Tuesday, May 31, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Who's On Top?

Cher ... & Other Fantasies.
by Liz Smith

Who's On Top? — Daniel Craig or Jamie Bell — The Latest James Bond Casting Convulsions Happen. (We  Still Hold Out Hope for Idris Elba.) More Cher, and More Bette and Joan. 

"I HEAR your bedroom is like a snake pit!"

"Only on occasion, honey."

That was Cher, back in the early 1980s answering a smart-aleck kid from UCLA, where the just-emerging movie star was conducting a Q&A. That anecdote is courtesy of PR guy Dick Guttman who was repping Cher at the time.

We received so much positive mail on our birthday salute to Cher last week, drawing on an interview we did about five years ago, I thought I'd pull a few more of her quotes from that sit-down. We laughed a great deal about plastic surgery:

"Come on, please. If I had as much plastic surgery as they say I've had, there would be another whole person left over. I could send her out to work her ass off onstage every night! I have been extremely honest on the subject. You know, my audiences aren't holding up signs saying 'Go away, you've had too much surgery.' It's the media that is obsessed. And as I've said before, it's really nobody's business but mine." Cher added: "I've never liked the way I look anyway, at any time. I don't spend hours looking at myself; for me a mirror is just to see if the makeup in on straight."

And there are still items on Cher's bucket list that she needs to get to. One is an evening at Carnegie Hall — just her, a microphone a band and a lot of old 1940s and '50s songs. And she wants to do a Christmas album. I'd say why not start now, honey? The way things are going, we'll all need a lot of Christmas cheer, this year.
DANIEL CRAIG, who I think is the best, sexiest, most appropriate, dangerous 007 since the salad days of Sean Connery, has said, or indicated or muttered asides, that his days as James Bond are over; that "Spectre" was his last dash-and-crash in Bond's Aston Martin. (He was quoted dramatically declaring he'd rather "slash my wrists" than ever again portray Ian Fleming's super-spy.)

So now, maybe, producer Barbara Broccoli, who oversees the Bond franchise is chatting up former child actor Jamie Bell of "Billy Elliott" fame, to step into Craig's vacated tuxedo.
Of course, Jamie is no longer a kid, he's 30, but that would still make him, I think, the youngest Bond ever. He's a wonderful actor, very attractive with a varied resume — everything from "Nicholas Nickleby" to "King Kong" to "The Eagle" (always hoped for a sequel to that one) to "Jane Eyre" ... "Nymphomaniac: Vol II" ... "Fantastic Four" ... the excellent Revolutionary War TV series, "Turn" to the upcoming true life hostage tale, "6 Days."

Jamie Bell — all grown up.
To be honest, I never would have thought of him, perhaps because of his youthful looks. But change is good, yes? (I know, I know, so many are rooting for Idris Elba. But that brilliant actor will never pass the unstated but well-understood franchise demand that whatever else Bond is, he must be Caucasian.)

But, don't get your hopes up if you are a fan of Mr. Bell, or feel too deflated if you want to see Daniel Craig do it again. Money changes everything. Not that Craig is suffering — James Bond has given him financial security for life. But, as Stephen Sondheim wrote (for "Dick Tracy"):

"Never say when, never stop at plenty, if it's gonna rain let it pour/Happy with ten, happier with twenty, if you like a penny, wouldn't you like many much more?"

So, while Daniel Craig might eventually end up saying, "I was so very pleased with the script, of course I'll play Bond again," it'll likely be the zeros on the check that will re-holster his Beretta 418 (or Walther P99) and update his license to kill.
WRITER Gregory Speck interviewed the late great Bette Davis in 1988, and (naturally!) the subject of Miss Joan Crawford reared its regal head. Recently, what with the coming TV movie about the so-called Davis-Crawford feud in the works, starring Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, we've received quite a few notes and opinions here.

So here is what Bette told Mr. Speck — the entire interview appears in his book, "Hollywood Royalty."

Davis: "It is simply unbelievable to me that with only one film in common — 'What Ever Happened To Baby Jane' — Joan Crawford and I are talked about as if we were a couple. Why we should be so closely connected in people's memories or imaginations is beyond me. Two more opposite human beings never lived, I can tell you. I mean that professionally as well as personally." (The unspoken subtext here? "Joan was never the great actress I was, and of course I was much nicer, too!")

The star continued: "She was certainly very good in 'Baby Jane,' for she was on time and knew her lines. I mean, she was a pro. But there were no problems during the making of it — to the great disappointment of the press, who couldn't wait to print that we were locked in heated combat, that we were jealous rivals."

So, while it is true the formidable legends never came to blows or even raised their voices to each other, the fact is, Davis looked down on Crawford as a phony who relied on her striking glamour. But she also envied that glamour and the dedication Crawford applied to maintaining her image.
As for Joan, insecure under the increasingly lacquered appearance, she thought Bette was a great actress, but with all of Davis' fussy, neurotic gestures, and popping eyes, etc, she was — as Joan reasoned — just as much a "star" personality as Crawford. Joan was also happily appalled at how rapidly and drastically Davis aged.

And of course, Crawford, after being booted by MGM, signed on at Bette's studio, Warner Bros., for a series of highly successful movies, in the mid-1940s, just as Davis was losing her box-office grip.
I think a film about those years — what each woman was experiencing; one rising again, one falling for the first time, both facing encroaching middle-age — would be a far more compelling film than something about the production of "Baby Jane."

But who listens to me?

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.