Guest Diary

LIZ SMITH: The Ladies Who Ruled the SAG Awards

SAG Life Achievement Award winner Debbie Reynolds in "Singin' in the Rain."
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
by Liz Smith

The Ladies Who Ruled the SAG Awards — Viola Davis ... Debbie Reynolds ... Frances McDormand ... Julianne Moore.

“I GAVE it all I had, and I’m grateful that others seem to be receiving it so well.” That was Debbie Reynolds, years ago, expressing her thanks for — something. For one of her many hit films, or her successful stage run in “Irene” or her appearances all over the world with her nightclub act.
Debbie Reynolds, with Carrie Fisher (kneeling), and company in the 1973 revival of "Irene."
VIOLA DAVIS the “How To Get Away With Murder” star impressed me the most, onstage at the SAG Awards Sunday night — addressing her age, her color and her lack of traditional femme fatale attributes. She was so appealing.

The star-filled audience also seemed to appreciate the great Debbie Reynolds, one of the last of the MGM stellar titans, receiving a Life Achievement Award.
Debbie Reynolds accepting her Life Achievement Award from daughter Carrie Fisher.
Like Doris Day, Reynolds has often been underrated because of the wholesomeness of her image — although Debbie is known, privately, to have a fairly wacky, even bawdy sense of humor. And, like Doris Day, Debbie has been through a lot — lousy taste in men, financial disaster, and surviving in a business where sentiment is usually trumped by box-office bottom lines.
Debbie Reynolds as Miss Burbank, 1948. Debuting at Warner Brothers with an uncredited bit part later that year in "June Bride."
She entered a beauty contest (Miss Burbank) at 16, because she wanted the blouse that the winner received. She got the blouse, a screen test and a life she has consistently described as “a fairy tale.” A rather grim fairy tale, at times, but Reynolds’ stock-in-trade, as an actress and as a person, was to walk down the sunny side of the street. No sun? Well, in the words of the song, “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

Debbie’s work, even in the most minor MGM trifle, was consistently endearing and convincing, never a false note. Madcap comedy, song and dance, drama. She was one of the last of the triple-threat girls, who could astonish the likes of Gene Kelly with her talent and determination. (She’d never danced before “Singin' in the Rain.”)
Gene Kelly and Debbie in "Singin' in the Rain."
And, she was a knockout. Debbie actually had a better figure than the woman who kindly took Eddie Fisher off her hands. (Elizabeth and Debbie “made up” during La Liz’s marriage to Richard Burton, and in later years, when Elizabeth lived in Los Angeles, they were close. Time had healed many wounds. And anyway, it was Eddie Fisher, you know?)
Just like today's magazines — tormenting Angelina and Jennifer — the saga of Liz and Debbie remained endlessly newsworthy.
Eddie Fisher ... The Widow Todd ... and Debbie. ("Hmmmm ... did I invite Elizabeth to Eddie's show?")
I’m still annoyed that Debbie didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Mother,” a few years back. (Her one nod was for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and I don’t even think that’s her best early work.) But the audience at the SAG awards stood up, and gave Miss Reynolds a hearty standing ovation. She deserved it, and it was the least the industry could do for a real star.
Debbie with Albert Brooks in "Mother."
TWO MORE in the worthiest winners category: Julianne Moore for “Still Alice” and Frances McDormand for HBO’s powerful, poignant mini-series “Olive Kitteridge.” I liked how Frances thanked her brilliant co-star Richard Jenkins, but then went on to praise their movie and encourage everyone to see it — “Stream it — although I don’t know how to do that — view it on Hulu, the DVD is available!” Then she plugged her current stage appearance, “right down the street.” No pretentious “actor” talk or an endless list of agents and managers. She’s a working woman, with product to promote.
SWEET MOMENT caught by the camera at the very end of the SAG event. Kevin Costner came down off stage and apparently went immediately to embrace Jennifer Aniston, who was weeping. They co-starred in “Rumor Has It.”
Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images.
I FEEL absurd saying this, but my “fans on Twitter” want me to try to convince Madonna to host “Saturday Night Live” again when the time comes for her to promote her “Rebel Heart” album next month. Hmmm ... as much as I admire Madonna, I’ve never known her to take any of the “advice” I’ve occasionally delivered to her through this column. But, I will do my best.

Madonna, honey — please host “SNL!”
Madonna hosting SNL in 1985 with Jon Lovitz, Danitra Vance, Nora Dunn, Terry Sweeney, Randy Quaid, Joan Cusack, Dennis Miller, Anthony Michael Hall, and Robert Downey Jr.
EVERYBODY'S friend, Joe Franklin, has left us! He broke so many stories and encouraged so much talent and was decent and funny, delving into the lives of stars and bit players, other journalists and just generally giving show business the best before we both became "natural blondes."

I think we both improved with age. So long, Joe, we're all going to miss you.
Liz with Joe Franklin.
YOU CAN buy, subscribe or steal the issue of February's Glamour magazine and you will get Allison Williams on the cover, coming and going. She is gorgeous.

It must be very satisfying for Brian (NBC) and Jane Williams to watch of their own children shoot to the top and become one of those "overnight” successes.

This issue of Glamour from Cindi Leive boasts a great advice opener from the savvy woman editor about why when we follow the premises and the staples of romantic philosophy in life, we are following the wrong path.

Cindi calls the following "Love Myths" and begs us to avoid them:

1. Love means never having to say you're sorry.
2. When you meet him, you'll know!
3. You complete me.
4. Never go to bed angry.

Cindi says these rules are totally at odds with the facts!
DIANE von Furstenberg is kicking off her first costume jewelry collection and has this to say about it. She is very funny!

"I like to say that my wrap dress is a wonderful thing because you can put it on and take it off without making any noise, which is good if you want to leave in the middle of the night. But the jewelry is a problem — it's not quiet!"
IF YOU like to dote on media celebrity — and who doesn't — and you missed the New York Times magazine last Sunday, move heaven and earth to find it because it boasts a terrific story by Jim Rutenberg on Fox's new star, Megyn Kelly.

Evidently Ms. Kelly's no-nonsense on air personality leads to arguments about whether she is liberal or conservative or just a first-rate news person?

Ms. Kelly is another Roger Ailes creation and proves once again that whatever you may think, the engine behind the creative Ailes-Kelly team is cooking and Fox is knocking 'em all out of the box.

Contact Liz Smith here.