Allan Carr: A Spectacle to Behold

DATELINE: Carr-buncle

Carr

Can’t Stop the Hype!

It’s been 20 years since the grand poobah of film, TV, and stage producers has left the spotlight. And, boy, was Allan Carr a hog for the media.

The Fabulous Allan Carr is a misnomer. He was not the stuff of fables, nor legends and myths. He was an obese gay man with a knack for self-indulging and making fun for friends and audiences.

One supposes that such a life is enough to satisfy most people. Yet, Carr seemed a cuddly little buddha, but was more like a cactus version of Jekyll and Hyde. When the good times rolled, he was your pal.

He started out as a talent coordinator for Hugh Hefner’s late night TV show in the late 1950s, where he made the acquaintance of old and new Hollywood.

Carr produced Grease, Grease II, La Cage aux Folles, as well as stinkeroos like Can’t Stop the Music. He could do good stuff with all the bravura of Carmen Miranda and Chiquita.

He was a nightmare when failure knocked on his door, and his all-boy parties in Beverly Hills gave way to funeral processions when the AIDS crisis started taking all the twinks. A generation was decimated, and the Village People went into eclipse.

Carr was mostly voyeur, and he escaped infection from HIV. He lived life on his terms, caftans and moo-moo blouses to hide a multitude of rolls.

Born out of Middle America, he became a cocaine-motivated doyen of Hollywood and Broadway. He should have been nicer to the people going up the ladder because they remembered him when he started down the ladder.

His last years were sad, beleaguered with kidney problems and bone cancer. Every party became a line on his face, and in the end he was about as reclusive as an extrovert might never consider.

 

 

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Jussie Smollett: Oscar Bait or Jail Bait?

DATELINE: Jussie Couldn’t Say NO!

Untitled Juicy Jussie Thugs to Order!

Jussie Smollett has produced, directed, and starred in his own adaptation of racial profiling. It was his profile on the Cinéma vérité camera, hanging by a newly purchased piece of rope, long enough to hang himself.

Costarring his body-builder trainers as the set-up men and kiss-and-tell boyfriends, this dramatic comedy went viral almost instantly. Not since the Blair Witch Project has there been something as unbelievable as Trump night riders reaching the limits of credulity within a week.

Two dumb-bunny brothers go to stores to buy bleach, rope for a necktie, and red hats (being unwilling to donate to the Trump campaign for official MAGA caps). They later cooperate with the police and admit they love President Trump like all good people from Nigeria (on Trump’s s**t-hole list). As Don Lemon said:  no self-respecting Trump supporter would be caught dead watching Empire.

Then, the celebrity star will go out at 2am on one of the coldest nights in Chicago history, not to find love, nor to create another Valentine’s Day Massacre, but to pick up a Subway sandwich with all the trimmings. A funny thing happened on the way to the sub shop.

Rave reviews for realism, including one from Trump who called it ‘terrible,’ gave way to a series of doubtful critiques that called Jussie the new Shoeless Joe Jackson. Cory Booker now plans to throw the book at Jussie.

Fans started to cry, “Jussie, say no. Say it ain’t so.”

Instead, the Chicago Police called it “911 without a license.”

Though he thought this might win him an Oscar, Smollett soon discovered that he was more likely to win an indictment by the grand jury for impersonating a national emergency.

Whether Jussie deserves a mini-Oscar, or something resembling an Emmy for his TV work, only a jury will tell. The Empire job may be about to fall.

In the meantime, the greatest performance of his life may end up as Jussie’s last hurrah.

John Wayne Revisited, 50 Years Off the Saddle!

DATELINE:  Too Late for Words!

Duke, Duck!Duck, Dodge, and Hide, Duke!

Fifty years after John Wayne gave an interview to Playboy, it has been re-discovered and has become an interesting, revisionist historical document that berates black people, Native Americans, and gays.

Wayne was home on the range but would be shocked by today’s brave new world. He would have punched Trump in the nose for suggesting America is no longer great.

Actors have never been known for their giant brains. You have only to look at stories about Jussie Smollett to learn that hard lesson.

