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Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life
Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life
by Sally Kellerman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $8.81
115 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Girl with Two Mothers, October 30, 2013
Sally Kellerman’s life story, “Read My Lips” evokes the Hollywood of the New American Cinema of the late 60s and 70s in a way few other books have managed to. As a public personality, Kellerman had it all—a unique look, instantly memorable, an enchanting voice with which she could have essayed Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, comic timing, an adequate singing voice, and most of all, she was there, born in LA, a product from childhood of its streets, schools, diners, bars, clubs and acting classes. She was a waitress at Chez Paulette when she first encountered Brando, McQueen, Beatty, the actors whose advocacy of the Actors Studio and a new, European-inflected directorial style led to the experimental Hollywood in which she could flourish, for in the 50s, she would have been too tall, too mannish, too kooky, too coterie. In Altman’s movies she fit in like a giraffe in a birdcage and she became famous because of them (Nashville, Brewster McCloud).

Unfortunately stardom went to her head and she began acting out in big ways, and she said no to the parts that might have continued her brief stay at the top. She had Neil Simon removed from the set of The Last of the red-Hot Lovers because he laughed when her co-star said his lines but stayed grim whenever she spoke. She was temperamental, and it showed in her face. So she took loveable dreck like Lost Horizon and quickly slipped from leading lady status to that of “mother of Diane Lane” and “mother of Jodie Foster.” Drugs, depression, alcohol, bad taste in men, none of these helped, and I don’t think dating Henry Kissinger was super smart, and meanwhile she had a mother feeding her Christian Science maxims about illness being a construct of the mind, and a sister who fled heterosexual life, and her own daughter, and left childless Sally to take poor Claire under her wing and eventually to adopt her.

Happily she also found her way into an older social circle, the A-List of Hollywood stars, and her second mother, she affirms, was the eternally glamorous and mysterious Jennifer Jones, who, ending her career just as Sally was beginning hers, helped her in innumerable ways, and introducing her to all the screen legends—Ingrid Bergman, Deborah Kerr, John Wayne, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, Louis Jourdan, many more. Perhaps she couldn’t have attained the natural style she was to master if she hadn’t encountered this glamor set to play off of, as it were. Her descriptions of Jennifer Jones herself are sublime.

So is her account of cutting a track with Quincy Jones and Harold Robbins for the soundtrack of Lewis Gilbert’s “The Adventurers,” a song called slyly “Coming and Going” in which Sally was asked to simulate moaning orgasms against an orchestral background a la “Je T’Aime … Mais Non Plus” of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.

Eventually she made a comeback of sorts as “queen of the voice-overs,” a transition for which membership in a very exclusive Hollywood group therapy chapter helped her no end. Frank Gehry and his wife are in the group apparently! And Blake Edwards, who gave her parts. And Milton, the top therapist, is always there to give her profane, pithy advice about how to handle whatever life gives you. She stands in distinction to the starlets she loved the best, her girlfriends she grew up with, women like Luana Anders and Anjanette Comer, whose lives, whether tragic or fulfilled, just don’t have the oomph you need for a book as big and sprawling as “Read My Lips.”


Rebuilding the Player Piano
Rebuilding the Player Piano
by Larry Givens
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from $3.91

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous is all in your mind, October 2, 2013
Perhaps you are one of those who participated in the Kickstarter campaign to buy Kevin an old dilapidated player piano that was on Craigslist, and then haul it to his apartment in the South of Market district of San Francisco and shove it up the three flights of steps and into the front room of our flat. I'll be the first to confess that I'm new to the automatic player hobby, and basically know little about rebuilding the player piano, so obtaining a copy of Larry Givens' classic 1963 handbook was a personal triumph. Score! Now when you come by our Minna Street pad, you'll see only the soles of my boots, the rest of me is pretty much set up store inside the World War I era beauty, trying to make the damaged pneumatics pump again, and trying to do something about the lost motion and wear in the bushings, the clicking noises that plague the hammer softeners (so reminiscent of a boyfriend I once had who, when I used to drink too much, made these disapproving tch-tch sounds in the back of his throat that just drove me up the wall!), and sundry other problems with my new investment. The problem is, as Givens explains lucidly, you don't know how bad or good the sound will be without you completely fix the pneumatic system, and I didn't know that going in!

