Oscar E Moore

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VITAGRAPH – The birth of the moving picture industry – meticulously researched by Andrew A. Erish

June 9th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore

VITAGRAPH, may call to mind but should never be confused with Lucy Ricardo’s VITAMEATAVEGAMIN TV commercial.  Nor should it be mistaken for VITAPHONE, a sound system or BIOGRAPH, a rival silent film company.

Mr. Erish “an independent scholar of cinema” has made sure of this in his text book style treatise recreating the dawn of motion pictures in VITAGRAPH, America’s First Great Motion Picture Studio published by University Press of Kentucky.  Spanning the years from 1875 to 1926 and beyond, there are forty eight pages of detailed footnotes!

Ken Burns take note.  This would make an excellent documentary.  While the text is interesting and informative it is almost drowned in financial details.  Showing actual clips from the silent movies would be a terrific addition.  After all, the book is about “moving” pictures.

Vitagraph was the combined brainchild of two young, ambitious and creative English immigrants in 1897.  Both twenty.  Both hungry – make that starving – to be part of the entertainment industry centered in Manhattan – consisting then of family friendly variety shows.

J. S. Blackton and Albert E. Smith. Both naïve. Both inexperienced and “easy prey” as the third wheel of the soon-to-be Studio – an older William T. “Pop” Rock described them in 1899.  Rock was an imposing figure.  He knew the ropes.  Was sharp.  And became a distributor of Vitagraph’s vast output.  Especially Europe.

Smith a personable “High Class Prestidigitateur and Mimic” and Blackton a cautious and conservative artist whose work would lead to a fateful meeting with a scheming, litigation prone Thomas Edison that had long lasting almost disastrous results for the duo.

With hard work and determination, thrift, talent and a willing to learn, nerve and imagination they forged ahead to make VITAGRAPH the most influential and leading producer of motion pictures for much of the silent era.

Newsreels.  Westerns.  Lavish Historical Moments.  Comedies.  Crime and Chase. Special effects.  Animation.  Fast paced and profitable.

Creating stars:  Florence Turner, “The Vitagraph Girl” – Maurice Costello “a matinee idol” (whose daughter Dolores Costello married John Barrymore and was Drew Barrymore’s grandmother) – “Jean” the Vitagraph dog – a collie and John Bunny – a W.C. Fields lookalike comedian.

Finally overcoming their harassment and intimidating troubles with Edison, Adolph Zukor of PARAMOUNT entered the picture – determined to “smash Vitagraph” through a divide and conquer strategy.  In the final reel, Vitagraph was sold to Warners in 1925.

A case of scientists, businessmen and lawyers vs. the artistic and innovative minds of Blackton and Smith with their hands on experience with every facet of filmmaking – from building their own cameras and projectors to writing, directing, editing, acting, developing the negatives and projecting the results to paying audiences.

Adolph Zukor never engaged in any of these activities.  He was a furrier who got involved like Mr. “Pop” Rock because it seemed like a good investment.

That’s show-biz!

But there’s a lot more to VITAGRAPH than meets the eye.

Available now.

Hardcover.  298 pages 46 B/W Photos published 6/9/2021 $34.95

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DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD – Advice from the Royal Beyond

April 5th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore

Life lessons from the six wives of the infamous tyrant Henry VIII take center stage to vent their long held suppressed anger in this “unofficial survival guide for fans of the musical SIX” written by Harriet Marsden now available – $16.95 US.

DISCLAIMER # 1 – “This book is independently authored and published and is NOT affiliated in any way with the musical Six.”

DISCLAIMER # 2 – I have a vested interest in the long ignored Anna of Cleves (number 4) having written A ROYAL MESS – a comedy of errors dealing with her six month marriage to Henry – adapted from the French “La Jument du Roi” (The King’s Mare) by Jean Canolle.  Anna spoke no English but she kept her head!

DISCLAIMER # 3 – I love the Tudor historical novels by Philippa Gregory as does Harriet Marsden.  I highly recommend them.

And now to this well put together, easy to read, Royal magenta (a nod to all the blood shed) and puce colored (or is it lilac or purple?) hard covered, Royal Spark Notes type, handbook version by Ms. Marsden.

It is an up to date, first person narrative by each Queen.  With “family tree” individual “profiles” and “TIMELINE” for easy reference so that one can sort out the very complicated relationships of the extremely horny Tudors.