So, it is not surprising that an interview given by Duke Wayne in 1971 is rife with frightful prejudice against black people and Native Americans. You should add women to the list.

Wayne played an array of Union soldiers and military heroes often in defense of America, popular ideas in his movies. He was in real life only one step to the left of J. Edgar Hoover and not much removed from a political Know-Nothing.

If you put his statue in front of a Confederate stronghold, the rebels would have ripped it down.

John Wayne refused to work with “liberal” Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood on a movie.

Well, the shocks mount up like Wayne on a charging steed with the reins in his teeth and six-shooters firing at will.

Young anti-Vietnam war Americans of the “hippie era” hated John Wayne for his backward view of politics. He was right up there with Bob Hope as a supporter of war in its many forms.

Now that generation of youth, regarded as wayward and drug-addled, is older than Wayne when he gave his notorious interview of 1971.

Back in the 1970s, liberals laughed at Wayne and threw snowballs at him when he was in a Cambridge parade and received the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year at Harvard.

He also went on TV to guest star on Maude, Bea Arthur’s liberal bastion series. She promised a shootout with Wayne at High Noon.

Of course, Maude was a half-baked hypocrite and she melted when John Wayne told her he never discussed politics with a woman. They ended up in a waltz.

The problem that faces the old Bernie Saunders liberal types who are pushing 80 (and soon to be pushing up daisies) has more to do with an old Bette Davis quote.

She said of her hated rival Joan Crawford: “They don’t change just because they’re dead.”

People should remember that Davis was only partly correct. She should have said: “You can’t change your mind once you’re dead.”

Smollett: Jussie Say No!

 DATELINE: Hate Crime & Gay Bashing?

jussie  Studying Script?

The original horror and appalling crime against a self-identified gay actor from TV’s Empire brought gasps of shock. Now it seems to be on the verge of becoming an object lesson for people who denigrate gay life, hate crimes, and gay bashing.

If Jussie Smollett staged his attack like a bad movie script, he would be guilty of what used to be called a “publicity stunt,” in the old days of the 1950s when tabloid stars like Jayne Mansfield were always in the forefront of fake news.

If Smollett arranged for Empire extras to do this deed, you will have a diminished impact for all hate crimes by crypto-Nazi types. Already the vultures of hate are singling out the charges as spurious and laughable. It makes hate and gay bashing seem a joke. Those who are quick to pounce on gay people now feel justified in their disrespect.

Already the white rednecks originally described as wearing Trump MAGA caps have been dropped as the culprits. Latest revelation seems the not-charged suspects know Smollett and are Nigerian extras who work in Hollywood on the self-same show as Jussie. Yet, the crime happened in Chicago where crime is more credible.

Then, we hear Smollett was being written out of the script of the TV series—and moments of shock became moments of sickening revulsion that sympathy has been misplaced and kind hearts have been manipulated. Police want to re-interview the publicity-seeking actor. He makes appearances in full sympathy mode. Of course, he is an actor.

Police treat such matters with deference. If it looks like a crime, it may be a crime. The motive and culprits may require a Sherlock Holmes to resolve the logic and put to rest the likelihood of a publicity stunt.

In the meantime, the entire incident leaves a distaste far beyond the original shocking action. No one will emerge from this unscathed. The outrageous charge of a noose put around an actor’s neck and bleach thrown upon him suddenly looks like hyperbole gone to koo-koo-bird levels. It’s a bad script that demands a rewrite.

Turning a blind eye to this stuff may be the legacy of Jussie Smollett, not to mention the end of his career, or the making of his infamy…We may add to the next hate tale like this, “Jussie say no.”

Andy Warhol at the Super Bowl, 2019

 DATELINE: Great Art Restoration!

Warhol & Whopper

Warhol Takes on Whopper.

We know that iconic artist Andy Warhol enjoyed pop culture, and perhaps he’d be intrigued with the Super Bowl antics every year.

He might be as surprised as we were to find him in a commercial, a highly expensive proposition, endorsing Burger King.

You might think the little scene was filmed by Andy himself at his Factory, but it was merely an appearance he made in 1984 for another director. Here is Andy in 2019, thirty years after he died, now on the big stage of Super Bowl party night.

