Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Cult of Kim & Co.

Kim shocks married lover Kirk Douglas with her confession in "Strangers When We Meet."
Kim Novak ... Andrew Lloyd Webber ... "Jane the Virgin" ... Michael Caine says MeToo, too ... and Nikon celebrates 100 Years.
by Denis Ferrara

of Kim Novak — and yes, it is real and growing — exists almost entirely based on her screen work, which looks so much better now than it did in her heyday. Her tentative underplaying strikes a modern-day chord. Novak, in her best years, created something most American movie stars don’t have — mystery. Her hushed, hesitant voice and manner were at odds with a body made for 1950s exploitation.

“If Elizabeth Taylor conjured spoilt privilege and later, wild over-indulgence; a woman of nightclubs and ballrooms, and Marilyn Monroe was a singing/dancing Technicolor confection, a humorous (if increasingly bruised) fantasy — Kim Novak was a creature of twilight hours; breaking dawn or sunset. She was for all her voluptuous invitation, elusive, a woman no man could really know, even if he “knew” her, in the Biblical sense.
“Her life off-screen, despite that period of high glamour and gossip, was also an underplayed performance. She knew how to step away from the fire of temptation. She never peered into the abyss. She controlled her insecurities without drugs or drink to muffle reality. She beat the system, with her money and her marbles intact. The movie industry loves its own despair, its self-created tragedies, especially the female variety. So read it and weep, Hollywood: Kim Novak — The Blonde That Got Away.”

The above celebratory words were written about ten years ago, by inveterate movie fan ... Denis Ferrara.
I had long been, and still am, a great admirer of Miss Novak, who really is the blonde who got away, a woman who was, at her heyday, probably as vulnerable — that overworked word — if not more so than the famously fragile Marilyn, who was a much tougher cookie than her image allowed. 

So for those interested, and/or anybody visiting San Francisco on May 20th, Kim Novak will appear “live and in-person” at the Castro Theater, for “A Tribute to a Living Legend,” which for once is not hyperbole.  Marc Huestis, described on Wikipedia as an “award-winning filmmaker, camp impresario and social activist” is putting the event together.
Kim will chat onstage with TCM’s Eddie Muller, there will some noshing and mingling — but please, no autographs or photos — a screening of “Vertigo,” which is Kim’s most famous film, though for my money, she’s better in “Middle of the Night,” “Strangers When We Meet,” “Bell, Book and Candle,” “Picnic”  and hilarious in “The Mirror Crack’d.”

And then Kim, who is an artist of no small talent, will unveil her latest works.  For tickets visit www.ticketfly.com/event/1645627
I hope the film clips are chosen wisely. Her most compelling performances, the archetypical Novak woman was one whose inner-life was always split, fighting for her soul, trapped by her more obvious charms.  In real life, she chose her soul.
Kim as Madeleine in Hitchcock's masterpiece, "Vertigo."
As Betty Preisser in Delbert Mann's“Middle of the Night."
As Gillian 'Gil' Holroyd in Richard Quine's “Bell, Book and Candle.”
RECOMMENDED reading:  I had intended to dive into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s autobiography “Unmasked” — I’d heard it was good.  Good and juicy.  But now I have read Adam Gopnik’s New York magazine review of the book and his somewhat revisionist look back at Lloyd Webber’s work — Gopnik thinks everybody, including him, has been a bit harsh.

Mr. Gopnik’s writing is so vital, so luscious that I feel going on to Webber’s book itself will be something of a let-down.  Oh, I’ll read the book — in fact I have it here, courtesy of the Hoboken Public Library.  But bravo to the extremely talented Mr. Gopnik, who sure knows how to write a “money” review!