I thought all you needed were the player piano rolls, and I have four of them, but I totally failed to grasp the concept that you must keep pumping the bottom lever and that's what introduces the air into the system, with a system of miniature bellows that looks so cute, perhaps, when they're not torn or worn out like mine are. My bivalves are worn out and weak like the earlobes of the modern primitive kids who've stretched them so they hang lower than their shoulderblades. Givens' explanations are succinct and precise: so succinct indeed that sometimes I just scratch my head and wonder, what he's on about! Too bad he's not here any more to explain at length for the ADD generation I belong to.

I think a lot of guys my age want a new living project, and for me, it's the automatic player hobby, as I have learned to call it. They exhibited four of them on the playa at Burning Man about a month ago, and I went green with envy. Some guys turn to nickelodeons (that is, a player piano with a coin slot attachment that can actually make you some money if you ever get it going), and some prefer the so-called "reproducing pianos," which instead of pumping your foot and running the roll at whatever speed you like, they are designed to re-articulate the exact style of some famous pianist of the 1900-era--there are some recordings of George Gershwin playing for the "reproducing piano." And other fans of the automatic player hobby might like the orchestra in a box, or the player violin, but give me the old fashioned Ampico 88 key-er any day.

My cats like it too. You have to pry off the front panels total, and the result is something like e three tiered shelf stuffed with keys and valves and yet, still room for three overfed cats who think they're somewhat smaller than they are. It'll be a sad day when I finally peg this sucker back together, my cats will feel the pitiful sting of exile, but for now they're living the dream. In the meantime, don't believe the reviewers who put down Givens for giving bad information. He's not going to destroy your automatic player by any means, even if you goof up, San Francisco style/


The Hound of Death (Agatha Christie Collection)
The Hound of Death (Agatha Christie Collection)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
40 used & new from $4.75

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Agatha Christie's Venereal Horror, October 1, 2013
I suppose if Mrs. Christie had proceeded in tis direction, we might now think of her as the rival of HP Lovecraft instead of the rival of Dorothy L. Sayers. Most of the stories in The Hound of Death involve the supernatural in one way or another, the nost striking of them solid entries of horror.

And some of these are sufficiently gruesome to remind us of what fans of the contemporary Canadian film director David Cronenberg call "venereal horror." I ws reminded of Cronenberg several times while reading this book and I wonder if he was a Christie fan. Bibliophiles will remember that the present volume, and another The Listerdale Mystery, were not available in the USA until the mid 1970s, perhaps to prevent diluting the detection brand of Agatha Christie with harder sorts of writing. And at that moment the addition of so much "new" gave many their first taste of a Christie whose mind went naturally to madness, possession, abjection and bodily agony, the claims of the body destroying the minds of the afflicted. (Was she into Bram Stoker and Dracula? Certainly a pervasive theme here is the exchange of energies--the sapping of one and the bloom of another.)

The title story is like a blend of Lovecraft and Stoker; it's based on a goofy "legend of World War I" almost impossible to summarize,, but basically a French convent is protected from Germans raping the nuns by an invisible hound whose silhouette is burnt by lightning into the nunnery walls. And a nun seems responsible, a rather "simple" nun--the least violent, and least sexual, creature on earth. Christie was much taken by the Joan of Arc/Little Flower trope in which earth is saved by its apparently most insignificant inhabitant. Later on this paradox flowers into Christie's insistence that one mustn't commit suicide, no matter how dire one's circumstances, because somewhere far down the road God may need you, not to do anything in particular but just to be in a particular place at a particular time, a tiny fulcrum to change the world, as in Towards Zero, Ordeal by Innocence, Destination Unknown--the existential 1950s.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael might have baffled some innocents in 1920, but today it's sort of ludicrous, so patently obvious is the main situation that in my thrift store copy someone has impatiently scrawled the words, "He's a cat" upside the second page of the story. Who was that ingenious Frenchman who argued that Christie was writing two novels in one in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, that she very much wants you to know that the ostensible (and quite famous) Poirot solution is incorrect, that the real killer is someone else? Well, I think something similar occurs in The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael. It's clear at least to me that the doctors in charge are pinning the terror on the half-Asiatic victim, while ignoring the guilt of the actual cat controller, the English rose type who comes off quiet and innocent--to them, but to me she's Satan in a dress! Thus the story ends with evil unpunished--with evil rewarded, in fact. Mrs. Christie, you had a dark dark mind.

