Monday, September 25, 2023

HEALTHWATCH: SOPHIA LOREN

Sophia Loren has been rushed to hospital to undergo emergency surgery after suffering a bad fall at her home in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Hollywood star, 89, was left with several fractures to her hip and and a series fracture to her femur after she fell in the bathroom of her home this weekend.

Sophia's sons, Carlo Jr., 55, and Edoardo, 50, have been by her side throughout the ordeal and her time in hospital, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

News about Sophia's condition was shared by the team at her self-titled restaurant chain, who shared the news on their Instagram page.

The statement read: 'A fall at her home in Geneva today caused Ms Loren hip fractures. Operated with a positive outcome, she will now have to observe a short period of recovery and follow a road to rehabilitation.

'Thankfully everything worked out for the best and the Lady will be back with us very soon. The whole team at Sophia Loren Restaurant takes this opportunity to wish her a speedy recovery.'

The post announcing Sophia's surgery news was flooded with support from her devoted fans, wishing the star a speedy recovery.

Sophia had been due to open a fourth branch of her restaurant chain in Bari, Italy, on Tuesday. The Italian native was also due to receive honorary citizenship from the city.

The events have been cancelled along with her other upcoming public engagements, according to the publication.


It reported that Sophia will have a short a convalescence before undergoing a long rehabilitation process in order to recover from the surgery.

Sophia most recently appeared in the 2020 Netflix film The Life Ahead, directed by her son Edoardo, which won her a David di Donatello Award for best actress. Sophia plays a Holocaust survivor who bonds with a 12-year-old Nigerian immigrant.

Speaking to Ew.com, she explained: 'I love cinema so much. I want to keep doing it forever. I know it's difficult to find good stories, but sometimes I fall in love with the right ones. I intend to make movies forever.'

Earlier this year, Sophia was named as one of the AFT 50 greatest movies of classical Hollywood cinema. She is the only living actress on the list.

Some of her most iconic films include Two Women (1961) and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963).



Friday, September 22, 2023

THE TRUTH ABOUT DON'T FENCE ME IN

Originally written in 1934 for Adios, Argentina, an unproduced 20th Century Fox film musical, "Don't Fence Me In" was based on text by Robert (Bob) Fletcher, a poet and engineer with the Department of Highways in Helena, Montana. Cole Porter, who had been asked to write a cowboy song for the 20th Century Fox musical, bought the poem from Fletcher for $250. Porter reworked Fletcher's poem, and when the song was first published, Porter was credited with sole authorship. Porter had wanted to give Fletcher co-authorship credit, but his publishers did not allow it. The original copyright publication notice dated October 10, 1944 and the copyright card dated and filed on October 12, 1944 in the U.S. Copyright Office solely lists words and music by Cole Porter. After the song became popular, however, Fletcher hired attorneys who negotiated his co-authorship credit in subsequent publications. Although it was one of the most popular songs of its time, Porter claimed it was his least favorite of his compositions.

Porter's revision of the song retained quite a few portions of Fletcher's lyrics, such as “Give me land, lots of land”, “... breeze ... cottonwood trees”, “turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle,” “mountains rise ... western skies”, “cayuse”, “where the west commences,” and “... hobbles ... can’t stand fences,” but in some places modified them to give them “the smart Porter touch”. Porter replaced some lines, rearranged lyric phrases, and added two verses. (Porter's verses about Wildcat Kelly are not included in any of the hit recordings of the song but are used in the Roy Rogers film of the same title. Roy Rogers sings the first verse with the lyric "Wildcat Willy" when he performed it in 1944's Hollywood Canteen. Both verses are included in the Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Connick Jr. versions of the song.).




Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters with Vic Schoen and his Orchestra recorded it in 1944, without having seen or heard the song. Crosby entered the studio on July 25, 1944. Within 30 minutes, he and the Andrews Sisters had completed the recording, which sold more than a million copies and topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks in 1944–45. This version also went to number nine on the Harlem Hit Parade chart. Reportedly, Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters didn't care for the song as well...



Wednesday, September 20, 2023

RECENTLY VIEWED: ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING

I recently discovered a new show that I think will appeal to many people. Since there are not any worthwhile shows on the broadcast channels, the streaming channels have really stepped up their game. If you like murder mysteries with great comedy then check out "Only Murders In The Building". The show is an American mystery comedy-drama television series created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman. The plot follows three strangers, played by Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, with a shared interest in true crime podcasts who become friends while investigating suspicious deaths in their affluent Upper West Side apartment building, and producing their own podcast about the cases. Its three 10-episode seasons premiered on Hulu in August 2021, June 2022, and August 2023.

The series has received critical acclaim for its comedic approach to crime fiction, as well as the performances and chemistry of the lead cast. It has received nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Martin and Short.


