1/6/15: All About Eve

Eve

[Aristocratic] “Those of you who do not attend the Apple Cinemas in Waterbury CT Classic Series or know anything of the UConn OLLI Program, it is perhaps necessary to introduce myself. My name is Paulie Marino. My native habitat is classic film. In it, I toil not; neither do I spin. I am a host & Blogger & [in-struck-TOUR] instructor. I am essential to the classics. So many people know me. I wish I did. I wish someone would tell me about me. If nothing else, there’s applause… like waves of love pouring over the footlights. [Claptrap extended arms] Ugh, I detest cheap sentiment anyway.” At our 2014 Academy Awards Party, Ralph Famiglietti presented me with the Best Motion Picture Critic Oscar. “I will regard this great honor, not so much as an award for what I have achieved, but a standard to hold against what I have yet to accomplish. ‘What should I tell Stephen Spielberg?’, you are likely thinking. Just give him my number. I’ll tell him myself. In July, I turned 55. FIVE-FIVE! That slipped out. I hadn’t quite made up my mind to admit it. Now I suddenly feel as if I’ve taken all my clothes off. This is my 2nd career. I 2011, I was an IT Business Architect for The Hartford making 6-figures. I’ll admit, I have seen better days, and now I can be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut. I’m a junkyard. I haven’t got a union. I’m slave labor here in my 2nd career. A man’s life is funny: There’s one career all males have in common, whether we like it or not – being a man. And sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing’s any good unless you can be happy that you’re the man you turned out to be.” Which I am!

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[Normal] In Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) also has to deal with a major career shift as a brilliant but aging stage actress. She welcomes Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) who longs to be her since the theatre is all about Margo; maybe someday, All About Eve. Margo’s best friend Karen (Celeste Holm) is married to playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), whose current play stars Margo. Her younger boyfriend Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) is a director. George Sanders won Best Supporting Actor as condescending theatre critic [aristocratic] Addison DeWitt, and [normal] Thelma Ritter is Margo’s cutting maid Birdie. And although, to my knowledge, only I have documented this: Marilyn Monroe (Miss Casswell), who enters the film at Bill’s birthday party, clearly represents Gone with the Wind in her small role. There are a number of distinct examples of this:

  • It’s anachronistic but Max offers Miss Casswell an audition to replace Margo’s sister. Olivia de Havilland played Melanie and was Joan Fontaine’s sister. However Joan, a noted stage performer who once said “I hope I’ll die on stage at the age at 105, playing Peter Pan.”, didn’t hit Broadway until after All About Eve was released. Sibling rivalry is implied in All About Eve, but in real life it was much worse. She also said she wanted to die “at age 108, flying around the stage as Peter Pan, as a result of my sister cutting the wires.”. It should be noted that, at the party, Addison says. “Dear Margo. You were an unforgettable Peter Pan – you must play it again, soon.”.
  • Margo’s response, upon hearing about Miss Casswells audition, is “She looks like she might burn down a plantation.”.
  • Birdie walks down the stairs at the party carrying the sable coat. Miss Casswell says “Sable!! Now there’s something a girl could make sacrifices for.”. Max responds “Did she say sable or Gable?”. Casswell: “Either one.”
  • As a butler goes by at the party, Miss Casswell says “Oh waiter!”. DeWitt: “That isn’t a waiter, my dear. That’s a butler.” Miss Casswell: “Well, I can’t yell, ‘Oh, butler.’, can I? Maybe somebody’s name is Butler.”
  • In Party Stairs Scene, Miss Casswell is surrounded by men, who get things for her, some flirting w/ her ala Scarlett at the Tara Party.
  • There are 2 more references to Gone With the Wind in All About Eve, but they’re not related to Marilyn/Miss Casswell:
    • Near beginning of the film, Margo talks about “all these plays about love-stahved Suth’n women”, a not-so-obvious but definite reference to Victor Fleming’s masterpiece.
    • Vivien Leigh liked to wear fur coats, like the sable the Hollywood actress wore to Bill’s party.

