Tag Archives: Movie Star

Sandra Bullock Soars in Gravity

6 Oct

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Wow. When an actor’s face is the greatest special effect in an effects-laden extravaganza the scale of “Gravity” you know they’re going to get tremendous momentum in their career. And when you’re already an Oscar-winning actress – the skies the limit. Look up! That’s Sandra Bullock in the apex of her incredible career soaring overhead. I was blown-away by her performance as will anyone who watches the hot new space-genre film.

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I’ve always enjoyed Sandy in her comedic vehicle and her breakthrough role in “The Blind Side” but they were all well-within her girl next door comfort zone. Gravity, on the other hand, is well-without the actresses normal, terrestrial canon of work. This time, she took on the role of her life – one that required her to convey and carry the weightlessness of space at the same time the incredible pressure of a woman living moment to moment in the face of almost certain death. The fact that she pulls it off is utterly incredible. Not because she isn’t an incredible actress – it has more to do with mastering her craft in literally every frame of film she is in – which she does and then some.

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However, that’s not the best part, The best part of watching Ms. Bullock is the sheer rapture of seeing a woman in her absolute prime. Sandy is gorgeous in this film because she is not only beautiful, but willing to show all of herself; her vulnerability, weakness, indecision in depicting a character that is broken emotionally – only to come back from the brink again and again…then again. She is beautiful and in command the way Greta Garbo was beautiful and in command. You fall in love with Sandy over the course of the film and begin to wonder how you never realized what an amazing talent she is. And such a beautiful, seductress of cinema. I was so struck by her performance – I actually began to think of how wonderful it would be to “know” Sandra Bullock; a little daydream in the middle of the movie that only invested me more in what was happening to her character on film. How magical is that?

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So, here’s to Ms. Bullock’s 2nd Oscar nomination and win! Nothing is absolute – but I will bet anyone she will be nominated for yet another breakthrough performance and possibly the most understated, compelling and engaging role of her career. The movie is really that good. And Sandy Bullock transcends the material into more than the sum of it’s blockbuster parts – she really does defy gravity in Gravity! Wow.

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Ava Gardner: I’m a Fool to Want You

8 May

Years ago I headed to the Santa Anita racetrack and found myself in a diner in Arcadia, California. Living in LA as long as I did, I never really saw that many movie stars – Matthew Modine checked out my beard one day at Farmer’s Market on Fairfax, but that’s another blog entirely. But sitting at the bar of the diner that morning was none other than Mickey Rooney. Mickey is a tiny, jovial guy and a Hollywood legend. But all I could think staring at him was, “That guy was married to one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.” Ava Gardner.

Ava was a knockout of the highest order. She was literally discovered in a store window, or a photograph of her at least, by an employee of Loews theaters who fancied himself a talent scout for his parent company – MGM. Ava was only nineteen when she screen tested for movie mogul Louis B. Mayer. He purportedly said that she couldn’t do anything, but the camera absolutely loved her. A star was born.

In my opinion, Ava’s most iconic role was her first along with Burt Lancaster’s in the 1946 thriller The Killers. She played a dangerous beauty in the black and white and what a showstopper she was. The two ascending stars were gorgeous together. Interesting how she went from loving Burt on screen to marrying Mickey off. Their marriage only lasted a year and later Mickey could never stop talking about the sex. Funny, Ava said there was nothing to talk about.

No, Ava’s true love would end up being ole’ blue eyes, The Chairman himself – Frank Sinatra. Sinatra left his wife Nancy for Ava and was crucified in the press and in Hollywood for being such a louse. But then again, he left his wife for Ava Gardner and the two would end up loving each other for the rest of their lives. And they were good for each other. Ava was especially good for Sinatra. She would use her considerable star power to get the crooner an important role in From Here To Eternity – which would earn him an Oscar. And Frank confessed later that Ava taught him how to really sing a torch song. By his own account, he wrote I’m a Fool to Want You for Ava. And what fool wouldn’t want a woman so undeniably beautiful.

Dear Ava would die of emphysema at the age of 67 after a life in front of the screen. She never one an Oscar, but her mark on film will forever be The Barefoot Contessa with Humphrey Bogart. Ava was said to love to run around in her bare feet on and off the silver screen. She was earth angel after all. And I can’t help smiling every time I see her on camera. The girl whose picture was in a store window became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The story is so improbable it’s probably true. No matter. Ava was destined for fame. One look at her and you know she’s the kind of woman who gets what she wants. And in return, we get to stare at this rare beauty decades later and wonder how Mickey Rooney – the tiny guy at the bar – got so damn lucky.

