Monday, March 28, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Walk on the Wild Side

Capucine and Barbara Stanwyck in "Walk on The Wild Side."
by Liz Smith

Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Fonda and Capucine Walk on the Wild Side in 1962!  Also — New York Nights of Thousands of Stevies and Judys. 

"LOVE! Can any man love a woman without lusting after her body? Love is kindness and understanding and caring. Love! What does that young fool know about love, what does any man know!!"

That's Barbara Stanwyck getting very wrought up indeed in 1962's lurid Southern Gothic potboiler, "Walk on The Wild Side." Stanwyck was portraying a woman named Jo Courtney, the lesbian madam of an upscale New Orleans brothel, colorfully named The Doll House. The film is like the worst of Tennessee Williams ... with a brain tumor. In short, a lot of fun!
Barbara Stanwyck as Jo Courtney.
Aside from Stanwyck — and that's a big butch aside — the film also stars Capucine as Hallie Gerard, the object of Jo's affections (never quite reciprocated.) ... Jane Fonda as a sluttish, thieving girl named — I kid you not — Kitty Twist ... Laurence Harvey as — I really kid you not — a rough and tumble cowboy type from Texas, who comes a' looking for his long lost gal, Hallie. Of course he doesn't know she's become a deluxe prostitute. The cherry on the sundae is Anne Baxter, as the warm-hearted, big-bosomed Mexican lady who runs a cantina. ("God has been generous" she says with downcast eyes after being complimented by one of her horny customers.)
The object of Jo's affection, Capucine as Hallie Gerard.
"Walk on the Wild Side" is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies and also I recommend it for so many reasons: Stanwyck's go-for-broke performance, which was pretty daring for '62 ... Jane Fonda's insane and amusing over-acting (at one point, she snaps a garter so aggressively you know it must have left a welt on her thigh! She looks gorgeous.) Anne Baxter does her best and even has some touching moments. Laurence Harvey's Texas twang is rather good, considering he's a Brit, but physically he is out of Capucine's league; their doomed affair, their mutual attraction never seems real. (He was similarly miscast against robust and lusty Liz Taylor in "Butterfield 8.")
Jane Fonda as Kitty Twist.
Anne Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri.
Laurence Harvey as Linkhorn.
Which leaves us with the great Capucine, who seems to be acting in another (far better) movie. She gives her confused/resigned/bitter hooker a life that does not leap up off the pages of the script. She squeezes every ounce of meaning from her role, without going over the top. She is majestic, tragic, and ravishing to look at.

Capucine is best known for her role in 1963's "The Pink Panther" with Peter Sellers, but for my money, her turn in "Walk on the Wild Side" and also in 1960's delightful "North to Alaska" with John Wayne (playing another "professional" lady) show this actress at her appealing best.
Capucine in "North to Alaska."
Capucine suffered from depression and died a suicide in 1990 at the age of 62.

So, check your listings for "Walk on the Wild Side." No, it's not good, but it's so bad in so many ways one can't help being madly entertained. (When Harvey asks Jane Fonda why she's selling herself at the Doll House, she snorts, "I like my work — you meet a better class of people!")

You'll also find a re-newed (or brand new) appreciation for Capucine.
ON MAY 13th, the 26th annual "Night of a Thousand Stevies" happens at 17 Irving Place, in NYC.

This is always one of the most unusual gatherings in Manhattan. It's a tribute to the pop legend Stevie Nicks and hundreds — if not thousands — show up dressed in various Stevie get-ups. (Sometimes, just throwing a fringed shawl over your shoulders and banging a tambourine is enough. It's mostly attitude and how much you love Stevie!)

This year's event is titled "Dark Daughters." Performers include Amber Martin, Lady Zombie, Poison Eve, Just Darlinda, Karen and the Sorrows and The Honey Trap. etc. Stevie herself often toys with the mystical "good witch" aspect of her persona, so "NOTS" is always the place to go if you want to cast harmless spells, dance, laugh, and forget your troubles, come on, get happy.

Call 866-448-7849.
The Stevie Nicks Experience (Des Moines) making their NOTS debut way back when at the Knitting Factory.
OH, speaking of forgetting your troubles, come on get happy, there is another fascinating tribute event happening. This one is "Night of a Thousand Judys" June 6th at Manhattan's Merkin Concert Hall (129 West 67th Street) And yes, of course we mean Judy Garland. The night will benefit the Ali Forney Center, dedicated to assisting homeless LGTB youth. Written by Justin Sayre and directed by Peter James Cook, there will be all manner of skits, songs and tributes to Miss G. And, as with the Stevie Nicks gala, I assume some will attend in various Garland get-ups. Many looks to choose from — "Oz" Judy ... MGM glam Judy ... matronly 1950's Judy (with those crazy zooming eyebrows!) ... wraith-thin '60s Judy.

All for an excellent cause. Go to for tix info. 
THEY SAY death comes in threes, but that old adage is rarely on target, except when it is. Within two days last week, actor/comic Garry Shandling, actor and SAG/AFTRA president Ken Howard and "The Waltons" creator Earl Hamner Jr., all passed way. Hammer was 92, and died of cancer, but the deaths of Shandling, 66, and Howard, 71, were unexpected. I didn't pal around with any of these men, but I knew of Shandling, who was revered by everyone who ever spoke to me about him, and Ken Howard was once married to Margo Howard, the daughter of advice doyenne, Ann Landers, who I knew quite well, as Eppie Lederer.
Garry Shandling.
Ken Howard.
As for Earl Hamner, he created one of the most beloved and deeply felt TV programs ever, with "The Waltons" — the sort of thing that probably would never sell these days. Unless it was turned into reality-show trash.

Hamner created "Falcon Crest," too. This series was also beloved, but for reasons less wholesome than "The Waltons." Condolences to friends and families.
Earl Hamner Jr.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.