Henry’s mother speaks up as well as Mary and Elizabeth.

But for some odd reason I kept hearing the sharply acerbic voice of Joan Rivers as each wife in turn tells her sob story chock full of historical tidbits, trivia and travails with a smattering of Spanish, French, German to help give them some individuality with some timeless profanity and anachronistic expressions to bring it into the 21st century.

And therein lies a problem.  They all sound alike in this concise, spicy history lesson.  By the time we get to Catherine Parr, Henry’s last, we are as tired of his wives as he was of them.

The following are some of their quotable helpful hints for survival:

“A selfish man will always throw it back in your face when he doesn’t get what he wants.”

“Out of great suffering can come great, professional opportunity.”

“Give a spoilt boy an ax and he becomes a man who chops down trees or chops off heads.”

“You do not have to look good to be hot.”

“Bide your time and wait for your revenge.”

“Judge a man on how he treats his wife in life – not how he remembers her in death.”

“Nothing stays secret for long when it comes to sex and scandal.”

“NEVER put in writing what you wouldn’t want your mother to read.  And don’t sign it.”

“If a woman can read and teach herself there is no reason why she can’t do anything a man does.  Better probably.”

“Let’s just say prayer isn’t the only useful thing you can do on your knees.”

“There’s none so sensitive as a man who can’t get it up.”

“Fake it if you have to.”

And above all “To thine own self be true” – No!  That’s Shakespeare!

In all seriousness…  Stay focused.  Outsmart him.  Or whomever.  Take neither nonsense nor gruff behavior and you will hopefully come out ahead.

There is always a way to succeed.

192 pages  Ulysses Press

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AT LONG LAST “LOVING” Nini & Treadwell

October 24th, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

It is the creation of Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell, a married couple who spent the past two decades of their life scouring every flea market, estate sale, and online auction for these photographs.

Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love, 1850-1950 portrays the history of romantic love between men in hundreds of moving and tender vernacular photographs taken between the years 1850 and 1950. This visual narrative of astonishing sensitivity brings to light an until-now-unpublished collection of hundreds of snapshots, portraits, and group photos taken in the most varied of contexts, both private and public.

Taken when male partnerships were often illegal, the photos here were found at flea markets, in shoe boxes, family archives, old suitcases, and later online and at auctions. The collection now includes photos from all over the world: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Japan, Greece, Latvia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Serbia.

The subjects were identified as couples by that unmistakable look in the eyes of two people in love – impossible to manufacture or hide. They were also recognized by body language – evidence as subtle as one hand barely grazing another – and by inscriptions, often coded.

Included here are ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, glass negatives, tin types, cabinet cards, photo postcards, photo strips, photomatics, and snapshots – over 100 years of social history and the development of photography.

Loving will be produced to the highest standards in illustrated book publishing, The photographs – many fragile from age or handling – have been digitized using a technology derived from that used on surveillance satellites and available in only five places around the world. Paper and other materials are among the best available. And Loving will be manufactured at one of the world’s elite printers. Loving, the book, will be up to the measure of its message in every way.

In these delight-filled pages, couples in love tell their own story for the first time at a time when joy and hope – indeed human connectivity – are crucial lifelines to our better selves. Universal in reach and overwhelming in impact, Loving speaks to our spirit and resilience, our capacity for bliss, and our longing for the shared truths of love.

Available on AMAZON

Photos:  amazon.com & boredpanda.com  Thank you!

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August 21st, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

As the shutdown of Broadway – and all live theatre – continues due to the devastating effects of Covid-19 with no immediate date to reopen and the world is in disarray over that deplorable and infamous 8 minute 46 second knee-on-the-neck video that resulted in the tragic death of George Floyd, MAGIC TIME a memoir – notes on Theatre & Other Entertainments by Edwin Wilson is about to be published on August 25th 2020.

It may seem an inopportune time but for me it is a beacon of hope.  A lesson in fortitude, hard work, research and luck.  And entertaining to boot!

This will all become clear when you grab yourself a copy and immerse yourself in the fascinating life of Mr. Wilson.  When you read his words: concise and straightforward, humble and generous.   Mr. Wilson explains it much better than I ever could as he’s lived it firsthand.