Carrie Fisher: An LA Muffin Delivery Boy’s Dream Come True

30 Apr

How could anyone growing up in the 70’s not have had a crush on Carrie Fisher? While Luke and Han Solo had their legions of fans – I always felt partial to Princess Leia Organa, the gutsy, smack-talking hottie of the universe. Leia was the genesis of my devotion to beautiful women dressed in white, their hair up in a double bun and holding a gun. It doesn’t get any better.

Or does it? Kept under wraps in Empire Strikes Back, Leia returned with sexy revenge in a gold bikini for a generation of pre-adolescent boys, their older brothers and some of their fathers to salivate over in Return of the Jedi. Chained to Jabba the Hutt’s disgusting gut, Leia awakened a who legion of would be Jedi, willing to sacrifice themselves to have her all to themselves. Of course, in the otherwise asexual world of Star Wars, Carrie Fisher as Leia stuck out as the most beautiful creature ever to jump into hyperspace. Secretly, I wished that I could meet Carrie Fisher. Little did I know, I’d get the chance 20 years later. Sort of.

After film school, I moved to LA to fulfill my destiny of being in the picture-business. I ended up being a Ms. Beasley’s Muffin Delivery Boy. Now, this job did have its benefits. Namely, it got me on the lot of all the majors: Twentieth Century Fox on Pico Boulevard, Sony in Century City; Paramount off Melrose Ave. and Universal off Cahuenga Blvd. I also got my choice assignments when Christmas rolled around, delivering huge packages of tasty goodies to the homes of Hollywood royalty like Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, James Coburn and Michael Douglas. But they were only prelude to my greatest movie star sighting of all.

I was loading my Honda Civic hatchback full of muffins in a back alley of Beverly Hills one sunny day, when I looked up and saw none other than Carrie Fisher, staring at me while lighting a cigarette. I stood there, arms full of muffins – transfixed. She had long, black hair down to her beautiful behind. Her dress wasn’t white but a beautiful shade of blue. Carrie continued to stare at me while she took a long drag off her cigarette. I wanted to say something clever, but didn’t dare disturb the beauty of the moment. Then she exhaled and without a word turned, walked back into the restaurant next to the muffin bakery. I watched long after she was gone, then looked down at my arms covered in powdered sugar and mashed muffins. Obviously, I’d made an impression on the princess.

Carrie will always remind me of sitting on my mother’s lap in a crowded movie theater on a hot summer’s day in Menlo Park, New Jersey and staring up at the screen watching the greatest movie ever made. I knew in those opening moments when Darth Vader and his minions capture Princess Leia, that I wanted to tell stories. Stories where princesses are as beautiful, fearless and intelligent as Carrie Fisher’s Leia.

Carrie has had quite a second act as a writer and stage performer. She’s a comical genius with the Hollywood pedigree to make an evening of stories hilariously memorable. She’s been through hell with drugs and mental illness, and I give her all the credit in the world for surviving in a town that eats its young. I hope I get to meet her again someday. But I won’t bring up our first encounter in the alleyway. Some things are better left unsaid.

Darryl Hannah: Replicant to Mermaid

24 Apr

Talk about range! Darryl’s beauty has always overshadowed her acting talent, which isn’t to say she’s not a great actress. Anyone who can be a deadly femme fatale from the near future one minute and a beautiful, loving and trusting mermaid the next has incredible range. Darryl embodied both Pris in Blade Runner and Madison in Splash with equal credibility. Her long blonde hair and lanky, sexy body only added to the equation to definitely make her more than the sum of her gorgeous parts. But let us not forget her portrayals in other, highly-influential films from the ’80s and early ’90’s such as Wall Street with Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas, At Play In The Fields of The Lord with Kathy Bates and John Lithgow and Roxanne with Steve Martin.

