Posts Tagged ‘Faye Dunaway’

I’ve watched Network (1976) many times. I’ve paid attention to every single word start to finish; I’ve fallen asleep before the opening credits; I can picture the label of our VHS tape written in perfect penmanship by my mother with a purple sharpie. Just moments ago I put it on in the background while I started to plan for Monday’s workday (which means finding the perfect jacket to wear to a morning meeting in a freezing conference room, while I pretend to care about what the VP’s children did over the weekend). My jackets now sit in a pile under this computer, because I had to stop and rewind this scene five times before I was able to move on with, well, the rest of my life. Through Network, I understand everything and nothing about 2017, and I’m only 13 minutes in . . .

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Hello again!

A binding contract of lifelong friendship forges when the person across the dinner table chuckles after you say, “Good God; that’s a Hello Again-sized piece of chicken.” Frightfully large chicken brings to mind the frightfully good-bad film Hello Again (1987), featuring Shelley Long as a woman summoned back from the dead after choking to death on a South Korean chicken ball. I didn’t know how else to break the ice and find a way to say hello. You know, again.

The “Closed” sign has been up at The Ticket Booth for some time now; other meddling voices have filled both my head and pen, pulling me in some new and exciting directions. But I began thinking about the booth and missing it, acknowledging the mental nudge that I wanted to open it up again and see how much dust had collected inside. Either sentimental or just a reaction to that dust, I found myself getting a little choked up trying to figure out why I had stayed away for long, and how, or where, I should start?

Shall we jump back in with the last Joan Crawford movie that I watched last week? Familiar butterflies began to flutter during Sadie McKee (1934) when I realized that it was the same film featured decades later in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), another Joan Crawford picture that paired her with Bette Davis. As an actress without any recent successes to her name, both Crawford and her character in Jane sit in front of the television utterly mesmerized by Sadie, a towering and bouncy young lady almost 30 years her junior. T’was a powerful moment on the couch that night – life had all came full circle for me.

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Not in the mood for big JC? I could brag about the trip we took to the San Francisco Symphony, where my family and I did not, in fact, get kicked out of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) for rambunctious sobbing. The evening was a crowning achievement in my family’s history, as the Academy Award-winning score by John Williams generates a flood of nose hair-plucking tears for most of us.

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Maybe you’d like to hear about the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition where Michelle and I saw an Oscar statuette, props and costumes from The Shining (1980), and pleasant letters from religious groups scolding Mr. Kubrick for turning the filthy Lolita (1962) into a film. If I were to steal one thing from a museum, I’d sneak out with one of those letters under my shirt. Read more about the exhibition on Little Magazine.

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Not in a Kubrick mood? I get it; he’s a treat but not for every day. How about the time when I saw Cabaret: The Musical performed on stage, and the Emcee (played by Randy Harrison from Queer as Folk) pulled me up out of the audience to dance with him in front the entire theatre? “Do you have a little German in you?” he asked, and when I told him no, he hissed with smile, “Would you liiiiiiiike some?”

 

Too early for das Kit Kat Club? When I went to visit Dad for a boys’ weekend, I brought him two DVDs – Network (1976) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – so he would never again have to worry about downloading them from those streaming services that tend to stall every three minutes. We ate; we drank; we swam; we barbecued; we teased Mom via text that we picked up KFC and without a coupon.

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Oh, and a few weeks ago, Barbra started her concert with “The Way We Were.” I was there; I heard it; I saw Barbra Streisand perform live . . . no biggie.

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The magic of film illuminates my life (the way your spirit illuminates my soul), but it just hasn’t appeared anywhere in my journals. And why? Because I’ve been sad. Hatred and fear surround us, and the two have joined forces to become what some have led us to believe is a constant threat that bursts into our nightclubs where we used to dance until dawn. It’s driving down promenades where we celebrate with our friends and friendly strangers. It’s shooting out of the guns controlled by law enforcement, and hours later it’s shooting out of the guns controlled by protesters. Hatred and fear surge from the mouths of men and women who are or want to become our elected leaders, and it’s being absorbed, magnified, and projected by their followers. For those of us who worry too much and insist on being in control of all things at all times, an overwhelming hodgepodge of sadness, anger, frustration and all the other googly–eyed emoticons was inescapable, but naturally I added one more fear to the pile – maybe writing about old movies just didn’t do it for me anymore.