At first we thought it was a body double—something Warhol was fond of using. He looked thin, but in good shape, making it a little difficult to discern when this was made. He had done all kinds of things—like a Love Boat episode and a cameo in an Elizabeth Taylor movie back in the 1970s.

This filmed scene was after the Studio 54 craze, and he sits quietly, well-dressed as always, his messy wig appropriately placed, and crinkling, opens a bag for Burger King.

We heard he was disappointed to find it was not going to be a Big Mac, but he was always game for product accessibility.

Perhaps the most curious part of his eating the burger, as that is the total action, is that he lifts the top of the bun off the sandwich as if he will pour some of the Heinz ketchup on it. Instead, he has difficulty pouring it onto the wrapper.

Like a cookie in coffee, he dunks the burger in the tomato paste which he even painted in one of his inspired moments.

Though the commercial was only a few seconds, the actual film was a tad longer. It showed him discarding the top of the burger and folding it over for another swipe at the Heinz. All his actions are fastidious. It’s on Youtube for those interested.

We hope his estate and museum was well-paid for this appearance. We doubt he would have been a Patriot fan. In all likelihood, only a fraction of viewers even understood the identity of the slight man in the burger commercial.

Hello Dali!

DATELINE:  Little Ashes.

dali & lorca  Sur-Real Dali & Lorca!

No one can say Robert Pattinson is not a courageous actor. His 2009 performance in Little Ashes as Salvatore Dali in his youth was gutsy and properly over-the-top.

A lesser actor might have underplayed Dali’s growth as a non-conformist, but Pattinson has never flinched from wide-eyed brazen acting. He has particularly liked escaping the awful roots of vampires by giving portraits of notable famous people in docudrama.

Of course, this film is not just about Dali’s genesis. It deals with Luis Bunuel and Frederico Garcia Lorca. Javier Beltran is nearly a spitting image of the real Lorca, as cast by director Paul Morrison.

It is hard to believe they were all college frat chums, life-of-party types, and budding genius artists. Javier Beltran plays Lorca who was a well-known gay poet and playwright. You might say Dali and Lorca had some kind of gay love affair, but that would not be exactly correct. These artists lived on another planet.

Indeed, the approach/avoidance of Dali and his self-centeredness drives a wedge between them. Id his own insane style, Dali likely  was in love with Lorca, but his “divine” madness rent it apart.

Bunuel and Dali ridiculed Lorca with the film called Andalusian Dog, which also was a wedge of straights against gay. They also dismissed politics for artistic expression. By 1930 they were rich, and Lorca was doomed to be repressed and murdered by Franco  thugs in Spain.

The ultimate madness of Dali upon hearing of Lorca’s death is muted by the fact that he was already around the bend. This is a most unusual movie.

 

 

 

 

Palace of Silents, Off Sunset Boulevard

DATELINE: Silence Please!

silent movie theatre

We thought Palace of Silents would be some nostalgic look at a movie house that shows only silent movies since the early 1940s. You know, slightly wacky, obsessive people with good intentions.

Little did we know we were about to enter Sunset Boulevard where Los Angelinos are all Norma Desmond.

You have to love a movie that offers you a surprise or two.

Around the start of World War II, a conscientious objector named Hampton and his wife built their own tiny theatre with a small apartment above. Here they planned to show his grand collection of silent movies to an ever-decreasing and disinterested public.

Not exactly a popular activity, he was a pioneer in film restoration, finding the best prints and splicing them together in his home lab. If a half-dozen people came by, it was enough for forty years.

A friend named Lawrence Austin horned in on the widow, pulling a snow job on her and taking over the property. Lawrence Austin was a Hollywood fraud, telling lies and embezzling to beat the band. However, he refurbished the theatre and continued its mission. Silent Movie Theatre continued, perhaps even flourished with riding the coattails of Buster Keaton revivals.

Austin’s dubious and secretive past (he was a closet gay and may have used the old theatre for shows not on the screen). Eventually, he had a laundry list of enemies, including ex-cons.

He was murdered one night in the theatre as it was about to show Murnau’s Sunrise. A minor scandal in Hollywood, it was quickly solved, and the theatre was saved again by a vaudevillian mentality who knew little about silent movies.