It amazing that Steve Martin is now 78 and Martin Short is 73, and they have not lost any of their comedic timing. Steve Martin has said he will retire after this show, but he is still as brilliant in this show as he was as a rising comic in the early 1970s. In season one, Steve really did some great physical comedy that just was hilarious. Recently, a report came out blasting Martin Short, and making it out that he was not a good actor, but everything Martin Short does is amazing. Selena Gomez, for being a younger actress, really meshes good with the powerhouse comedic legends. Her voice is kind of annoying at times, but she is likeable as well. The supporting cast is excellent as well and guest stars such as Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Paul Rudd, and Meryl Streep really add to this top notch comedy. 


On September 3, 2021, it was reported that Only Murders in the Building set a record for the most-watched comedy premiere in Hulu history. On October 28, 2021, Hulu Originals president Craig Erwich said in an interview with Vulture that the show had become the most-watched comedy ever on Hulu "by a good measure." I have just started season 3, but I hope there are more seasons. There has been no announcement for a season 4, and it all depends on the writer and actor's strike, but I hope we see more seasons. The writing, the acting - and just the overall program is amazing. There's not many good comedies on television today, so this show is an exception. To see Steve Martin and Martin Short banter together is worth the cost of Hulu alone!

MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10



Saturday, September 16, 2023

HOLLYWOOD URBAN LEGEND: MAE WEST

URBAN LEGEND: Was Mae West really a man?

ANSWER: NO! 

Before Mae West's death in 1980, at the age of 87, there were rumours of a dark, deep secret which would be revealed only posthumously. The received wisdom, based in part on the drag-act appeal of her screen persona, was that she had really been a man. Watts authoritatively dismisses this on page one as an unworthy canard: 'Her death certificate, signed by a physician and an undertaker, confirms that she was all woman.' But she spends the next 373 pages insinuating another deep, dark secret in its place: that whiter-than-white Mae West was really black.

Professor Watts adduces no genealogical evidence for this startling claim, beyond the fact that the 'ethnicity' of West's paternal grandfather, a hardy seafarer named John Edwin West, is 'harder to pinpoint' than those of her other three 'undisputedly European' grandparents....



Tuesday, September 12, 2023

JERRY LEWIS AND MEMORIES OF DAMN YANKEES

 I had the honor of seeing Jerry Lewis in Damn Yankees when the touring show came to Pittsburgh in 1995/1996. We had great seats, and as a naive kid of 21 when, I could have sworn Lewis and I made eye contact. Here is an article in Playbill which came out around that time...


Jerry Lewis pops out of the revolving door at Carmine’s, across West 44th Street from the Marquis where he’s currently holding court as the Devil in Damn Yankees. Not a ta-dah—not even a boing boing—marks the moment, but “A Star” moves among us all the time. He moves with an almost musical self-assurance, via a gait that he got from Bob Hope—the easy-breezy amble that says you know a lot about either gags or golf—and, on him, it looks swell. Really swell.

He kibitzes with the cashier until a waiter signals the table’s ready; then, slipping into automatic star stride, he’s off. “Goin’ amongst ‘em” has never been a chore for Jerry Lewis—a star’s gotta do what a star’s gotta do—and, as usual, smiles of recognition line his path like falling dominoes. Along the way an older, bolder soul stands up, utters the generic, “Howzit going, Jer?” and extends his hand as a friend might. Lewis takes the hand in the manner it’s offered, presses it warmly and chides, “You don’t write,” then saunters on, letting the laughs explode behind him and follow him to his seat.

Mitchell Maxwell, a producer of Damn Yankees, didn’t “paper” Carmine’s with Central Casting just to get that response either—no matter how well it illustrates why he hired Lewis to play the show’s soul-swapping Satan.


“The thing we’re most excited about,” Maxwell admits, “is we’re bringing a great star to Broadway. Other than Glenn Close, we don’t have a great star on Broadway—an international star where you say, ‘You gotta see this guy’—and Broadway needs grandeur. Apart from his performance and the fact he’ll sell tickets, I think he’s going to bring an aura of star power back to Broadway.”

On the surface of it, Lewis might an unlikely choice to follow Victor Garber’s fiendishly funny Applegate. For starters, they’re 23 years apart in age—exactly: on the same day this month Garber (a younger-than-springtime) will be 46, Lewis turns (a just-as-astonishing) 69—“69, going on nine,” he likes to say.


According to Lewis’ own clock, his comedy comes from the kid inside, alive and kicking after all these chronological years. “I’m really, basically, nine, and I’ve always been that. I’ve never, ever allowed the child within me to die. I love the fact that the mischief in me is alive and that next year, I will celebrate my 70th birthday on the stage of Damn Yankees somewhere in America.”

