Tag Archives: Oscars
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Garbo: Oscar-Winning Real Life Heroine

24 Feb

Greta Garbo is considered the Queen of the Hollywood Golden Age, from her silent films to her sound film classics. She was nominated four times for an Oscar for Best Actress award: In 1929, Garbo received two nominations for films Anne Christie and Romance, losing to Norma Shearer in the Oscar’s inaugural year. Then again for Camille in 1937, and finally Ninotchka in 1939. She would later receive an honorary Oscar in 1955, at the 27th Academy Awards (of course, which she refused to attend) for her “luminous and unforgettable screen performances.”

Garbo was the biggest star in Hollywood in 1939. Her Oscar-nominated star turn in comedy Ninotchka with the tag-line GARBO LAUGHS was atop a crowded box office landscape in a year that would see film classics Gone with The Wind, Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Wizard of Oz in their first run glory. But it was an off-screen role Garbo was preparing for that might be considered the greatest role of her lifetime.

It’s almost hard to comprehend being on the brink of world war today – but the average American citizen, circa 1939 had a lot of things on her mind. And if you happened to be the greatest movie star ever to grace the earth, the one the Guinness Book of World Records declared the most “beautiful woman that ever lived”  – you were apparently thinking of assassination in 1939. Not only thinking about it but preparing for it with the help of a foreign spy agency.

It was all part of a secret plot to do nothing short of save the planet from another devastating world war. Of intelligence officers from the British MI6 instructing the consummate actress in how to prepare to do the unthinkable: to shoot a man in cold blood. A man who was arguably your biggest fan. A man who wrote you fan letters begging you to be his country’s Aryan Goddess. Become the woman who would embody the epitome of his master race.

Adolf Hitler was goofy over Garbo. He obsessed over the black and white image of her dying in Camille. Watched her die over and over again in his own private screening room every night. It was true, no one died like Garbo. In the final moments of portraying the famous Camille the Parisian Courtesan, Hitler watched Garbo cross over from life into afterlife. Fascinated with the Occult, Hitler fantasized her a goddess come to life, only to die on screen for the world’s sins. He wanted to gaze upon her close up and in color. So much so that Hitler formally invited her to come to Nazi Germany under the grandest of circumstances.

But Garbo would have none of it. If she agreed to come, it would be under cover, and on orders of her spy handlers at MI6. Her cover story would be supplied by another undercover agent working for the Allied cause, Hungarian-born British producer Alexander Korda. Garbo and Korda had worked together several times during WWII. He had introduced her to William Stephenson, aka Intrepid, the British secret agency’s senior representative for the entire Western world during the war. Intrepid was thought to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s master spy: James Bond. And he would help Garbo prepare for the “Big One” – the plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Ideally, Garbo would travel to Germany, meet with Heir Hitler, and murder him before the war even began. Garbo later told her close friend Sam Green: “Mr Hitler was big on me. He kept writing and inviting me to come to Germany, and if the war hadn’t started when it did I would have gone and I would have taken a gun out of my purse and shot him because I’m the only person who would not have been searched.”

Garbo planned her trip to England (enroute to Nazi Germany) under the guise of shooting a feature film about one of her personal favorite heroines. With the help of Hedda Hopper, the biggest gossip columnist of 1939, a snippet from her popular Los Angeles Times column declared: “Great Garbo has finally got the role she’s been waiting for. She’ll sail sometime in September (1939) for England to play Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan under the direction of Clarence Brown.

Sure enough, the British Press picked up and published the ruse, complete with the film to be produced by Rank at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire – 17 miles outside London, England.

The war in Europe began on September 3, 1939. But what if Garbo had embarked on her journey, on the eve of World War II? Made her way via ocean liner to a fateful meeting with the madman of Europe. Even to save the world, would the most glamorous movie star in the world have been able to take a gun out of her purse and pulled the trigger. Killed Hitler in cold blood? Play the heroine, like she did in Mata Hari, and Queen Christina for real? And what would the world look like today if she had succeeded?

Order Looking For Garbo: A Novel (Amphorae Publishing) coming on May 7 and find out what might have happened on Garbo’s fateful trip into history:

 

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Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman: Oscar Royalty

22 Feb

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Tonight I’ll be watching the Oscars like I always do with a sense of nostalgia for the glamorous stars of the past. A time when the Oscars were the biggest night in movies, the stars all congregated next to each other with their colleagues, handlers, friends, rivals and family members. And among them all, there is always the reigning power couple. Like them or not, Brad and Angelina are the reigning star-coupling. But for me, they can’t hold a candle to the once star-crossed duo of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

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Looking back now they seemed impossibly young and impossibly good-looking. They seemed destined for one-another, in love and in-like for all to see and envy. It’s a toss-up which one of them was more beautiful. But as far as talent, I think both Paul and Joanne were a very well-balanced couple. The fact that they endured and stayed together is even more a testament to their ability to put their egos, and the entertainment business in general, in check.

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They always seemed to have a sense of humility about their position in Hollywood. One that stemmed out of an understanding of just how ridiculous a lot of the industry is, how insular successful actors become, and a desire to not be anything more than what they were – working actors. It made them even more appealing to their fans and that much more infuriating to their detractors (the few they had).

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Paul and Joanne were smart folks, no doubt. They knew their star value and were able to parlay their fame into more then fortune, more than just a superficial affectation of movie star immortality. And because they gave back, they were role-models for stars that came after them. People who may not have had a philanthropic bone in their bodies but learned, like we all do, through mimicking our heroes, what it means to become a real hero to people. To help people you don’t know who are less fortunate than yourself, through no fault of their own.