The Fourth Man, The Lamp, The Call of Wings, Wireless, The Gipsy, The Last Séance, gee, we could divide these up into the grim comedies (like Wireless) in which a killer's plans derail by a touch of the supernatural, and the dark romances in which, like Christie's own much later Taken at the Flood, a last-minute rescue stops an OK guy from meting a horrible death to the woman he loves. The Mystery of the Blue Jar features a PG Wodehouse golfing nitwit getting his arse handed him by a gang of clever grifters.

END SPOILERS.

A few genuinely surprising and well structured plot twists appears here and there, most notably in the one famous story here, "Witness for the Prosecution," but others are just lame! Christie kept up her flirtation with horror at least until "The Dressmaker's Doll" (and perhaps the Grand Guignol setups of the late novels The Pale Horse, Halloween Party, and By the Pricking of My Thumbs), Horror remained a part of her arsenal, something to use when she wanted to introduce a red thread among the silver and gold.


Instead of a Letter: A Memoir
Instead of a Letter: A Memoir
by Diana Athill
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.51
119 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not then a memoir? You be the judge, September 24, 2013
I picked up Diana Athill's Instead of a Letter on the recommendation of poet Jennifer Moxley. Actually I don't quite remember if it was a true recommendation in the sense of "Kevin, you must read this book," or was it merely that she had mentioned the book, and that made me ask for it at my neighborhood bookstore because I like to follow her footsteps in things literary wherever possible.

Instead of a Letter (1962) is a book with much charm and integrity. Its narrative repeats itself from time to time, but it doesn't really bother the reader, more like an old friend is telling you something you've heard from her already in a different context. And plus the book benefits from what I can only imagine must have been a shocking level of frankness about sexual matters for 1962? But, I must say that I was baffled by the introduction. At least in the edition I found (Granta Books, 2001), Andrea Ashworth, apparently a name of renown in the Granta universes, tells us that such a book as Athill's was a novelty in the early 60s. "The autobiography of an ordinary person, someone of no great public eminence, Instead of a Letter was a curious work of non-fiction--what its author referred to as a `documentary' and what we would today call a `memoir.'"

Ashworth speaks as though the word "memoir" was not used in the 1960s. When does she think it came into common use? She makes me doubt my o2n senses--could it be that "memoir" is one of those now pervasive yet recent phenomena, like the internet, that we can't believe was not always in existence? Get me an OED and find me the first citation of "memoir"! Though, thinking of the recent murmurs about how amazingly late the OED has dated the first app4earance of the word "whodunit," we now know that the OED cannot inspire much real confidence any more, Ms. Ashworth! You claim in your preface to have been on a reading engagement at one time with the far older Ms. Athill. Leaves me wondering, how on earth did they pair you two so different writers? Maybe they just put you two together out of an advanced sense of alphabetical obligation, the way that Stephen King always sits between Jamaica Kincaid and Rudyard Kipling, and that guy who wrote "Field of Dreams," on the shelves of US thrift stores, or, as you might call them, "charity shops."

Amazingly, Diana Athill is apparently still alive at age 96 in London somewhere., possibly visited by Andrea Ashworth often. Her book, whether you call it "documentary" or "memoir," is well worth reading, though I did not believe her about travel's efficacy in renewing dead happiness


As I Knew Him:: My Dad, Rod Serling
As I Knew Him:: My Dad, Rod Serling
by Anne Serling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.97
47 used & new from $7.79

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What I Never Knew, September 8, 2013
As I Knew Him shows us that even years later, the unexpected death of a father can have lasting consequences.

