Monday, May 9, 2016

LIZ SMITH: The doings of celebrities

Carole Lombard and Cary Grant — "In Name Only."
by Liz Smith

The Great Kate's Glorious Garden ... "Cats" Now Has TEN Lives! ... "Freelance" Movie Stars of the Golden Age Celebrated.   

"HOW CAN you stand to do what you do?!" Kate Hepburn used to say to me shortly before she left Manhattan to live in Connecticut.
She was referring to my covering the doings of celebrities. But for all her protests to the contrary, she liked exposure, enjoyed her fame; she didn't like being physically pursued or intruded upon, but Hepburn was as canny a self-promoter as any star who frequented the red carpet. The more she seemingly dismissed fame and her own accomplishments, the more she was wanted, the more valuable an iconic figure she became.
The Katharine Hepburn Garden in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza.
However, Kate was genuinely pleased — despite my awful profession as a gossip columnist — when I wrote about fund raising for her garden project. On Saturday May 14th from 1 to 3 pm at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on East 47th Street. The Turtle Bay Association in conjunction with The Dag Hammarskjold Plaza will celebrate Miss Hepburn's birthday by offering tours of the garden while learning about plants and Kate's favorite wildflowers. You can also see an exhibit about Hepburn's life in film and at home in Turtle Bay. Norman Curtis will supply live music, and there will be cake and coffee. Call 212-751-5465 for more information.

She'd be very pleased that this is happening.
WHAT can you say about the recent Tony nominations except — "Hamilton!" Sixteen nominations and all of them well-deserved. This is a fabulous show and a marvelous, new way to learn history. Just about the only person I know of who has admitted publicly to not loving "Hamilton" is "Morning Joe's" blonde, Mika Brzezinski. Mika said — much to the astonishment of Joe Scarborough and others — that she thought the show "got kind of boring" in the second half. She is entitled to her opinion, and anyway, from what I've observed, Mika is not much for a lot of popular culture, she's busy empowering women.
It's unfortunate, however, that others who appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" aren't entitled to their opinions. Much mocking and sarcastic this and that occurs, when everybody isn't on board with Joe and Mika. Sam Stein and John Heilemann in particular get a lot of "good natured" ribbing that doesn't always seem terribly good natured at all. But the hosts of "MJ" are lifted higher every day by the triumphs of their favorite guy, Donald Trump, so who cares what anybody else thinks?
Oh, but I have digressed! This was about the Tony Awards. Okay — the marvelous Paper Mill Playhouse, in Milburn, New Jersey will receive The Regional Theatre Tony Award, during the June 12th telecast from New York. This is another well-deserved honor. I have seen so many magnificent productions at the Paper Mill, some which went on to Broadway. The production values of every Paper Mill show are magnificent. Even if you've never set foot on The Great White Way in Manhattan, Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse offers a Broadway-like experience that is often more satisfying than some of what you do see on the Rialto. Bravo and congrats to Paper Mill.
Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ.
MORE THEATER: The catch line for the musical "Cats" was "Now and Forever," and after 18 years on Broadway, it indeed seemed that the warbling felines would never abandon their profitable NYC scratching post. But all things end, and "Cats" finally cleaned out its litter box in 2000.

Now comes word that "Cats" will at last be transferred to the big screen, under the aegis of director Tom Hooper, who did such a terrific job with "The King's Speech" a few years ago.
He also won the Oscar for that, as did leading man Colin Firth. "Cats" along with "Les Miserables" were two of my least favorite musicals, but given their success, who am I to judge? (I hated the movie version of "Les Miz" too.) But I have faith in Tom Hooper whom I've met and like a great deal. I'm just surprised it's taken so long to get "Cats" to the big screen.

Oh, and in case you simply can't wait to hear "Memory" again, "Cats" will be back on Broadway this summer. Now and forever, indeed!
The Original Broadway Cast of Cats from 1982.
FILM FANS — The UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program, is now presenting "Independent Stardom on Screen: Freelance Women In Hollywood." (Running until May 26th.) This festival — happening at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood Village — will showcase stars such as Miriam Hopkins, Anna May Wong, Irene Dunne, Dolores del Rio, Clara Bow and Carole Lombard.
These were women who resisted the studio system and took their careers into their own hands, sometimes tackling "unsavory" material that went against their image, or — as in Clara Bow's case — capitalized on it, as she did with her smash 1933 hit, "Call Her Savage." (Bow was one of the few silent stars who made a success in talkies, despite her fear of the microphones. Had she not been so fragile emotionally, retiring not long after "Call Her Savage," she would have had a much longer career — Bow was an incredibly appealing, talented and evanescent actress. Her vivid personality rivets audiences even today.)
Clara Bow in "Call Her Savage," 1933.
This festival also includes my personal favorite of Carole Lombard's films, a drama with Cary Grant titled "In Name Only."

Grant is excellent as a man trapped in a loveless marriage, but it is Kay Francis as his mercenary wife and Lombard as the woman he truly loves who electrify the screen. The final show-down between Lombard and Francis, as Grant languishes, critically ill in the next room, is as gripping now as it was in 1939.

"You'd rather see him dead than with me."
"Yes."
"But why, all you can get is money, he'll give you that. You don't love him."
"I gave up love for what I've got!"

This face-off goes on, and gets even better. Honestly, they just don't make 'em like that anymore.
Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, and Kay Francis — "In Name Only."

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.