Posts Tagged ‘Bette Midler’

On Oscar night, our happiness and delight for the winners vanish in comparison to the rage that we feel for those who went home with only a magnificent career and millions of dollars in the bank, but no award. We are only a few years away from what I predict will be called Participation Oscars being awarded to all who show up, so let us relish these last few years of cutthroat competition, boycotts, and fashion victims (shout-out to Miss Rivers).

Before they eliminate the barroom brawls of Oscar rivalries, perhaps we’ll see a few more categories added to the list, and therefore I propose an Academy Award for Best Movie Line. Below we remember a few of our favorites from movies that took home nothing more than a program on Oscar night . . . but don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have the stars.

 

AnnaChr“You was going on as if one of you had to own me. But, nobody owns me, see; excepting myself. I’ll do what I please and no man, I don’t give a darn who he is, can tell me what to do. I haven’t asked either of you for a living. I’ll make it myself, one way or another. I am my own boss. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!” – Anna, Anna Christie (1930)

 

 

PublicEn“There you go with that wishin’ stuff again. I wish you was a wishing well. So that I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya.” – Tom Powers, The Public Enemy (1931)

 

 

KlondikeAnn“When I’m caught between two evils, I generally like to take the one I never tried.” – Rose Carlton, Klondike Annie (1936)

 

 

DarkPass“You know, it’s wonderful when guys like you lose out. Makes guys like me think maybe we got a chance in this world.” – Vincent Parry, Dark Passage (1947)

 

 

TheRose“So what do you do when he comes home with the smell of another woman on him? Do you say, ‘Oh honey, let me open up my lovin’ arms and my lovin’ legs. Dive right in, baby, the water is fine?’ Is that what you say, girls? Or do you say, ‘Fuck this shit! I’ve had enough of you, you asshole! Pack your bags. I’m putting on my little waitress cap and my fancy high-heeled shoes, I’m gonna go find me a real man, a good man, a true man. A man to love me for sure.’ ” Mary Rose Foster, The Rose (1979)

 

 

NinetoFive“If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I’m gonna get that gun of mine, and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!” – Doralee Rhodes, Nine to Five (1980)

 

 

Clue“Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong, and disposable.” – Mrs. White, Clue (1985)

 

 

Heathers“Come on, it’ll be very. The note’ll give her shower-nozzle masturbation material for weeks.” – Heather Chandler, Heathers (1988)

 

 

LarryF“Now I have a message for all you good, moral, Christian people who are complaining that breasts and vaginas are obscene. Hey, don’t complain to me. Complain to the manufacturer.” – Larry Flynt, The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

 

 

“He never spoke up to you, because you would never listen. I never spoke up to you, because I could never get a word in!” – LV, Little Voice (1998)

 

 

MSDTWHU EC005“You could stand there naked with a mattress strapped to your back and still look like a vestal virgin.” – Monica, 200 Cigarettes (1999)

 

 

Devil1“Is there some reason that my coffee isn’t here? Has she died or something?” – Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

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Until Jessica Lange emerged as the Supreme in American Horror Story: Coven, my life had lacked the presence of modern witchcraft, and admittedly this had gone unnoticed. For decades I have surrounded myself with my own coven of crafty conjurers, and it’s been quite some time since I have initiated any new members. Lange’s Fiona Goode is blessed with style, wit, and absolutely zero patience for those who attempt, unsuccessfully, to outsass her. Your welcoming to The Ticket Booth’s coven is long overdue, Fiona . . . please come meet the rest of the girls.

 

Jennifer, I Married a Witch (1942):

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Bolts of lightning probably followed Veronica Lake wherever she went, and Samantha Stephens can’t hog all the attention – I think we need more blond witches out there.

 

Endora, Bewitched (1964–1972):

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If Endora ever lost her powers in some freak curse or power outage, undoubtedly the fashion house that she would open to function as a mortal would lead her to world domination. Ah, Agnes Moorehead and her eyeshadow for days . . . the show hinted at some interesting points about prejudices that American Horror Story: Coven would violently incorporate decades later.

 

Carrie White, Carrie (1976):

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Since the late 1930s, witches tend to joke about the whole “dumping buckets of liquid on them” situation, but Carrie has no sense of humor when it comes to that kind of thing.