Rod Serling belonged to the world, but he was also part of a narrows triangle of Upstate cities like Ithaca, Syracuse and Binghamton, and his heart really belonged there, There and to Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he went away to college on the GI Bill and became its most famous spokesman for the liberal principles the school espouses. He was a classmate of Coretta Scott, the woman who was to marry Dr. Martin Luther King, and Anne Serling's memoir of her father's brief life includes a telling scene of the Serlings participating in the national grief over MLK's death (she makes no mention, oddly, of her father's youthful friendship with Coretta). She has written a book filled with grief and how you can never really get over it or transcend it.

Some things I didn't realize--Rod Serling who looked so tall in those filmed introductions for The Twilight Zone, was actually quite short. Fellow GIs at Leyte called him "Short Stuff." (Serling was one of the few survivors of the Army's 111th Airborne Division, and carried to the end of his life a dark speck in the white of his eye, a souvenir of shrapnel, which gave him the oddly tilted glance that made him look quizzical and amused, even when he was angry.) Another thing that surprised me was how foul-mouthed he was en famille, with his "off color limericks" Readers with no appetite for four letter words had better avoid this book entirely, and apparently his daughter thinks it one of his cutest habits.

I loved hearing about the way Rod tried to please his two girls in every way imaginable, clowning around with them, playing on all fours with the dogs, calling them "Pops" and other unisex nicknames. He used his celebrity to lure female stars over to the house whom he thought his daughters would like--Betty White, Shari Lewis (the puppeteer who died Charley Horse and Lamb Chop) and Barbara Billingsley, the even-tempered mom from Leave it to Beaver. Misguidedly, Rod sold his ownership of The Twilight Zone back to CBS when the show ended its original run, a billion dollar mistake his survivors struggle to understand.

Anne has an Upstate way of referring to what other authors call "blurbs" as her "cover quotes." She thanks the aforementioned Betty White and also Carol Burnett, among others, for providing "cover quotes." Never heard that one before, but I will adopt the usage now myself--it's more dignified than the harsh-sounding "blurbs." I was also pleasantly amused by the sizable ratio of other reviewers who actually know the author personally and love her. That says something--something I admire.


Elysium  (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
Elysium (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Matt Damon
Price: $9.99
79 used & new from $0.99

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alice through the Looking Glass, September 4, 2013
I had the same feeling of general letdown that most of you had, and I didn't even see District 9 to get pumped up about it! But, the relentless marketing of Elysium prepared me for something grander and more interesting than what I got. The cover of Entertainment Weekly, for example, way back in May, that read "Neill Blonkamp Saves the Summer Blockbuster."

If not for that letdown, I'd give this show an A +. Any movie that puts Jodie Foster in it--here at her most scary and all too human a role, a capitalist driven to shady measures--rather like the part she played in the Spike Lee movie about the heist--any movie with Jodie in it automatically gets a pass from me because she is a genius actor! Matt Damon is not so lucky, and I don't mean even to hint at the spoilers, but I just mean his role is sort of undeveloped and just like the working class of the world he rarely gets to speak his mind or change expression. However maybe I'm wrong, because Diego Luna as Julio, Max's best friend, is very expressive, almost languid like Oscar Wilde, and lacks the bruises and welts the makeup artists have painted all over Matt's body. He seems to have wandered in from another movie, perhaps one that Merchant and Ivory were about to make when they died.

The movie seems to pivot on the great coincidence of Matt wandering into the only emergency ward in which his childhood sweetheart happens to be working and happens to be on staff. What? Well, they were careful to make the point that few medical services exist to help out the poor, but still! Earth is supposed to be so severely overpopulated there aren't enough resources for anybody. If I was Alice Braga, I'd change my agent! Alice, you're great in this as Fray the nurse with the cute little girl Matilda, but you were also great playing the exact same role in I Am Legend years ago, and maybe these post apocalyptic spectacles are killing the thing that made you Alice Braga. You don't want your audience to remember you in these parts, but that's what they're going to do, in 2054, when they're old men but still remembering when they were fifteen and saw their first Brazilian woman on screen.