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All About Eve won 5 additional Oscars including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay (Mankiewicz) in ‘51 at the 23rd Academy Awards. More importantly, it was nominated for a record 14. In ’98, Titanic tied that record & tied Ben-Hur and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with 11 wins. 3 films have won the Big Five – Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay (all 3 of which were Adapted): It Happened One Night (‘35), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (‘76), and The Silence of the Lambs (’92). Walt Disney won 22 Oscars; Edith Head’s 8 are the most by a woman. Katharine Hepburn has 4 Best Actress Oscars, John Ford 4 Best Directors, and Daniel Day-Lewis 3 Best Actors.

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[Aristocratic] Thank you all. “I’ll never forget this night as long as I live; and I’ll never forget you for making it possible. For me, this is The Theatuh. What book of rules says The Theatuh exists only within some ugly buildings crowded into one square mile of New York City? Wherever there’s magic & make-believe & an audience, there’s theatre. Slow curtain…THE END. And now, for my Encore, I offer you the trailer to Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve. My second curtain call will be to remind you to IMMEDIATELY stream this 4 Star motion picture on Netflix! [Bette] “So fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy night!”

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6/12/14: Dirty Dancing

DD

[As Cousin Brucie] “Hi, everybody. This is your Cousin Paulie. Whoa! Our summer romances are in full bloom, and everybody, but everybody’s in love. So cousins, here’s a great story from the Fall of 1963. [Normal] I was just 4 years old. Back when everybody called me the Baby of the Family, and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before the Beatles came; when my oldest brother, who was 15, couldn’t wait to join the Peace Corps.” “Oh how the times, they have a-changed”: Now he’s 65 & when I saw him in April, “he just about handed me a copy of The Fountainhead & told me to read it. Back then, I thought I’d never find any girls as great as my Mom & Aunt Millie.” Beginning that summer, I went to my Uncle Felix & Aunt Millie’s bowling alley, Waterbury Duckpin Lanes in the Waterbury Plaza every day. One warm day when most of the leaves had already fallen, I was on the Lanes’ cashier counter practicing my 2-times-2’s with Mom. I guess Uncle Felix was watching TV or something when suddenly he bellowed, ‘NO!’, and punched the wall right next to me so hard that he put a hole in the sheetrock. It really frightened me! It took some time for me to understand that President Kennedy had been shot & died shortly after. Like the rest of America, I lost some of my innocence that day. “For the times, they were a-changin’. Women were working, Elvis shakin’ his hips. That President said the moon was at our fingertips. Dr. King told us how he had a dream. The civil rights movement was advancin’. And the kids…were Dirty Da-ancin’!”

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Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing stars Jennifer Grey as Baby Houseman on her way to vacation for the Summer of 1963 with her family. They’re heading to Max Kellerman’s (Jack Weston) Mountain House in the Catskills. There she meets Johnny Castle (co-star, Patrick Swayze), a dance instructor at the exclusive resort, and his ex-girlfriend Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), a former Rockette. She soon sees the youthful staff there Dirty Dancing in their activity center. She never saw anything like it before. She’s shocked but intrigued. Jerry Orbach is excellent as Baby’s father, Dr. Jake Houseman. Though she was 27 during filming, Jennifer Grey plays a great 17 year old. Her real life father, Joel, was a great dancer who starred in the Broadway musical Goodtime Charley in 1975. It closed after a total of 116 performances including previews when Grey left to pursue other projects. One Patrick Swayze was an ensemble dancer in the show. Swayze, who died on 9/14/09 @ 57 of pancreatic cancer, was best known as an actor but his roots are in dance. His mother, Patsy, was the Choreographer for Urban Cowboy. Dirty Dancing won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for The Time of My Life in 1988 at the 60th Oscars. It’s the grand finale, full cast dance song, ala Broadway musicals & Bollywood films. And for my money, the Dancing, Dirty or otherwise, is the most interesting part of the picture. Choreography, from the Greek meaning dance-writing, is the art of dance design. And Dirty Dancing’s Choreographer, Kenny Ortega, is world class! He’s also choreographed Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, all 3 High School Musical releases, and Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. He also directed & choreographing the tour from which the film was culled and Gloria Estefan’s Live & Unwrapped tour; and directed Cher’s Heart of Stone Tour, High School Musical – The Concert tour, and Michael Jackson’s Dangerous and HIStory World Tours and the This Is It concerts & film. So watch the trailer below then stream Michael’s choreographer, Kenny Ortega’s sexy sequences in Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing on Netflix. 3 Stars! 