 

Princess Mombi, Return to Oz (1985):

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A blond witch at times, I guess . . . Jean Marsh’s demonic portrayal of Mombi and her habitual head swapping had children of the 80s hitting the fast-forward button just to make it end. I, instead, elected to rewind. A dear friend of Alice’s Queen of Hearts, this one.

 

Alex, Jane, and Sukie, The Witches of Eastwick (1987):

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With Pfeiffer popping up in here, maybe the list is filled with Goldilockses! The film that either ruined or enchanted the act of eating cherries also reminds me that, in fact, Cher is not a foot taller than Jack Nicholson. Why do I have that idea in my head as an uncontested truth?

 

Ursula the Sea Witch, The Little Mermaid (1989):

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It’s never easy to select only one villain from Disney’s powder room, but let’s go with the one who has “witch” on her birth certificate. I will never forget sitting in the movie theatre during a friend’s ninth birthday and thinking, “This isn’t how the story goes.” The 1975 Japanese anime film was “Mermaid truth” to me, and its Sea Witch had no motive other than to cause pain and heartbreak. Yes, when Ursula started singing, the truth was rewritten for me and coven admission was granted, but we all know that she stole her color scheme from her predecessor.

 

Miranda, Wicked Stepmother (1989):

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Because she’s Bette Davis, so shut up about it.

 

Miss Ernst/The Grand High Witch, The Witches (1990):

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Aside from yours truly, writers are a stubborn, picky, unyielding squad of artists who refuse to have their visions tampered with by any mortal, mere or miraculous. Therefore it thaws out our hearts to hear that Roald Dahl fully supported the casting of Anjelica Huston as his Grand High Witch. An offensive Oscar snub for both the actress and her makeup team.

 

Lisle Von Rhuman, Death Becomes Her (1992):

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She is the one who understands; she is the one who knows your secret. What we will never understand is the spell that she used to keep those beads in place for a PG-13 rating. Clearly the witchcraft of Miss Isabella Rossellini is one of our coven’s most advanced and mysterious. Maybe it’s genetic . . .

 

The Sanderson Sisters, Hocus Pocus (1993):

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The Internet machines have teased us with rumors of sequels and musicals, but alas, nothing. Damn, damn, double damn! Now if only I could find truth to the other rumors I’m hearing (or did I start them?) about Bette Midler and a biopic of Mae West.

 

Then, of course, there’s the original Supreme. I believe you’ve been introduced . . .

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Happy Halloween!

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The month of September makes us think about New York City, and New York City makes me think about movies. To be fair, carpet samples make me think about movies, so our autumn leap from the Big Apple to the silver screen is one to be expected. This year I mulled over all of those films whose characters force me to my rooftop where I shout, “I’m moving to New York so I can live just like . . . !” I can bellow my fantasy to the world only for so long before the family of crack heads living across the street asks me to keep it down.

Based on the dollars and cents needed for San Francisco housing these days, shouting from a Manhattan rooftop may be a cheaper option for us nontechies, so until I load up the car and head east, I’ll stick with what I have. I’m moving to New York City so I can live just like . . .

 

Gregory Peck in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947):

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A heroic writer sets out to expose anti-Semitism in New York City, looking more handsome than any writer one could possibly hope to meet – I could think of worse role models.

 

The three sailors in On the Town (1949):

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Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin visit New York only for 24 hours, but in that time they destroy a dinosaur exhibit at a museum, get seduced by cab drivers, sing and dance on the Empire State Building, and finish the night by dressing in drag as cooch dancers on Coney Island. Yes, fine, I did most of those things on my last trip to the island, too.

 

Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950):

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Always in the running as one of my all-time favorite films, I would put up with anything Eve had to throw at me, if only I could have Margo Channing’s sunken living room, golden staircase, and Thelma Ritter as my personal assistant.

 

Jack Lemmon in The Apartment (1960):

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Because of Lemmon’s brilliance (culinary and otherwise), I keep a tennis racket in my kitchen as a backup colander. Not to mention the fact that he’s thrilled beyond belief when he almost gets to watch Grand Hotel (1932) from the very beginning. What the heck, Miss MacClaine? I would marry C. C. Baxter in the first ten minutes.