At ninety one Edwin Wilson is still sharing his vast theatrical knowledge in his own candid, inimitable way after being the theatre critic for 23 years at The Wall Street Journal (a few choice reviews included) serving on the faculty at Hunter College for 45 years and the CUNY Graduate Center for nearly half a century.  He can be seen wearing a dapper bow tie on YouTube SPOTLIGHT as he interviews the likes of Walter Kerr and Eric Bentley (just died at 103) et al.

An accomplished academic, he is hardly stodgy and stuffy.  Never mean.  Serious with a low key humor.

Anecdotes about George Abbott, My Fair Lady, Lena Horne, Fiorello! (“the original script was hopeless” quoting Mr. Abbott), working on the film The Lord of the Flies, summer stock, Shaw and Shakespeare, John Guare, Joseph Papp & A Chorus Line, advertising, Al Hirschfeld. London, Paris and Quogue Long Island, Fiddler in Japan, Tennessee Williams, Hofstra, John Gassner, Yale, writing, directing, producing and above all teaching, sharing and always learning.  He has done it all.

Having been happily married to Chic (as in “chick” without the “k”) his wife of almost 50 years, a successful decorator in New York and Paris.  It is to her memory that MAGIC TIME is dedicated.

Peppered throughout with phrases such as “out of the blue” “once again luck was on my side” “I had the extreme good fortune” and “by pure coincidence” we get the impression that he was extremely lucky.  With great connections.  But he was a hard worker, decent, passionate and willing to do the research and to take risks to get ahead.  There’s more to “being lucky” at work here.

Born and raised in Nashville, Mr. Wilson had no ambition to be a writer.  He calls himself “an accidental author.” Giving credit to George Bernard Shaw for teaching him the fundamentals of writing through reading and studying Shaw’s output.

I suggest it was his unwavering passion for live theatre – the connection between audience and actors – “magic time” that has resulted in this most illuminating and inspirational memoir.

Your true passion will find you even if at first you do not realize what your true passion is.  It’s a calling.  Is that fate?  Who knows?

MAGIC TIME a memoir by Mr. Edwin Wilson is highly recommended.  I wish him well and continued success and hope I meet him one day – the most fascinating and unforgettable character I have never met, yet greatly admire.

Photo:  Paul Kolnik


Call (toll free) 877 668 8680

Paperback ISBN 978-1-57525-942-0 – $19.95

Hardcover ISBN 978-1-57525-947-5 – $29.95

311 pages

Publication date:  August 25, 2020

Contact: marissa@smithandkraus.com

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CHAPLIN – new documentary sheds light on gypsy roots

July 28th, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

WORKHOUSE (workhousepr.com) one of the country’s leading public relations and integrated creative firms, today announced that it has been selected as the Agency of Record for CHARLIE CHAPLIN, A MAN OF THE WORLD, a documentary feature focusing on the Romany gypsy roots of cinema legend Charlie Chaplin. Workhouse will develop integrated promotional campaigns that synchronize communication efforts, including international endeavors, and will execute a comprehensive public relations plan on behalf of the project. The assignment is effective immediately. Interested media please contact Workhouse, CEO Adam Nelson via email nelson@workhousepr.com or by telephone +1. 212. 645. 8006
Director-Writer Carmen Chaplin directs “Charlie Chaplin, A Man of the World,” a theatrical documentary feature that adds a hardly-explored new facet to the creator of the Tramp, one of the most iconic cinema characters in popular consciousness, plumbing Chaplin’s Romani roots and heritage.
Marking the first time that the Chaplin family is involved at a deeply creative and industrial level in a movie about Charles Chaplin, grand-daughter Carmen Chaplin is also co-writing the documentary’s screenplay with Amaia Remi?rez, a co-writer and lead producer on “Another Day of Life,” a European Film Awards best-animated feature winner, and Isaki Lacuesta, twice awarded with Gold Shell in San Sebastian International Film Festival, a multi-awarded Spanish filmmaker whose work includes documentary, fiction and video installations exhibited worldwide.A documentary that “radically reinterprets Chaplin’s oeuvre from a Romani perspective and examines the persecution of gypsies through his lens,” “Charlie Chaplin, A Man of the World” is produced by Madrid-based Wave of Humanity’s Stany Coppet, Dolores Chaplin and Ashim Bhalla, Amaia Remi?rez at San Sebastian’s Kanaki Films, and Nano Arrieta at Madrid’s Atlantika Films.

