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Posts tagged ‘Elizabeth Taylor’

Superb! Superb! Superb!Laura Linney & Cynthia Nixon On Bway in “Little Foxes”

When theater is this good, it’s a joy! And something as good as the current revival of “Little Foxes” on Bway at MTC with two of our absolute best actresses, Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney alternating  roles is an evening to be treasured. And treasured again because you can see it a second time with the parts of the villainous Regina and the flibbertigibbet Birdie played by these two towering woman of the American Theater reversed. The critics were given a choice of who to see in which role first and I chose Nixon as Regina and Linney as Birdie. And I’ve never been happier! I can’t wait to see it again with the roles reversed! It’s a win-win situation. And to my knowledge this is an historic first. Actors have switched roles before, but not actresses.

And how smart of Artistic Director Lynn Meadow to allow this to happen on Bway! This is something we never see! Men have been switching up historically, since as long as I can remember. “Becket” is one example. “Othello” is another.  But women? Never! All the more cause for rejoicing. And with one of America’s great stage directors Daniel Sullivan doing the work of HIS career, too! Why I just want to tear my program up and throw it into the air like confetti! Except I won’t because it’s too precious to me as a memory of a theatrical experience that was just about perfect!Of course, I saw Bette Davis do Regina in the movie, and she was pure evil. And she got ANOTHER Oscar nomination. I saw Elizabeth Taylor, of all people, doing the last revival of “Little Foxes” to be on Bway back, when I was in high school. So I felt I knew what I was going to see when I went in to the Samuel J. Friedman Theater on W.47th. But this “Little Foxes” was a total revelation. Never before have I see Regina played as more than a two-dimensional witch of a woman. Nixon added intelligence. I’d almost say compassion to Regina’s bitchy mix.

She seemed torn, for a second, just a tiny second, as her ailing husband (a very good Richard Thomas) climbed to his death on their staircase, like perhaps she considered going to help him. But of course, she does not. She resolutely stared into the audience as he chillingly dies, crying out for her help. Shivers. It gives me shivers just to write about this.

And never also has the character of Aunt Birdie been played as anything except pathetic and bonkers. When I saw Felicia Montealegre play it opposite Elizabeth Taylor, she was totally mad, and sad. And I thought “What hell it must’ve been for her to be married to Leonard Bernstein,” which in real life,   she was.

Laura Linney has none of that. Birdie is her Hamlet. She’s feigning madness to shield herself from the blows that life and her husband (a frightening oaf, Darren Goldstein) is dealing her. When the hulking Goldstein hits her across the face, you could hear the audience gasp as well as scream. Otherwise, the production was so taut and tense, you could hear a pin drop. This superb “Little Foxes” has preserved playwright Hellman’s original three-act structure, which is kind of refreshing.  Act One and Act Two ending with curtain lines that punch you right in the gut. It’s a well-made play. Remember them?

And it’s an astonishment to see that in Laura Linney’s hands, playwright Lillian Hellman has written not one but TWO famous scenes. Of course, there is the staircase scene where Regina lets her husband die. But there’s also a staggering scene at the beginning of Act Three, where Birdie fiercely charges to her niece Alexandra (Francesca Carpanini)”Don’t be like me!” because she has never had “a happy day, a whole happy day” in her life. Birdie is a symbol of the aristocratic south that is truly gone with the wind. And Regina is its’ frightening, mercenary 20th century future.

And both actresses play these juicy roles with such smartness that we are unavoidably reminded its the repressive, male dominance of their patriarchal society that have driven them to madness(though perhaps feigned here) and murder, for real.

Cynthia Nixon, Laura Linney, director Dan Sullivan are all here to remind us that there is greatness in living theater and that “Little Foxes” is a tremendously underestimated American play. Lillian Hellman would be turning cartwheels were she still with us. Brava, Divas!

I would also lastly like to note that come the Tonys (the nominations are to be announced shortly), Ms. Linney will be considered in the Leading Actress in a Play category for her Regina and Ms. Nixon in Supporting for her Birdie, because that’s how they appeared on Opening Night.

#Little Foxes, #Laura Linney, #Cynthia Nixon, #Lillian Hellman, #Broadway (more…)

Extraordinary “Follies of God, Tennessee Williams & the Women of the Fog”!

Follies of God 1Every now & then a book comes along that is so extraordinary that you just have to drop everything & run to it! Such a book is “Follies of God, Tennessee Williams & the Women of the Fog” by James Grissom. Just when you thought you’d heard everything that there was to hear about the late, great, multiply-awarded as well as multiply-addicted playwright Tennessee Williams, along comes “Follies of God” and blows nearly everything else that’s been written about “Tenn” out of the water.

