Monday, August 8, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Tell Me That You Love Me

Otto Preminger, Liza Minnelli, and Ken Howard share a chuckle while promoting "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" at Cannes, 1970.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Liza Minnelli's "lost" movie, "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" has been "found" — soon out on DVD.  Also — The Eerie Eternal Youth of Jared Leto ... See "The Mushroom Cure" NOW!   And, sneakers — the powerful bond between Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber.  


“I AM not the easiest man in the world to work for and I do not praise people promiscuously, but I can tell you Liza Minnelli is a professional actress who has more natural acting talent than almost any young actress I can think of!”

That was fearsome director Otto Preminger, after completing his work with up-and-coming movie star Liza Minnelli (already a Tony-winning Broadway luminary and fast-rising concert phenom.) Otto had guided Liza through her third film, the quirky, “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.” 
Minnelli had already been Oscar-nominated for “The Sterile Cuckoo” playing another distinctly sad, unusual young woman. “Junie Moon” took Liza’s penchant for vulnerability and wacky humor one step further.  She stars as a disfigured girl, sharing a house and her life with several other damaged types, including Ken Howard, Robert Moore, James Coco, Fred Williamson, and in her last (flamboyant) film appearance, Kay Thompson, who just happened to be Liza’s beloved godmother.
Liza's famous telephone scene in "The Sterile Cuckoo."
Otto’s film — he had long moved on from high-budget blockbusters or studio-sponsored properties — was not a hit; too downbeat, too odd, too overstated in its emotionalism. (And, in 1970, audiences were still far from being comfortable with gay characters, of which “Junie Moon” had a few.)  Still, the movie and Liza’s performance became cult favorites.  Now, years after seemingly vanishing, Olive Films is releasing “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon” to DVD on August 16th. 

Learning of this, Liza, now living in Los Angeles (honey, please come back, Manhattan ain’t the same without you!) says: “Working on this film with Ken Howard was such a joy!  I’m looking forward to watching it again for the first time in years.  I’m so happy that a new audience will be able to discover it.” 
Liza and Ken Howard in “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.”
Two years later, Liza would reach the peak of her film career as Sally Bowles in Bob Fosse’s masterpiece “Cabaret” for which she would win the Academy Award. The star would also collect, in that same year, an Emmy for her TV special, “Liza With a Z.” 

The millions who worship Liza the entertainer would disagree with me, but I’ve always thought if live singing and dancing hadn’t been “in her blood” because of what she experienced watching her mother on countless concert stages, Miss Minnelli might have been better served sticking to a more or less straight acting career. She was lovely and super-sensitive, so open to expressing herself — that marvelous face, made for big juicy close-ups!

Eh, you can’t say she didn’t do well, razzle-dazzling the world. (Also there were several terrific — one of Liza’s favorite words — films after “Cabaret,” including the big beautiful mess that was “New York, New York” and the minor but splendid, “Stepping Out.” She certainly helped enliven “Arthur” as well.) 

Liza’s natural talent for acting did, in fact, enhance her musical career; her ability to story tell within her songs is unparalleled.

And it’s never too late, Liza’s still fairly young.  There’s a world of character acting out there, aching for her tender touch. 
Julie Walters and Liza Minnelli in "Stepping Out."
"Happy Endings" for Liza in "New York, New York." Well, not really.
P.S.  Did you notice that in Liza’s remark she talked of her wonderful memories of Ken Howard?  Nothing about Otto, whose unpleasantness was legendary.  Just about the only star who ever bested him was Marilyn Monroe. When Otto banned Monroe’s intrusive acting coach, Natasha Lytess from the Canadian set of “River of No Return,” MM calmly walked off, put in a call to studio head Darryl Zanuck and said, “If you don’t want to see me back in Los Angeles tomorrow, deal with Otto.”   Zanuck dealt with Otto. 
Marilyn, happy and relaxed on the set of "River of No Return." And why not? She'd got the better of Otto Preminger!
THIS N’THAT:  People keep urging me to run down to the famous Cherry Lane Theater and catch “The Mushroom Cure” written and acted by Adam Strauss.  This is the true story of Adam’s attempts to treat his OCD with psychedelic mushrooms.  This show has received some admirable reviews.  I don’t know if I can make it, but for those interested, “Mushroom” has been extended until August 13th, but that’s it, say the producers.  So, go!  All profits benefit Psychedelic Research.  Call 212-352-3101.
... YOU’VE seen actor/singer Jared Leto looking sexy and bare-chested on the cover of Rolling Stone (he’s now The Joker in the much-discussed new “Suicide Squad” movie.)  RS writer Brian Hiatt notes that although Leto is 44, he looks: “maybe 29, so his skin-care habits are probably not to be questioned.” Oh, yes they are, Brian! I know RS is not Harper’s Bazaar, but a few queries about how he does it would have been most appreciated.  Geez!
I sat with Jared a couple of years ago at one of Peggy Siegal’s invaluable luncheons, promoting “The Dallas Buyer’s Club” (for which Leto won an Oscar as the desperate-to-transition, Rayon.) I can attest to Jared’s astonishingly youthful looks.  He was also delightful to talk to, smart and amusing.  But attempting to not get lost in his big blue eyes was difficult! 
I LOVE ridiculous rumors because they are often so ridiculous they veer into the surreal.