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6/6/14: Saturday Night Fever

SNF

Let’s talk a little about the disco era: Shallow & superficial; polyester & pompadour. If you’re old enough, you may remember how polarizing the music was. We went from The Beatles & the Fillmore East & the moon landing & 2001 to Donna Summer & Studio 54 & Three Mile Island & The Wiz. Let’s see if I can remember how the chant from the commercial rock world went: ‘DISCO SUCKS! DISCO SUCKS!’ Some of you may know that I’m a Grateful Dead guy. We never went for that chant, if for no other reason, the band’s integration of that sound into their shows at the time. Beginning in ’76 with their disco re-arrangement of their cover of Dancin’ in the Streets; then their disco epic, Shakedown Street; and finally, Feel Like a Stranger, a song about hooking up with someone who “keeps firing glances across the” disco, just like Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) does to Tony Manero (John Travolta) in Saturday Night Fever. I remember listening to a bootleg cassette of Grateful Dead 3/14/81Hartford Civic Center which opened with Stranger on our way to the Grand Canyon with my girlfriend (now wife) Cindy, my brother Mike & our buddy Carl. Those 2 guys were insane. They decided to go out to the top of a hoodoo 50 yards from the Canyon ridge on a path less than 6” wide at points. Not me. I’m afraid of heights. Well, not the height so much as the falling off & landing [fade out] 7000’ below. SPLAT! Like Wile E. Coyote! All the way out there they were shouting, first Mike, “‘Paulie, look at me! Look at me, Cindy!’. ‘It’s too dangerous!’, she cried! Then Carl, ‘Look at me! Look! Paulie! Cindy!’. ‘I’m not kidding! Get back here! It’s a long way down there’. When they got there, they each shouted, ‘I’m all right.’, ‘I’m all right.’ And they were. Crazy-ass hippies, but ALL…RIGHT!

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As I said, in John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever, Tony first sees Stephanie in the disco. He’s a 19 year old from Brooklyn, and such a great dancer that he’s a local celebrity. He never went to college & works in a paint store. Travolta’s extraordinary performance was honored with his 1st of 2 Best Actor Oscar nominations in 1978 at the 50th Academy Awards. Stephanie is also a great dancer, more classically trained, older, somewhat more erudite & living in Manhattan. Tony is the leader of his group of boys scoring chicks at the local disco & having sex with them in the back seat of his friend Bobby’s car (Barry Miller). But he wants more out of life. Donna Pescow is great as Annette, who has a major unreciprocated crush on Tony. Helen & Ann Travolta, John’s mom & sister, appear in the film as Lady in paint store and Pizza Girl, respectively.

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Directors often homage one another in their films: Spielberg tributes Coppola’s ‘Rumble Fish’ in ‘Schindler’s List’; Woody Allen’s ‘Play It Again, Sam’ is an homage Michael Curtiz’s ‘Casablanca’ ; and Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ centers around Georges Méliès’ 1902 short, ‘A Trip to the Moon’. Those 3 great directors all appear in Jan Harlan’s fantastic documentary, ‘Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures’. I recently taught a couple of courses on Kubrick for UConn Waterbury’s OLLI Program. If you study him, you’ll notice his incredible range of influence. For instance, 2001 Odyssey is the name of disco in Saturday Night Fever. In 1977, directors were already tributing Stanley! But Badham doesn’t stop there. There are posters of Rocky, Serpico and Enter the Dragon; Tony impersonates Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon; and Stephanie talks about Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo & Juliet. [Look at watch] It’s getting late. Watch the trailer below then Hustle to the 2001 Odyssey & John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever. Or maybe just stream it on Netflix 🙂 4 Stars! [Travolta pose]. 