When the press pressed him for the “special quality” he’ll bring to the role that wasn’t there before, Lewis went for the easy laugh—in one modest word: “brilliance!” Actually, it looks as if he’s taking the Peck’s Bad Boy approach to deviltry, playing it mischievous and child-like, a tact he took “for most of my career. The beauty of Applegate—what I saw in the character, when I saw the show—was that if I can bring mischief to this character, it’s going to be fun for everyone. That quality wouldn’t fit with Victor, but I’m going to play with it. In rehearsal, I’m hoping to find places for these little pieces that have been going through my brain. If my director says, ‘Let’s go for that,’ then it goes in and we see how it works. If it doesn’t, we dump it. But this show doesn’t need anybody to come in and change it. It just needs a little spark of difference. You can have a full plate without hurting the essence of what you’re doing. That won’t be touched.”


Lewis is plainly putting script over shtick. “Broadway theatre demands discipline, particularly in this show, which has a lot of cues and pyrotechnics involved. Somebody would get hurt. You can’t knock around. For a comic to put a public performance in jeopardy for a snickering little laugh—no no no, I don’t believe in it. I’d fire the son of a bitch in a heartbeat.”

Not only is Lewis’ Lucifer younger than Garber’s, in a strange way he’s older as well—closer to Ray Walston’s original Tony-winning design (Satan as Showbiz Veteran). Garber characterized Applegate as “the vaudevillian from Hell” and acted it accordingly (to Tony-nominated effect, in fact), but Lewis is the authentic article—and the vaudevillian from Hellzapopin, his previous (1977) Broadway assault that got only as far as Boston. Its title is no longer in his lexicon and its major players no longer in his Rolodex. What did he learn from this experience? “I learned not to think about it.” Period. Paragraph.

“Most performers are used to the highs and the lows,” he says. “If you can let a low stop you, that would be a sad commentary. Nothing can stop anyone who has a love and passion about their work. Babe Ruth got to plate and struck out 1,330 times. I struck out one time. I just wanted to play it again.”

Establishing this belated Broadway beachhead is not a light thing for Lewis. “I’m very focused on the responsibility of Broadway—more than ever in my career—because I’m finally getting to that place I’ve been dreaming about. You remember that old thing about ‘be careful what you dream because you might get it’? It doesn’t work that way with me. This dream coming true is something I have to really be certain I’m terrific at. I need that for me. And I’ve been thrown a helluvah set of dice. Nobody gets this chance. With a body of work like mine, then all of a sudden—hey, Broadway! This just doesn’t happen to a guy in the autumn of his life. To have done as much as I’ve done and still get a shot at something that I’ve never done, I mean, it’s really incredible!”

Danny Lewis can take a bow, too. “Everything I do that’s been good I learned from my father. I started watching him when I started working with him at five—vaudeville, burlesque, Catskills. He was star material, but he didn’t have what you need to be a star. He didn’t have the passion. There was no one in the business as good as he was—mime, singing, pratfalls—but all he needed to be happy was to feed and clothe his family and to perform when he could. So, when I hit it big with Dean [Martin], he was in the spotlight every gig I did—in his mind. He’d say, ‘When you’ve played Broadway, you’ve done it all.’ He’d tease me about it, but he wanted to see that more than anything.”


Saturday, September 9, 2023

PAST OBITS: VIVIAN BLAINE

Here is the obituary for the great Vivian Blaine. This was originally published in The Independent in Great Britain. The British had more of an appreciation of past stars so their obituarties were always more detailed...


Death of Vivian Blaine
by Tom Vallance - The Independent

A fine singer with an acerbic sense of humour rarely given full reign by Hollywood, the red-headed Vivian Blaine starred in several musical films of the Forties including Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair before finding greatest fame when she made her Broadway debut as Adelaide, the "perennial fiancee" of the classic musical Guys and Dolls.

Born Vivian Stapleton in Newark, New Jersey, in 1921, she started her career as a band singer with Art Kassel (and his "Kassels in the Air"). Given a contract by 20th Century-Fox in 1942, she played four minor roles before being launched as their new singing discovery in Jitterbugs (1943), starring Laurel and Hardy. Publicised as "the Cherry Blonde", she was then given the romantic lead in two Technicolor musicals, Greenwich Village and Something for the Boys (both 1944), but they were second-league fare. The former had a mediocre score (though Blaine warbled the standard "Whispering" prettily), while Something for the Boys, from Cole Porter's Broadway musical, kept only Porter's title-song and a fanciful plot strand involving a tooth filling which picked up radio broadcasts.

Her next film, Nob Hill (1945), entertainingly reworked one of the studio's favourite story-lines - a Barbary Coast saloon-owner falls for a society beauty and ruinously tries to move out of his class. Blaine was effective as the faithful singer waiting in the wings, and introduced two popular Jimmy McHugh / Harold Adamson ballads, "I Don't Care Who Knows It" and "I Walked In (With My Eyes Wide Open)".


