Monday, September 22, 2014

LIZ SMITH: Left Side, Right Side. Who Cares? ...

Claudette Colbert's Famous Milk Bath in "Sign of the Cross" — Left Side, Right Side. Who Cares? Certain Colbert Attributes look quite evenly matched!
Monday, September 22, 2014
by Liz Smith

The Making of "Gone" With The Wind" — An Epic Book at a Very Reasonable Price ... To The Left, To the Right — Great Stars Demand That the Camera Obeys ... Remembering Our Dear Friend — Theater Sweetheart, Peggy Hadley.

"YOU ain't seen nothing yet!" was the famous come-on to the audience used by the great Al Jolson in the 1927 movie "The Jazz Singer.”

Liz with "Mayor Mike" in 2009.
And I, Liz, in 2014 still say this. But now I'm talking about former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He was given the French Legion d'Honneur in Paris just last week andthere wasn't even much hoopla about it — as absorbed as people were in the National Football scandal.

There has been a lot of whispering about Bloomberg taking over re-running his famous and successful Bloomberg News. But there's really nothing so mysterious about that. "Mayor Mike" tells pals that he found himself no longer in charge of a problematical New York City. And his new international charitable ventures, while still on-going world wide, left him without enough to do. (Most people I know are bitching every day that they have too much to do!)

I'd say Mike Bloomberg must get up at 4 a.m. every morning to attack the day. And now he has another feather in his cap, or symbol on his lapel, indicating that the French honor him, too.
The infamous left side — "the Dark Side of the Moon" as directors joked.
IN THE old argument that Barbra Streisand favors her left side and wants to be photographed looking like what she thinks of as her best, do you remember the star of "It Happened One Night,” Claudette Colbert? She had a best side written into her contracts.

She was to make an entrance down a massive staircase. She arrived on the set to see that physically it wasn't possible for her to descend showing her "best" side. She demanded they look at her contract. The staircase was rebuilt at the monumental cost of $1 million dollars. (Don't feel bad about Colbert’s demands on "poor" studios. Most of them back then were run by monstrous dictators like Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn. Actors and stars took their revenge where and when they could.)

But I do remember visiting Miss Colbert when she had more or less retired and was living mostly in Barbados. She wouldn't allow male guests to come to informal dinner downstairs wearing shirts with no collars. And she ordered designer Arnold Scaasi off her beach because he appeared in a revealing bikini, showing the "crown jewels."
Claudette would have had a lot of adjusting to do these days, were she still with us.
Colbert also drove dress designers to distraction because of her short neck. Once, Noel Coward, arguing with Claudette, ended the conversation, “I’d wring your neck — if you had one!”
Claudette as "Cleopatra."
P.S. I hate to debunk such juicy myths, but although Colbert preferred her left, there’s plenty of evidence that she gave in when she had to. Just as one hears tales that Dietrich would never be photographed in profile. Not true.

One star who was never known to care was Elizabeth Taylor. She assumed her cinematographers would do their best for her. And if they didn’t, so what? Chasen’s chili awaited in the dressing room. (Taylor had an essentially healthy, good-humored relationship with her “fabled beauty.”)
Novak to Taylor in "The Mirror Crack'd" — "Chin up, dear. Both of them!" Miss Taylor was a very good sport.
IT ARRIVED with a thud in my office, the Harry Ransom publication of the University of Texas masterpiece showing us "The Making of Gone With the Wind" ... The Harry
Ransom archives hold all the massive, mystifying and edifying papers and artifacts of the producer David O. Selznick. And of his East Coast “scout” Katharine Brown, who first suggested he buy rights to the novel.

Click to order "The Making of Gone With the Wind."
Even if you disapprove now of the 1936 movie classic, made from the Margaret Mitchell novel, you have to admit it is Hollywood history at its best.

This gorgeous book, with historical perspectives written by film curator Steve Wilson and the brilliant Robert Osborne of TCM, is only $50 and has been selling on Amazon since September 1st. When I first saw the book I guessed that its retail price would run in the hundreds of dollars. So it is a bargain. For that we have to thank the University of Texas and its Harry Ransom and Dolph Briscoe set-ups. They are saving the past for us.

Texas may not cover itself with glory when it comes to liberal politics. But there are things to glorify in the Lone Star state — Austin itself ... the great LBJ Library which presents Lyndon warts and all ... the Texas Film Festival ... the Texas Book Festival ... the nearby city of San Antonio ... Lockhart's barbecue ... Texas Monthly magazine ... the cemetery where former governor Ann Richards lies buried beside her love, writer Bud Shrake ... Ann's legacy of a school for aspiring girls ... The Austin Walk of Fame.
Producer Jay Kernis of "60 Minutes" polishing Liz's name in Austin.
My friend Peggy Hadley has died. I always referred to her as “the last of the personal touch agents” working Broadway, TV and the movies for clients. Before that, this Kentucky native grew up determined to become a star. She could actually sing, but hard times on the way to the top caused Peggy to work in a new career.

Peggy Hadley and Diane Judge.
She discovered Kelly McGillis before “Top Gun” ... also actor Robert Sean Leonard who went on to “Dead Poet’s Society” and TV’s “House” ... also Michael Chiklis, star of “The Shield,” now on “America’s Horror Story.”

As is often the case, these actors vacated Peggy’s belief in them and went to big agents. She did retain the good actor Dick Latessa and lived to see him win the Tony for “Hairspray.”

Very few people die happy. But in spite of a serious on-going illness, Peggy did, for she had married the Broadway press agent Diane Judge when it became legal. The two of them were perennial fixtures of Joe Allen’s theatre café almost every night for years.

So long dear Peggy. I’ll keep on watching the Kentucky Derby in your memory.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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