Boomerang
Boomerang
DVD ~ Eddie Murphy
Price: $8.20
90 used & new from $0.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Eddie's best, September 3, 2013
This review is from: Boomerang (DVD)
Eddie was so handsome, I'm surprised he didn't make more romantic comedies like this one. If you haven't seen it, and you've only seen white movies, well, this one is sort of like Mike Nichols' Working Girl but if the latter was told from Harrison Ford's point of view and if he was much more of a player. But otherwise picture Robin Givens as the beautiful, power-hungry executive that Sigourney Weaver played, and young Halle Berry plays the Melanie Griffith part, right down to Halle looking sort of ordinary and plain (if you can imagine such a thing) and blossoming into a beauty only later on after she wises up to how a girl get s man like Eddie Murphy. Anyhow maybe Working Girl isn't such a good comparison, because Harrison Ford would have had to have had a whole posse of other hound dogs intent on nothing but carefree bachelor sexgames with pretty girls or actually any female with two legs, and he didn't. For Marcus (Eddie Murphy) much of the fun of the chase is comparing notes with his best buds David Alan Grier and Tyler (Martin Lawrence), and much of the drama comes from Eddie meeting his match with Jacqueline (Robin Givens) who teaches him a lesson in how a female player can be twice as deadly as the male and she re-sets his heartstrings.

Robin G. is awesomely beautiful in this movie, truly at her peak, and she's made up and dressed to kill. You can see how even a strong man like Mike Tyson was putty in her hands. Indeed the movie must have partially ricocheted off Robin's status as the most hated woman in America (at the time), an unfair sobriquet, but it works well for her in this picture. If you liked her in Head of the Class and in The Women of Brewster Place you will be happy to see she does some Oscar-worthy work here yet alas, she just hasn't had the breaks to win the contested Academy Award for best actress. Even in this movie, although she was billed above Halle Berry, even she must have seen the way the cards were being dealt by our heavenly father, because Halle's star was on the rise, and hers had nowhere to go but down. Halle is good in this movie, don't get me wrong, but she's no Robin Givens!

But when you look at the movie now, both Halle Berry and Chris Rock look like teenagers, like teenagers pretending to be stars. Meanwhile on the other end of the scale, Eartha Kitt and Geoffrey Holder are performing variations on their respective nightclub acts, with their distinctive voices giving rise to the most hilarious TV commercial ever filmed, with Grace Jones as "Stron-Jay," pronounced in the French style. Jones steals the show every scene she's in, and she's the one who must have brought the gay guys' butts into the movie theaters of 1992, because some of her lines are still outrageous and that TV commercial for her own perfume, well, you have to see it to believe it. Better than anything in Mad Men that's for sure. Now if this were a black version of Mad Men Eddie would be Don Draper, Robin Givens Betty Draper, and plain Jane Halle Berry could be Peggy Olson, the secretary who becomes a copywriter, but it's not, and there you are.


Vertigo (Collector's Edition)
Vertigo (Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ James Stewart
Offered by SourceMedia
Price: $20.73
88 used & new from $0.01

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vertigo challenges, September 1, 2013
It's the greatest movie of all time, at least I think so in certain moods. Tonight we saw this one at the Castro in 70 MM and it looked pretty convincing, almost as though it might have been made yesterday. But it's long, I had forgotten how long! Maybe because the movie breaks off into two more or less equal parts, it's like watching a double feature, a movie that carries its own sequel in its tail. This evening I decided to give myself up to the Bernard Herrmann music--since it's so insistent you listen to it I decided to put my other senses on dull and just go for that total immersion.... The way that Barbara Bel Geddes recommends that James Stewart immerse himself in Mozart ("Mozart is the boy for you," she says, rather infantilizing Mozart if such a thing were actually possible, but that sort of remark reminds me of why Scotty doesn't really appreciate Midge's good qualities, because she's so much like a mother!)--in other words, I let the Herrmann score wash all over me like the high tide that splashes behind the lovers in the climactic kiss scene in Vertigo.

