Wednesday, September 7, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Money Changes Everything

"Is this what married love is like?" Burton ponders Liz being able to say this line with a straight face.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Will Daniel Craig Take the Money and ... Stay? Riz Ahmed: Sorry, "Night of" fans — it's all over ... How I Found Joan Crawford's Way of Life on YouTube!


“FOR MONEY we shall dance!”

That’s what Richard Burton declared on the set of “The Sandpiper” a 1965 movie about a married reverend (Richard) who has an extramarital affair with a free-spirit bohemian artist in scenic Carmel, California (Miss Elizabeth Taylor).
Burton loathed the script, and its obvious play on the public/private lives of “Liz n’ Dick.” But Taylor was getting her by-then standard million bucks and Burton almost as much. Money changes everything. (Elizabeth, by the way, liked the script, which allowed her to mix old-style movie star romanticism and the burgeoning woman’s movement.) She also knew the public would flock to see the two of them as “sinful” lovers. She was correct.)
Speaking of dancing for cash, Barbara Broccoli, the film producer of the James Bond franchise, says that she is not even going to think about Daniel Craig leaving the role that made him rich and famous. Craig has appeared onscreen four times as 007.

After the last one, “Spectre,” he supposedly said he’d slash his wrists rather than do it again. Since then, an army of actors have been suggested to take over, including Idris Elba (who insists he’s too “old” at 44), Jamie Bell, and most recently Tom Hiddleston, whose romance with Taylor Swift was seen by some Hollywood cynics as a PR ploy to give him a higher, sexier profile. (I’m shocked, shocked, at such suggestions! We believe in true love — or at least true lust — here.)
Careful of the broken glass, you might slash a wrist.
But Ms. Broccoli is having no super-agent broccolini. She wants the real thing, and is willing to shell out $130 million to keep Craig on for two more Bonds. I’d wonder how such a payday is even possible, but as the Bond movies make billions, I suppose he’s worth every penny.

I say, suck it up Daniel and dance. Take the money and run — to a charity near and dear to you. Surely that would take the curse off having to make those awful movies, yes?
MANY FANS of HBO’s “The Night Of” were hoping that the limited series would not be limited, and that we’d have a second season to find out what happened after the trial of young Nazir Kahn? No such luck. “Naz” himself, the soulful-eyed actor Riz Ahmed says it’s all over, and fans have to accept the finale. I can, because I don’t think his character was heading for happy times. Do we want to see that deer in the headlights suffer more?

Anyway, Riz is a hot property now, with three movies upcoming, including the next “Star Wars” epic. He’s only 33 and he’s a Brit. Maybe he wouldn’t mind saying, “My name is Bond, James Bond?”
MANY YEARS ago Joan Crawford wrote a book titled “My Way of Life.” It was about — Joan’s way of life! How to decorate, give parties, please your man, dress, organize your closets, please your man, cook, apply makeup, exercise, stand, sit, sleep, please your man, clean the house, raise children, please your man, and if you want to serve caviar — to please your man — just skip going to the hairdresser a few days. Wear a turban to dinner.

The book was written after the death of her last husband, Pepsi mogul Alfred Steele, and published in 1971.

Reading it requires a tumbler of the 100 proof vodka Joan adored, along with a group of friends, who can pick you up off the floor and continue onto the next chapter. “Reading aloud, clearly and distinctly, is absolutely necessary” as Joan herself, the queen of OCD might surely say.

Who knew — I certainly didn’t — that Miss Crawford actually recorded this book, for a ten-sided vinyl record? I can’t imagine it was more than a very special item for very special people, but it did exist. Now, thanks to the miracles brought to us by YouTube, Miss Crawford’s dictums on life and love and why she herself can’t wear an Empire dress, are available for listening.
Still fresh — perhaps before she knew her "way of life."
To hear the former Lucille Fay LeSueur, practice her plumy, occasionally slurry, MGM articulation on such vital matters as making sure one has a three-sided mirror, or the sensuality of chiffon rather than bare skin on bare skin, is utterly hypnotic.

In fact, not all of Crawford’s advice is bad or dated, some of it is quite sensible indeed. And although she is speaking from her privileged point of view, she nevertheless acknowledges the “average” woman who might, in fact should, take her advice. But the star’s silky, determined commitment to these things makes Martha Stewart seem like a homeless slob in desperate need of salvation. (Crawford is not without some liveliness in her audio recitations, although even her humor seems somewhat artificial, careful, joyless.)
However, if one takes the time to listen to all or most of this — hey, it was Labor Day weekend, and all I could find on TV were grueling specials about Hillary and Donald — you can’t help admiring her dedication to improving herself, to upholding her standards. Also to the realization that this woman was brought up in grinding poverty bereft of education. Joan worked like a dog on every single aspect of her career and life. She appeared, in time, to have drained a great deal of spontaneity out of that life, but clearly that is how she coped and survived. (Her sex-life was apparently eye-popping. But Joan’s many amours were as regimented and well organized as her scented closets. She thought Marilyn Monroe was sluttish — because MM disdained wearing a girdle. Sleep with as many men as you like girls, but for heaven’s sake, do something about that tummy!)
Oh, this old thing? I just threw it on.
Joan turned herself from a coarse, clumsy chorine, into one of the greatest movie stars ever — and an excellent, often underrated actress. Those who knew her well, and cared for her, said she was, under the lacquered image, incredibly insecure and scarred by her early years.

Whatever her demons, Joan made herself and remade herself, endlessly, in a search for order and perfection.
Crawford — insecure and vulnerable, underneath? Way underneath?
Revisiting this work — in Crawford’s own voice — took me past the ruin of her reputation thanks to daughter Christina. (Actually, watching almost any great Crawford film will do that. Sorry, Christina, for the childhood you said you had. I wonder if Joan ever got an apology for her own rotten youth?)

In any case, at parties, Joan served, along with healthy veggies, hors d’oeuvres made of bacon. I can’t be too judgy about somebody who likes their bacon!

Apparently, she tried to be all things to all men, all fans, all guests. Perhaps, as her great friend Myrna Loy said: “Maybe she shouldn’t have tried to be a mother.” But not trying would have been failing. And failure was never an option for Miss Crawford.
Illustration by Pablo Delcan
ENDQUOTE: “By its own historical standards, America circa 2016 is a safe place. The country’s crime rate is about half of what it was in 1991. Cities in particular, have become markedly less dangerous. Less than half as many police officers are killed in the line of duty today as in the mid 1970s. In 1968, Americans rated ‘crime and lawlessness’ as the single most important domestic problem facing the nation. Today, according to Gallup, they rank ‘crime/violence below issues like economy, unemployment, racism, race relations and dissatisfaction with the government.”

This is from Beverly Gage’s “Riot Act” article, in the September 4th issue of The New York Times Magazine.

Just saying, for those of you convinced America is falling apart because of rampant crime in the streets, brought to us by undocumented immigrants and “others.”

Contact Liz here.