritual practice can’t mitigate it. Olin reflects on Solzhenitsyn’s observation that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being,” and then decides to show it to one of the retreat leaders — who responds with a Buddhist bromide about eliminating “all self-lacerating partial truths while good and evil fall away.” It is correct doctrine, but Matthiessen makes it sound like claptrap. Of spiritual practice in general, with which he has a casual and conflicted relationship, Olin wonders: “How long would such delicate attainments have withstood the death camp’s horrors?” It is another way of asking the question we all ask of ourselves: How would I have fared?
The book is grim, but Matthiessen isn’t. Earlier that morning, I watched as he said goodbye to a guest who stayed over the previous night. They were business associates, friendly but maybe not friends, and as the guest was at the door, he good-naturedly offered optimistic advice about radical experimental measures that Matthiessen might take. Matthiessen smiled and said: “I don’t want to hang on to life quite that hard. It’s part of my Zen training.” In preparing for our interviews, having read “In Paradise,” I wondered whether the Buddhist teachings were providing him any more consolation than they did the characters in his book. I hoped so. “The Buddha says that all suffering comes from clinging,” Matthiessen said. “I don’t want to cling. I’ve had a good life, you know. Lots of adventures. It’s had some dark parts, too, but mainly I’ve had a pretty good run of it, and I don’t want to cling too hard. I have no complaints.”
The characters in “In Paradise” cling too hard and are full of complaints, which is one reason that the book doesn’t feel like any kind of “final word.” The novel lacks the beautiful and affirming moments so much more present in Matthiessen’s nonfiction, moments more beautiful even than the dancing at Auschwitz, because they don’t come with the same complications. When Matthiessen was happy, as a writer and as a traveler, he always let us in on it; most often, he found that happiness in reverence of the natural world and in a hard-won, if fleeting, acceptance of his own uncertain place in it. “Lying back against these ancient rocks of Africa, I am content,” he writes in “The Tree Where Man Was Born.” “The great stillness in these landscapes that once made me restless seeps into me day by day, and with it the unreasonable feeling that I have found what I was searching for without ever having discovered what it was.”
[Photo Via: Getty Images]
See for yourself.