 

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961):

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You know that pastry in the opening scene is the most exquisite treat prepared in the early hours of some exquisite New York bakery. Of course Holly Golightly ate carbs; don’t start with me.

 

Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1968):

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Primarily for the matching leopard coat and hat . . . and the name of her manicurist.

 

Dianne Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986):

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Some love him; some hate him, but no one makes New York City look more desirable than Woody Allen does in his films. After disastrous attempts at becoming an actress and a hilarious bout with cocaine, eventually Wiest’s character, Holly, finds her calling as a writer, and Wiest found herself with her first Academy Award.

 

Bette Midler in Big Business (1988):

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Do I really have to explain this one? Two Midlers, two Tomlins, a “usual suite” at the Plaza, and special effects at their absolute finest! For most of my childhood I was convinced that I had an identical twin brother . . . sadly I had no clear route to Manhattan for our tearful and polka-dotted reunion.

Cheers and tipped hats to all of New York’s characters, then and now.

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I’ve been stuck in the 1970s lately. Your parents had that orange couch, too, didn’t they?

I have no one in particular to whom I direct my sporadic prayers, but I do believe in sending positive vibes wrapped with a pastel bow to Valerie Harper. The uncontrollable giggle fits given to me by dear, sweet Miss Morgenstern have certified Rhoda (1974–1978) as solid, runaway in my household. I went on a few dates with a flight attendant who once had Ms. Harper on a trip of his, and I was fully prepared to marry this man purely because he had been in her presence. If life’s first goal is to take a trip to Minneapolis to kiss the Mary Tyler Moore statue (on a clean spot), the second is to kick off my campaign to erect a Valerie Harper statue somewhere in Manhattan.

Because of her new show with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda edged her way up towards the top of my queue, and along came Klute (1971) a few weeks ago. Although I’ve always liked Jane Fonda, I’m not planning to hang a framed picture of her any time soon, unless Lily and Dolly happen to be standing there with her, throwing dead bodies into the trunk of a car. That, I would hang proudly on any wall. As she’s never been one of my favorite actors, pangs of guilt never kept me awake at night over neglecting Ms. Fonda’s Oscar-winning performances (oh, it’s happened over others), but it was time. Except during a few scenes and monologues with her analyst that I found crept up on mesmerizing, my mind drifted without losing track of the story. Not the best; not the worst; but oh, the colors of the 70s; the clothes; the furniture; the hairstyles; the nonexistent body fat percentages . . . and of course; the movies. I thought Klute would have soothed the decade craving that plagued me, but it wasn’t enough. The color of my mood ring still matched nothing in my wardrobe.

I’ve been on countless dance floors in my day, but one I’ll never forget is the 1970s party given by one of the dirty ol’ co-ops back in college. I still reminisce with a good friend about the boisterous shenanigans that went on that evening, all without the druggie drugs of the honored decade. A pinch of vodka, perhaps, flowed through our veins, but we didn’t need much else. It’s fitting that this same friend and I bonded over the Tales of the City series 14 years later, as we walked together to our first Cher concert. When I’m bummed out on modern life in San Francisco and search for mementos of the fun that was once and still may be out there, I return to Tales. When I need the television equivalent of comfort food, I return to Tales. Perhaps not as light of a comfort food meal is the 30s of the 70s I find in Cabaret (1972). Respectful hats off, yes, to Ms. Fonda and her hair trendsetting prostitute in Klute, but she ain’t no Sally Bowles. When the world of film and television places the 1970s in another decade, it still feels like the 70s to me – the best and worst aspects are exaggerated for any period piece, and what can be more fun than a 70s soundtrack created in the 90s? Having read all of the Tales of the City books, some twice, often I turn to that delightful 1993 miniseries starring everyone’s favorite person on the planet, Olympia Dukakis. Not to mention the actor who plays the character of Michael Tolliver, my book husband, is a super-duper cutiepants whom I’ve never seen again. He’s ideal, my friends . . . the perfect onscreen one-night stand. Michael dutifully cleans his apartment while Bette Midler’s flawless version of “Am I Blue?” plays in the background. I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love, I feel love!

