Friday, June 3, 2016

LIZ SMITH: No Strangers

Richard Quine and Kim Novak during the filming of "Strangers When We Meet."
by Liz Smith

Friday's Fry-Up: Kim Novak ... Nicole Kidman ... "Outlander" ... and Who Loves and Who Loathes "Mary Poppins."

"DO YOU think about me when you're at work? What do you think? Tell me ... do you think I'm pretty, do you want to make love to me, tell me!"

That was Kim Novak, at the pinnacle of her allure, begging her loving but physically distant husband (John Bryant) for some attention in Richard Quine's great 1960 soap opera about suburban infidelity and the dangers of upward mobility, "Strangers When We Meet."
"Strangers When We Meet" — Kim Novak, John Bryant, Barbara Rush, and Kirk Douglas.
Novak, in this pivotal scene was semi-dressed, her blouse open, revealing a provocative black brassiere. No matter, her husband is not moved. He buries his head in her juicy shoulder, more a gesture of shame, than of desire. It is no wonder then that Novak soon falls for the insistent, rugged charms of married architect Kirk Douglas. (Douglas is wed to Barbara Rush, beautiful but overly concerned with her hubby's success; passion is secondary to security.)
"Passion isn't a dirty word!"
I have always considered this an underrated film, not a success at the time, containing one of Novak's most haunting performances. (She is perhaps more convincing than usual because Quine was her fiancé at the time.)

So, I was very happy to see in the current issue of Film Comment magazine, a marvelous two-page write-up on the movie by Glenn Kenny. Kenny writes of the films "feeling of exhilarating and dangerous surrender" but that the tale, in the end, "offers no escape."
Novak falling for the rugged charms of Kirk Douglas.
I agree. The conclusion presents one of the most poignant Novak exits, and one which offers her nothing but a suggested life of continued infidelities. (Novak's mother in the film, who she treats coldly, because she — the mother — had an affair that destroyed her marriage, warns her daughter, "You know what, I wish you'd really fall in love."

"I am in love, mother, with my husband." The mother (a marvelous Helen Gallagher), gives her a look that says more than ten pages of dialogue.

I'm glad "Strangers When We Meet" — a semi-hidden gem — is being re-examined and re-appreciated. Thank you, FilmComment.
NICOLE KIDMAN is an actress who apparently wants to attempt every genre of film; nothing appears to faze her in terms of what is required for a role — drama, comedy, action, satire, big-budget, small budget, don't-care-where-my-billing-is-just-give-me-some-red-meat.

Well, red meat is really what she's going to get in her latest film. She's optioned the off-Broadway vampire play "Cuddles" by Joseph Wilde. I think she's just going to produce, but there's many a slip twixt the lip and the jugular, and to my knowledge, she's never played an undead before. So, we'll see.
I WON'T take credit for the gorgeous Hollywood Reporter cover of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan of TV's "Outlander" fame, but I have written quite a bit about this show, and sure did recommend Emmy consideration for Miss Balfe, who is shown wearing a fabulous red gown, bustin' her bodice. I'm certain the editors of THR watch "Outlander" too, and that's why it's out front as a "for your consideration" Outstanding Drama Series. Still, I think I'll take a little credit.

Actually, the "Outlander" cover is a kind of "wrap-around" that can be removed. The real cover is of Donald Trump, inside is a series of essays, interviews and articles ranging in authorship from Michael Wolff to Keith Olbermann to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Mark Halperin. The cover announces, "California Screamin'" and I have yet to be able to tackle any of the Trump Dump furor.

It is all too astonishing and depressing. Famine and plague seem preferable to what we might be facing next year.
This is the great photo that appeared on the "temporary" cover of The Hollywood Reporter — camouflaging Donald Trump's face — which I received in the mail. My editors tell me it is now hard to find. Really? Shall we talk conspiracy? Doesn't Donald want Caitriona Balfe on top?
MAIL! As I expected, expressing my dislike for the fabled film "Mary Poppins" (in reporting on the planned re-make) caused a tiny tsunami of comment, pro and con Sue Fawcett wrote: "I couldn't disagree more fervently with your negative assessment of 'Mary Poppins' and the performance of Julie Andrews. I also don't agree with your positive assessment of Audrey Hepburn's performance in 'My Fair Lady.'" (Actually, I hadn't really assessed Hepburn's performance. I just gave the history of the role of Eliza Doolittle, from stage to screen. But, now that you mention it, I thought she was excellent, despite her dubbed voice.) Sue did agree with me on "Darling Lili" being an unsung masterpiece.
Finding common ground with Darling Lili."
The other side of the ledger came from a lady named Susan who exclaimed: "OMG! I thought I was the only person alive that despised 'Mary Poppins!' ... love Julie Andrews but the spoonful of sugar was too much!"

Also received lovely notes about Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day and from Michael Burns, came this howler: "Oh, Liz, Michael Musto and Rex Reed singing? Isn't there enough pain and suffering in the world?"
Rex and Michael in the same room. Soon to be on the same stage?
I replied that not having heard either one, I couldn't offer a critique, but that considering all the pain and suffering we do endure, a few drinks and the right mood might render such an experience fun and a really good way to take our minds off the dread that increasingly infests us.

P.S. In writing about the "Poppins" re-make I forgot to mention that along with Emily Blunt, one of the other cast members is the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and performer of Broadway's already legendary "Hamilton." (Now that I think of it, Mr. Miranda wouldn't be a bad choice at all for one of the leading male roles in the other big re-make on the way, "Guys and Dolls.")
Emily Blunt is everyone's first choice for "Mary Poppins."

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.