Thursday, June 16, 2016

LIZ SMITH: I Could Go On Singing

Judy Garland and Dirk Bogarde at the premiere of "I Could Go On Singing," 1963.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Judy "Goes On Singing" in Glorious Blu-ray! ... "Orange is the New Black" Comes Back ... CBS Loves Grammy ... Firooz Zahedi in East Hampton. And, whatever you believe, whoever you support, do your duty and exercise your right, and VOTE. (If not, don't complain, bitches.)

"JENNY, you have to go on, it's a sell-out."

"I'm always a sell-out!"

So it goes between Dirk Bogarde and Judy Garland in the 1963 musical melodrama, "I Could Go On Singing" which has just been released on Blu-ray.
"I'VE HUNG ON to every bit of rubbish there is to hang on to in life, and I've thrown all the good bits away. Now, can you tell me why I do that?!"
The film — which was shot while Garland was still celebrating the triumph of her legendary Carnegie Hall album, but before the TV series that would all but crush her — was Judy's final strut on the big-screen.

Aside from Judy's return to form as a concert attraction, she'd starred in an animated film, "Gay Purr-ee," (she was the voice of "Mewsette," a coy cat) ... a serious drama about handicapped children, titled "A Child Is Waiting." She had even snared an Oscar nomination for her ten minute scene as a terrified, desperate German hausfrau in "Judgment at Nuremberg." From a woman who'd been told just a couple of years previously that she was living on borrowed time and "could never work again!" she'd once more risen from the ashes, a tiny, powerful phoenix.
In her Oscar-nominated performance for "Judgment at Nuremberg."
"I COULD Go On Singing" which had been originally and far more appropriately, titled "The Lonely Stage," told a soapy tale of a troubled, world famous singer, whose concert appearances drove audiences into a frenzy. Sound familiar?
The particulars of Judy's character, Jenny Bowman, aren't necessary, since we are basically led to believe we are watching the "real" Judy Garland, and in some ways we are. Garland infuses every ounce of her genius into each poorly scripted, improbable moment; she makes us believe she actually cares for a drastically miscast Dirk Bogarde. (Although in real life they were good friends, before they made this movie!) She is the mistress of every wry raise of an eyebrow, every tremble of her mouth, and every fiery moment of raging anger and/or self-pity, selfishness and the glorious utter self absorption of a great star.
To me, this performance surpasses what she did in "A Star is Born." Great as she was, Garland was physically wrong as a young singer, too talented for it to be believable that she'd been "struggling" and her director, George Cukor, encourages Judy — wonderful actress always — to "act" a lot, to over-emote. Yes, she deserved the Oscar over Grace Kelly, but Hollywood still wanted to punish their problem child. (She had misbehaved yet again on this, her comeback film.)

In "Singing," as middle-aged Jenny Bowman, Garland looks fine — a bit matronly, but still glamorous — and her dramatic jittery style suits the character. (A ten-minute hospital scene with Bogarde, done in one long take, during which Jenny pours out all her hurt and bitterness, was partially written by Garland herself.)
Garland as Jenny Bowman in "I Could Go On Singing."
And then there are the concert sequences that literally blow the top of your head off. One ballad "It Never Was You," is exquisite, and filmed live, the others — "Hello, Bluebird," "By Myself" and "I Could Go On Singing" are delivered with her latter-day intensity, gorgeously shot right on the stage of the London Palladium. ("By Myself" is simply volcanic, Garland, dressed in violent red, reflecting her tortured emotions, goes into some other previously unknown — and never to be repeated — category of musical interpretation. Watch that, and then take to your bed for a week!)

Although Judy received brilliant reviews — especially in Britain — the film was not a success. But it lives on, newly restored and ready to be re-appreciated.
A WHILE back, our pal Joan Jedell of The Hampton Sheet noted that out of 8 million New Yorkers, only 4.3 million are registered voters. She went on to say that this is a similar statistic all over the USA. Many people just don't vote! Even more anxiety-making and depressing is the fact that some people treat elections like a joke, writing in the names of non-candidates — movie stars, TV characters, even dead VIPS.

Joan was worried and wary about voting well before this current election season of discontent which is full of people who insist they just won't vote, if they don't get the candidate they want. Or think they want. Because, folks — politicians, and others who seek the highest office in the land overflow with a certain kind of hubris that should give every intelligent person pause. It doesn't mean these politicians and ambitious others are bad people, it means they'll say what they want to get what they want. Be realistic about your "heroes" no matter how much they talk about ideals.

However, placing a healthy dose of realism aside, become informed about the issues — what your candidate can and really cannot do. Pay attention. Read. Then, VOTE. If you don't, you have forfeited the right, in our opinion, to bitch and complain.
TONIGHT, Netflix and Vanity Fair will host the premiere of the fourth season of the fabulous women's prison series, "Orange is the New Black." This happens at the SVA Theater on West 23rd Street — a party follows at The Top of The Standard. Among those expected — people who love to see a tough chick in an orange jumpsuit — are Chloe Sevigny ... Gabourey Sidibe ... Arianna Huffington ... Chuck Scarborough ... Dan Abrams ... Ashleigh Banfield and others too convicted to mention. And, of course the great cast will be there, too.
GOOD NEWS for those who love to watch the Grammy Awards on CBS. The network has confirmed that the music industry's annual extravaganza will remain with them until 2026! Well, I hope CBS is as equally faithful to the Tony Awards. I thought this year's offering of Broadway's top talents was the best the show has been in some time.
ON SATURDAY, June 25th, one of my favorite places, Book Hampton, on 41 Main Street in East Hampton, will host one of my favorite people, photographer Firooz Zahedi. Firooz will be at Book Hampton signing his luscious tribute to his friend, Elizabeth Taylor. It is titled "My Elizabeth" and is packed with gorgeous photos, wonderful essays by Firooz, chronicling his long friendship with the star of stars, and a foreword by one Liz Smith, whose magazine and newspaper column coverage of Taylor has essentially amounted to a genuine, valuable history of this most public but surprisingly private star.
ET and Firooz.
Oh, when was Elizabeth Taylor ever "private" you might ask, rolling your eyes? Well, every day of her public life, in fact. Except on very rare occasions, and we were sometimes privy to those occasions, the star offered well-worn responses and tales of her life to interviewers who were usually too intimidated to ask her anything probing. She even wrote several "memoirs" that were meant to be candid and revealing, but in the end were superficial, and existed only to benefit her public image at the time.
From Firooz Zahedi's My Elizabeth.
The first, during the halcyon days of her marriage to Burton was an attempt to convince people she wasn't The Whore of Babylon. ("I only sleep with the men I marry" was one of her famous whoppers.) Years later she penned an "inspirational" diet book, to further promote her fragrances and continue her profitable re-invention as a slender, sober AIDS activist. (As a burgeoning teen she put her name to "Nibbles and Me" a little book capitalizing on her love of animals — Nibbles was her chipmunk. Within a year Elizabeth had developed a 39-inch bust and MGM decided that her days as a co-star to horses and dogs were over.)
From Firooz Zahedi's My Elizabeth.
Firooz's memories are touching and reveal much of the real almost-ordinary woman behind the mask of fame and glamour. But in truth, Taylor took many of her secrets to her grave. She was a super-loyal friend and parent, and in return, her friends and her family have not "told all." I doubt they ever will.

The Firooz Zahedi signing will happen in East Hampton at 6 p.m.
Firooz signing. Photos: DPC/NYSD.

Contact Liz here.