Eventually the moment came when I could just about feel Cher’s palm meet the side of my face (we should all be so lucky), and I heard a firm but loving “Snap out of it!” It wasn’t a “snap out of it” advising me to ignore this world that frightened me so, but the time had come to tally up of all of those indestructible new memories and experiences that I just listed above. We have plenty to talk about and will, but before we chat about that new Ingrid Bergman documentary, the upcoming Dolly Parton concert, or the adorable little cat café where I started volunteering, first I just wanted to a quick little hello.

And it is time – it’s time first to acknowledge that sadness, anger, or fear and then release it all like you’re supposed to release a ghost. After that, grab your best (or, in my case, only) Dolce & Gabbana, find a theatre that serves champagne, and go see the new AbFab movie. We’ll talk more soon, because when you finally do snap out of it, you find that chicken balls are quite delicious.

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This week I noticed how many musical biographies I have on that little iDevice of mine, each one more educational than the last (history books teach us nothing, you hear me, nothing!). To help create snappy headlines for a catalog that I’m working on for my book publishers, I’ve relied heavily on lines from these musicals and amused myself in the process. To help promote a collection of books that have been translated into English, I stole from Yentl the line “Tell me where, where is it written?” to use as its headline. The wine titles and their purple covers will be promoted with the handle borrowed from Fiddler on the Roof, “To life, to life, l’chaim.” The list of books on climate change could very well end up under the header, “Don’t rain on my parade,” but I should go for subtlety here if I want to keep it up.

Biopics have also entered my watch history in the last few months, as I just wrapped up the brilliant miniseries, John Adams (2008), starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, two people who should be married in real life. It was such a gratifying and addictive series, that naturally I scoured my shelves in search of others from the same genre. Ranking one’s favorite biopics turned into wonderfully frustrating task, as feelings of neglect and betrayal surfaced with each resort. But we gave it a go . . .

 

15) Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen (2006)

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The movie itself, not my favorite, but with every hand gesture and tilt of her head, Helen Mirren unveils the broaches and emotions of Her Majesty The Queen, eventually taking home the Oscar.

 

 

14) Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, Mrs. Brown (1997)

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“No one should think themselves wiser than me!” Dame Judi Dench is the aunt we all wish we had, am I right? I think her earrings move only in the direction that she commands – wind and gravity are nothing to this woman.

 

 

13) Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan, The Miracle Worker (1962)

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As Helen Keller’s tutor, Anne Bancroft’s miraculous scenes with Patty Duke include only grunts of frustration instead of dialogue. Astounding, but once was enough.

 

 

12) Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Julie and Julia (2009)

Meryl Streep as "Julia Child" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA.

Julia Child now looks like Meryl Streep to me, and Stanley Tucci is delicious, as always. Sandra Bullock seems like a lovely person, but in 2010 the Academy really should have given more thought to its choice in the Best Actress category.

 

 

11) William Powell as Florenz Ziegfeld, The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

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It clocks in at just under three hours, but who could have too many helpings of William Powell? During the elaborate numbers of the Ziegfeld Follies, I could be found adding three different biographies on Flo to my wish list.

 

 

10) Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan, Boys Town (1938)

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In a pinch he can be tougher than you are, and I guess maybe this is the pinch.

 

 

9) Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne as Ike and Tina Turner, What’s Love Got to Do with It (1993)

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Have you ever wanted to knock the television off its stand just to stop what’s happening in the movie? Taking logical action and switching it off won’t help a thing; the only way for me to save Tina from Ike is to throw that television to the floor with all my might. There were no instructions in the box telling me not to do this.

 

 

8) Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker, Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

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Love for Mr. Beatty and all, but every shot (ha!) of Faye Dunaway in this film is exquisite and should be framed on my wall.

 

 

7) Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote, Capote (2005)

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At Harper Lee’s party celebrating To Kill a Mockingbird, he sits at the bar and mutters, “I frankly don’t see what all the fuss is about.” Ten seconds in a film can be more heartbreaking than all of its seconds combined.

 

 

6) Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer, Frances (1982)

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Reaching for the moon? No, just one little star . . . on a dressing room door. Once again, the supreme Jessica Lange gives voice to every rejection, deception, and ambition through which her audience itself has suffered. It must have been by one vote when Meryl took Oscar home that year for Sophie’s Choice.

