Wednesday, March 11, 2015

LIZ SMITH: "The Sound of Music" and Recalling the Brilliant David Carr

David Carr with his girls Meagan and Erin (cover detail from “The Night of the Gun").
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
by Liz Smith

"The Sound of Music" — the hills are eternally alive! ... Recalling the Brilliant David Carr

“THE ability to do journalism, to reach audiences, has never been better.  I like your odds, I do,” said David Carr of the New York Times just before he left this vale of tears. 
Click to order "The NIght of the Gun."
I HAVE been thinking on and on about David who had a profound effect on my life after I read his book “The Night of the Gun.”

At the time I read it, I reached out to compliment him and we became better friends than ever although I am certainly not comparing myself to the sort of exalted journalism he did. But I was just reminded of David once again when my helper Mary Jo McDonough brought in a picture of David to show me. 

Mary Jo walks to work through Bryant Park behind the public library every day and one afternoon she spotted David being photographed by USA Today.  She happened to have his book in her backpack. He was beyond delighted.  She asked if he would autograph his book.  He was startled.  “How did you get this?  It hasn’t been published yet,” he asked.  She explained that she worked for me.  He inscribed the book “Mary Jo, My first encounter with my public.  A thrill for us both I hope.  Best, David 7/31/08.”

So it is always encouraging to remember David Carr.  And this was so like him.
David Carr on the day Mary Jo spotted him being photographed by Todd Plitt for USA TODAY.
IN my fairly benign memoir I had a chapter titled “My Life on Drugs.” David Carr, of course, had written the searing story that had been his existence before he got straight. He would laugh at me over my “partying” saying, “Amateur life, Liz!” 

I did love David Carr.  Everyone who goes to Michael's felt honored when this great columnist of the New York Times sat down to see what he felt about having a fan like me.

But David was the only person I knew, other than Barry Diller, who literally knew every nuance of the advent of the Internet.  He explained every new development to me and I struggled to keep up.  He was simply brilliant.
WE HAVE RECEIVED SO many comments on how to improve the Oscar show that I want to give Paul Ross credit for reminding us of how to fix it. He says “the Oscars are wide ranging and all over the place with many awards of value to the industry but boring to a TV audience.  It is difficult to mount with union and professional guild pressures.

"But here are my thoughts — 1) Honor the technical awards in a celebration that is not televised. 2) Concentrate on major awards in longer clips.  Your idea of going back to do a retrospective of some great winners is spot on.  Maybe even show them receiving their awards.  3) Have four acting awards with longer clips; this is what people want to see.

"The best picture?  Go back to only five.  Do the best director and screenplays original and adaptation.”

I loved Shelley Ackerman’s suggestion: “Would love to see Kevin Spacey host the Oscars.  He would lend such a touch of class.”  Thinking on this, it might be fun if Kevin was an acerbic and demanding host, playing a vicious character like he plays in “House of Cards.”
I’M still absorbing facts from Tom Santopietro’s book, “The Sound of Music Story." For instance, that Mrs. Myra Franklin of Wales has seen the film 900 times!  900.

Click to order "The Sound of Music Story."
Also, When the G7 was being hosted on US soil during the Reagan presidency in May of 1983, the White House Chief of Staff, James Baker compiled a thick book of facts, figures and talking points to give to the President. 

An agitated Mr. Baker realized the next day that the book had not been even opened.  President Reagan’s explanation of his failure to read the material? “Well, Jim – the Sound of Music was on last night.”

READING Tom’s history of “The Sound of Music” reminded me just how much certain show business insiders loathed the Rogers & Hammerstein hit on Broadway.  And some of Hollywood didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole when it came to translating the musical to the screen.

I remember my mother and father didn’t care a whit about movies.  They always thought my super interest in Hollywood was silly and misguided. 

I have told the story before of sending my columns, reviews and articles home to Texas for them to see how brilliant I really was.  My father asked, “Do you really know all this stuff or are you just trying to get rid of it?”   By the time he was dead and my mother was living in Gonzales, Texas, I would go home and talk of my accomplishments to mostly deaf ears.

So it was with a shock that my mother asked me “Have you seen the 'The Sound of Music?'"  I said, “Of course.  I think I went to the Broadway opening and you know Mother I became a friend of Mary Martin who starred and hailed from Weatherford, Texas.”

“Oh — that,” said my mother. “ I didn’t mean that.  I mean have you seen the movie of ‘The Sound of Music?’  My local club went to San Antonio and we were just astounded by the film. You’ve got to see it.”

I protested in vain I didn’t want to see it.  She made me promise I would go to see the movie. So, finally, I saw “The Sound of Music.”  And my pal Julie Andrews laughed when I told her this. I have watched with fascination for all the many ways this property, as a movie, took the world by storm.  People are still going to see it.  And sing along with the musical score.  There definitely was something to my mother’s disdain for my snobbery.

Tom’s book touches on this elitist snobbery. And many other things. I wish my mother was still here to feel vindicated by her one and only movie review. 
THE legend continues!  On March 18th, ABC News will air The Untold Story of “The Sound of Music,” hosted by Diane Sawyer and starring — but of course! — Julie Andrews. 

Photographs by Patrick McMullan

Contact Liz Smith here.