In addition, attached to the movie Fabien Westerhoff from UK Film Constellation playing as coproducer and international sales agent, B-team pictures as Spanish distributor, with the determining participation of RTVE. Worldwide known gypsy artist Lita Cabellut portrays Chaplin’s birth and childhood through animated sequences produced by L.A-Amsterdam based Submarine´s Femke Wolting and Bruno Felix, coproducers of “Charlie Chaplin: A Man of the World”. Submarine produces Amazon Undone animation series or Netflix Apollo 10 ½ directed by five Academy Awards nominated Linklater.

CHARLIE CHAPLIN, A MAN OF THE WORLD is a feature-length cinema documentary focusing on the gypsy roots of Charlie Chaplin, cinema legend, musician, and Romany. By exploring Charlie’s birth and childhood (animation), foregrounding distinct gypsy elements in his work (film clips), and by documenting Roma gypsies (cinema verite? and interviews), the movie offers a new and unique perspective on Charlie’s life and films as well as celebrating the vibrancy of Romany culture.

Following Charlie’s death in 1977, his daughter Victoria Chaplin discovered a letter addressed to her father which he had kept locked away in his bedside table for years. Michael Chaplin muses, “…my father received thousands of letters from all over the world, why would he keep that one unless it meant something to him?… And why was it a secret?”

The Romany author of the letter recounts the night Charlie Chaplin was born: not in London as widely believed but in a gypsy camp in the English Midlands, “…you don’t know where you were born or in fact who you really are…” taunts Jack Hill.

To more profoundly understand Charlie we must understand what it meant to be gypsy when he was born in 1889: life was arduous and often tragic. But the startling reality is that gypsies have been persecuted across Europe for centuries and continue to be victimized even today.

“20 years ago I made a movie in Bucharest, on my days off I wandered the austere post-communist city and became fascinated by the stray dogs and Romany children. The dogs and the children lived a life distinct from and parallel to the rest of the city: ignored and persecuted. As they scavenged for food whilst hiding from the cops, the Romany children struck me as being straight out of my grandfather’s film THE KID. On returning to the film set, I recounted what I’d seen to the Romanian people closest to me. To my total shock they condemned these children as criminals and low-lifes. This encounter with anti-gypsy stigma stayed with me; I saw that otherwise pleasant people could also view other individuals as worthless and in fact barely human.

This is the first film on Charlie by members of his family, and several of Charlie’s children will participate. I wish to uncover the role that Romany heritage plays in the culture of our family. What did this mean to them growing-up, what do their gypsy roots mean to them now?

CARMEN CHAPLIN (Director, Co-Writer) is a British and Irish multi-racial actress and director. Born in London, Carmen grew-up in France. As an actress, she worked extensively in Europe and also in the U.S. with several eminent directors including Andre? Te?chine?, Wim Wenders, Sydney Pollack, and Philippe Rousselot.

In 2012 Carmen directed a visual poem on the theme of time for luxury Swiss watch brand Jaeger- LeCoultre. A Time for Everything was selected for the acclaimed SHOOT New Directors Showcase at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in New York and is hosted online by Vogue; the film screened at the Saatchi Gallery in London and at Lincoln Centre in New York.

In 2014 Carmen wrote and directed a short science-fiction comedy for French car manufacturer Renault: The Innovators screened at Soho House in West Hollywood, Lincoln Center in New York, the Academy Awards qualifying festival Hollyshorts in Los Angeles, and enjoyed a successful festival run through 2015/16.

In 2016 Carmen completed narrative short drama Tryst in Paname starring Dolores Chaplin, Bambou Gainsbourg, and Stany Coppet. The film — showcased worldwide by UniFrance — began its festival run at Chelsea Film Festival in New York and screened at international film festivals through 2016/17 including Manchester International Film Festival and Shorts on Tap in London.

Carmen has two feature film projects in development at her production company Kwanon Films in London. She wrote the feature film screenplay Photocall — described by New York’s A24 Films as “extremely emotional and gripping” — and is also attached to direct the movie; Carmen is currently packaging the film with producing partner Ashim Bhalla.

In 2019 at the San Sebastia?n Film Festival, Spanish film production companies Wave of Humanity, Atlantika Films, and Kanaki Films announced that Carmen Chaplin is to direct feature documentary on her cinema legend grandfather Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World.