 

 

5) Greta Garbo as Christina, Queen of Sweden, Queen Christina (1933)

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This list overflows with royalty, but Garbo was the Queen before them all, including Capote. Unconvinced that a queen requires a king for a successful rule, Christina promises that she will die a bachelor.

 

 

4) James Cagney as George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

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Sometimes a gangster; sometimes a vaudevillian who can tap-dance down a staircase at the White House. As entertainer George Cohan, James Cagney was living proof that magic exists . . . no one can dance like that without assistance.

 

 

3) Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I, Elizabeth (1998)

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I was torn between listing this or Blanchett’s Oscar-winning performance as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004). Her transformation into the Virgin Queen at the end of the film helped tip the scale.

 

 

2) Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, Milk (2008)

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When I first saw Milk, I don’t think I said as much as two words after I left the theatre. When I saw it again, the second time at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, I had the same reaction. Luckily there were bars in every direction, and we sat for hours at Twin Peaks, drinking our drinks and smelling the fresh cookies next door until the words and tears came.

 

 

1) Madonna as Eva Perón, Evita (1996)

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Never been a lady loved as much as a desperate, misunderstood, driven woman who was hurt and disappointed by life at a young age. After the erotic, bedtime story days of the early 1990s, Madonna revealed more of herself in Evita than she ever showed us during those equally magnificent naked years. You must love her.

 

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When a friend invited me to guest host on her radio show and discuss the great mothers of TV, in my mind a fierce battle erupted between the leading ladies of television and the grand mothers of film. Place your bets, anyone? Roseanne versus Mo’Nique from Precious? For every television mother I chose as a potential topic of discussion, at least five from the silver screen appeared in my head, each one drowning me in guilt as only a movie mother can for not mentioning her. On this Mother’s Day we offer a bit of advice, a few pearls of wisdom, and perhaps gardening tips for your rose gardens from the most beloved mothers (and a few mother figures) of film.

 

10) Mrs. Flax – Mermaids (1990), played by Cher

“Charlotte, I know you’re planning a celibate life, but with half my chromosomes, I think that might be tough.”

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9) Carolyn Burnham – American Beauty (1999), played by Annette Bening

“Honey, I’m so proud of you. You know, I watched you very closely; you didn’t screw up once!”

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8) Joan Crawford – Mommie Dearest (1981), played by Faye Dunaway

“When I told you to call me that, I wanted you to mean it.”

 

 

7) Mame Dennis – Auntie Mame (1958), played by Rosalind Russell

“A divine man, such talented fingers . . . oh, what he did to my bust. That’s the head, you know.”

 

 

6) Mildred Pierce – Mildred Pierce (1945), played by Joan Crawford

“I never used to drink at all . . . just a little habit I picked up from men.”

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5) Regina Giddens – The Little Foxes (1941), played by Bette Davis

“Why, Alexandra! You have spirit after all. I used to think you were all sugar water.”

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4) Rose Castorini – Moonstruck (1987), played by Olympia Dukakis

“When you love ‘em, they drive you crazy, ‘cause they know they can.”

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3) Mrs. Robinson – The Graduate (1967), played by Anne Bancroft

“I’m getting pretty tired of all this suspicion. Now if you won’t do me a simple favor, I don’t know what!”

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2) Eleanor of Aquitaine – The Lion in Winter (1968), played by Katharine Hepburn

“Henry, I have a confession . . . I don’t much like our children.”

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1) Mrs. Bates – Psycho (1960)

She had no lines – more often than not, mothers gave us only a single look that could communicate their feelings of love and devotion. Either that, or “watch it, Buster; the ice under your feet is beginning to crack.”

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When you love her, she drives you crazy, ‘cause she knows she can. Thanks for everything, Mom . . . Happy Mother’s Day!

Ajax and wire hangers aside, I do have a special love for Miss Joan Crawford. One of the actresses I came to know backwards, my first introduction to her was the “Rodan versus Godzilla” that was What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Young enough to be beyond terrified of the film’s title star, I had a child’s sympathy for Miss Crawford that somehow remains with me today. Despite what kind of mother she was offscreen, and regardless of what her diabolically-eyebrowed character is doing on-screen, I can’t help but delight in watching Crawford play Crawford.

