Tuesday, April 11, 2017

LIZ SMITH: This too shall pass

Miss Gardner as an unrepentant home wrecker in the 1949 sudser/mystery “East Side, West Side."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Tuesday's TV Toss-Up — "Homeland" ... "Colony" ... Reign" ... Brian Williams (OMG!) Also, Sherry Lansing at the 92nd Street Y, and we get mail.

“NO THANK you.”

Illustration by Risko.
That’s David Hyde Pierce answering one of the standard questions, “How would you like to die?” in Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire for April.  I’m with David.

I also like the “Hello Dolly!”actor’s motto: “This too shall pass.”

So many of us, thrashing hysterically these days, over something that is done and over, might take that one into account. 

We can try to resolve and resist what we can, but unrelenting frenzy every day is just unhealthy and basically unproductive. Which is exactly what I used to tell my Republican acquaintances who had daily seizures during the Obama administration.

But despite enemies foaming, he had eight years.

Think on that.

... KUDOS to the gripping season finale of Showtime’s “Homeland.”  This season, the sixth, was the best in some time.  I’ve come to accept the unrealistic hyper-emotionalism of Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison.  That’s the way she’s written and played and so be it. (I wouldn’t trust her to run a dishwasher, myself.)  Rupert Friend, as Peter Quinn was brilliant year.  Emmy time, for sure.
... “COLONY” the USA network’s alien invasion series has been picked up for a third season. I don’t know how it has survived this long without a sign of the invaders and much confusion about who’s on whose side among the collaborating or resisting humans.  Come on, guys, let’s finally see an alien!
... ODDLY enough, I am going to miss the hilariously historically inaccurate carrying on over at the CW’s “Reign” series.  This is supposed to tell the story of young Mary Queen of Scots, her various men and her testy relationship with Queen Elizabeth. It’s a riot of crazy fiction and anachronistic costumes and language. In its fourth and final season, it can’t go on any further. Mary is about to disastrously wed Lord Darnley, and soon lose her crown and spend the rest of her life as a “guest” of Elizabeth, shut away in England, until her eventual execution, many years later.  Still, given the fanciful treatment, “Reign” could probably go on a bit longer.  Most missed will be Megan Follows as Catherine De Medici, and Craig Parker as Lord Narcisse. 
Megan Follows as Catherine De Medici and Craig Parker as Lord Narcisse. 
They are sizzling, charismatic actors. (Parker is well-known for his role as the evil Claudius Glaber on the Starz series, “Spartacus.”)
... SAVE the date.  On Friday, April 28th, moviedom’s  great Sherry Lansing will talk up her new book, “Leading Lady” at the 92nd Street Y.  The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Galloway will chat with Sherry. (Galloway wrote the book, with Lansing's total cooperation.) And they’ll be joined by Michael Douglas, who starred in one of Sherry’s big hits, “Fatal Attraction.”  Call 212-415-5500 or visit www.92Y.org/LexList.
MAIL:  Nice reactions to our reactions to the recently dumped Pepsi ad ... our comments on “Feud” ... and recollecting blonde femme fatale Beverly Michaels. 

Most people who wrote in on the Pepsi spot agreed with us (and also with our diastase for the VW spot — babies, babies, babies every year and a bigger car!)  But those who disagreed were articulate, passionate and polite — I’m looking at you Priscilla Robichaud!

Rick Gould who has a wonderful blog “Rick’s Real/Reel Life,” had just watched the 1949 MGM sudser/mystery “East Side, West Side” the day our item appeared about Beverly Michaels.
This movie stars Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason; was dominated by an impossibly gorgeous, predatory, Ava Gardner, and enlivened by the brief appearance of glowering Amazon, Beverly Michaels. As Mr. Gould noted, the taxi cab scene in which Van Heflin is forced to “clock” the violent Miss Michaels is classic. (And “in real life, Michaels probably could have clocked Heflin!”) The film often appears on TCM. Catch it. Miss Gardner is particularly appealing as an unrepentant home wrecker.
Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason in “East Side, West Side.”
Miss Michaels and Van Heflin in the classic taxi cab scene.
Author Thomas Santopietro chimed in on “Feud” noting, as we had, that nobody did their research on Joan Crawford making two movies with female director Dorothy Arzner, and remarking: “While I enjoy ‘Feud’ for its recreation of old Hollywood, I feel like in every episode they say five different times, ‘It’s hard for women in Hollywood.’ I got it the first time — I’m not a complete idiot.” 
Last Sunday’s episode was especially grisly, and once again twisted for entertainment value.  The tale of Joan’s supposed “blue” movie was grist for Hollywood’s gossip mill for decades before the 1960s.  Also, neither Hedda Hopper nor Louella Parsons had the power that creator/producer Ryan Murphy gives them at that point in their careers.  I realize it’s not a documentary.  And, no, I didn’t turn it off. 
Paul Ross also wrote in, about his two brief but pleasant encounters with Bette Davis, one in which, during her cross-country interview tour with press rep John Springer, she invited, Ross and sixty of his friends (they’d bought a block of tickets) backstage.  Ross and most of his pals declined, thinking they’d be an intrusion.  Now he regrets not accepting. Believe me, if Davis hadn’t genuinely wanted visitors, nothing on earth could have moved her to a Joan Crawford moment of “gracious lady” fan appreciation.
ENDQUOTE:  By now it has become infamous, but the mind still reels over Brian Williams’ “poetic” reaction to American airstrikes in Syria last week.  “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons” he declared at one point, and at another, waxed on over “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments.”  The best part wasn’t even the immediate trashing he took from social media.  It was the expressions on the faces of Brian’s guests as the anchorman’s mind was clearly the thing that was literally in the air. 
Williams thinks highly of himself, and we are likely to hear more of his ponderous pontifications.  (Brian’s “11th Hour” program was initially something of a relief from the one-way partisanship of MSNBC.  But now it seems nothing more than a vehicle for him to listen to the sound of his own voice.) 

Then again, Mr. Williams’ icky admiration for weapons of destruction did lighten the mood somewhat. (HBO’s John Oliver was hilarious on Williams this past Sunday night.)
As for what happens next, nobody seems to have a follow-up plan.  But in matters Middle East, nobody ever does. 

P.S. The Syrian airstrikes made conservative provocateur Ann Coulter very unhappy. So, for those who hate the idea of a happy Ann C., something good came out of the “beauty of fearsome armaments.” Try hard enough and one can always see the glass as half-full.

Contact Liz here.