So what happened? I started wondering, that one theme is so dominant and seductive in the score, was it ever made into a pop tune with lyrics, sung by Nat King Cole or Julie London or someone? Help me out there, soundtrack geeks! It's gorgeous indeed, and yet I remember when I was a kid seeing Vertigo for the first time, I didn't like the music, it felt dissonant and distracting. There's that one section of music when Scottie follows Madeline Elster into the Mission Dolores and he turns a corner and finds himself in the graveyard where the music goes sort of "religious" in a really rote way that just wasn't working for me, it made me giggle to myself like, didn't anybody else in the theater get the joke? The Castro crowd was certainly giggling when Midge tells Scottie, "Oh you want the kind of guy who knows about the gay old times in San Francisco back when everything was gay!" But when this mock religious bell tinkle music began I heard nothing from the audience, just awe perhaps.

SPOILER ALERT. Now for my own challenges with the movie.

I was struck by Ellen Corby here as perhaps never before, the hotel manager who wipes her rubber plant leaves with olive oil. How is it that Madeline is in her room, above their heads, and yet Corby swears that she never came today, points to the key dangling from the hook? We have seen her with our own eyes, and it looks like she's undressing, and yet when Corby calls down the stairs, "Mister Detective, do you want to take a look yourself?" Scottie manages to run up the stairs like a trouper and no, she's not there. But why? Corby must be lying, perhaps she is in on the plot but if so, why the mystification here? Why doesn't she just say, "Yes, she's upstairs," and Scottie can wait for her to leave? I wonder if there wasn't some extra plot line being developed here that eventually for cut back from the finished film, in which dematerialization itself would have been used by the criminal cohort? But for those who think that Gavin Elster will get off scot-free at the end because Scottie has no living witness for the substitution plot at the heart of the film, I foresee a crazy Scottie going back to the McKittrick and rubbing Ellen Corby with olive oil until she too confesses her involvement (whatever it is), and voila, Elster led off in handcuffs and Corby sobbing and dripping with emollient.

And also, has anyone thought much about Midge as a possible accomplice to the murder? I thought about it during the Argosy Bookshop scene, where Midge first assures Scottie, oh, Pop Leibel the bookseller, sure, he's a great friend of mine! But when they go to the store, Pop seems only vaguely aware of Midge at best. he calls her Ma'am or Miss as though he's never met her before. When Midge goes back into the store and taps Pop's knee, affectionately saying,"Aw thanks Pop!" a little ping went off in my head and I thought, "She's lying!" It seemed she was lying all through the movie, and once you see it, you can't miss it for the rest of the movie, she just seems guilty of everything! Maybe some of it can be blamed on a certain blatant quality of the exposition, "Midge, we were engaged for three weeks, weren't we? Or am I remembering wrong?" Her pencil snaps, her eyes narrow, female rage threatens to boil over the lens but she's already part of the plot or so I gather. I wish Midge could write out a letter to Scottie apologizing for framing him, the way that Judy Barton does, such a handy device for telling us what went on while we were just grooving with the brooding music and wondering why San Francisco has so many white people in it! There's that one beautiful, tall Asian woman sitting in a corner at Ernie's--just representing, I guess. And maybe a Spanish man or two among the jury panel at San Juan Bautista during the inquest into Madeline's death.

How about James Stewart's nightmare? We see him and Gavin Elster triangulating over a beautiful woman dressed as Carlotta in the painting, and we see, it's not Kim Novak at all, it's the original of the painting. Is the actress supposed to be playing the actual Madeline who by this time has been killed? And Scottie's subconscious is somehow pointing this up to him so that he wakes up sweating? What is the name of that actress I wonder? "Regal" isn't the word for her. Is she Vera Miles? No, I think she's too old to be Vera Miles. (Kind informants have told me that this actress, whose eyes can be seen close up in the opening title sequence, with spirals coming out of them, is called Joanne Genthon, who never made another picture!)

