Thursday, June 2, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Ready for the Big Screen

Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine on the set of "Guys and Dolls," 1955.
by Liz Smith

Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat!  "Guys and Dolls" and "Mary Poppins" Are Ready for the Big Screen Re-Make Treatment.  Also — A Hootenanny in Manhattan:  Theater East Debuts "Boot Stomp." 

"TAKE BACK your mink, take back your pearls/what made you think that I was one of those girls?/Take back the gown, the glove and the hat/I may be down, but I ain't flat as all that!"

So sang the inimitable, fabulous Vivian Blaine onstage and onscreen in the musical adaptation of several Damon Runyon stories that became "Guys and Dolls."
Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine on screen "Guys and Dolls," 1955.
The Tony-winning Broadway version debuted in 1950 and ran for several years. The movie was made in 1955, starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando as the gamblers Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson. Sinatra was a natural for the role, Brando, less so, but he did his best. Also on hand was gorgeous Jean Simmons as Sarah Brown, the prissy missionary worker who spectacularly lets down her hair. Miss Blaine reprised her role as Adelaide, a rarity in those days, especially as Marilyn Monroe desperately wanted the role. But director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who had worked with MM in "All About Eve" didn't desperately want her.
Jean Simmons and Joseph L. Mankiewicz on the set of "Guys and Dolls."
In any case, "Guys and Dolls" is in the works for a feature remake, produced by John Goldwyn (His grandfather, Sam Goldwyn produced the '55 version) and directed by Michael Grandage. (Mr. Grandage directed a London production of "Guys and Dolls" in 2005. Later this month his highly anticipated "Genius" movie opens, starring Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Nicole Kidman and Jude Law.)
Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Colin Firth in "Genius."
So who's gonna be singing those snappy songs by Frank Loesser? Well, I guess it depends on how young you want to make it. Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani or even ballet's goddess Misty Copeland might all do well as Miss Adelaide (or Sarah Brown). Channing Tatum, Justin Timberlake, Chris Martin, Justin Bieber  (ah, let's give the confused little exhibitionist a chance), Matt Bomer, Zac Efron, Drake, Nick Jonas could likely convince as either Nathan or Sky.

Of course, there is another whole category of actors not known for their singing and dancing, but who definitely can. (The London production starred Ewan McGregor and Douglas Hodge.)
Ewan McGregor, Jenna Russell, Douglas Hodge, and Jane Krakowski in the 2005 London production of "Guys and Dolls."
About 15 years ago, there was talk of a "Guys and Dolls" remake and high up on the wish-list was Madonna as Miss Adelaide. She would have been perfect. Alas, the time for Madonna to give back her mink has passed. (On the other hand, Madonna is only 58. Barbra Streisand still wants to play Mama Rose at the age of 75. Soooo ... never say never.)
SPEAKING OF re-makes, as we and Hollywood always are (because aside from comic book movies, who has an original idea?) here's one I actually appreciate. Disney is readying "Mary Poppins" for another big-screen version.

I have always loathed and been mystified by the popularity of the 1964 hit film. Teeth-rottingly saccharine, awful songs, and — please forgive me — what was on the Academy's mind when they gave an Oscar to Julie Andrews? Andrews was never a dramatically high-voltage personality, but if she deserved an Oscar it might have been for her lovely Maria in "The Sound of Music." (Yes, I know — many referred to it as "The Sound of Mucous.")
Julie Andrews winning the Oscar for her first feature film, "Mary Poppins," 1964.
But the Academy was twisting itself into a hypocritical pretzel, punishing Audrey Hepburn for having "taken" Julie's "My Fair Lady" role in George Cukor's film version of the show that Miss Andrews and Rex Harrison immortalized on Broadway. But Andrews was an untested movie box-office property, whereas Audrey struck gold. What was she supposed to do, say no? After all, Audrey had been tricked into believing her small voice could carry the score. It couldn't and her vocals were replaced — absurdly — by Marni Nixon. Hollywood was so "outraged" by this that they refused to nominate Audrey for "My Fair Lady" — although it was a far better performance than Julie's — instead actually giving the award to Miss Andrews, one of the truly ludicrous wins, ever.
Audrey Hepburn — Unfairly Treated Lady.
Anyway, this time out, one of my favorite actresses, the brilliant Emily Blunt portrays the magical nanny, and the award-winning Marc Shaiman will whip up a whole new score.

Now, before the hate mail starts. Before people begin saying I have "slapped the queen."

I adore and respect and admire Julie Andrews as an actress and as a fabulous woman — she is not at all what her demure image suggests; Andrews is bawdier and earthier. She has tremendous courage, too.

I would be remiss in failing to mention particular Andrews' favorites of mine, such as "The Americanization of Emily" ... "Star!" and "Darling Lili" (both underrated, especially "Lili" which I think is rather a masterpiece) ... "SOB ... "Victor/Victoria" and onto her charming appearances in "The Princess Diaries" movies.

But "Mary Poppins?" It's just not my spoon full of sugar, so to speak.
Andrews in "Darling Lili."
TONIGHT! The first annual "Boot Stomp: A Texas Hootenanny" occurs at Theater East in NYC (243 Thompson Street) Theater East is a nonprofit theater company, that believes theater is not a complicated luxury, but should be available and affordable to all.
The Texas Hootenanny scene at last year's Boot Stomp.
The hell raising, fundraising night includes booze, dancing, BBQ, a photo booth and more. Theater East's founders — Judson Jones, Christa Kimlicko Jones and Joseph Mitchell Parks "Boot Stomp: A Texas Hootenanny" were born and raised in East Texas, and "Boot Stomp"-style hootenanny's were a big part of their lives "Boot Stomp: A Texas Hootenanny" music, fun people, succulent foods, no stress. They hope this is the start of a great new Texas tradition in sophisticated old New York.

For tickets call: 347-813-4031.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.