Friday, April 15, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Remembering Anne Jackson

The great Anne Jackson.
by Liz Smith

Remembering The Great (and Witty!) Anne Jackson. Also — The Maria Droste benefit ... Scarlett Johansson as Gypsy Rose Lee? ... What To Do About Politicians Trying to Woo New York?

"I COULD not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a saving sense of humor," said Admiral Horatio Nelson.
I SEE that my friend, the actress Anne Jackson, has died at age 90. She was always known both for her comic and serious acting, won many awards and often would costar with her gifted husband — the late Eli Wallach.

They were sometimes called the "Junior Lunts," like the celebrated married acting team Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. (Time magazine put it more correctly referring to Anne and Eli as the "proletarian Lunts." They were great actors for regular folk.)
Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, 1967.
Anne began her career in 1949, on TV, and worked steadily until 2008. Moviegoers first encountered her in lighthearted fare such as "How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life" ... "Lovers and Other Strangers" ... Dirty Dingus Magee" ... and "The Secret Life of An American Wife." She was a Tony nominee in 1956 "Middle of the Night" and won an Obie in 1963 for her roles in "The Typists" and "The Tiger" (with hubby Eli.) They were also notable onstage in "Waltz of the Toreadors."
Anne Jackson with Gig Young in "Lovers and Other Strangers."
Walter Matthau and Anne Jackson on set of "The Secret Life of an American Wife."
Mr. Wallach and I had gone to the University of Texas back in the Dark Ages of WWII, so Eli and Anne were forever yelling out "Hey, Tex!" whenever we encountered each other.

Anne was known for her sardonic, down to earth good humor. A number of years ago at a party, I arrived with that paragon of the silent screen, Lillian Gish who was by then well into her 80s. Lauren Bacall and Anne Jackson were seated on a sofa as Lillian and I stood chatting.
Miss Bacall and Miss Jackson.
Bacall, never one to let a thought go unspoken, barked to Miss Jackson: "Get up and give her your seat!" Anne answered, indicating Lillian, "Why? Is she pregnant?" (This, said Miss Gish was the funniest thing ever said in her presence and she dined out on it for ages.) Once, in a packed public tribute to Lillian, she had me retell the Anne Jackson quip. She just loved it.

Miss Jackson is survived by her three children, Katherine, Roberta and Peter Wallach, who are also actors. Anne, it was a pleasure to know you.
THERE WAS a fascinating segment on "60 Minutes" over the weekend about the craze for all sorts of movies in China, and how many films are being made over there, too. This phenomenon has been happening for several years and now seems to be peaking. (We wrote about China and the movies last year, and the surge seemed to be peaking then!)

Hollywood, which has already felt the Chinese challenge, is ready to put on boxing gloves.
I AM hoping that readers in New York City will gravitate to the Maria Droste Counseling Services benefit on Tuesday April 19th at 6 p.m. to hear Perri Peltz and yours truly, Liz, questioning the all time king of old fashioned journalism, Tom Brokaw. We are so privileged to have him.

This great organization's mission is to provide affordable psychotherapy and counseling to those who might not otherwise be able to obtain it. We've had some beautiful experiences in the past with luminaries such as Bette Midler, Candy Bergen, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Rich and we have another real winner with Mr. Brokaw. Please call 212-889-4042 for details of where this is happening in midtown.
AS I expected, our item here on the rejuvenation of Barbra Streisand's "Gypsy" brought some heated response. Citing the ages of Barbra and (if cast) Lady Gaga and John Travolta, several people wrote in asking, "What — will this be the geriatric version of 'Gypsy?'" Oh, come on — stop with the ageism!

Lady Gaga or Scarlett Johansson? John Travolta would be happy with both.
First of all, Gaga just turned 30 — since when was that "geriatric?" Streisand doesn't look or act her seventy-something years, which is almost spring chicken time to me! Also, we recently told you about the digital miracles filmmakers employ these days, so it's likely Barbra's Mama Rose could end up looking younger than Gypsy!

Another reader chimed in, insisting that ONLY Scarlett Johansson should play Gypsy Rose Lee. "She's voluptuous, super-sexy, perky, has an acting range, sense of humor, etc. Let an actress play the role. Please don't suggest any more 'musicians.' Let them ply their own trade."

Hmmm ... I agree that Scarlett is a knockout, although I'd hedge a bit on her acting range. The fact is, the real Gypsy Rose Lee was not a beauty and did not have a particularly good body. What she had was a lot of smarts and humor. Her striptease was very heavy on the "tease."

The role of Louise/Gypsy is more of an acting part, which is why I said Gaga's powerful voice would be wasted. (Her Golden Globe for "American Horror Story" notwithstanding, Lady G. is not an actress, yet.)

As for suggesting "musicians" once upon a time, Miss Streisand was just a musician, but guess what, she learned to act, and the rest is history. (To hear Barbra tell it, she never wanted to be a singer at all — "someday they'll clamor for my drama," as Fannie Brice insists in "Funny Girl.")

Anyway, whatever side of the fence one falls in the matter of casting, etc., there does seem to be a lot of interest in "Gypsy" so that's good news for Barbra.
Not her first rodeo subway ride.
RECENTLY, CNN asked me (and other notable New Yorkers) to comment on "what the presidential candidates marauding through New York in search of votes need to say/do to seal the deal with New York voters ahead of the primary?" This is how I replied.

"Bernie must get some extravagant new speeches."

"Hillary must do something electric with herself."

"And never again put down Bernie. She'll need his youthful supporters. She should galvanize rock stars and young sexy actors at free public concerts at which she'll appear with them. She can add Bill for window dressing but shut him up and do it in public! Donald Trump doesn't need any help. He's both his own best friend and worst enemy. New Yorkers just shrug and enjoy the show. So, Donald keep on keeping on. And from now on understand the rules and quit bitching about them.

And Ted Cruz should just fold his tent and go back to Texas where he can be as far right as he likes."

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.