It’s an absolute must-have, must-read for anyone who loves the theater, as I do, and loves great actresses, as I do, and loves to write great roles for great actresses, as well, I try to do.You can’t put it down! It’s an absolute page turner. And the story behind “Follies of God” is as amazing as any plot Williams ever concocted for his great heroines.

You see, a year and half before his death, he summoned a young fan who had written him a letter, and that young man was James Grissom. Williams dubbed him “Dixie” (They were both in Louisiana at the time) and unbeknownst to the 20-year-old aspiring actor/writer, Williams concocted an epic plan of the book, a pseudo-memoir, he would endow Dixie with the task of writing sometime in the future when he was long gone. And 30 years or more later, he did.

He had Dixie write down nearly every word he said in little blue note books. And Dixie(Grissom)like Boswell, with Samuel Johnson, wrote down EVERYTHING. And Williams gave him MORE. Shopping bags full of fragments of unfinished plays and poems,”leaves of his mind” Williams said.

And most importantly, he gave him introductions to the greatest actresses of the past 50 years, the greats of the American Theater, and he tasked Dixie with writing down what THEY thought of him. And he wrote lyrical elegies to them all, and sent mementos, which inevitably reduced all of them to tears. They, to a one, had no idea how he felt about them.Follies of God 2

Williams knew instinctively that he had the right person for this incredibly daunting task, and he did. But it’s taken nearly a lifetime for Dixie, who turned into a wonderful adult writer, James Grissom to bring this book into print. But the work and the wait were well worth it.

Focusing ONLY on the relationships of these great stage actresses to the iconic roles in his plays, it’s a fascinating, breath-taking read. As Dixie encounters saints (Marian Seldes, Maureen Stapleton),sinners(Kim Stanley, Jo Van Fleet) and stars (Geraldine Page, Katharine Hepburn) who all burst into tears on reading what Williams wrote about them.

And wait! There’s more!

Grissom reveals, for perhaps the first time, that Williams and William Inge were life-long lovers, as well as sometimes haters. That on-again, off-again tempestuous romance fueled both writers and in turn endowed the theater(and the films) of mid-Twentieth century America with some of its’ greatest writing. And the greatest parts for actresses, bar none.

Some are missing. Elizabeth Taylor, for instance. But most are there.Jo Van Fleet 1

The worst of them was evidently Jo Van Fleet, the Oscar-winning mother of James Dean in “East of Eden” who became so penurious & eccentric in her sad later years that she would carry her “mottled” Oscar with her in a tote bag and plunk it down whenever she couldn’t cash a check or pay a bill.”THIS is who I am!” she would angrily declare. Frightening all who heard her.Jo Van Fleet 2

Why “Women of the Fog”? The fog was what Tennessee would always declare his great female characters came to him out of, as it rolled across the proscenium stage of his mind.

Gossipy, gilded and glorious, it’s all  here in James Grissom’s wonderful “Follies of  God, Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog.” It’s now out in paperback, too. By all that is holy, you must read this great book!

Sasha Stone Goes to the Oscars for the First Time!

Sasha Stone Oscars 1The REAL star of the Oscars, Awardsdaily.com’s Sasha Stone, who is actually attending the Oscars tonight. For the first time! Not the last time, I’m so sure! She’s got Elizabeth Taylor’s lavender eyes, if you notice. This is from either Sasha’s Instagram and/or Facebook.

Good luck night, my beautiful friend!

Oscar Apple Cart Upset by Late-Breaking “Into The Woods?

Into the Woods 1Stephen Sondheim and movies of his work have never really clicked with the public. See Elizabeth Taylor in “A Little Night Music”, and of course, more recently “Sweeney Todd” with Johnny Depp. But Musicals are catnip to the Academy.

Depp is back again as the Big Bad Wolf whose  nemesis is Little Red Riding Hood, a very lethal Little Red Riding Hood. But the word from the screenings yesterday is that Meryl Streep is once again going to be back at the Dolby Pavillion for something like her 20th nomination. But which category will she be in? Could she win? She’s got three Oscars already.

The always excellent Emily Blunt has the Baker’s Wife role in the film and that’s the part that has historically won awards. Joanna Gleeson on Broadway won a Tony for Best Actress.  And pert, pretty Anna Kendrick is getting good  W.O.M.(word of mouth) as Cinderella. A former Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress for “Up In The Air” could she also be up again of her sparkling Cinderella?

And where does that put Meryl’s Wicked Witch? The Academy put her in lead last year for “August:Osage County” when many thought she’d be Supporting and Julia Roberts would be lead, but the categories were reversed.

That could happen to Emily Blunt, too. And she and Anna Kendrick could be up against the here-to-fore unstoppable Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood.” Would they knock her out of the leading contender spot? In Supporting.

Meryl’s Witch certainly could. The plot sickens.

 

Provincetown Film Festival ’13 Wrap Up!