So, I don't have time to read all 493 other reviews of Vertigo to see if others have established the guilt of Barbara Bel Geddes, but I did see that one reviewer (at least one) has applied the Alison Bechdel test to Vertigo and seen it fail, since the two female leads seem never to be in the same frame (though we do see Midge driving by Scottie's apartment at the exact same moment that Madeline steps out of his door, and Midge starts muttering behind the wheel and drives away, apparently upset). But perhaps not upset at all, since she has engineered the whole thing? Maybe there's a reason in the plot and not such in the psychosexual atmosphere, why Judy must not see Midge at this point in time--or at any point, since doing so would make Elster's and Midge's plot collapse in of itself? Does the key to the mystery lie back in Salina, Kansas? I think so. If someone gave me one hundred dollars, I'd find out the truth and tell the world.

Vertigo is also a film in which women show men representations of more than one woman (as though to hint at a "monstrous regiment of women" that might one day bring down the oligarchy)--we have Midge of course gleefully jamming her own face into her version of the Legion of Honor portrait of Carlotta (as though to say, "I did it") and we also have Judy showing Scottie her proofs of identity--her dad in one old photo, and she and her mother in another. Check out that photo of Judy and her mother, what are we really looking at? Was Judy to have been kept away from Midge because she might recognize the face of her own mother? I know it sounds preposterous, but really, when Scottie asks Midge if she remembers Gavin Elster from when they were all in college together before the war, and she shakes her head "no," maintaining her quizzical smile--frankly I don't believe her! The screenwriters link her to Elster, then encourage you to forget about their college days together. Scottie and Elster seem about a million years older than Midge, but if she was in school with them, is she also supposed to be fiftyish--in other words, plenty old enough to be Judy's mother. And in that case, is it too far removed to name Scottie as Judy's father, perhaps conceived during the famous 3 week engagement?!?! I don't think so. Watch Vertigo again with my theory in mind and watch the jigsaw puzzle click together.

I have now watched and rewatched the so called alternate ending to Vertigo, an extra to the DVD (and also readily available on You-Tube). What do you think? For me it is proof positive of Midge's guilt, as she hears the radio announcer report that Gavin Elster has been captured and prosecuted in Europe, and her face grows bleak as she realizes, in my mind, that Gavin will turn state's evidence on her on whatever the equivalent term is in the courts of Italy. She will never get her Scottie, who stands a broken man next to her even if she's cleaned out nearly every trace of herself as an artist. And how about the announcer's report on the three Berkeley students arrested for trying to smuggle a cow up a staircase? Three Berkeley students (Gavin, Midge, Scottie). Staircase? Well, we know what that is. "Cow"? At Columbia that's what Harry Cohn called Kim Novak when he was mad at her or trying to taunt her. An allegory for the secrets of Vertigo?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2013 7:41 PM PDT


Rita Moreno: A Memoir
Rita Moreno: A Memoir
by Rita Moreno
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.73
167 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the things she couldn't say about her husband while he was alive, August 27, 2013
This review is from: Rita Moreno: A Memoir (Hardcover)
Like many other reviewers, I can't explain how the mistake happened in which Moreno, listing the great stars she met when first she and her mother went to MGM in 1951, misspelled both the first name AND the last name of Hollywood legend Gene Tierney. The double dose of disrespect (as Judith Butler might have said, were she not a good friend of Rita's, an act of violence against the name) was surely not intentional, and most other names in the book are well and truly spelled, perhaps it was just a test to see how many would look through the unfamiliar name of "Jean Tiernary" and glimpsed the goddess underneath, like frilly lace pinned to a plush red valentine. As one of several scholars working the once inconceivable thesis that Tierney's brief MGM sojourn was as interesting as her previous, and more celebrated, Fox career, I naturally wanted to know more about her from Moreno's memoir than that both her names are easy to misconstrue. Tant pis, as they say in France, where I was born right around the time that Rita Moreno failed to notice much about the incandescent femme fatale Gene Tierney.... Over there we approve of Tierney and have declared her one of our "People's Artistes," a distinction similarly held by Rita Moreno as well. All of the world knows of Moreno as an EGOT--that is, one of eleven artists who have won in competition an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony, but to that acronym let the suffix PA be added--People's Artists. Gene T. of course, was no EGOT, in fact she never won anything, but she probably has more of us writing about her for scholarly consideration than most of the actual EGOT. Ahem, I go off course. The book in question is a good one, with vivid patches of writing explaining about Rita (then Rosita), exiled from her native Puerto Rico, found horror and cold in the slums of New York, and fought her way out of the clutches of stereotyped Latina "spitfire" parts by becoming an all around entertainer. She made a clutch of MGM musicals which she once found embarrassing and now she sort of enjoys, except for the racist aspects of the casting.