I’m convinced that this tidal craving all comes back to Soap (1977–1981). The television show emerged early in life as my primary happy place, defining not only experiences of love, family, and belonging through our nightly gatherings over Oreo ice cream, but also it set the standard that I still use to determine whether or not entertainment may be considered “quality.” Precious to many are those protected moments of childhood, a time when family surrounded us, and we had much more future than we had past. We knew everything that we needed to know, and we knew nothing of what we didn’t know yet. Soap was the family bible, and at that age, I had only one gash on my heart when a character died in season two. The 1970s of Soap bring back to the surface a time when no one had rejected me, no company had turned me down for a job, no nightclub made me feel like I wasn’t listed on the correct clipboard, and I was frightened of nothing. I could take to a ski slope brimming with confidence and absolutely no fear, knowing full well that the snow would catch and cushion and rock and soothe and love me if I fell.

The 1970s and their renditions, enhanced throughout my workday with a bit of “Stoney End” Barbra, sewed themselves together this week, forming a comfort quilt of dreadfully horrible colors, but comforting just the same. It involves some industrious searching to find the perfect combination of fabrics and Rhoda headscarves, but those quilts that eventually we sew for ourselves provide as much comfort as knowing that somewhere, out there in this confusing, overwhelming, frightening, sometimes lonely modern world stands a statue of Mary Tyler Moore with a clean spot waiting to be kissed. And just when we’re about to surrender and call off the search, remember the dance floors of days past and then throw an impromptu party in the kitchen. Mine looks something like this:

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It was pouring with rain outside, so I figured I would sit down with my Dean & DeLuca cappuccino and take a little break from my go-go-go vacation/work trip to Manhattan. Oddly, I was there to attend a summit on how best to move the cataloging process into the digital age of book publishing, thus terrifying the older generations with the loss (or tapering off) of print production. I used to rage against such a shift in the book business, but eventually I had to accept the job security involved in embracing the new technology of publishing. See, not all of me remains stuck in the past – when I need to pay rent, buy a round of margaritas, or save up for tickets to Liza’s next show, I’m all about the future.

Remnants of our treasured movies are all over the city of New York, and everywhere I’m reminded of the films that made this town a fantasy island to me before I visited for the first time. On the 24-hour stage in my head, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin have been singing “New York, New York” (no, not Liza’s) from On the Town (1949). The statue of Atlas outside Rockefeller Center welcomes Gregory Peck back into my heart, and I send an email to myself to revisit Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) as soon as I get home. At brunch, it was challenging to look up from my gorgeous stack of banana pancakes and a mimosa (for good health!), but there above me was a wall-sized poster for La Dolce Vita (1960). Had it been smaller, or had the restaurant owner been less friendly, I may have been charged with “theft with intent to frame.” And of course there’s the Casablanca Hotel which, as we all know, has absolutely nothing to do with the film . . . but it’s always nice to see that word on a sign.

Scenes from all of the Woody Allen films that added zing to my childhood appeared on every corner, and the Plaza Hotel (although under construction) was as just thrilling to see at it was for the first time when I was 17. In the pouring rain I flung my umbrella down on Eighth Avenue to snap a picture of a drenched Bill Cunningham biking away from the New York Times building in his blue poncho. A dinner at Sardi’s was a hoot for reasons having to do less with the food and more with the kooky celebrity caricatures on the wall (if you’re curious, Liza’s was in a corner, and I wasn’t elated with this placement). In the final hours of my final 90-degree day, I happened by Dan Savage in Bryant Park signing copies of his new book, and I considered proposing to him on behalf of myself and everyone I know. Was I really expected to work in this city?

Yes fine, I was there for solemn, work-related purposes and hopefully a bit of networking (that word has become a necessary set of nails on my chalkboard), and moments of the work hours were of interest. But there were two hours of this trip that became two of my life’s finest.

