LIZ SMITH: Bette Midler Conquers New York ...

Bette Midler Conquers New York ... Kim Novak Tells All to Robert Osborne ... Natalie Dormer Keeps Her Head In "Game of Thrones."
by Liz Smith

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“DID I do the right thing, leaving? Did I walk out when I shouldn’t have? When I think that way, that’s when I get sad.”

That is legendary screen goddess Kim Novak, talking just the other day to Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne. Miss Novak made a rare appearance at Osborne’s annual TCM Classic Film Festival in L.A.

Kim Novak and Robert Osborne.
Miss Novak has always spoken about her difficulties in Hollywood, the unhappy experiences on movie sets, her resistance to being typecast and her choice, eventually, to leave Hollywood, when her career was still thriving.

We interviewed Kim a few year back, on the telephone, and it was rather thrilling. The husky voice of Vertigo, Bell, Book and Candle, Picnic, etc, was instantly recognizable. There was something wistful behind the voice, though Kim was in a merry mood, discussing the brutal studio chief Harry Cohn and her favorite leading men.

But Mr. Osborne got something startlingly new out of Kim. She admitted to suffering from bipolar disorder and that she sometimes regrets her decision to leave show business, though she has been many years married to her veterinarian hubby in Oregon. She says she did not receive the proper diagnosis and medication until years after she left the movies. (No wonder Kim was always so sympathetic and supportive of Marilyn Monroe, who was probably bipolar herself.)  Kudos to Robert Osborne for inspiring Miss Novak to tell so much more than she ever has before.

And Kim, now that you have told, how about making another movie?
Kim Novak and James Stewart in Vertigo.
A lighter moment on set between Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Novak.
THIS WEEK the great performer, creative artist and thinker who calls herself Bette Midler did it again – impressed an audience into falling in love with her once more and astounded an assembled group of New York City movers and shakers to wonder at her native intelligence and ready wit.

Far from the Bette of “pretty legs and great big knockers” fame, this artist always surprises by her perspicacity and energetic good humor.

She was the star guest in a “conversation” put on at a private club, which shall be nameless because it wants to be, talking with yours truly. We were ostensibly raising money for the Maria Droste Counseling Services, which provide psychiatric help to those who can’t afford the going sky-high regular rates.
Liz and Bette in a “conversation." Photo: Kristi Drago-Price Photography.
But we were also simply candidly and openly having a ball. When somebody asked Bette to field a question she’d never been asked before, the Divine Miss M retorted: “Would you like some jewelry?”

Bette has her own influential charity, The New York Restoration Project, which has changed NYC life. They pick up all our garbage, create new parks, and generally, try to make this sprawling city a nicer place to live.

But Bette is for all smaller efforts and she scored with her upscale audience by saying that people who are mentally ill, or have psychiatric problems seem to have the least advocates and the fewest persons trying to help them. So, Bette gave it her all. With Martin von Haselberg, her talented husband of 27 years sitting front table, Bette answered all my questions, even the unpleasant ones. Martin looked on and laughed. Bette looked divine (“Hair and makeup, dear Liz!” she said when complimented.) And the over-an-hour’s worth of chit chat between us evoked round after round of applause.
Bette with husband Martin von Haselberg. And with daughter Sophie.
In the audience were such as Joan Ganz Cooney, Deeda Blair, Mary Wells Lawrence, Joni Evans, Lesley Stahl, Dr. Holly Andersen, Jeanne Vanderbilt, Gillis MacGill, Ellen Levine and Harriet and Ron Delsener, to name a few — I can't even count. The honcho of this event was Elizabeth Peabody who is following in the footsteps of her sainted late mother — AIDS activist Judy — and of her father’s Sam’s distinguished Massachusetts family.

Elizabeth has turned the Maria Droste Counseling Services into a glamour fund-raising event that raises much more money than its good works had ever seen before. You can catch this demon philanthropist in the May issue of Town & Country on the back page cuddling her own “Sophie.” (She said, “I didn’t tell Bette that I had a dog with the same name as her daughter!”)

Later, this week I will be writing lots of newsabout Bette Midler and what she has in the works charity-wise and otherwise. I think she is the most energetic, happening and creative artist in our midst.
GOOD NEWS! We are happy that the reports of Maggie Smith’s departure from Downton Abbey are greatly exaggerated. Indeed, the actress will continue with the PBS hit that has enraptured Britain and the United States.
I NEVER thought I’d see another interpretation of the doomed Anne Boleyn to equal Genevieve Bujold’s spectacular Oscar-nominated turn in Anne of the Thousand Days opposite Richard Burton. But during the run of Showtime’s The Tudors I discovered delicious Natalie Dormer, and if she didn’t eclipse Bujold, she sure gave her a run for the chopping block.

I’ve tried to keep track of the fascinating-looking Miss Dormer, and now I see she is back on cable in another big series. This time, HBO’s massive success, Game of Thrones. She plays a young woman named Margaery Tyrell, who understands completely what-she-must-do-to-produce-an-heir. Her hubby prefers boys, most especially her own brother. But Margaery, after a few futile attempts to rouse her spouse, slyly suggests, “Perhaps you’d like to start off with my brother?!” A sophisticated, level headed princess, I hope she sticks around.
Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn in the 1969 film Anne of the Thousand Days.
Miss Dormer also had a small role in Madonna’s W.E. movie. She played Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen Mother of England. Madonna was much impressed. “I love her face! I love to watch her. She does amazing things,”Madonna said to me. She added, “Natalie had other scenes that were great. But the first cut was really long, and we had to sacrifice her. But, maybe she’ll be back in the director’s version, on DVD.” 
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones.
I AM going to do the cast and the director of the coming movie, The Raven, a favor. I’m not going to mention anybody’s name. This is a film based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, but if you see it, you’ll leave the theater screaming for those old Vincent Price entries in the same genre. Honestly, this Raven is just awful, though the basic idea was interesting. At one point, a young lady is being buried alive, “Why are you doing this to me, why?” she whimpers several times. From the audience came a response, “because you are a terrible actress.”

Only one actor showed any flair, the villain of the piece. I’ll try to remember his name and hope he fares better in the future.

A couple of years ago, the leading man of this unfortunate effort made a movie about the end of the world coming in 2012. Well, here we are, and his Armageddon has arrived in the form of The Raven.

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