Tuesday, January 24, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Faces In The Crowd

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

A New (Scary?) Look at 1957's "A Face In The Crowd." Also — Cyndi Lauper and Rod Stewart's Summer Tour ... Revamped, classic Roy Orbison concert ... Andy Cohen is NOT the Devil ... and the joy of "Alternative Facts."

“ONLY ‘the face in the crowd’ changes, but the song remains the same. It is us who have changed. Too many people are willing to overlook the deep flaws of their idols, as long as they can continue to believe the false message.” 

That’s Rick Gould, author of a terrific blogsite about movies, “Rick’s Real/Reel Life.” 

The above quote comes at the conclusion of Rick’s fine examination of “A Face In The Crowd,” Elia Kazan’s 1957 classic about political ambition run amuck.  The movie starred Andy Griffith as regular-guy-turned-dictator-in-waiting, Lonesome Rhodes, and Patricia Neal as the reporter who helps his ascendency. It is as powerful an indictment now, as it was when it was released — unsuccessfully. 
Andy Griffith as l Lonesome Rhodes.
Audiences in the Eisenhower Fifties had just recovered from the Joe McCarthy witch hunts — and were terribly concerned about hiding under their Danish Modern furniture if the H-bomb detonated. They weren't interested in how down-low the political process could be, in Kazan’s gritty, grimy black-and-white.  They just wanted to forget.  Television is shown in the film as the deus ex machina responsible for Lonesome’s meteoric rise.  Moviegoers preferred to think of TV as the safe place where they saw Uncle Miltie and Lucy Ricardo. 
Now wouldn’t be a bad time to revisit “A Face In The Crowd.” If you want to have a little déjà vu/possible future projection experience.  Certainly visit Mr. Gould’s site, beautifully put together, where one can find intelligent and amusing analysis of films as varied as “Giant,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Auntie Mame.”
Walter Matthau and Patricia Neal can't look away!

... DEPRESSED?  Well, at least some of you are.  But here’s something to make life worth living, at least until mid-August.  On July 6th, at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper kick-off an 18 city tour, together!  The icons, who have two of the most distinctive voices in music, will do their stuff from Tuscaloosa to Bangor, to Cuyahoga Falls to Palm Beach. The fun ends August 12th in Houston, Texas.  For tickets go to www.livenation.com.   Oh, Cyndi and Rod will chat up what brought them together at long last, on “Watch What Happens Live.”
... IN 1987, at the Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood, k.d. lang, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, T Bone Burnett, J.D. Souther and Jennifer Warnes all gathered to pay tribute to, and sing with, the legendary Roy Orbison.  Roy had unexpectedly been thrust back into the spotlight, after his song, “In Dreams” was included in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.”  The concert “Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night” aired on Cinemax and became instantly classic. (Roy didn’t have much time to enjoyed his renewed fame, he died a year later.)
Now, Sony’s Legacy Recordings has teamed up with Roy’s Boys LLC (founded by Orbison’s sons) and will release a fantastic new version of that concert, “Black and White Night 30.” Not only have the performances been restored, alternate takes and perspectives are used, because there were seven cameras covering the concert. “While the look will be familiar to those who have seen the original version, the vast majority of footage has never been seen by the public.” Also includes a mini-documentary, with commentary from Springsteen, k.d. lang, etc.  This arrives on February 24th.  Go to store.RoyOrbison.com  
... ONE of our constant readers Van Smith, attended the Shattuck Military Academy with Marlon Brando, way back when, and he recalls how the future Hollywood star “electrified” the school’s Dramatic Association.  Mr. Smith says he wants to send me Marlon’s autobiography, “Songs My Mother Taught Me” which I did read in 1995, when it was published.  My memories of it are not crystalline. I recall being moved.  Van says without reading this book, which had help from Robert Lindsey, people can “never really understand what went on with him, nor the indelible mark he left on film and the American theater.”  Van, you have my new address, please send Marlon.
... NEVER try to make a guy take responsibility for the fall of western civilization.  Or at least take responsibility for the further erosion of civil behavior.  I got the feeling, reading an article on producer/TV host Andy Cohen last week in the New York Times magazine, that is what writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner was trying to get Andy to admit — that he’s the Devil!
Andy in his dressing room. Gillian Laub for The New York Times
Cohen is most famous for foisting the ugly “Housewives of ...” franchise upon us.  He also hosts a chat show ("Watch What Happens Live") where some big stars do appear, and subject themselves to his silliness, and drinks. If we want to get precise about the coarsening of society, we could blame MTV and “The Real World” or PBS and “The Loud Family.”  Hell, we could even say that Norman Lear’s Archie Bunker, was a mouthpiece for bad behavior — even though he was supposed to be shown up at the end for his prejudices. 
But Cohen is antsy and unapologetic, and concerned about his place in the world he inhabits. (Read his books — very funny, then repetitive, then rather sad.) Look, he doesn’t force people to watch that stuff.

Also, Andy is not pretending or aspiring to be Charlie Rose. He just wants some respect. (He’s a hardworking guy, the revolting exhibitionism of his “Housewives” notwithstanding.)
However, it was this sentence in the profile which leapt out: “He [Cohen] had just come from disseminating his Andyness throughout the country on a speaking tour with his friend CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which both men told stories from their personal lives and drank Fresquilas on stage.” 

Ah, Anderson, at a critical time in our world, while you report and take your glasses on and off, furrowing your brow, must we think about Andy and tequila and Fresca? Not that a good stiff Fresquila could hurt, these days.
ENDTHOUGHT: In putting out a wordy, opinionated (often silly) thing like this every day, with a noon deadline, we are occasionally guilty of error or typo. We try to correct ourselves ASAP. (Hey, The New York Times has its very own, well-filled, corrections capsule.)  We suffer a lot when we err, even on minor matters. But now we realize such worries are unnecessary! Because we don’t make mistakes. What we are doing is presenting “alternative facts.” Yes! Why didn’t we ever realize that?   

We send our thanks to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, for making the case for “alternative facts” on "Meet The Press" with Chuck Todd.  Todd didn’t get it. He was in the words of Ms. Conway, “too dramatic.” Yes, I’ve always thought of Chuck Todd as “too dramatic.”
By the way, Hillary Clinton is president. Not a lie, an alternative fact. Try to understand.  Talk with Ms. Conway, she’s sure to agree.

In any kase, we’re all finne now, rite?
Contact Liz here.