First off, the dubious “fact” within this rumor — Portia de Rossi has signed on to be a part of an  “Ally McBeal” TV reunion movie, along with its star, Calista Flockhart. David E. Kelley, the creator and producer of the original show, which was a very big deal back in 1997, and for a few seasons after, is getting the gang back together.  I have so far been unable to substantiate this reunion rumor, although my source in L.A. is falling about, swearing it is so.  I think this is merely wishful thinking on my source’s end — must have been a fan.
When would David E. Kelley have time for a wallow in nostalgia?  He has three TV series upcoming, including “Goliath” with Billy Bob Thornton and William Hurt. Also “Little Big Lies” and “Mr. Mercedes.”  Portia remains engaged on “Scandal.” Miss Flockhart has a nice role in “Supergirl.” David has occasionally talked about such a reunion.  

Anyway, here’s the surreal part.  Portia is reportedly “uneasy” about the friendship between her beloved, Ellen DeGeneres and pop star ... Justin Bieber!  I know. I was on the floor myself for a while. 
Ellen likes anyone who can sing or dance, or at least has had some success persuading the public they can sing and dance.  As everybody knows, the daytime talk show queen loves to bust a few moves herself.   “Friends” say Portia is not amused that Ellen and Justin share jokes (via YouTube and other outlets) and that DeGeneres gifted Justin with a pair of Stan Smith Adidas sneakers, on which she designed a little artwork. Justin has a huge sneaker collection.  He was pleased by this gesture.  But romance?  Jealousy?  The mind reels.
Just about the only completely factual thing I can pin down is that despite Justin’s continued exhibitionist antics — wakeboarding in soaking wet, semi-transparent tighty-whiteys, or inserting himself for no reason into the absurd Kim Kardashian/Kanye West/Taylor Swift “feud” — his tour is the highest-grossing of the summer, so far, taking in over $70 million and counting. 

It’s easy to dismiss Bieber as a peripheral no-talent character in the galaxy of social media narcissists who clutter gossip columns. But the fact is, he has some talent and he has more than a little success.   Why he does so many things to tarnish that reality is something for a therapist to figure out.

As for Ellen and Portia, should this rumor come to their attention, much laughter will ensue. Ellen will probably devise a little dance for it!
Okay, so maybe this sort of thing doesn't help Justin as a "serious artist." On the other hand, with his tour the hottest gig this summer, it's not hurting him!
P.S. JUST as I typed in that final exclamation mark, came word that Justin B. and his lady, Sahara Ray, were "caught" romping in the altogether while on vacation. This, only days after Orlando Bloom and his lady, Katy Perry, were also "caught" au naturel. The picture quality is crystal clear on both sets of pix, leading me to wonder just how random and paparazzi-esque they really are.

Neither gent has anything to be ashamed of. Bieber and Orlando do have a history — a lame argument at a Hollywood restaurant last year; finger pointing, maybe a punch thrown.

So, is this manly competition in the 21st century showbiz? Who gets nude-est best? Bloom has four films upcoming, including another "Pirates" epic with Johnny Depp. Bieber has a tour and records to promote. "La Publicite!" as the Countess De Lave cried in woefully in Clare Boothe Luce's "The Women." Although Mrs. Luce would no doubt be astounded at the, ah, lengths today's celebs go to.

Contact Liz here.