W O R K H O U S E is one of the country’s leading public relations and integrated creative agencies. Celebrating 20 years of service, the agency provides forward thinking public relations, social media, brand promotion, creative consulting and modern day marketing. Clients have included Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola, David LaChapelle, CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, Interview Magazine, Galleries Lafayette, Porsche, Ford Motor Company, Virgin, Jazz at Lincoln Center, International Emmy Awards, Assouline Editions, Rizzoli International Publications, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Chase Contemporary, Versace and Avroko. Workhouse offers untraditional service across a broad spectrum of entertainment, culture, fashion and lifestyle spheres. Visit workhousepr.com





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April 24th, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

April 19, 2020 11:48pm PT by Scott Feinberg HollywoodReporter.com

‘Sunset Blvd.’ Turns 70: Nancy Olson on Wilder, Holden and Why She Walked Away From Stardom

The 91-year-old, who was Oscar-nominated for her portrayal of a script reader who falls in love with a kept man, looks back on the film that she says “haunts my entire life.”
“I have lived a very long time, as you know, and I have never experienced anything like this,” Nancy Olson, the actress best known for her work in the Hollywood classic Sunset Blvd., says of the novel coronavirus crisis, which has forced us to speak by telephone even though we live just minutes from each other in the Beverly Hills area. “There’s uncertainty every single day!” But pandemic be damned, a movie only turns 70 once, and rarely with any of its stars around to celebrate the occasion, so Olson, who is 91 and Sunset’s last survivor, is kind enough to set aside some time to look back.
“It is something that haunts my entire life,” she says of the 1950 film — one of the most celebrated and imitated examples of film noir — which was co-written and directed by Billy Wilder and also starred William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim, all of whom have been dead for decades. “I don’t mean in a bad way. It’s just a presence in my life that will stay with me long after I’m gone.”
The older of two children born to a Milwaukee doctor and a schoolteacher, Olson was an all-American girl — nicknamed “Wholesome Olson” by classmates — who partook in drama, music and speech while in high school. She started at the University of Wisconsin, where as a freshman she landed the lead in a Wisconsin Players’ production, before heading west and transferring to UCLA, where an uncle had recently become a dean. She stayed with her uncle and aunt in the Pacific Palisades while attending school as a theater arts major and harboring dreams of a career on the stage.
Then, one night after Olson — not yet 21 — had performed in a Bruins production of The Play’s the Thing, a Paramount talent scout who had been in the audience asked her to come by the studio for a screen test. Shortly thereafter, she read opposite George Reeves, later TV’s Superman, and was signed to a seven-year contract that permitted her to continue to attend college part-time, placating her parents.
Her first assignment was Canadian Pacific, in which she starred opposite Randolph Scott, “who was old enough to be my father.” She made promotional appearances alongside other starlets, including one Marilyn Monroe of Fox. And she learned to navigate men of the industry who expressed an interest in the stunning brunette newcomer: “If I walked on the set and somebody said, ‘Oh, God, you look great today,’ I loved that,” she admits. But when things went over the line? “I had a technique of dealing with anybody who came too intimately. I just handled it so straight — Wisconsin-straight — and that would put them off.”
One person whose interest in her was not romantic, but was hard to decipher, was Wilder, who would frequently catch up with her when she was on her way to or from the studio commissary to inquire about her life and thoughts. “I surmised years later,” she says, “that what he was doing was auditioning me.” Indeed, unbeknownst to Olson at the time, “He was writing about a young woman who was an aspiring writer, and therefore the actress playing that part could not be just one of the little starlets on the lot; you had to somewhere believe that writing was of interest to her. And so I think it was the way I articulated myself that got me the part.”
She eventually got a call from the studio’s talent office telling her that she would next be appearing in a Wilder picture called Sunset Blvd., and was sent the screenplay. “I read that script and realized that this was not the usual, that this was daring,” she recalls. She was to play Betty Schaefer, a script reader who wants to be a screenwriter and, though engaged to another man, falls in love with a struggling screenwriter by the name of Joe Gillis, who turns out to be the kept man of Norma Desmond, a faded star of Hollywood’s long-ago silent era.
Holden, who played Gillis, was also appropriately cast — like his character, the actor was down on his luck, having never fulfilled the star potential he had demonstrated in 1939’s Golden Boy. “He was now playing male second-leads, he was drinking too much, he was in a bad marriage and he was desperate about his career,” Olson explains. “He was losing it. It was brilliant casting because Joe Gillis is losing his career and his life and his dreams.” As for Swanson? “I had no idea who she was,” Olson confesses. “I asked my mother and she told me.”
Sunset Blvd. was shot almost entirely on the Paramount lot, and Olson visited its set numerous times in the days before she was to shoot her own scenes. Edith Head would sometimes costume her in outfits Head wanted Wilder to approve for the film — only to have Wilder tell Head that he preferred Olson in her own humble wardrobe.
