a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Tennessee Williams’

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!

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“Gun Hill Road” terrific new transexual indie!

I predict that the critics will be throwing their collective hats into the collective air above them in hailing the arrival of “Gun Hill Road,” a terrific new Indie about of all things, a Bronx teenage transsexual! And that one of those hats may just land squarely on the very pretty Hispanic head of Harmony Santana, the Latino/Latina actor/actress who gives one of the greatest debut performances I’ve ever seen. Is Oscar listening?

Harmony reminds you a LOT of Jaye Davidson of “The Crying Game” who ended up with a Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1992 for playing a tranny who was passing who hooks up with the IRA. He lost to Gene Hackman in “The Unforgiven” but that startling nomination is there forever. I thought in one of the first years I was predicting the Oscars on my TV show that he would win. Scott Siegel(yes, he’s been on my show THAT long) said it was gonna be Hackman. I should’ve listened.

The New York Times is hailing Harmony, too, in a full-blown, star-is-born feature article pointing the way to a future career for Harmony and also to PERHAPS major awards kudos at the end of the year. If Jaye Davidson can pull of this Oscar hat trick, Harmony Santana can, too!

And yes, as the New York Times so delicately points out, she IS a transsexual playing a transsexual which is a rarity indeed in features.

Out of Sundance via NYU Film School, it is, believe it or not, the “Thesis Films” of its’ VERY talented young director/writer, Rashaad Ernesto Green, who I knew as a wonderful young African-American acting student at NYU’s famed Grad Acting Dept. He was a memorable, sexy, wounded Brick in a production there of Tennessee Williams’ classsic “Cat on a Hat Tin Roof.” And his classmate Corey Stall played Big Daddy. And Corey is lighting up the screen this year in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”  and he may be Oscar nomination bound, too! I’ve now seen “Midnight in Paris” SEVEN TIMES! An all time record for me!

But back to Rashaad Ernest Green and his wonderful new film “Gun Hill Road”!

Upon graduation, Rashaad had to face the “pounding the pavements” reality of an actors’ life in New York City and this drove him quick smart back to the haloed halls of NYU Film School, this time, to get yet ANOTHER Master’s Degree this time in film.

And boy has he struck pay dirt with “Gun Hill Road”! It’s gone from Sundance to major distribution where it is going to be opening at the Angelika as well as the AMC 42nd St.  this Friday!

If you can’t wait, you can see me interviewing him and Harmony and soon Esai Morales, too, as the jail-house dad, on my You Tube Channel here ~ at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

They’re all going to be famous tomorrow. Or thereabouts.

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