Yet, the story of the grand old movie house transcends scandal, sordid lives, and misuse of its charm. The movie may pleasantly surprise you.

 

 

DNA Politics

DATELINE: Not Pocahontas

Pocahontas? Apologies Required?

Nothing can be more dangerous than the latest wave of people and their push to learn about their “roots.”

Roots was a television event in the 1970s that sparked a furor among black American youth who were shocked at the depiction of their past. Many said they had no idea.

Now, we have Sen. Elizabeth Warren, goaded by Trump insults, trying to prove she has Native American blood. It appears, begrudgingly, she may have 1/1000th segment of Indian DNA. That’s about ten generations back—from the 1600s.

She provided no names of these people, no family trees, no paperwork to indicate the actual, physical evidence.

We did our own Ancestry and 23&Me skidoo tests last year, and we discovered that we had 0.02% Native American blood. Who knew? We immediately went to family trees—and started pulling on the genetic strings.

Sure enough, we traced back those with shared DNA whom we did not know, never heard of, and will never meet, to learn that Massasoit was in the mix.

That’s no ordinary run-of-the-mill Indian, but the man for whom Massachusetts is named! How likely is that? We questioned the tree and who falls out when you shake it up. We call this phenomenon “Sitting Bull.”

We also learned we were related to Plymouth/Mayflower names like John Alden and Priscilla Mullens, who were the subjects of a Longfellow poem called “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Another Pocahontas moment for the family.

We were reminded that movies have been all over the subject of DNA for years. Back in the 1940s, there was a movie called Pinky, about a white girl who learned she was an octoroon. No, that’s not a cookie, but means you had distant black ancestors.

In 1960, Audrey Hepburn appeared in a movie called The Unforgiven, in which she played a girl raised as Audie Murphy’s sister, who was a stolen Indian baby. Her racist family was shocked, but she looked just like the non-Native Americans playing the Indians in the movie.

The Nazis in Germany were big on sniffing out who had Jewish ancestors—and liquidating them. Family trees were the way to root out the condition, as there was no DNA back then.

Mr. Trump should be aware that he could be related to Hitler himself, based on his behavior, and that he may be 1/2000th of a relative to Genghis Khan.

Time for another DNA test.

 

 

 

 

Filmworker: More Than Kubrick’s Go-fer?

 DATELINE: Alternate Ego?

Leon Vitali Young Vitali

We won’t quibble with you. At first, we were put off by the idea that someone had done a documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s assistant. We thought it was chutzpah to call this man a partner or more in Kubrick’s career.

Leon Vitali prefers to be labeled “Filmworker,” and how wrong we were about his contributions to the works of the grand master after 1976. For 30 years, Vitali became more than an assistant: he was an alter ego, a shadow to Kubrick’s Peter Pan.

To work in such proximity to a whirlwind dervish genius takes its toll. He went from stunningly beautiful boy to haggard and wizened old man. He was there for Full Metal Jacket and The Shining, doing everything with Eyes Wide Shut.

Kubrick met Leon Vitali as an actor on the movie Barry Lyndon. The beautiful young man so impressed Kubrick that he revised the film and made him a featured actor. He is brilliant, trained by the Royal Shakespeare troupe, etc.

Yet, he threw it all away when given the chance to work as a Doppleganger to Kubrick.

Not many actors would toss away potential movie star status to become lost in the voracious appetite for work that was Kubrick. When you look at Vitali today in his old age, you cannot find the pretty boy he once was: the Kubrick perfection disease has ripped him to shreds.

We were surprised that he had time to procreate a family. For 30 years, on every film, he worked 20 hours per day, doing whatever Kubrick wanted: casting, lighting, sound, editing, scripts, and jack of all trades. Leon Vitali puts to rest the rumor that Kubrick filmed a fake Moon landing for NASA.

He had the enviable job of being on the right hand and left hand of Kubrick. He took startling photos of the reclusive genius. We liked see James Mason with Jack Nicholson on the set of The Shining.