As for the shoot itself? Olson enjoyed every moment of it, from her scenes in the studio’s second-story readers department offices (which are still there) to the one at Norma’s mansion (which was not actually at 10086 Sunset Blvd., as the film suggests, but rather at the corner of Wilshire and Irving, and was demolished in 1957). One, however, stands out to her above the others: “I felt the scene on the backlot” — when Schaefer and Gillis stroll the alleyways together, she tells him she once harbored aspirations of being an actress and had a nose job to try to make it possible and he then kisses her nose before telling her to keep her distance from him, lest he be tempted — “was written so beautifully.”
Hollywood legend has it that Sunset Blvd. was privately screened for an audience of industry insiders prior to its theatrical release, at which point MGM chief Louis B. Mayer and Wilder had an altercation. Olson says she was not present when this happened, but had friends who were and told her what happened: “Louis B. Mayer sat there and watched the film, and when it was over he got up and marched over to Billy Wilder and said, ‘How could you do this to us [the industry that had made Wilder rich and famous]?!’ And Billy got up and said, ‘Go fuck yourself.'”
After Sunset Blvd. was in the can, but before it was released, Olson, working for $300 a week, shot a handful of other films including Mr. Music opposite Bing Crosby (“I was much too young for Bing”) and three more with Holden — Union Station, Force of Arms and Submarine Command — who, she says with a chuckle, had made a romantic pass at her in his trailer during the shooting of Sunset Blvd., but graciously accepted her rejection, after which, she says, “We became really good friends.”
However, before any of these films were released (in 1950 or 1951), Olson made a major decision: to walk away from Hollywood. Several things factored into her thinking: She would no longer be able to continue her education — “I could not go back to UCLA and be with all my friends and have them treat me exactly the way they used to,” she realized. She had become engaged to someone whose career was in New York — the writer Alan Jay Lerner. And, most important, she had already begun to see through the veneer of stardom. As Sunset Blvd. had illustrated, movie stars are disposable commodities — and even when one is in the thick of stardom, it’s just an illusion. “There’s a distortion that isn’t real,” Olson emphasizes. “You are not treated like who you really are. You are exaggerated.” So, she recalls, “I said to Paramount, ‘I’m not interested in being a movie star,’ and they just took me off their list. But then when Sunset Blvd. opened [Aug. 10, 1950, and became a critical and commercial hit], the pressure on me to return was unbelievable.”
Sunset Blvd. was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, second that year only to another film about an aging actress, All About Eve, which landed a record-setting 14 noms (a figure since tied by Titanic and La La Land, but never bested). Sunset’s haul included a nom in all four acting categories, something only four films previously had — and 10 films since have — achieved. Olson flew back to attend the Oscars ceremony, and ended up losing to Harvey’s Josephine Hull — “Not one of us [four performers] got an award,” she marvels — though the film did win for its writing, art/set decoration and musical score. In the best picture race, All About Eve prevailed. “That was a great film,” she acknowledges. “However, Sunset Blvd. is way ahead of it.” (She was back at the Oscars a year later accepting a screenwriting award for Lerner’s work on An American in Paris, while he stayed with his dying father.)
Olson sporadically returned to filmmaking over the ensuing years — most notably in Big Jim McLain (1952) opposite John Wayne; Robert Wise’s So Big (1953); The Boy From Oklahoma (1954), directed by Michael Curtiz; Raoul Walsh’s Battle Cry (1955); and four Disney films, Pollyanna (1960), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Son of Flubber (1963) and Snowball Express (1972). But, she emphasizes, “My life has been far more expansive than just making movies.”
The author of a just-completed memoir, A Front Row Seat, she also starred in three plays on Broadway, The Tunnel of Love (1957-1958), Send Me No Flowers (1960-1961) and Mary, Mary (1962-1964). She was twice married to distinguished Alans — first Lerner, from 1950 until their divorce in 1957 (he wrote the song “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” for the 1956 Broadway production of My Fair Lady after making a similar remark about Olson), and then Alan W. Livingston, a top music industry exec, from 1962 until his death in 2009. And she is the mother of three children — two girls with Lerner and a boy with Livingston — who have since made her a proud grandmother.
Every once in a while, she is reminded of her time in the movies. Still strikingly beautiful, she recently went into the beauty department at Saks and, to her amazement, was recognized immediately. She received a postcard not long ago from a fan who ended his missive by somewhat creepily paraphrasing a line that Gillis said to Schaefer: “P.S.: You still ‘smell like freshly laundered linen handkerchiefs.'” She is occasionally asked to participate in Q&As following screenings of Sunset Blvd., and her presence has helped to pack screenings at the TCM Film Festival and elsewhere. And, back in February, her most celebrated film was even referenced in a questionable remark by President Donald Trump, who, at a rally following the best picture Oscar win of the South Korean film Parasite — which he had not seen — said he preferred films like Gone With the Wind and Sunset Blvd. (Olson, for her part, says, “If he is re-elected, I’m not sure what is going to happen to our democracy and to our country and to the world.”)
Most of the time, though, she quite happily goes about her life as just another face in the crowd — which she told me she would do after our phone call, when she planned to head to Whole Foods. “Don’t worry,” she reassured me when I expressed concern. “I have a mask and gloves.”
Photo courtesy of Photofest