The enormously successful State Fair (1945) followed, with Blaine as the midway performer who leaves the farm-boy Dick Haymes sadder but wiser. The score included three big hits and Blaine introduced one of them, "That's For Me", though her studio, alas, had a policy which forbade its stars from making recordings.

Blaine's Doll Face (1945) was a lower-budget affair in black-and-white, a sign that Fox were losing interest. Betty Grable was still their reigning musical star, the response to Blaine's first two major musicals had been disappointing, and she lacked the sweet ingenuousness of other rising contract stars such as Jeanne Crain and June Haver. Haver was top-billed in Three Little Girls in Blue (1946), the story (another studio favourite) of three girls who masquerade as an heiress, her secretary and maid in order to ensnare a millionaire. Blaine introduced a lovely Josep Myrow / Mack Gordon ballad, "Somewhere in the Night", in an exquisitely orchestrated and filmed sequence.

If I'm Lucky (1946), a pleasant but low-budget musical political satire co-starring Carmen Miranda (also about to leave the studio) and Perry Como, was Blaine's last Fox film, but four years later she was to have the biggest triumph of her career when Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway. The show was immediately recognised as a masterwork, and Blaine's sympathetically droll performance as the adenoidal showgirl, engaged for 14 years to the gambler Nathan Detroit, won her the Donaldson Award for best debut performance. She had three show-stopping numbers, the farmyard pastiche, "A Bushel and a Peck" (initially the show's most popular song), the wryly cynical "Take Back Your Mink", and best of all her description of the "psychosomatic" cold she has developed due to her unmarried status, "Adelaide's Lament".


After two years on Broadway Blaine came to London to recreate her role at the Coliseum, and while here appeared in the Royal Variety Show. She played Adelaide in the 1955 film version, but there was little chemistry between Blaine and a miscast Frank Sinatra (as Nathan).

She had returned to Hollywood to appear with Esther Williams in Skirts Ahoy! (1952), but her career was now concentrated on the theatre and night- clubs. In 1956 she replaced Shelley Winters in a strongly dramatic play about drug addiction, A Hatful of Rain. She returned to the musical theatre with Say Darling (1958, score by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green), starred in Carl Reiner's comedy Enter Laughing (1963), and replaced Jane Russell (who in turn had replaced Elaine Stritch) in the original production of Sondheim's Company in 1971, lending her own brand of acerbity to "The Ladies Who Lunch".

During the last two decades she worked in television, including a continuing role in the soap-opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, in clubs and in touring productions of both plays and musicals, including Gypsy, Follies, The Glass Menagerie, Zorba, A Streetcar Named Desire and Hello Dolly...




Sunday, September 3, 2023

BAD CINEMA: WICKED STEPMOTHER

One of the worst movies that I remember seeing is 1989's Wicked Stepmother. The film is a poorly made black comedy film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen and starring Bette Davis and Barbara CarreraWicked Stepmother is best known for being the last film of Bette Davis, who withdrew from the project after filming began, citing major problems with the script, Cohen's direction, and the way she was being photographed. Cohen later claimed she really dropped out due to ill health but avoided publicizing the truth for fear it would affect potential future employment. Davis disputed this claim.

The original plot cast Davis as the title character, a chain-smoking witch named Miranda, who has married Sam while his vegetarian daughter Jenny and son-in-law Steve are on vacation. They return to find their new stepmother has filled their refrigerator with meat and played havoc with their collection of herbs. To explain Davis' absence, the script was rewritten to introduce Miranda's daughter Priscilla, a witch who inhabited Miranda's cat. They both share one existence in human form and while one is human the other must live in the form of a cat the rest of the time. Priscilla takes on a human form while Miranda's spirit inhabits the body of the cat. Priscilla then sets out to defeat Jenny who has figured out that there is something going on. Priscilla uses witchcraft and deception to convince everyone Jenny is wrong. The entire time she refuses to switch bodies with Miranda. Jenny then figures out that they're witches and tries to stop them from ruining her family.


The cast included some familiar faces in addtion to Bette Davis. Old supporting actors like Lionel Stander, Evelyn Keyes, and Seymour Cassel make appearances in this dreadful film. Joan Crawford appears in a photo as the deceased wife of Sam and mother of Jenny. The estranged relationship between Jenny and her late mother is a reference to the exposĂ© memoir Mommie Dearest, written by Crawford's adopted daughter, Christina Crawford. Crawford was also known for her feud with Davis during the filming of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.

The movie surprisingly cost $2.5 million to make and initially only took in $44,000. Had Bette Davis stayed in the film, it might have been different. Sadly, this is the last movie that Bette Davis was a part of, and it ranks up there as one of the worse movies of all time...

MY BAD RATING: 10 OUT OF 10