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Before Judy… Before Liza… Before Katharine… Before Lucy… Before Madonna… my first love was Bette Midler. My parents are fairly confident that, at two-and-a-half, surely I was Bette’s youngest fan, and I defy the universe to find a younger, more devoted enthusiast. Any other kids out there bringing her records to preschool for Show and Tell? I don’t think so. I had seen the Divine Miss M. perform twice before, and nothing, I tell you, nothing takes a man’s breath away like a mermaid speeding around stage in a wheelchair cracking the filthiest of filthy jokes. Already I had seen ads for Bette’s new show, I’ll Eat You Last, and I knew this one was not the showgirl we have come to love more and more with every flip of her fin. In this production, Bette was performing a one-woman show, stepping into the shoes of Sue Mengers, a Hollywood talent agent who represented countless actors and filmmakers throughout her career. As Sue, Bette was going to sit on stage for the entire show and talk about celebrities of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Excuse me for a moment . . . you’re telling me that Bette Midler was going to lie on a fancy couch, smoke fancy weed, drink fancy booze, and talk about Faye Dunaway and Barbra Streisand for 90 minutes?

Was I really expected to work in this city?!?!

Always a sign of a perfect performance, I was furious with her when the show came to an end. Surely this unbelievable experience of mine was destined to go on forever; how dare she allow that curtain to come down? After the show the entire audience gathered in the alleyway behind the Booth Theatre to catch a glimpse of Bette and maybe persuade her to sign an autograph or two. The crazy city wind was beneath our wings, in our faces, coming up under our coats, so the delicate so-called fans left after only ten minutes of waiting. A few more weak little groups left after 20, and after 45 minutes passed, many had decided not to stick around. Amateurs.

For they overlook one simple force of nature: far beneath the bitter snows lies the seed that, with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose. If you’re incredibly lucky, she’ll wave at you.

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It may have started with Flo. She’s appeared and reappeared as different characters in my life, like a recasting of Darrin on Bewitched. As the baby of the family, I could not have done any better than Grandma Flo in the grandparent department. Quite the prince, I was over at G&G’s, hence the kitschy embroidered pillow that says “There’s no place like home except Grandma’s.” A writer of poetry who dreamed secretly of being a ballet dancer, Grandma filled me with ice cream, chocolate milk, and her “girl” cheese sandwiches, gorgeously sliced into six identical slices for my dainty little hands. Even when I assured her I wasn’t hungry, good ol’ Flo was pulling out the bread and slicing the cheese; there was only one answer to “are you hungry?” in that house. Apparently these sandwiches left such a lasting impression on me that, in high school—a time in one’s young life when no one acknowledges the existence of relatives—I was writing poetry about Grandma Flo’s grilled cheese sandwiches. I went through the adolescent stages like everyone else, but for me, feeling different never really felt unfamiliar . . . yes, I have a family, and I’ll write grilled-cheese-sandwich poetry if I feel like it!

Based on the amazing day I had with my dear friend Sandy—a day filled with fried eggs, heirloom tomatoes, and oysters for which she coined the phrase “very happiness”—one would never guess that I was the most picky eater a parent could raise. Aside from grilled cheese, I refused to eat anything unless it came with French fries, and even then the main course was up for discussion. At Bobby McGee’s, one of those funky little restaurants from the ’80s where the waitresses were charmingly rude, I fell head over six-inch heels in love with a waitress named Flo. A memorable (but possibly exaggerated) characters from childhood, Flo was as “kiss my grits” as a woman could be, and I like to think that wherever life has taken her, those grits have remained just as cheeky. Absolutely confident that she reciprocated my heartfelt devotion, I begged Mom and Dad to take me there as often as possible. It was perhaps my first lesson in how to charm waitresses (and waiters, later in life) into scoring free food and free drinks. Flo would bring me extra fries with side of sassy, and I learned then and there that people like Flo will eat you alive if you don’t give the sass right back to them. I was one of those students who learned life’s lessons everywhere but the classroom. Well, that is, except for one classroom.