Conversely, I never had an interest in watching the TV show, “Jane the Virgin.”  Somehow, despite hearing positive things, I resisted.  Nowadays there is so much to choose from.  Well, in the same issue of New York magazine, Emily Nussbaum has written a celebration of “Jane” — now in its fourth season — that is so compelling, I’ve checked On Demand for a few episodes and will try to find it complete on Netflix or Amazon.  Kudos to Mr. Gopnik and Ms. Nussbaum.  When I grow up, I want to write like you guys.
IT’S BEEN 25 years since Woody Allen was accused of molesting his now 32-year-old adopted daughter Dylan Farrow.  No charges have ever been brought against him, but he is, in some quarters guilty without trial.  Fine. Everybody’s entitled to an opinion.  The MeToo and TimesUp movements have accelerated the animus against Allen.

Increasingly, actors who worked with Allen within the last 25 years have been, it seems to me, pressured and bullied into renouncing him. This, I feel, is cowardice and moral hypocrisy on the highest level. The latest to fold is Michael Caine, who starred in Allen’s acclaimed “Hannah and her Sisters” back in 1986.
"I wouldn’t work with him again, no.”
Caine now says he would “never” work with Allen again, speaking as if he just heard of the Dylan/Mia Farrow allegations, not to mention the ugly scandal of Woody and his step-daughter Soon-Yi (now his wife of  21 years.)  Has the 89-year-Caine been under a rock for a quarter century?  No. But he remains a highly sought after actor, and no doubt he has been “advised” that if he wants to stay highly sought, he’d better denounce Allen. 

Nobody knows except Allen and Dylan what happened in the attic all those years ago.  Which always leads me to the, I’m sure, entire coincidence of the Dory Previn incest song, “With My Daddy in the Attic.” 
Previn wrote this, and many other revelatory ditties, including her bitter ode to Mia, “Beware of Young Girls,” in the wake of Mia luring away Dory’s hubby, musician Andre Previn, back in 1968.  I’m certain Mia has heard the entire album.  Eh, sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence.

As I said, we’ll never know, and my sympathies extend to Dylan (most of all), Mia and Woody. All of them are suffering terribly, in one way or another.

I extend nothing but contempt to those who reaped the rewards of working with Woody Allen, and are now too frightened and hypocritical to just stay silent, if they don’t want to wade into the murky water.
P.S.  It’s probably time to ban the works of Errol Flynn, Charlie Chaplin and Joan Crawford — and that’s right off the top of my head.  Flynn and Chaplin liked very young women, and Crawford was a child abuser, yes?  And what about all those nymphos and drunks and drug addicts — let’s get rid of their movies, too. Heartless adulteress Liz Taylor? Unfit, gangster-loving, mother Lana Turner?  Come on, let’s clean house.  Or at least have Turner Classic Movies put up a cautionary warning — “Enjoy this film if you can, but just remember, they were terrible people, with ghastly flaws.”

Next, we come after the books.
THIS last item is for Gina in the Midwest, which is the way she always signs her emails.  I apologize in advance, Gina.

The Nikon Corporation is 100 years old this year. Although the company makes such varied products as binoculars, microscopes, ophthalmic lenses, measurement instruments, rifle scopes, spotting scopes, etc. they are most famous for their cameras — those solid handheld, manual focus beauties, that required some considerable expertise by those who held them. 

So how is Nikon celebrating its centennial? What image is being used to promote a legendary century — digital wizardry and cell phone pix be dammed? But of course it is a 1962 Bert Stern photo of Marilyn Monroe, holding a Nikon camera.

At the end of Stern and Monroe’s fabled “last sitting” for Vogue magazine, which happened over several days — during which  Stern caught the star in high fashion and in the nude — Marilyn playfully grabbed Sterns Nikon and turned the tables on him, presenting herself a la paparazzi with his camera.  Dressed, coiffed and made-up simply, MM looks remarkably modern. 
And so, Miss Monroe is the face of Nikon in its 100th year.  (Chances are the majority of professional and candid photos taken of MM were courtesy of Nikon.)

Gina from the Midwest doesn’t “get” Marilyn, or my interest in her.  When a Monroe item appears, I inevitably receive something along the lines of, “Denis, Denis, Denis — why?!” 

Gina, Gina, Gina — because I can!
Contact Denis here.