Monday, February 13, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Sweet Bird of Youth

“You gotta do this for me, Princess, you gotta open those doors for me.”
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Did "Lego Batman" Put "Fifty Shades" into Box-Office Bondage? Also, Angelica Page pays tribute to her mother, the great Geraldine ... Lopez and Drake ... Brooke Shields ... and amFAR is still fighting the good fight.

“YOU remind me of someone, yes — his name was Franz Alberzart. The last time I saw him he was with a woman of 70, and his eyes looked older than hers.”

Geraldine Page as Alexandra del Lago.
“Now, I’m not Franz anybody, I’m Chance Wayne, your new leading man..”

“You? A blackmailer?  Using me, you were just using me.  When you ran out on me earlier you ran out on this contract.”

“You gotta do this for me, Princess, you gotta open those doors for me.”

“The only door you will open is the door to my car, as my chauffeur.  You will wake me in the morning as my lover or my butler, as I see fit.  Soon you will be through with your good looks and I will be through with you.  And that’s the truth.  Can you face the truth, baby?  Are you ready to be my Franz Alberzar?”

So it went between Geraldine Page and Paul Newman in the 1962 screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth.”  It was a role — a great and grand movie queen, on the skids — that, improbably, the unglamorous Miss Page was born to play.  Her performance as Alexandra del Lago “artist and star” as she described herself was so indelible, that all other interpretations take a back seat. Although I saw Elizabeth Ashley do it in Washington D.C. some years back, and she came pretty close.
Elizabeth Taylor, who was indeed a great and grand movie queen was surprisingly “meh” in the 1989 TV version. (It always seemed like a good idea to cast Taylor as a fading movie star, but she rarely got it right, because she was never truly fading — not from media attention, anyway — and could never capture the desperation and ego-starvation of such a situation.)
Now, at New York’s Dixon Place Theater (161 Chrystie Street), something rather marvelous is happening.  Angelica Page, daughter of Geraldine and Rip Torn, is appearing in a work titled “Turning Page.” Angelica wrote the piece — a one woman stream of consciousness monologue — and appears as herself and her mother.  (Page is no stranger to excelling in one-woman shows. Theatergoers remember her well in 2003’s “Edge” about Sylvia Plath.)

Previews begin today, and I am told Angelica Page, like her fabulous mother (who at last won an Oscar in 1986 for “The Trip to Bountiful”) is truly something special to see, in this highly personal, funny, sad and inspiring tribute/revelation. 

... I LOVED the headline last week in The Hollywood Reporter stating that the “Lego Batman Movie” was expected to “spank” the latest “Fifty Shades ...” movie (“Fifty Shades Darker”) at the box-office.  We’ll know today.  I must say, these movies, based on the books of E.L. James, are the most boring, absurd, least erotic exercises in kinky sex one could imagine.  The bondage-loving leading man, Jamie Dornan is handsome enough, but rather bland.  As for the bondee, Dakota Johnson (daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) she truly seems to have wandered by mistake onto the sets of this S&M franchise. (It’s like Scarlett Johansson’s appendix burst and they just grabbed the nearest sweet-looking script girl and said, “You’re on, kid!”)

Perhaps her apparent mousiness is what the books’ author and the filmmakers intend, but it hardly makes for exciting cinema.  One has the feeling Miss Johnson is simply doing her time in these movies, collecting (we hope!) big paychecks and then will embark on her true career as a doctor or lawyer or schoolteacher.
... SPEAKING of Scarlett Johansson (we did, above) she and designer Donatella Versace were honored last week at amFAR’s annual New York gala.  It was star-packed, a good time was had by all, and the event, hosted by Harry Winston, raised $2 million dollars for the ongoing battle against AIDS. (I feel I always need to remind you all that AIDS, while far more contained with expensive medications, is still a ravaging disease worldwide.  AmFAR, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation continue to raise funds and education for something many people feel, quite incorrectly, is “cured.”)
Lots of luxury items were auctioned off, including Andy Warhol Polaroid’s for $47,000 ... tickets to 2018’s Golden Globes for $45,000 ... the world’s only in-home champagne vending machine (demonstrated by Alan Cumming) for $85,000 ... and a 1961 Douglas Kirkland photograph of Marilyn Monroe, nude under silk sheets went for $70,000.  (I make mention of this item in particular for our lady reader in the Midwest who goes crazy every time we mention Marilyn.  Sorry, dear.  But this was for a good cause.) 
... JENNIFER Lopez, one of the most gorgeous women in the world, and Drake, whose appeal remains a mystery, have apparently “cooled off” according to “sources.”  Please. I have a difficult time believing these two were ever warm.  But romantics disagree with me, and insist that Lopez’s Las Vegas concert residency, just resumed, and Drake’s  new “Boy Meets World”  had nothing to do with their so-called romance.  It was the real thing. Or just one of those things — a trip to the moon on gossamer wings, etc.
... THIS WEEK Brooke Shields will launch a weekly one-hour talk show on SiriusXM radio.  It’s called “Brooke Shields Now.”  I predict success.  Aside from her beauty and talent and all-around good nature, Brooke is a lot of fun to talk to — she’s funny and smart and remarkably down-to-earth.  Radio is lucky to have her. You can find Brooke’s show through the SiriusXM app and online at (You have to sign up for Sirius. Call 1-866-665-2846.)
... THANKS to reader Debbie G. Levy, who kindly gave me the name of the New Yorker writer whose "tofu husband" line so amused me. It was Alix Ohlin, in her piece titled "Quarantine."
Illustration by Thomas Doyle
... AND another thanks to reader Leslee Dennis who complimented our Barbra Streisand column last week but noted that brother Sheldon — eight years her senior — is Barbra's "whole" sibling and Roslyn Kind is her half-sister, not stepsister.
ENDQUOTE: “Power without a nation’s confidence is nothing,” said Catherine the Great. And she was right. 

But, speaking of confidence, let’s also speak of over-confidence.  I saw a good deal of crowing, smirking, giggling high-fiving and smug- talking arrogance last week, when the current president met initial defeat on his immigrant/Muslim/traveler ban. Not only is it way too early to know if this is a permanent setback for the administration, it is the very mind-set that lost Democrats the White House and most of their power. 

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow at least reminded her viewers — if you can get through her repetitiveness and her love of long, long, long buildups — that talk, and hope of impeaching the person who now inhabits 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would leave us with Mike Pence as president. A vastly sobering thought for women, the LGBT community, science, education and for those who believe in the separation of church and state.  Pence thinks the U.S. should run according to the Bible.

I’m glad the very smart Ms. Maddow made this sobering point.  I just wish she'd been dead serious when she made it.
Contact Liz here.