Thursday, January 23, 2014

LIZ SMITH: Please Don't Ask Me About Talent ...

"... Lucky is the actor who is too sick to watch the proceedings on television." — Marlene Dietrich
Who Lost What In the Oscar Nomination Circle? ... Diahann Carroll: Virginity is Overrated, and Please Don't Ask Me About Talent — I've Got Plenty ... More People Who Knew La Liz ... and Gossip Websites That Take No Prisoners, But Torture Them Before Death.

Thursday, January 23, 2014
by Liz Smith

“THAT IS a very silly question!”

This was Diahann Carroll responding to the query “What talent would you most like to have?” in Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire for February.

Perhaps the beauteous Miss Carroll feels she has all the talent she can possibly handle? More and she might explode!

Diahann also thinks virginity is the most overrated virtue. And as to the question dealing with “perfect happiness,” the actress says she is “looking forward” to experiencing such a thing.
LAST WEEK seemed to end swiftly and we were all “awarded out.” But here some thoughts on several major “snubs” in the Oscar race.

One is Robert Redford failing to place for “All Is Lost,” a tour de force performance that is virtually silent. (Redford plays a man alone at sea.) The actor himself has blamed lack of a proper campaign, though says he isn’t bitter. That’s not why he makes movies anyway. He was sufficiently moved to make that remark, so water is not rolling that freely off Redford’s ducky back.
Robert Redford in “All Is Lost."
Then there was Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr. Banks.” This was a triumph for Thompson, who plays it tough as the irascible P.L Travers, creator of “Mary Poppins.” I felt certain Emma would nab a nomination. Tom Hanks wasn’t nominated for either “Mr. Banks” (he played Walt Disney) or “Captain Phillips,” as a seaman captured by pirates. But we can’t say Tom hasn’t been given his due over the last few years; even recently on Broadway.
Emma Thompson as P.L Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks.”
And then there’s Oprah Winfrey. She was outstanding, in my opinion, in “The Butler.” Although her role is set in the 1950s/60s, this is the first time — in a not-extensive-film career — Winfrey has played a modern woman with all the issues and complexities of same. (Her other roles were of an even more repressive time — “The Color Purple,” “Beloved,” even her TV effort, “The Women of Brewster Place,” had her deglamorized and stereotypically put-upon.) I found her powerful and compelling in “The Butler.”
Oprah Winfrey in “The Butler."
Awards are not strictly given out for “the best” — often it is simply a popularity contest. Or, as Marlene Dietrich used to say, “a deathbed award — give them one before they die or their careers end!” So with that in mind, how about opening up the acting side to fit in a few more great performers, just as they have with the films? I wouldn’t go so far as ten, but seven nominations wouldn’t be bad.
Dietrich was merely nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for "Morocco" (1930).
END THINGS — So many people wrote in to correct us about the photograph we ran last week of Barbara Stanwyck, in a showgirl costume, surrounded by eager men. It is from “Ball of Fire,” not “Ladies of Leisure.”
Barbara Stanwyck in “Ball of Fire."
... I have to thank the incredibly funny, dauntingly profane gossip site, DListed for bringing Sarah Palin’s tasteless American-flag-themed high-heeled footwear to my attention. (Dlisted is not for the faint of heart, but it can be hilarious — no prisoners taken!)
Sarah Palin, Dlisted.
... After finishing up my recent column on all the still-living people who could contribute to an Elizabeth Taylor biography, dozens more popped into my head. But I decided not to torment my editors any further. However, I do want to mention just three more — Linda Yellen, who was the producer on La Liz’s TV movie, “Sweet Bird of Youth” (Linda had met and traveled with Elizabeth and her entourage as a young girl, back in the day, so Linda has plenty to recall) ... also Tim Mendelson, Elizabeth’s devoted personal assistant for the last 18 years of the star’s life. (Elizabeth brought Tim’s mother into her home to die — that’s where the woman wanted to be and it was more than fine with Elizabeth. She stood with Tim at his mother’s deathbed.) And Bill Goulding, super-fan and super-photographer. Bill has one of the world’s most ravishing and important collections of candid photos of the star.
Clockwise from top left: La Liz in “Sweet Bird of Youth”; circa 1974 by Bill Goulding; with Tim Mendelson.
... Oh, and for those who are looking for fascinating, funny, often outrĂ© online reading about vintage, sometimes obscure, movies, TV shows and stars, try the blog, “Poseidon’s Underworld.” You’ll find everything from detailed and witty biographies to posts on how stars wore their clothes — or didn’t — as each show biz decade constricted or loosened up. Heavily illustrated and highly informative.
Fun Finds from “Poseidon’s Underworld": A 1972 Mexican Celebrity Card of Elizabeth Taylor.
AS A P.S. to yesterday’s column on the new Harper Collins book by Hollywood’s Robert Evans — “The Fat Lady Sings” — let me tell you that in addition to yours truly, Barbra Streisand biographer Brian Kellow also interviewed Hollywood’s Bob Evans recently. During their mutual heydays, Evans and Sue Mengers started every single morning speaking to one another on the phone.
Sue Mengers, Bob Evans, and Ali MacGraw.
THIS from our reader Susan Neal: “I am reading the Vicky Wilson book on Barbara Stanwyck ... Soooooo good! No whining from that generation of stars. The amount of work and movies they made is amazing.”

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