She enjoyed a long affair with Marlon Brando, and side affairs with Dennis Hopper and Elvis (no penetration by the latter) (nor of the latter), and then married a doctor with whom she had a daughter, Fernanda Gordon. This marriage lasted 45 years and was blissful to the outside eye except now Miss Moreno feels free to express her ambivalence about how awful he was, in some ways. Well, he wasn't Marlon Brando.


Until They Sail  (Remastered)
Until They Sail (Remastered)
DVD ~ Jean Simmons
Price: $16.68
24 used & new from $12.79

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5.0 out of 5 stars Wise Virgins, August 26, 2013
This review is from: Until They Sail (Remastered) (DVD)
I watched this picture the day that Eydie Gorme died, so I was thunderstruck when the credits rolled and David Raksin's theme music started playing, and Eydie's distinctive voice started singing the theme song! It was the last thing I expected to hear, but so welcome on a day of national mourning. Eydie sings a phrase or two, and a man who must have won the National Whistling Contest whistles either the same phrase, or a phrase that descends instead of descending, etc. In this way the song parallels the central movement of Robert Wise's film, a series of insinuative statements and ironic, sometimes bittersweet counterstatements. (I've since found out that the whistler in question is none other than Muzzy Marcellino, the man who whistled the themes from The High and the Mighty and (later on) The Good, The Bad and the Ugly!)

Anyhow the movie itself is in black and white, and if only they had spent a little bit more in color, then I'd be ready to declare this a masterpiece on the level of John Sturges' By Love Possessed or Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession. The black and white makes the New Zealand settings look tacky, cheap, though perhaps in the 1950s people ooohed and aahed when they saw Christchurch on the screen. Wise's darting camera does its best to give the movie the sweep and motion of a historical epic, but we don't feel the grandeur. In a way it hardly matters what with all the human emotions roiling on the screen, any time Piper Laurie pipes up, with her sluttishly tight sweaters and her eyes on the glittering sheaf of American GI wealth and chocolates, the movie takes off with its own sizzle. It's not that Piper Laurie is a great actress or anything like that, but Robert Wise gives her the signal to just tear up the narrative as the bad sister, Delia. "Dee," they call her in times of kinder reminiscence. They never know what last name to give to her, as she uses the name of whatever man has the most money.

This is one of those homefront movies that details not only the four sisters losing every man they had--a husband, a brother, a boyfriend, a father--but gaining replacements for them back via the steady supply of new American blood to replace their own,.depleted, Kiwi energy. A Cold War movie in many ways, Until They Sail shows us an American army in fine fettle, fighting trim, guaranteed to win the war for the frail females--though to be fair, it does show us some foul soldiers, fully capable of Abu Ghraib style atrocities; it's like the Ernest Borgnine character in From Here to Eternity multiplied by hundreds. But good men too, like Charles Drake and Paul Newman, men with needs but who don't abuse hospitality. Joan Fontaine learns this lesson best of all, and the extreme arc of her character must have intrigued the flighty, sensitive actress, but it's still hard to swallow that she of all people would go off to Nowhere USA based on a grim telegram which any sensible person would shudder at. But that's enough spoilers for me. Suffice it to say that Fontaine and Laurie give performances equal to their more celebrated roles, and Jean Simmons and Sandra Dee are not far behind. For once, Jean Simmons is playing a heroine untrammeled by Freudian traumas, while Dee is weirdly cast as a young girl totally devoted to the opposite sex, and she was what, twelve when she made this? You'd think they'd have tried to cast somebody a little bit older, but perhaps this was the era of Lolita, and Robert Wise was dipping a toe into that piquant, pellucid water of potential.


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