PROVINCETOWN FILM FESTIVAL 15th ANNIVERSARY Wrap-Up

Epstein/Friedman Triumph TWICE with Double Whammy of “Lovelace” &”The Battle of AMFAR” ~ Almodovar, “Fruitvale” and Divine also score

Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman did the seemingly impossible at the 15th Anniversary of the Provincetown International Film Festival, which just wrapped. They opened this smart, exciting, essential & growing film festival with their first narrative feature film “Lovelace” about the ’70’s porn star Linda Lovelace of “Deep Throat” fame and followed it up with a terrific doc about the AIDS organization “The Battle of AMFAR.” Both were superb.

“Lovelace” was my favorite film of PIFF, boasting a surprising trio of Oscar-worthy performances from Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miz,””Mama Mia”) as Linda Lovelace herself,and Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”) is incredibly believable in his tough-to-take role as Lovelace’s porn producer/husband Chuck Traynor. The triumvirate of great star turns is completed by an unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Lovelace’s hard-nosed Catholic mother. I never thought Seyfried had the dramatic chops, and I, like Harvey Weinstein I was told, did not realize that it was Sharon Stone as the mother, until the end credits rolled, and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

Stone has been nominated once before for “Casino”, but didn’t win, and now I think she will have another strong shot for sure, as Seyfried and Sarsgaard will, too, be up for Oscar consideration again. And this time, as a Best Supporting Actress, she could actually win. And neither Seyfried nor the worthy-as-hell, overdue Sarsgaard has ever been nominated either. Also, Radius the new Weinstein Co. off-shoot is repping this terrific film.

A biopic of a porn star? I didn’t think I’d like it, but “Lovelace” and Seyfried and Sarsgaard and filmmakers Epstein and Friedman draw you in utterly and make you CARE. And it’s funny, too, when it needs to be, and tragic as Lovelace’s story gets darker and darker. And with Harvey Weinstein in the mix behind them, look out!

“The Battle of AMFAR” is about the founders, the unlikely duo of research scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim and superstar-turned-activist Elizabeth Taylor. who joined forces to bring about a critical change in the perception of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1985. This terrific doc that sped by at a lightening pace was ALSO directed by Epstein and Friedman, who also directed “Lovelace”! Is there anything these two titans of cinema can’t do? It was definitely their time to shine at this year’s charming sea-side Festival.

The Weinstein Co. was also behind the laceratingly powerful racial drama “Fruitvale Station”, a true story about an innocent African American youth, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who is wrongly slain by police on New Year’s Eve 2008. Unknown actor Michael B. Jordan has to carry virtually every scene of the film, and he does, but it is Oscar Winner Octavia Spenser(“The Help”) who outdoes herself here as Grant’s mother.

Grant is no plaster saint and his mother knows it. We are shown flashback scenes of Grant in prison, when his mother comes to visit and tells him she won’t be coming to see him anymore and refuses to hug him. We see her try to control her wild, pothead son, when he gets out, and she tries to keep him on the straight and narrow, and most monumentally, we see her grieving when he is shot-to-death by police. Octavia Spenser meets every challenge of this bravura, heart-breaking role that pulls out all the stops, and then some.

Having won both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film at 2013’s Sundance Film Festival, “Fruitvale Station”, the subway station where the tragedy occurs, seems primed to compete across the categories as last year’s Sundance favorite “Beasts of the Southern Wild” did. And with Harvey as its’ producer, you know it will be a significant player this awards season.

An enchanting Film Festival by the sea, picturesque Provincetown is surrounded on three sides by water, and boasted a particularly strong slate of docs this year, with “Casting By” about the late, great, legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. Who at one time, as Tom Donahue’s film amply illustrates, seemed to be running the film industry in the ’70s. Dougherty speaks for herself fortunately in many insightful interviews, where it is revealed that she single-handedly talked directors Peter Friedkin into casting Gene Hackman in “The French Connection” and also persuaded John Schlesinger to cast Jon Voight in “Midnight Cowboy”! Try to imagine those two films without those two great performances, both of which won Best Actor & Best Film. Dougherty became so powerful that she turned Casting which was a male-dominated field, into the female-centric one it is today, as she constantly hired women as her assistants. But Casting Director don’t get Oscars. They don’t even have their own category, even as Dougherty and others fought for accreditation. The all-powerful DGA wants to make sure the power stays with The Director and not The CASTING Director. If the public only knew! And “Casting By” at least shines a bright, benevolent light on this tricky situation.

Another doc that knocked my socks off was “I Am Divine” about the late drag performer and cult icon of John Waters’ films “Pink Flamingos”, “Female Trouble” and “Hairspray” among many others. Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz emphasizes what a good actor Divine was underneath all the make-up and gowns and that he was poised to have a substantial character as a male character actor when he died of a massive heart attack at age 40. Too young. Too soon. And like with the unlikely heroine of “Lovelace”, Schwarz makes you care about his too-chubby protagonist, who just couldn’t stop eating. Or acting. Or acting out.

