Monday, January 30, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Love and Art

Patricia Bosworth and Albert Salmi in Howie on Broadway, 1959.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Patricia Bosworth's Fascinating New Memoir.  Also — Asa Butterfield, a Star is Born, In Outer Space!

“RECALLING DAYS of sadness, memories haunt me. Recalling days of happiness, I haunt my memories,” said Robert Brault.
Click to order "The Men in My Life:  A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950’s Manhattan."
I WANT to say a few words about journalist, biographer and former actress Patricia Bosworth’s new book, a P.S. to her 1997 memoir, “Anything Your Little Heart Desires.”

Her new recollections, titled, “The Men in My Life:  A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950’s Manhattan” remind me of what the 50’s were like for both of us.  New York was a wonderful place then, recovering from WWII, and it was also a hot bed of theatre ferment, that period when the Broadway musical was rising. It was so exciting!

Patti Bosworth’s friend, the writer Gore Vidal, urged the actress to avoid writing about her tragic, early years, to save them for later. She did! And today she has told most of her tragi-comic history, including the personal true tragedies of her growing up, surviving suicides, rejections, and the exploration of her rising talents and blonde good-looking youth. She has included the contretemps with her separated parents and her awakening to an early rampant sexuality. (Patti claims she couldn’t get enough!) Most of the men in her romantic life didn’t add up to success, except as failures, disappointed hopes and heartbreaks.

The story of her professional and friendship life with the star Audrey Hepburn adds much to the details of “what Audrey was really like.” This is a plus for the reader. (Patti and Audrey acted together in “The Nun’s Story” in 1959.  Patti considers her role as Sister Simone to have been a “flop.” It was not, but she was sharing screen space with the divine Audrey — who wouldn’t feel like they were not up to that?)
Patricia Bosworth and Audrey Hepburn in "The Nun's Story."
But personal heartbreak and career ups-and-downs dominate these sometimes scandalous and over-wrought pages. Reading the brilliant writer Patti, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. (Imagine yourself as a fledging actor with a bit part in the legendary Paul Muni’s play, “Inherit the Wind.” Your shoe falls off in one of Muni’s big scenes and lands right onstage with a thud, before the star!) Patti is a genius at writing such anecdotes and her acting life has been as up-and-down with tragedy and comedy as the best of Shakespeare’s characters.
Burt Brinckerhoff, Mark Rydell and Patricia in Blue Denim, 1955.
Standing up for the American Revolution in Small War on Murray Hill, 1957.
With Tommy Sands in Remains to be Seen, 1960.
Patti Bosworth photographed by Jill Krementz in 1964 backstage in her dressing room during the run of Mary, Mary.
“Actress” aside, in her writing Patti spares no one, most of all herself. Her critics have described Patti as having acute observation powers about glamour and tragedy. We get Patti on the toxic sexism and homophobia of her past. Book critics have described her work as …  “being forthright … emotionally textured, honest … self-aware … moving … revealing… unsparing … enthralling … sometimes terrific … offering behind-the-scenes drama … challenging.” And on and on! They are correct. She’s a different kind of ruthless and comic biographer.
Patricia in her "hideout" in 1945.
Regarding the word “biographer,” Patti became so discouraged by happenings in her acting life that she gave up, more or less, the theatre world. She made a second kind of fame for herself with really good books written about the lives of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus and Jane Fonda.

It is bragging on my part to remember so many theatre and movie greats appearing in Patti Bosworth’s life in the '50s and later on. Lets just mention a few of them. The early Actor’s Studio wannabee’s — Lee Strasberg, Elaine Stritch, Elia Kazan, Harold Churman, Helen Hayes, Marilyn Monroe and the afore-said Paul Muni.  And many more.
A melancholy headshot after becoming a member of the Actors Studio, 1956.
It seems Patti met, worked with, was fired from, auditioned for, slept with or shared living space with, was elated or put down by the entire theater world. (I relate to all of this, of course, as it resembled my own puerile exposure as an onlooker and fan to the theater-movie world of the '50s. And after that. So, you, the reader, can disregard my enthusiasm. But you can’t disregard the wonder and tears and laughter of reading this book, from Harper Collins.)
Patricia in Hollywood, 1964.
Summing up, Lincoln Center’s valuable director Andre Bishop has his own say about Patti’s work, to wit: “Vivid, beautifully written, evocative and so refreshingly frank about sex!”

I can’t say it better. And as an onlooker to Patti’s life, I feel somehow it’s my life too, from 1950’s New York to 2017’s metroplex of conflicts.
Patricia and "mama," 1944.
BORN IN SPACE:  I’d heard nothing of the new film, “The Space Between Us” when I attended the Cinema Society screening last week, downtown in New York City.  But it starred several of my favorite actors, Carla Gugino, Gary Oldman, B.D. Wong — so, why not?  (I’ve found that these two cautious words, “why not?” are generally better harbingers of a satisfying time than, “Wow, can’t wait to go!”)

It turned out to be a slightly odd but interesting experience. The movie is about female astronaut, on a mission to Mars. While well on the way to the Red Planet, she finds out she is pregnant.  Her baby is born on the craft, taken to Mars and raised there.  Only a few people on earth know the story.
The first human born on the Red Planet in “The Space Between Us."
I thought this was a premise with startling, dramatic, serious possibilities.  I was expecting intensity. (I suppose I’ve seen too much “Prometheus,” “Gravity,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Aliens,” etc.)

And then, well, it turned into a rebellious, love-struck teen-agers-on-the-run-from-the government movie.  I will not spoil and tell how or why this occurs. But it does, accompanied by an insistent, annoying (to me) soundtrack.
Love-struck teen-agers as played by Britt Roberts and Asa Butterfield.
That said, once I realized that “The Space Between Us” is really a movie for kids — teens — it was okay.  It reminded me very much of something that would have been a huge hit in, say 1985, with Andrew McCarthy or Michael J. Fox  or Johnny Depp as the eager-to-break-away from Mars teen.  It has that vibe.  As it is, the boy is played by Asa Butterfield, a lanky kid with black hair and startling blue eyes.  He is wonderful. (Asa is 19, looks younger, and already has a fairly impressive resume.)

So, while “The Space Between Us” didn’t meet up to my possibly over-dramatic standards, it is sweet and touching. Director Peter Chelsom deftly strikes all the lonely-in-the-universe, menaced-on-earth, almost-tragic-everywhere chords for his intended audience.
The evening was hosted by STX and The Cinema Society. The party after, at Jimmy at the James Hotel was amusing, packed with models (how does Mr. Saffir loot the runways for these events?!) Also, luminaries such as Julianne Moore and Bart Freundlich, Zachary Quinto, Paul Haggis, Bill Nye (The Science Guy), Jeremy Carter (“Empire” actor), fashion designer David Isaac and PR’s smart and impressible Scott Gorenstein.
The after party at Jimmy at the James Hotel.
Aside from a lot of conversation about the exact shade of blue of Mr. Butterfield’s eyes, and how smoking hot Ms. Gugino is, most of the favorable party comments involved shitake wontons and cheesecake lollipops.

And the models.
Asa Butterfield and Carla Gugino.
Paul Haggis and David Bell. Gregg Bello.
Valesca Guerrand-Hermes, Jackie Astier, Dori Cooperman, Jennifer Creel, and Lisa Evans.
Carla Gugino and Sarita Choudhury. Zachary Quinto.
Carla Gugino, Bill Nye, Asa Butterfield, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Dai Frazier. Caroline Lowe and Anna-Christina Schwartz. Lexi Wood.

Photos by Patrick McMullan (Cinema Society screening)

Contact Liz here.