By LIZ SMITH
Tribune Content Agency
“HE WAS probably one of the dullest men I ever met. If you said ‘hello’ to him, he was stuck for an answer.”
That was the great Eve Arden’s recollection of working with Ronald Reagan.
Miss Arden was the guest on a talk show, taking questions from the audience. Her remark above was not met with pleasure by the lady who asked Eve what it was like working with “My favorite, Ronald Reagan?”
The lady shrieked, “How dare you talk about my president like that?!”
Eve responded, calmly, “I worked with him, you didn’t. If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question.”
By the way, that remark – stuck for an answer if you asked how he was – was also used several times to describe Clark Gable. It reminds me of the endlessly told, most assuredly apocryphal, story of a famous actress who goes to her photographer and says, “Why aren’t these pictures as good as the ones you did of me eight years ago?” The photographer answers, “Well, you see, Marlene/Greta/Joan/Hedy/Bette/Lana/Ava/Rita, etc., I am eight years older now!”
TODAY! Please do catch two of my favorite people, chatting. I do mean theater’s infant wonderful, Michael Riedel, and Broadway’s multi-Tony Award-winning Tommy Tune, on PBS’s “Theater Talk.” Riedel and Tommy discuss the length and breadth of Tune’s career, including his beginnings as a young dancer in Texas, who wanted to move on to the big city lights of New York.
TOMORROW! AMY POEHLER will host screenings of some of her favorite films, to be shown at the “Summertime Rooftop Film Series” at the McKittrick Hotel in NYC. (This happens in the hotel’s private garden space, The Farm.)
Amy’s choices include “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “West Side Story,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Apartment,” “Sixteen Candles,” “The Bicycle Thief,” “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” For more info, go to events.mckittrickhotel.com/summerfilm.
ANOTHER beautiful re-release and restoration from Criterion DVD. This time they do their stuff on Stephen Frears’ funny, poignant, way-ahead-of-its time, “My Beautiful Laundrette.”
This tells the tale of a love affair between a London skinhead (Daniel Day-Lewis in his breakout role), a well-to-do Pakistani man (Gordon Warnecke), their various troubles, families, battles with culture and class, and the business they want to start up – a beautiful launderette.
This was director Frears’ first film with any impact. He would go on to direct movies such as “The Queen,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” “Cheri” and the recent Judi Dench tour de force, “Philomena.”
But “My Beautiful Laundrette” remains his most gently romantic and stridently up-against-the-wall work. The DVD contains, among other bonuses, new interviews with Frears, writer Hanif Kureishi and producer Colin MacCabe.
WE HAVE the Turner Classic Movies schedule for the September Susan Hayward tribute. What? After all the mail we received on Susan, I feel it my duty to report this. Here goes: “Beau Geste,” “Adam Had Four Sons,” “Reap the Wild Wind,” “Canyon Passage,” “Tulsa,” “My Foolish Heart,” “I Can Get It For You Wholesale,” “David and Bathsheba,” “The President’s Lady,” “With a Song in My Heart,” “The Lusty Men,” “Demetrious and the Gladiators,” “The Conqueror,” “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” “I Want to Live!,” “Top Secret Affair,” “The Marriage Go-Round,” “Back Street,” “Valley of the Dolls,” “Stolen Hours” and “The Honey Pot.”
That’s a pretty good sampling of her 62 feature films, although I’d like to have seen “Smash Up: Story of a Woman,” “I Married a Witch” and “The Lost Moment” from her 1940s output. Still, this will do. For now.
By the way, Susan’s 1956 potboiler “The Conqueror” is not only considered one of the worst/best bad films ever made – John Wayne as the Mongol tyrant Genghis Khan – but it had a tragic and mysterious afterlife. Miss Hayward, Wayne, and co-star Agnes Moorehead all died of cancer, as did 46 members of the crew. The Utah set of the movie was shot near a nuclear test site. John Wayne was even photographed holding a Geiger counter. Nobody realized they were working in a “hot zone.”
SPEAKING OF TCM, I caught an interview with the very funny Maya Rudolph (now being seen in IFC’s parody miniseries, “The Spoils Before Dying.” It is about ’50s crime, set against a jazz club backdrop.)
The actress said that she keeps Turner Classic Movies on all the time. All the time. “I have a TV in the kitchen and it’s on while I’m cooking and the kids are there and watching, and I sometimes wonder what are they thinking, what are they absorbing, from these glamorous black-and-white femme fatales, smoking and pulling guns and what-not?”
Don’t worry, Maya, whatever they are absorbing, it’s better than reality TV or the news – or what passes for news. (Maybe they’ll get into swimming? TCM has an Esther Williams festival every couple of months!)
I think somebody who keeps TCM on in the kitchen deserves to be a guest programmer on the network. Mr. Osborne?
ENDQUOTE: Our friend, PR man deluxe, Scott Gorenstein, had this to say about Justin Bieber’s nude photo: “He will be very popular in prison. I mean, he already has all the required tattoos!”
Joking aside, the exhibitionist transition of Bieber is something worthy of a college paper. He is so at odds with himself and his image, and what he wants his image to be. While his display of himself is not “wrong” or “bad,” it flies in the face of what he has said he wants – to be a serious force in music, as an adult, moving beyond teen sensation. There is a lot of insecurity and confusion in his behavior. Unlike others in the media maelstrom, I don’t see cynical calculation in his actions. He’s looking for validation as a sexually appealing person. But he’s been that since he was 17. Sometimes he reminds me of an aging star, desperate to hang onto fading appeal, at other times, a little boy, dressing up – or undressing – like the big boys. I say, stop trying so hard!
One wonders who – if anyone – advises him?
E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.
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