Before eBooks came along and transformed me from a copy editor into a data processor (boring!), I was told that the sales handle is the most important part of selling an upcoming book. If you had to come up with a single catchphrase that not only summed you up but also painted the perfect picture of you, what would it be? With little effort I came up with mine years ago: “When I was four, I took my Bette Midler records to preschool for show-and-tell.” Fortune smiled on my flow of Flos, and between Grandma and Bobby McGee’s, a second Flo entered my life in the hippie  form of my first preschool teacher. While some teachers may have met a four-year-old boy and his impressive collection of Bette Midler records with a raised eyebrow, Flo instead pulled out the record player, and like a team of DJs, soon we had the whole class up ‘n’ dancing. Yes sir, from a young age I was determined to expose my peers to quality entertainment that existed long before we were all born. Thank you, Flo, for getting a kick out of me before I knew there was anything to get a kick out of . . . I’m forever grateful!

It’s not every man whose father hands him a DVD and tells him, “Oh you’re going to love Mae West!” When Dad was visiting a few months ago, we talked a great deal about classic films, current films (what’s with all the car chases?), my writing, his crazy mother, and the joys of wine tasting. When it comes to chatting about movies, we always have a little back-and-forth of “Have you seen” this one or that one. Somehow during brunch we got on the topic of Mae West, and I admitted shamefully that I just hadn’t gotten to her yet. We talked for a bit about the wonderful similarities between Mae West and Bette Midler, two of the brassiest lassies the world has ever known, and twenty minutes later I had a DVD set of five Mae West films, courtesy of Dad.

I’ve been through all five films, impressed and amazed that West wrote a number of the screenplays herself, but thus far my favorite has been I’m No Angel (1933). It’s not every actor who can throw out lines like “Beulah, peel me a grape” and remain lovable, sassy, and commanding within a span of four words. Usually I’m able to remember and recite movie lines on command, but this woman’s divinely dirty mouth delivers about ten zingers per second. West plays Tira, a lion tamer who agrees with little reservation to stick her head in a lion’s mouth . . . like her yet? Along comes the wealthy (and very young) Cary Grant, resulting in the hate, love, hate, love storyline that continues to hold our movie-going attention. But the romance fades away behind the talent of this woman who is described frequently as decades ahead of her time. I agree but in many ways, I feel Mae West was in the exact right place at the right time, saying all the wonderfully wrong things.

It turns out that Mae West, just like Bette, Flo, and Flo, has become a part of the past that brings my present its much-needed serving of sass ‘n’ class, often with a free side of cheese.

Add I’m No Angel to your queue.

One of my guarded writing techniques is that I rarely talk about a work in progress, but luckily for me, a number of my barriers are starting to break down. The few I’ve spoken with about Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner all asked some hue of the same question — has it held up after all these years? Since I was born 13 years after its release, I thought for a moment that I wasn’t exactly qualified to answer, but then I began to find the question pretty flattering. Those who asked are certainly aware of my birth year, and yet somehow my answer still carried with it a shade of authority . . . even if is just an opinion. For making an introverted writer feel fuzzy inside, I dedicate this one to you.

The first obligatory response to whether or not Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner has held up through the years has to be “go judge for yourself.” While that may not be the worst advice, it’s also the easy way out of taking a side and answering the question. I’ve always had trouble taking one side of an argument without seeing valid points of the other — if the grass is greener and we flock eagerly to that other side, then yes indeed, the world still cares about color and uses it as a tool of judgment. I believe that Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a very important movie, and it makes valuable points about the 1960s and beyond, but the subject matter is not what draws me in. If you’ve been kind enough to read some of my other entries (thank you, big hugs!), then you may safely assume that I’d follow a Katharine Hepburn film into the darkest of dangerous caves without any knowledge of its details. I guess I’m just as guilty of judging something by its wrapper, but if the wrapper has her name on it — let alone hers next to Mr. Spencer Tracy’s — I form an opinion immediately, without even opening the case. You see where I’m going with this, perhaps a little bit?

When Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner opens with the song The Glory of Love, I already have a smile on my face. The song reminds me instantly of Beaches (1988) and the unparalleled love I have for one Miss Bette Midler (visit my “About the Author” page for more on this lifelong obsession). In 1967 San Francisco, Joanna Drayton (played by Miss Hepburn’s niece, Katharine Houghton) returns home to her parents, Hepburn and Tracy’s Christina and Matthew, with her new fiancé John, played by a handsome Sidney Poitier. For those who recognize the name but cannot picture a face, Mr. Poitier is black, and every time his character is liberally referred to as “a negro,” I can’t help but wonder if “black” will some day be incorrect, politically speaking. My love of old movies reflects my personality a great deal, so it’s possible that I haven’t kept up with the times . . . if I’m so far out of the politically correct loop already and offending you, dear readers, you’ll let me know, I’m sure. Matthew and Christina’s liberalism does not result in the initial reaction they may have expected — Christina, although politely shocked at the beginning, comes around to the realization we expect rather quickly, while Matthew Drayton is not as easily convinced. Adding fuel to the simmering fire, Joanna invites John’s parents to dinner, who are unaware of Joanna’s lighter skin tone, and a fairly predictable storyline continues. A wonderful added bonus is the unforgettable voice of the family’s maid, played by Isabell Sanford who dropped that second “L” before landing her Emmy-winning role on The Jeffersons via All in the Family.

The predictability of the plot falls by the wayside for me, shadowed almost completely by the final journey Katharine Hepburn takes here with Mr. Spencer Tracy. The film’s sociopolitical messages have been discussed at length by many who know a great deal more than I about sociology, psychology, political science, and all those other subjects that I could never master in the schoolhouse. I could talk about the frequently used phrase “turmoil of the 60s,” about where I think now society is (or is not), and of course an easy route to take would be to draw a line from this film to the election of President Obama. But there was this odd contradiction that rose up in my pen when those thoughts first entered my mind — on one hand, I say there are others who are more qualified than I to address all those topics and more, and that’s true; but on the other hand, it seems like taking those routes while discussing this movie is just too easy . . . from all the voices I say, welcome to my brain!

While far from inconsiderable, the above mentioned topics (that are indeed part of what made the film as powerful as it was) do not even come close to affecting me as much as the moments when Hepburn glances at Tracy, knowing it may be for the last time. Spencer Tracy’s health was very poor in the late 1960s, and the insurance companies refused to cover him before and during the picture. At a very young age I learned that if I wanted to avoid an angry rant at the dinner table, I shouldn’t say the words “insurance companies” in front of Dad . . . but he was right, and here’s one more example of their wicked ways. Katharine Hepburn and director Stanley Kramer put their salaries in escrow as collateral, agreeing not to take a penny so their money could be used to make the film with another actor if necessary. Luckily for us all, Mr. Tracy made it all the way through filming by working half days, giving a performance of which only he was capable. If I were prone to gambling, I’d lay money on the possibility that his final ten-minute monologue was shot in one or two takes. And then on June 10, 1967, just ten days after filming was complete, the great Mr. Spencer Tracy died. He was 67 years old and wore a Fedora better than any other man on the planet.

Hepburn and Tracy sparkle once again, creating a scene simply by looking at one another. Who knows how they defined “love,” or how many definitions they had, or even if they defined it all, but what they shared with a grateful audience are some of the final loving moments between one of Hollywood’s greatest  non-couples. The tears Miss Hepburn fails to hide during Spencer Tracy’s final monologue are some of the most authentic tears ever to saturate the screen, resulting in her second of four Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Mr. Tracy convinces us easily of the strong love that his character feels for his wife, and when he glances over at her, I almost feel like I’m intruding. It’s wonderfully heartbreaking when he assures us all that the “memories are still there — clear, intact, indestructible. And they’ll be there if I live to be 110.”

But the one moment that touches me more than any other in the film does indeed fill me with tears, but those tears result from the belly laugh that has me practically rolling around on the floor. When Matt confides in a friend about his daughter’s situation and the frustration he feels about his wife’s reactions to it, Mr. Tracy does the unthinkable — he does an imitation of Katharine Hepburn. Providing a hypothetical in which his daughter comes home with an undesirable fiancé of a different shade, Matt is positive that his wife would ask “where will we get enough roses to fill the Rose Bowl?” From the hard “R’s” to the soft and gentle landing on the “L” of “bowl,” it was only Mr. Spencer Tracy who could provide such an imitation of Miss Hepburn . . . an imitation filled with annoyance, love, and devotion.

So if you ask me (which some lovely people actually did), of course Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner holds up after all these years — the world has gone too far when it decides that Hepburn and Tracy are no longer in style . . .

Academy Awards for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1968): Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Add it to your queue.