Waters was there to speak about the film and his late star. Noting that when people said that they often saw Divine walking around Provincetown in kaftans back in the Day, Waters said, “That’s a lie! Divine took cabs!”

And last but not least there is Pedro Almodovar’s HILARIOUS new comedy “I’m So Excited!” which is already one of my favorite Almodovar films. The hottest ticket in one of the smallest theaters (The Art House 2), I had to line up in a Rush Line for AN HOUR before the film started! But I got in! And what a delight it was!

I don’t remember Almodovar doing such an out-and-out comedy since “Woman on the Verge…” or “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down”. Pedro, always a scamp as well as a camp, lets the bobby pins fall where they may as he lets his hair down in the wildest situation imaginable. A plane is stalled flying over Toledo, where it circles and circle and circles. The three tres gay male flight attendants have drugged all the passengers in coach and are left to entertain the first class passengers with campy numbers like “I’m So Excited”, which is a music video-like gem. Pedro could direct musicals, too, if he wanted. I couldn’t stop laughing!

Penelope Cruz and Antonia Banderas make hilarious brief cameo appearances at the beginning of the film. And I was particularly fond of returning Almodovar regular Lola Duenas, “Sole” Penelope’s illegal hair-dresser sister in “Volver”, as a wacky psychic who predicts that she’ll lose her virginity on this flight. What do you think? Hilarity ensues! Don’t miss it!

Video

You Tube Phenomenon Chris Crocker of “Leave Britney Alone!” fame on the Stephen Holt Show

Chris Crocker, who sobbed in drag on the Internet dressed as Britney Spears “Leave Britney Alone!” and got 540 million hits, talks to me about his stunning new documentary film “Me @theZoo” about his life online and in rural Tennessee where he was bullied so much he wasn’t allowed to attend high school! His marvelous doc tells his life story and also the story of the Internet and You Tube and the tremendous impact it has on life today.

Shot at Sage restaurant at the Provincetown Film Festival 2012.

Camera & Editing by Kevin Teller

Elizabeth Taylor passes ~ The Star of Stars

So shocked and saddened to turn on my TV set this morning and be bombarded with the devastating news of Elizabeth Taylor’s death.

She seemed so strong, so resilient. I thought she would never die.

She was the Star of Stars. And my childhood idol/crush.

It seems sometimes I ran large portions of my childhood around her.

Memories come flooding back.

Now that I have a talk-show and routinely interact with all the great ones, I find myself trying to figure out how I can get them as guests and if so, why not?

Well, Elizabeth Taylor was simply before my time. And she was from pre-junket Hollywood. Where, as you may have noticed on my You Tube Channel or my long-running cable TV show, www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I get most of the biggest stars from TV press junkets.

Elizabeth Taylor’s film career was done YEARS before I started star chatting, but in the back of my mind, I always felt/hoped consciously or unconsciously that I would someday meet and greet her.

It didn’t happen.

I have so many childhood memories, mostly bittersweet, of trying, somehow to even catch a glimpse of her.

The closest I got was when my first gay friend, who I didn’t know was gay, just “sophisticated”, who lived downstairs of me, in the Bronx, and who was a year ahead of me in Catholic school, Edward Calabrese, used to go “downtown” to wild and wicked Manhattan to perhaps catch a glimpse of her coming or going from where she was holed up when hubby Richard Burton was doing “Hamlet” on Broadway. She was staying in the Penthouse at the Regency Hotel.

Long story short. Edward and I never saw her.

We also waited to see her at “Hamlet”. Never saw her. Sometimes she’d go there to meet Richard Burton, the love of her life, before or after the show. Never saw her.

I did see HIM. In “Hamlet” on Broadway and of course, I went with Edward. Burton was a mediocre Hamlet, I thought, a critic even at that tender age. He was getting through it on his INCREDIBLE voice, and with a minimum of acting.

The great performances in that show were John Gielgud’s voice(on tape) of the “Ghost.” He really scared me. And remains still the best Ghost of Hamlet’s father ever, IMHO. And also a particularly poignant Player Queen, played in drag, by the very young Kit Culkin, MacCauley’s father. And Hume Cronyn was good, too, as the VERY busy body of Polinius. And Eileen Hurley, with BRIGHT red hair, was Gertrude…She played a VERY YOUNG Gertrude to Olivier’s much better “Hamlet” in the movie and later was Muriel, with equally bright red hair on “All My Children” for a very long run…

But I never saw Elizabeth.

But I tried.

I have so many memories of Elizabeth as she liked to be called that I could fill a book. Maybe someday I will.

Elizabeth R.I.P.

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