It was Vitali who came up with the idea of twin girls murdered by axe. He was child star Danny’s acting coach, and the lines between Kubrick and Vitali disappeared over the years. Kubrick would send out messages in Leon’s name, would call him for impossible and constant errands.

Vitali was more than an assistant. He was joined at the hip with the great auteur. You might suspect they were gay lovers, but their love was strictly the film business and mostly the art.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Mrs. Carrolls Lacks Noir

 DATELINE: Oldie May Not Be Goodie

  Stanwyk & Bogart Great Stars! Abysmal Script!

Back in the late 1940s, it was tough to find leading ladies who were strong enough to stand up to Humphrey Bogart. Usually producers fell back on his wife, Lauren Bacall, for a counterpoint.

In a rare miss, Bogart was teamed with one of the big misses of the era.

Big women movie stars on the screen—like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis—did not measure up to the scripts that suited Bogart.

On the other hand, Barbara Stanwyk was also a tough cookie to play against. She was so tough that her leading men came off as Neanderthal, if not pussycats. Gary Cooper was a regular costar, and after that, you were facing weaker characters (played by Fred MacMurray or Ronald Reagan, or the nice guys like Bill Holden).

After Sorry, Wrong Number, she took on more nasty victims, and so we come to teaming Bogart and Stanwyk, almost deserving of each other in the dull-witted murder-thriller The Two Mrs. Carrolls. Stanwyk is hysterical on the telephone once again, and rest assured, the rainy Scottish weather means that Bogart will don his obligatory trench-coat and fedora for at least one scene. It isn’t enough.

It was post-World War II and tough-guy actors were stretching into demi-villains. Thus odd-ball film is set in Scotland with an American cast of apparent expatriates. Nigel Bruce (Dr. Watson) is on hand as a dotty doctor for Stanwyk as she is poisoned, and Alexis Smith is the new muse for the diabolical painter.

You keep wondering when Sydney Greenstreet will show up to trap Bogart’s bad guy.

As Geoffrey Carroll, Humphrey Bogart loses interest in his latest wife as muse, murders her, and finds another. It is kind of Andrea del Sarto as Bluebeard.

He plays an unconvincing American artist in this one, not a detective, and he seems to have headaches when the word “death” echoes behind him. He exhibits a bunch of the Deadly Sins—including rage, pride, jealousy, among others.

His alleged successful paintings are deplorable.

These are not good signs for Bogie in the last days of noir. They may be worse news for Stanwyk as victim. She is made so demure that the point of putting a strong woman opposite Bogart was lost. Bogart feeds poisoned milk to his wives, like Cary Grant in Suspicion by Hitchcock. It’s that kind of copycat movie.

This British play is devoid of wit, suspense, plot, action, or anything that could be saved by the high-powered actors at the top of their careers. This was not a Warner Brothers film, or it would never have been made like this.

The final few seconds are the high-point when Bogie offers warm milk to the policemen about to take him away. (Oh, it’s laced with that poison).

What a disappointment for the most part.

 

 

 

Simpleton Luck of the Logans

 DATELINE:   Hunh?

Untitled

What have we got he-yah? When you go with a Channing Tatum movie, you never know what’s inside the movie box of chocolates. Logan Lucky is pot luck and a spin of the wheel of fortune.

In this film, paunchy Channing looks like he put on 30 pounds from eating boxes of chocolates. It might be a fat suit, but on him it is a shock.

A rather extraordinary cast dumbs down their typecast Hollywood looks. We’ve seen these actors playing sharper and more sophisticated roles than the denizens of Hooterville in the Hills.

It’s all in fun, though we aren’t quite sure if hayseeds will be offended by the sincerity of the actors.

Channing Tatum and Adam Driver play a couple of down-on-their luck dumb and dumber brothers who are disabled veterans and abused and neglected good ol’boys. One limps and one has a prosthetic hand.

Yes, it’s a comedy.

This is the story of genuine brothers who don’t need a bromance to seal the real deal.

You have to like them, even when Boss Hogg Daniel Craig shows up with a Southern drawl and platinum hair to tell them they are simpletons. They plan to break him out of the Big House to help them blow up a safe. For James Bond this is a grit of hominy.