As members of the Hollywood royal family were before her, apparently Miss Crawford was labeled “box office poison” prior to Mildred Pierce. This exact label has been shawled over so many great stars, that sometimes I wonder how much salt I should sprinkle on film history. In any event, the tale of a newly divorced housewife and her transition into a successful businesswoman grandly suited Miss Crawford and her shoulder pads, said to have revitalized a career that was losing its steam. Mildred does anything in her power to earn enough money to satisfy her spoiled daughter, played by a stealthily vicious Ann Blyth. The two actresses develop mesmerizing chemistry as mother and daughter, and you wire hanger fans out there will get a kick out Miss Crawford playing the all-concerned mother.  Fear not, my friends — there’s a slap or two in this one…

After the first shadowy shot of Miss Crawford, I was ready to buy the DVD the following day… luckily a birthday and a “tell-me-what-you-want” friend came in handy. As Mildred walks through the shadows of a Southern California pier wearing her fur coat and hat, I think of a glorious time when all forms of “correctness” weren’t crammed down my throat… and I was born 35 years later! Don’t get me wrong; I love our furry friends and absolutely do not wish them any harm — a fur coat is just one of many decorations in the world of old movies; a world that feels less angry than the politically correct one surrounding me.

Judging from the look and tears on her face in this early scene, Mildred’s black-and-white world is perhaps not as pleasant as I see it… we know something has gone down, and before we have too much time to wonder, Jack Carson pops into the scene with a free drink — once again there’s that lovely drink and its sidekick the cigarette, making their cameos in so many beloved old movies. The Crawford face combined with the shadows that probably moved when she told them to (and of course that little ol’ dead body in the film’s opening scene), made me fall — and fall hard — for Mildred Pierce.

Dead bodies lead to cops, and oh, how I love the policemen in old movies. Guns that produce enormous amounts of smoke always provoke a call to headquarters, typically on a car radio the size of a bullhorn. And when we finally get down to headquarters or the station, the “cop classics” just keep on coming — detectives with fedoras, overalls, and a “drink-cigarette” combo that has become more of a “newspaper-cigarette” pairing… these ARE policemen, after all.

The police bring in Mildred for questioning about the dead body, and she cooperates fully, insisting that her daughter stays at home. As Mildred walks into the station and sits down, mimicking our own confusion about where all of this is going, my eyebrows unfurrow immediately when I see Eve Arden sitting in one of the chairs behind her. As Ida (Arden) roughly shakes off the cop holding her arm and tells him “Look, I bruise easy,” that deliciously brusque voice sets off an alarm in my childhood memory bank.

During my first time through Mildred Pierce, it took me an agonizing 20 seconds to place Miss Arden — fans of the movie Grease (1978) will remember her as Principal McGee of Rydell High. “If you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.” Yup, that’s Eve Arden. Unwilling to limit myself to a witch’s hat and cape, I also dove wig-first into Grease as a kid, brilliantly transforming a small blanket into the wig that Stockard Channing sports during “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” And trust me, our harmony together (Miss Channing’s and mine) was nothing to sneeze at. In Mildred Pierce, Miss Arden’s sassiness provides the film with some needed humor, and although she has the potential to steal scenes from the star, it seems like she was smart enough not to do so. As Jack Carson’s character gives her a lusty eye in one scene, she shoots back with “Leave SOMETHING on me; I might catch cold!” It was just enough to earn her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, up against costar Ann Blyth… neither went home with Oscar that night.

I can leave my Oscar Time Machine in the garage, as you Mommie Dearest fans may recall Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of Miss Crawford winning Best Actress in a Leading Role from her bedroom. Too ill to attend the ceremony, her symptoms subsided as soon as her name was announced over the radio, and she ran to address her beloved fans. And she deserved it; Mildred Pierce is a classic that gives us not only the Crawford eyes, eyebrows, and shoulders but also the Crawford who holds our hand while we ride her roller coaster of emotions. As the mother who will stop at nothing to please a daughter incapable of being satisfied, Miss Crawford elegantly blazes through Mildred Pierce and encouraged me to explore a number of her other films.

So where do we go from here? Unavoidably for me, there’s only one direction in which to head after paying my respects to Miss Joan Crawford — I thought about saving it for later, but it’s best not to keep the crazies waiting…

 

Academy Award (1946) for Mildred Pierce: Best Actress in a Leading Role

Add it to your queue.