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6/3/14: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Streetcar

In the Summer of ’81, we went to see my brother in Dallas – he looked a bit younger then – then lit out for the Grand Canyon. After spending the whole day there, we stopped for late lunch in closest town along the way. “We were standin’ on a corner in Flagstaff AZ, such a fine sight to see”, when we noticed Blanche’s Psychic Readings a couple doors down. She’d had a table set up for sidewalk readings but “the fortune-telling lady had already taken all her things inside”. We went in & haggled her down to $20 total for palm readings for all 4 of us. I went first & was greatly disappointed. She wanted nothing to do with me. My brother & our friend Carl (who pisses me off because he still looks the same, the Peter Panner) were both surprised by her knowledge of their lives. Then came Cindy, my girlfriend of 4 years. “‘You’re gonna marry a madman, Cindy.’, Blanche told her. ‘Why are you taking it for granted that I’m in something I want to get out of?’, she replied. ‘I’m not. I see it in your palm. What you are talking about is desire – just brutal Desire.  Like the name of that rattle-trap streetcar that once banged through the French Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another.’. ‘Haven’t you ever ridden on that streetcar?’ ‘It brought me to Flagstaff. Where I’m not wanted & where I’m ashamed to be.’”, Blanche responded. Um,…,Cindy & I are still together; married now; 31 years!

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Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire stars Vivien Leigh (best known as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind) as Blanche DuBois, an attractive, Southern belle who is fast approaching what was considered middle-age for women of the time. Her expensive tastes & elegance are a thin veil for a troubled, shallow alcoholic with delusions of grandeur when she arrives in the post-World War II French Quarter, New Orleans. She’s come to live for while with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) & her brother-in-law Stanley (Marlon Brando) because she’s lost the family’s Mississippi estate, Belle Reve, to creditors. Karl Malden is fantastic as Mitch, Stanley’s best friend & Blanche’s love interest in New Orleans. Of the 4 main characters, only Brando didn’t receive the Academy Award for which he was nominated. Streetcar also won the Black & White Art Direction Oscar. The rest of Streetcar’s amazing 12 Oscar nominations were for: Black & White Costume Design, Black & White Cinematography, Best Picture, Director, and Sound Recording; Alex North’s jazz score (the first such for a motion picture) is perfect for a film about the seedy side of New Orleans; and Tennessee Williams received the Best Screenplay nomination, but Oscar Saul, who adapted it, was not nominated. Saul is the definitive overlooked man, apparently. Not only was he bypassed for the Oscar nomination he deserved, but there are exactly ZERO photographs of him available on the internet. If you find one, please Email it to me (jgbwtby77@yahoo.com) so I can update this Blog.

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Brando was the first highly publicized Method actor. The Method is a widely regarded process created by Russian stage actor & director Constantin Stanislavski, and refined by Brando’s acting instructor Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth in The Godfather Part II). In fact, Marlon was his prize protégé. With The Method, the actor becomes the character in all aspects of his life, not just while rehearsing & filming. Other famous Method actors include Daniel Day-Lewis & Dustin Hoffman. While making Lincoln, Day-Lewis made everyone including his family call him Mr. President or Mr. Lincoln. And Hoffman didn’t sleep for 3 days to experience the psychological trauma of his character, Babe, in Marathon Man. When his co-star, Sir Laurence Olivier, who hated The Method, saw how terrible Hoffman looked as a result, he told him, “Try acting, dear boy!”. Interestingly, Olivier & Vivien Leigh were married from 1940 – 1961. So click on the trailer below to head on over to the French Quarter on Elia Kazan’s A Sreetcar Named Desire, where you can add the brilliant movie to your Netflix Queue. 4 Stars!

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