It’s part of Tatum and Driver’s charm that they will use their abused lives to disabuse a race course speedway payroll. Hillary Swank is an investigating FBI agent.

Well, of course, we are in the deepest darkest land of speedway race-cars and going ‘round the bend means a life of watching cars careen around a track several hundred laps.

These hillbillies make nice folks like the Clampitts seem like rocket scientists. When the brothers seek a computer expert, he boasts he knows “all the Twitters” with a twang.

The plot holes are in the heads of the characters. It’s a caper movie with a twist of moonshine.

How could you resist this trifle truffle?

 

 

Three. Two, One, Blasted Off Your Screen

DATELINE: Billy Wilder Classic

Cagney & grapefruit

Cagney reprises grapefruit scene.

Topical political humor has a short shelf life, and you have only to see a few clips from Saturday Night Live to understand how quickly controversial becomes outdated.

When a major film tries it, as did Billy Wilder in 1962, only a few morsels remain fresh.

Yet, to take in One, Two, Three, the Cold War comedy, is less satisfying than say, Dr. Strangelove, which maintains its relevance.

When Wilder’s outlandish satire was released, East Berlin put up a horrifying wall that changed history—and it was virtually ignored in the movie, except by a voice=over addition shortly before the film was released.

What survives in a favorite comedy is the manic performances.

James Cagney plays the head of Berlin’s Coca-Cola division, unhealthy capitalism at its best, and he is marvelous to behold. He grows more intense with each passing scene, stealing anything he make merry.

Others in the cast are less successful—but seem now perfectly placed in their roles:  game show actress Arlene Francis didn’t forget her line was snide off-put wife. She is surprising effective, though the German jokes are thick.

Pamela Tiffin as the sex kitten from Atlanta is decorative, but she faded fast, unlike Ann-Margaret who might have run with the role. And, as her East German Commie boyfriend, Horst Buchholz sends out a post-James Dean vibe that shows how misused he was.

Leon Askin as the Russian commissar is delightful, and Lilo Pulver dances on tabletops in the Grand Hotel with lesbian couples while a hapless band plays and sings,  “Yes We Have No Bananas,” in German.

The music of the intense and insane “Sabre Dance” is stirring to the break-neck pace of screwball comedy, already a dinosaur in Hollywood.

Cagney’s version of My Fair Laddie turns a Commie lout into Austo-Hungarian royalty during the hilarious second-half of the film.  Cagney hated working with Horst and quit movies for years after. His best line to Buchholz who wants to lead a revolt of workers is: “Put your pants on, Spartacus.”

You shouldn’t miss it but brush up on your Cold War etiquette before tuning on the stream.

Dead Again, Hysterical Satire

DATELINE: Reincarnation Mystery

kookoo mystery Kookoo Noir Takeoff

There was a time nearly 30 years ago when Kenneth Branagh was considered the reincarnation of Orson Welles, with a dollop of Laurence Olivier thrown into the mix.

So, the time has arrived to re-assess one of his early efforts called Dead Again from 1991.

He was a promising and brilliant director of unusual fare and acted well too. This looney mystery deviated from his usual Shakespearean play adaptations by entering the film noir, detective story, broadly copying Warner and Parmount features of the late 1940s.

What most missed back then was the fact that this overwrought tale of reincarnation and murder was overdone deliberately. We cannot believe Branagh was dumb enough to think this was not a comedy.

The film does double duty: telling a modern case of a detective Mike Church in LA today, and the strange killer, Roman Strauss, a composer and conductor of 1948, who was executed for murdering his wife. The black and white noir flashbacks are spot on for 1940s imitation. Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott are suitably channeled.

Branagh is a little weird as a detective (his reincarnated self) who is an LA sleuth with a Brooklyn accent. That might be the first mistake, or first clue.

The cast is equally impressive, with Emma Thompson as Strauss’s wife, the concert pianist victim, and the modern woman with amnesia that Church must help.

Call in Derek Jacobi as some kind of psychic hypnotist to regress the woman to 1948, and you have another brilliant performer slightly out of place in an American movie.

Also hanging around in cameos are Robin Williams, Scott Campbell, and Andy Garcia. This film is no slouch when it comes to top-level talent. Yes, Wayne Knight is here too.