The thing about Darryl is that she is beautiful. An amazing beauty and an equally amazing spirit make her a favorite and yet an unassuming quality had threatened to typecast her as the nicey-nice prototypical California girl every guy in his right mind wanted to be with. And boy was she with some high-profile guys. Remember John F. Kennedy, Jr.? Once again, however, it was Darryl’s range that made her a true star. And no other movie gave her a chance to flex her thespian muscles than her role as the assassin with the eye-patch in Kill Bill, Volume 2. I pride myself on being able to predict what’s going to happen in such genre-driven fare, but even I didn’t see it coming when they poked out poor Darryl’s only good eye. What a way to nullify an otherwise terrifyingly-talented femme fatale!

I wish there was more Darryl to watch in the last several years. She’s been busy getting arrested, albeit for good causes – but I miss seeing her long, lithe body and beautiful face embody intriguing and intelligent while supremely feminine characters. One of my guilty pleasures is renting Clan of the Cave Bear and watching Darryl covered in white makeup – and not much else. But still, I’d love to see her make a true comeback one of these days – with a nice long run of new characters and stories a la John Travolta or Robert Downey, Jr. Darryl deserves to have a renaissance after all the memorable parts and unforgettable scenes she’s given us. I for one, love mature actresses because they have the beauty, the talent and the class to show the up-n-coming actors not only how it’s done – but that they’ve still got it. So, somebody give Darryl a role she can sink her teeth into and keep her out of jail. Here’s one life-long fan that would be eternally grateful.

Greta Garbo in the Men’s Room

14 Apr

In 1995, I met Seth H. Moseley while working on a cable documentary about the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping. I interviewed the legendary newspaperman about 1932, when he was a twenty-three year old cub reporter driving out to Hopewell, New Jersey right after the Lindbergh baby had been kidnapped. Because Seth had gone to Amherst College with Dwight Morrow, Anne Morrow-Lindbergh’s brother, his editor at The New York Journal thought Seth had an inside advantage over the 150 reporters on the scene. The editor was right and Seth obtained an exclusive interview with Charles A. Lindbergh hours after the world-famous aviator’s infant son was abducted. Seth Moseley had scooped the story of the twentieth century. But as I got to know and became friends with the intrepid former Associated Press reporter, I discovered Lindbergh was by no means Seth’s last exclusive.

In 1934, Seth covered the S.S. Morro Castle ocean liner fire. The disaster that resulted in dead bodies washing up on the New Jersey shore would make headlines around the world. Then there was the Hindenburg disaster, this time in Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937. Once again, Seth was on the scene and described the horrific carnage created by the hydrogen dirigible exploding and being totally consumed in just 33 seconds. The image of people jumping to their deaths and being burned alive, 36 victims in all, left its mark on the 28-year old reporter. But it was an entirely different and much more light-hearted exclusive that same year which would stick in Seth’s memory for the rest of his life.

In his own words, Seth described to me his rather unique run-in with a thirty-one year old Greta Garbo, reigning queen of Hollywood, aboard the S.S. Gripsholm in the Port of New York:

“In those days, when a celebrity came in from Europe, half a dozen or sometimes a dozen newspapermen go down and meet these celebrities coming in from Europe. This means getting up early in the morning and going down to lower bay of Manhattan and meeting these ships coming up the narrows to interview celebrities. Garbo was on one of these ships. This was in 1937 and she’d become famous in the movies and had left Hollywood to go back to Sweden for vacation. She was purported to be in love with Leopold Stokowski, the conductor. We were (sent) down to the ship to find out.

Garbo came out and fifteen of us reporters and photographers held a mass interview. She was distinctly uncomfortable. Garbo was a very quiet, shy human being. She had made a fortune out of being shy and quiet and alone and she posed for pictures and they pursued her on the romance. I didn’t mention it. I don’t like mass interviews. I don’t think you stand a chance.

After everybody else had left, I stayed on the ship. I went to find her hoping I could get an interview. I went to her state room. I went to the Captain of the ship. I went everywhere for two-hours, and I couldn’t find Garbo. Finally, I had to go to the men’s room and that’s where I found her. She was in the men’s room hiding. I didn’t show any alarm, I just said that I’d love to see her for a couple minutes and could we take a walk on the deck. She said certainly.

We went out on the ship’s deck and talked. Then she told me something I thought was pretty important:

“You know,” I said. “you’ve said that you always wanted to be alone.”

“I’m glad you asked me that,” she said.“Because it’s not true. What I said was, I want to be left alone.”

I knew I had a good story. We talked, she was charming. She simply didn’t want to be overcome by a lot of people. Well, I jumped off the ship and got back to the newspaper and wrote the story about how Garbo had never said this remark about being alone, that she was not a recluse – she wanted to be left alone. Every newspaper in the United States picked it up.”

