Thursday, October 19, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Mamma Mia!

Capucine as "Angel"  in North to Alaska, 1960.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Mamma Mia! — Cher's Coming Back to the Movies!

“IN this business it takes time to be really good and by that time, you’re obsolete,” said Cher.

Yeah, she said it, but it never happened to her!

If Cher is no longer on the cutting edge of music — despite the unprecedented fact that she scored # 1 hits in every decade of her fame, from 1965’s “Got You, Babe” to 2011’s “Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” — she has never looked or behaved in an obsolete manner.
Her good humor, essential humanity and reality in regard to her career and flamboyant image, have kept her affectionately beloved, beyond the strenuous and often miscalculated efforts of others.  (She gives great show; she knows what her fans want — the big hits, the elaborate costumes, the obvious enjoyment of being there.) 

Now comes word that Cher will join old “Silkwood” pal Meryl Streep in the sequel  to 2008’s “Mamma Mia” movie, titled “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.” This will be her first major screen appearance in seven years (“Burlesque” was Cher’s last star turn). 
With Christina Aguilera in “Burlesque”
Personally, I adored the long-running stage show, with its obvious bow to the 1968 Gina Lollobrigida sex-comedy, “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” and all those fabulous ABBA songs.  The movie was horrific, an assault, I thought. But it made $600 million, so clearly I was pretty much alone in my opinion.
Cher, who I hope has plenty to do — and sing! — can only improve the sequel.  She will be joined by others of the original cast, including Colin Firth, Christine Baranski and Amanda Seyfried.

Cher, back on screen.  There is reason to hope in these dark days.
CHANNEL surfing, I found myself once again coming across, and staying with, the 1960 John Wayne comedy/adventure “North to Alaska.” Wayne is always Wayne, but ... what’s wrong with that?  He had his etched-in-stone persona and it was iconic and enjoyable.  He didn’t pretend to be more (or less) than he was.  But as usual, it is Capucine, as the saucy, naughty lady along for the bumpy ride, attracting the likes of James Stewart, Fabian, Ernie Kovacs and of course, The Duke, who dominates the film. 
Capucine and The Duke in “North to Alaska.” 
She is gorgeous, sexy, vulnerable, comically adept.  It is probably the best of her three most famous American films — this, “Walk on the Wild Side” and “The Pink Panther.” (Some said she was miscast as the brothel-bound lady, dominated by butch Barbra Stanwyck in “Walk on ...” but I found her perfect. Ditto young Jane Fonda in the same movie.)
The object of Jo's affection, Capucine as Hallie Gerard in “Walk on the Wild Side."
Hard to believe, watching her romp through “North to Alaska” that she didn’t have a greater career in the U.S. or a happier life — she would die a suicide in 1990. 

Ah, but that’s the great wonder of film, and its availability, ever since the advent of videocassettes back in the day.

Capucine, aptly named “Angel” will forever pull open a curtain, to reveal herself dressed in glittering red, all but knocking Mr. Wayne off his feet.
SPEAKING of movies, I’ve recently been made aware of a new free streaming service called  You bring it up on your computer.  They show films as varied as Bardot’s “And God Created Woman” ... ”A Farewell to Arms” ... ”Another Man’s Poison” (Bette Davis’ wretched but entertaining follow-up to “All About Eve.”) ... the vicious noir, “Detour” with the aptly named Ann Savage ... “His Girl Friday” ... “The Prince and the Showgirl” and even the disastrously fascinating, Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton TV epic, “Divorce His/Divorce Hers” filmed as their first marriage shuddered to it liquor-soaked end.
Now, I’m not sure if the service provides both films — one showed the divorce from Taylor’s angle, the other from Burton’s.  But as long as they have Taylor’s loony confrontations with the late Carrie Nye, then married to Dick Cavett, it’s worth it. 

At one point, Taylor, wearing a silk night gown and terrifyingly voluminous hair that evoked Louis XIV, snarls at Nye “How could anyone have an affair with you. You’re not even beautiful!”  As Nye continues to tattle, Taylor shoves her violently and screams, “Stop talking! Stop telling!”  Nye, who in real life was a fabulous wit — and even wrote a deliciously scathing piece on her experiences with the Burtons for Time magazine, replies:  “You know, most of the time, I’m very fond of you. It's just sometimes you annoy me very, very much.”  It that’s kind of thing, well worth a peek.  Have a cocktail.

Best thing about Moviezoot that I’ve noticed is that most of the prints are quite good. 
MAIL:  Thank you to reader John Cucchiara, who reminded us that back in 1972, Julie Harris won the Tony Award for her performance in James Prideaux’s short-lived but much-praised play “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln.”  Which, indeed, I actually saw!  (It was also filmed by PBS.)   However, the title says it all — it was the “last” of Mary, her final tragic years. 
I still feel the time is nigh for a full-bodied feature film about the entirety of Mary’s life — from ambitious childhood and adolescence (“my husband will be president of the United States!) to First Lady and beyond. But again — thanks Mr. Cucchiara!

Since writing about Mrs. Lincoln, several people have asked me, who I envision in the role.  I have to say, I keep thinking Reese Witherspoon.  I know, I know — but Reese is a very youthful-looking 41, and brimming with the kind of upfront vitality that marked Mary; a vitality that is such an aspect of the best performances of Miss Witherspoon herself.
ENDQUOTE: “The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know.  Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.  This is enough.”

John Adams by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1815.
So wrote John Adams, the second president of the United States, to one of his grandsons, toward the end of a long and eventful life. 

As I mentioned early this week, as our political fortunes sink into buffoonery, lack of humanity, and a want of intelligence on the highest order, I have been delving back into our history.

The quote above is culled from David McCullough’s massive “John Adams” which I re-read in one night.  I was inexplicably — well maybe not so inexplicably — moved time and time again, by this life story, this tale of our young, and for a brief while, totally idealistic country. 

I had also forgotten that both Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. As McCullough details how these two men — friends, then foes, then great friends, and brilliant correspondents, in their final years — struggle to stay alive until that glorious anniversary, I had to put the put aside several times to compose myself. 

Bette Davis’ Margo Channing declared she detested “cheap sentiment” and some might find my emotions on such long-gone events, cheap or overwrought.  Whatever.  We were — we are — a country of great ideas of equality and freedom.  Ideals we have had to improve, amend, re-think.  And we will have to fight to continue this.  More than ever.

In this, an uncertain time, I still live in hope. 
Contact Liz here.