We are a sucker when it comes to transgender resurrection and timeless love stories.

Everyone immediately notices that Emma Thompson resembles a woman dead in 1948, but no one seems to notice that Kenneth Branagh resembles her convicted murderer, executed in 1949.

Oh, well, that’s Life Magazine for you. In the meantime, the movie moves more and more toward utter lunacy, skipping over plot holes like hopscotch gone to bad karma.

We like our twist of reincarnation with a bitter of gender bending. Add some lemons and you have Branagh imitating Paramount and Warner Brothers murder mystery thrillers of the 1940s with panache. We are Between Two Worlds and the Two Mrs. Carrolls.

Like a warm British beer, this movie is all frothy, and the suds will make you queasy. It’s eye-rolling fun.

 

 

Dressmaker, Murderer, and Arsonist?

DATELINE:  Dunga-Hill Something, Australia

audrey winslet As Tilly Dunnage

When you have an Australian comedy-murder mystery-revenge story called The Dressmaker, you may begin like a house afire. Sadly, it ends the same way literally, which is not so hot.

Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth are both highly watchable in the lead roles, and extremely attractive.

Though when Tilly (Winslet) arrives in 1951 back to her childhood home looking like a Parisian model, her opening statement indicates that she is out for revenge. Alas, that doesn’t really transpire until almost the end of the movie. Mostly she torments the rugby teams.

We never saw Audrey Hepburn play an arsonist/murderer.

Kate Winslet looks stunning coming off a bus in the middle of the outback, looking like the Paris runway was down the street. The film echoes many 1950s movies, like the Audrey Hepburn vehicles where she wore the best Dior.

The film is highly entertaining for the first 90 minutes, then sinks by its own dead weight. And we do mean dead.

The Dressmaker comes with her Singer sewing machine and starts to make gorgeous gowns and day wear. We did wonder where all that material came from. Why quibble?

With stylish clothing worn by the women cast in stunning transformation, it is reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s appearance in Sabrina. Indeed, the film is a throwback to 1950, when the characters even go see Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

Of course, the rub is that the dressmaker has amnesia when it comes to having murdered a childhood playmate. The police sergeant is a cross-dressing friend, thank heavens.

Did Winslet‘s character kill a young boy? With the cast of characters being strangely off- putting, you will be intrigued. For a while.

The movie devolves into soapy opera in the final 30 minutes. There are so many deaths you need a scorecard to figure out who’s killing whom and why.

However, the early visuals are so striking and unforgettable, you almost forgive the bad ending.

 

Marilyn Monroe: Gone 56 Years

DATELINE: Sad Anniversary

MM 

Was it really so long ago in August, 1962, that Marilyn died so suddenly and mysteriously? We heard the news on Sunday morning on vacation. Was it an accident or some kind of bizarre conspiracy that did her in?

She was thought to be a sad, pathetic suicide at the time of her death, body claimed by former husband Joe DiMaggio. Her last film was the Misfits with Clark Gable, written by her ex-husband and playwright Arthur Miller. It was extraordinary stuff. She could play light comedy or heavy tragedy (Some Like It Hot, Bus Stop).

She had become emotionally erratic, fired by the studio and dismissed from movies (The outtakes of Something’s Gotta Give show her radiant and perfect. Over an hour of film footage was reconstructed a few years back. Why did they fire her?). The career trauma  seemed to explain her death—at first.

Over time, we learned she was a victim of the casting couch: with lurid stories of her promiscuity and misuse by producers and unscrupulous men (and Joan Crawford).

Then, we learned she was the victim of the President of the United States and his brother. Some even speculate that she was assassinated by the CIA because she was about to blow the whistle on political shenanigans and UFOs, state secrets she learned in her dalliances.

Now, more recently, we hear that she fought the casting couch mentality of Hollywood, walked out of movies when she was mistreated and sexually abused.

Whatever the truth, she was a luminous talent, who actually glowed on celluloid. Her career might have been on the skids because of age by the late 1960s, but we will never know whether she would have made a transformation to character actress, or into a legend as she is now.

Poor Marilyn. She was missed immediately– and is still missed today.