Seth had a special twinkle in his eye every time he told me the story of his and Garbo’s chance meeting, all because he wouldn’t give up on getting an exclusive. He said he even received a thank you note from the charming movie star, hoping that they would meet again someday. But they never did.

Greta Garbo, movie goddess and Seth Moseley’s favorite interview, passed away on Easter Sunday, April 15, 1990 in New York City. She was 85. Seth H. Moseley died Saturday, August 11, 2000 in Torrington, Connecticut. He was 92. Their fateful meeting in the men’s room aboard an ocean liner would forever set the record straight. Garbo never wanted to be alone, only to be left alone. Never to be forgotten.

CINEMUSES: Garbo, The Goddess of Witchcraft

12 Jan

Greta Garbo was the undisputed Queen of Golden Age Hollywood, or more accurately, Tinseltown from her 1927 silent film debut up to her abrupt departure from the screen in 1941. So much has been written about Garbo that there is very little new light to be shed on the luminous screen creation that was Garbo. The one thing I can add to all the biographies and hagiographies of the iconic actress, however, is why she remains more relevant today than when she was the highest paid woman in the U.S. ($5,000 a week in 1932) and the most recognizable face on the planet. Garbo remains relevant to today’s celebrity-obsessed culture simply because she started it all. She was the first star whose private life became fodder for the tabloids, literally her every move became a matter of record in every newspaper throughout the world.

The list of firsts involving the screen queen goes on and on:

The first time in history a newspaper hired a plane to fly over a celebrity’s house to capture a “candid” photo of the star sun-bathing nude.

The first time a King visited a movie set to pay homage to a movie queen (King Gustav of Sweden to MGM in Hollywood). Of course, Garbo refused to meet him.

The first time a celebrity (since Cleopatra) went by one name.

Garbo. Historians of film still talk about “the Rapture” seeing her face in close-up on screen had on theater audiences, both male and female, throughout the world. Never before had a human visage been captured in light so perfectly and so large – big enough to see every perfect pore of skin (covered in silver make-up made for her by Max Factor himself – so she would literally shine), every eyelash (all natural); ever internal thought conveyed through voluminous eyes.

Garbo, aka “The Face” was said to be the most beautiful woman who ever lived. But more than that, Garbo brought about modern screen acting, making her counterparts Norma Shearer and Marion Davies by comparison, appear to be pantomiming. Screen legend Bette Davis was so obsessed with Garbo’s acting that she stole onto a movie set to see Garbo in action. She came away nonplussed. Later, she saw the footage of that days shooting and was blown away by what the camera saw. Davis said Garbo’s affect on the artificial eye was nothing less than “witchcraft.”

All Garbo’s directors and fellow actors agreed. Seeing Garbo act with the naked eye seemed like nothing special. But then, when the film emulsion was processed and negative became positive – Garbo the screen goddess in all her glory appeared as if by alchemy. Nothing less than magic. Her ability to convey emotion without uttering a word, even moving, seemed supernatural. So much so that the occultists of the day considered Garbo to be more than mortal. She became known in the press as, “The Immortal One.”
Of course, Greta Garbo was not immortal. After her final film, “Two Faced Woman” flopped in 1941, she bid the world goodbye and moved into an apartment in Manhattan, New York and aged quietly, reclusively, until her death in 1990. Yet up until virtually her dying day, Garbo was stalked relentlessly by paparazzi while other glamorous movie stars of her era like Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth and poor Norma Shearer were forgotten once their beauty and fame faded from view.

Why? The easy answer is that Garbo’s steadfast rejection of the modern day cult-of-personality she helped to foment fueled our desire to capture her image evermore in the spotlight. As if, simply by virtue of the fact a famous person wanted to be left alone – we couldn’t allow it in our new age of media obsessed, fame monsters and attention whores. But I have a sneaking feeling there was more to it than that. My sense is that Garbo was more than met the eye, even when she became a shriveled, wrinkled, white-haired old lady. I think Bette Davis was onto something when she gazed at Garbo with those big, Betty Davis blue eyes of hers. I think Garbo was a witch. The most beautiful witch who ever lived, and whose cinematic spell will continue to be cast on generation upon generation of movie lovers – for as long as there is light.