Thursday, March 17, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Love Is Better Than Ever

Former Congressmember Bella Abzug and First Lady Hillary Clinton. On April 12th, the Bella Abzug Institute will its 10th annual gala.
by Liz Smith

"The Graduate" graduates to Criterion DVD. Liz Taylor — the light young comedienne? ... "Frenchman's Creek" — one big hoot. The Bella Abzug Institute Honors Judy Collins ... Sagaponack — Idyllic but VERY expensive!

"Isn't there something you want to tell me?"
"Tell you?"
"Well, I want you to know how much I appreciate this. Really."
"The number."
"The room number, Benjamin. I think you ought to tell me that."
"Oh, you're absolutely right. It's 568."
"Thank you."

And so it goes between Anne Bancroft as the dissatisfied housewife, Mrs. Robinson, arranging her first sexual assignation with the son of a friend, aimless young Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) in Mike Nichols' classic 1967 film, "The Graduate." Hard to believe this was only Mike's second film, and his second masterpiece, the first being "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (He might have retired at that point, a legend!)

Now our friends at Criterion DVD have a new 4K digital restoration of "The Graduate" ready to head to your home video library. As usual, this includes all sorts of extras — interviews with Nichols, Hoffman, screenwriter Buck Henry, producer Lawrence Turman, various featurettes, Barbara Walters interviewing Nichols in 1966, and a 1970 Dick Cavett appearance by Paul Simon. (The Simon & Garfunkel score became as famous as the movie itself — in fact, to imagine "The Graduate" without that music is literally impossible.)

A while back, we received a letter from Howard Green about the reasons behind Doris Day's involvement, or more correctly, her non-involvement in "The Graduate" after director Nichols had expressed interest in Day, as Mrs. Robinson. Now that I've watched the movie again — this wonderful re-mastering — I have to say nobody could have conveyed all the bitter subtleties and vulnerabilities that Anne Bancroft did. She was rightly Oscar-nominated.
SPEAKING OF movies — when are we ever NOT speaking of movies? — I was flipping through April issue of Now Playing, the monthly Turner Classics Movie guide (Along with the listings, Now Playing includes essays by TCM hosts Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz and a new addition, director Martin Scorsese.)

Anyway, on Wednesday April 13th, TCM will air a little known black-and-white programmer (that's what they used to call them back then) titled "Love Is Better Than Ever," starring Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Parks (the latter's career would soon be ruined by rumors of Communist affiliations.) It is a minor film, wedged in-between Elizabeth's great "A Place In The Sun" and the period costume blockbuster "Ivanhoe."
Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Parks in "Love Is Better Than Ever."
Miss Taylor filmed this fresh off her disastrous marriage to Nicky Hilton, and despite the stress, is extraordinarily slender, ravishingly beautiful. Her lover, director Stanley Donen photographs her magnificently. (La Liz, even then, was a girl who always needed a man.) The surprise of the movie is Taylor's deft, light comic performance. It's unlike anything she'd ever be called on to do again. Later, the bawdy, raucous aspects of her humor would be showcased, but never the infectious delicacy she shows here.
Set your DVD and be prepared to be quite surprised. Had ET not been marketed as a great beauty, wandering through MGM romance dramas, she might have had a different career, as a comedienne!

Another rarity being shown in April is 1944's "Frenchman's Creek" based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel about an unhappy British noblewoman (Joan Fontaine) who dallies with a lusty pirate (Arturo de Cordova.) It's not well thought of, but I think it's a hoot, with Fontaine at her most mannered (appropriate for the role) and Basil Rathbone hanging around as a lecherous lord who wants the married lady for himself.
Joan Fontaine and Arturo de Cordova in "Frenchman's Creek."
(Their final confrontation is something to behold! — "No, Rockingham, never, never!" Fontaine declares, battling Basil and her enormous, inconvenient, gown. Don't attempt to elude an enraged would-be rapist, while swathed in petticoats.)

"Frenchman's Creek" airs on TCM on April 16th.
Joan Fontaine and Basil Rathbone in "Frenchman's Creek."
AND STILL more movies! If you happen to be in Los Angeles today, wander off to the fabled Egyptian Theater, and take in an old-fashioned double feature — "Dirty Dancing" and "Roadhouse" two hot Patrick Swayze hits. (I recall attending a first screening of "Dirty Dancing" back in 1987. It was a "professional" industry crowd. By the time the credits rolled, every woman — and quite a few men — were in a near faint over Patrick!) The Egyptian, sponsored by American Cinematheque, has been showing movies on the big glorious screen all month. They began with the epic "Lawrence of Arabia." For a schedule about future screenings, go to
Liz and Bella Abzug.
HAPPENING: On April 12th, the Bella Abzug Institute — hosted by Liz Abzug — holds its 10th annual gala. This year they honor singer/songwriter/activist Judy Collins and Marcus Vinicius Ribeiro, the head of PRISA, one of the world's largest Spanish and Portuguese language education programs. Also to be recognized — student leaders of tomorrow and young NYC women who have the qualities of leadership, activism and and chutzpah that epitomized the late great Bella. This event takes place at the Princeton Club (15 West 43rd Street) Call 212-650-3071.

Boy, do we need a woman, a voice, like the incredible Bella Abzug, now! (I think Bella could have dismantled without breaking a sweat, some of the current male presidential candidates. And probably also given Hillary Clinton a few vital tips, although Hillary is in fine fettle, what with her sweeping win, Tuesday night.)
I OFTEN write about Sagaponack, Long Island, a part of the now expensive show biz part of "The Hamptons."

Some of the villages and hamlets comprising this area are ... Hampton Bays ... Quogue ... West Hampton ... Sagaponack ... the Springs ... East Hampton ... Amagansett ... and Montauk, at the end of Long Island.
My house was somewhere down there!
I lived all over the Hamptons in my heyday and met a lot of famous and to-be-famous people. But I spent my happiest 18 years in unassuming Sagaponack. The cookbook giant Lee Bailey built us a boxcar of a house right at the edge of the Pond and the Atlantic. At the time, I think it cost about $25,000 total. We did our own lawn planting and all the painting both inside and out.

Well, the other day a website called East Hampton Patch told us that the Business Insider says Sagaponack's 11962 zip code is now listed as the most expensive in the U.S. with properties that cost at least $8.5 million. They vie with Alpine, New Jersey and Shelter Island.

The closer to the beach, the pricier the real estate.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.