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Joanne and Paul seemed to be the perfect couple and made their bond look effortless, at least in front of the cameras. I was never fortunate enough to meet them and confess that it doesn’t really make a difference to me how they were behind close doors. Like any couple, I’m sure they had their issues, arguments and hang-ups. To me, what’s important is that they really seemed to get each other, to like each other and provide a loving example for the rest of us mere mortals to strive for. That was their role, like it or not, as a power couple. To reign with benevolence and lead by their mutual sense of good will. And they pulled it off handsomely.

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Newman and Woodward were stars in their own right, both winning Oscars and both pursuing roles that challenged them as the artists they were. Along the way, they pulled off the almost unbelievable feat of getting better looking as they grew older. Paul’s blue eyes became deeper as his face filled out and Joanne’s porcelain-complexion seemingly defied age. They were comfortable with each other, comfortable in their own skin and comfortable in the legacy they built together as philanthropists. Their Newman’s Own Foundation has raised millions and will continue to do so for generations to come. Long after kids today will forget Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Three Faces of Eve – Newman’s Own will be in their refridgerators and on the dinner table, giving back and continuing a legacy that will always be part of Oscar’s yesteryear glory.

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I’ll watch the Oscars tonight and enjoy the spectacle, the glamor and reflect back on when the stars had faces. A time when the stars seemed to be a little loftier, a little higher in the sky and a lot easier to look up to as a result. Maybe it’s because I was younger, shorter and more gullible. Or maybe we’ve lost something that we need desperately both in Hollywood and the rest of the world today: a sense that people who are much for fortunate and successful than the rest of us – care and genuinely want to help out the little people who put them there.

Michelle Pfeiffer: Sexiest Catwoman Ever?

8 Jul

Michelle Pfeiffer is one of the most beautiful women who ever lived, hands down. The soulful eyes, luscious downturn lips and megawatt smile are enough to make this weaponized beauty a worthy adversary against every other knockout who’s ever graced the silver screen. Michelle’s held her own against some pretty hard-hitters, too. From Scarface (1983) with Al “say hello to my little friend” Pacino, to The Witches of Eastwick (1987) with Jack Nicholson playing, ahem, a horny devil – Michelle has survived some pretty scary characters. That is, until it came time for her to cross over to the dark side and play the dangerously seductive Catwoman to Michael Keaton’s Batman in Batman Returns (1992).

Michelle is my favorite Catwoman because she is easily the sexiest, slinkiest A-List actress to don the feline form-fitting suit and not look slightly ridiculous. As a matter of fact, she actually looks sexy and dangerous at the same time – two of my favorite qualities in a girlfriend. Miss Pfeiffer has the purrrfect figure (sorry, groan) for the portrayal and comes off as a cross between a dominatrix with a leather fetish and a sympathetic victim of circumstance. Plus, the heat she managed to generate on-screen with Keaton was the major highpoint in the legendary first-Batman franchise. I mean, look at the photo (above) and tell me that she’s not exuding a “come hither, go wither” glare.

Of course, Michelle is an amazing actress whether in or out of the catsuit. One of my very favorite movies is What Lies Beneath (2000) where Michelle is haunted by ghosts and ultimately stalked by her husband, a menacing Harrison Ford. This movie scared the bejeezus out of me while also reminding me of why I’ve had a crush on Michelle my entire adult life. She is really a wonderfully-talented thespian who just happens to be an absolute, drop-dead gorgeous blonde. But it would have to be Dangerous Liaisons (1987) that sealed my affections for Ms. Pfeiffer. Her deeply affecting portrayal of a woman in love who is mortally-wounded by the object of her desire, embodied by John Malkovich, is one of her greatest achievements. Even in her death scene, Michelle is so, so beautiful. Those lips, those eyes once again classify her as a goddess of the silver screen.

So, is Michelle the best and sexiest Catwoman ever? In a little less than a couple weeks we’ll find out what Ms. Anne Hathaway has to say about it. But I have a sneaking feeling that Michelle will always hold a special place in the pantheon of feline femme fatales. And she will always be Hollywood royalty for daring to be so beautiful, vulnerable and formidable all at the same time – whether she’s in spandex, leather, gossamer or nothing at all.

CINEMUSES: Kim Novak is One Pissed-Off Goddess!

10 Jan

I love Kim Novak. She is one of the most talented and beautiful of Hollywood’s Leading Ladies, not to mention Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock’s VERTIGO is a masterpiece, but would not nearly be the classic so worthy of multiple viewings if it were not for Kim. Who isn’t able to put themselves in Jimmy Stewart’s obsessive shoes watching Kim strut her stuff as Marilyn. OMG! The blonde in the grey suit is one of the most amazing femme fatales ever! And she’s not even trying to kill Jimmy, just mess with his head so much that he has to be put in an asylum! Now that’s a girl after my own heart.

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Kim came out of hiding lately long enough to rip the Director of THE ARTIST a new one for invoking music from VERTIGO to give his own film a little extra uumph at the end. Lovely Kim said it was tantamount to “rape” and her lambast was all the more thunderous because she is a living Hollywood legend who knows how to hold her tongue. She hasn’t even written her memoirs, though she tried (they were lost in a house-fire). Kim gets the GARBO award for letting everyone remember the way she was. Except for one offending French Director whose black & white love letter to silent movies incurred the wrath of a sex goddess. If that doesn’t spell OSCAR, I don’t know what does.

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To recap: What do you do when you’re a director whose film is fated to be in the running for an Oscar – big dream come true – that draws the ire and disdain of a silver screen siren = cinephile’s worst nightmare! While I can only wish to be in said Director’s shoes, I would never want to do it at the expense of one of my favorite CINEMUSES. I’d rather just continue toiling away in obscurity than succeed at the risk of offending a Goddess. After all, this life is but the prologue to another – and when I’m at the pearly gates, I only want my beautiful Leading Ladies who’ve passed before me to whisper nice things into St. Peter’s ear.