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April 23rd, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

Before Coronavirus, Theater Was My Salvation. Where Do I Turn Now?
The live-streamed performances and online group chats have been useful, but I miss the joy that comes with being in a theater.
By Joel Grey
Mr. Grey is an actor and director.
• April 22, 2020

Recently, I quietly (and socially distantly) celebrated my 88th birthday. Some people might say that, even in good times, looking toward the future at my age is an act of optimism. But a life in the theater is built on exactly that kind of blind confidence, and I’ve spent my life pretty much always looking forward to whatever was the next thing: the next role, the next milestone, the next great show to see.
Now, because of the coronavirus, we’re facing a future that sure feels more tenuous and fragile than ever. Projects have been canceled, milestones have already been missed, and all the shows have gone dark. These are hard times, for sure, and in hard times I, like so many others, have always turned to the theater for comfort. Where do we turn now?
To non-theater lovers, lamenting the closing of Broadway in the face of so much widespread suffering may seem, at best, frivolous. But for many of us, this tragedy has been made that much more devastating by having to face the nightmare without the laughter, tears and sense of community that a night in the theater delivers.
The darkened Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on West 45th Street, home of the musical “Come From Away.” Broadway theaters have been closed since March 12 because of the pandemic.Credit…Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times
When politicians talk about the power of Broadway in tough times they often speak in purely economic terms. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made his interest clear when he told the nation: “If you really want to help New York City, come to New York. Go to a play. Spend money in New York City.”
It is big business, to be sure. It’s a point of pride that Broadway is New York City’s top tourist destination, drawing more ticket buyers in the 2017-18 season than all of the tristate area’s sports teams combined.
But by focusing solely on “money, money, money,” we diminish playgoing’s deepest value. When the theater reacts in real time to current events, it has a unique ability to comfort and lead us through difficult times.
The only other public health emergency in my lifetime that recalls this pandemic, both because of the terror surrounding it and the failure of our elected officials to contain it, was AIDS. When “The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer’s dramatization of the early days of that crisis, premiered at the Public Theater, it was 1985, near the height of paranoia about AIDS. Shortly after the play’s opening night, the actor playing the role of Ned Weeks, Brad Davis, found out he was positive and fell ill.
Joe Papp, the producer, called and asked me to take over the role, which called for an onstage kiss between Ned and his lover. My doctor — who did not yet know exactly how the disease could and could not be transmitted — advised me not to take the job because of it. I’ve never been particularly good at following doctors’ orders, and in this case, for me, the notion of backing out was unthinkable; I was already committed and felt an urgent need to be a part of telling this story. But the fear that came from that misinformation was there nightly.
The fact that “The Normal Heart” was chronicling these horrific events more or less in real time made it so much more than a play. It was a coming together of the actors and the audience to to talk about it, cry about it, cry some more about it — to connect. Up until then, I had never been in a play where the audience’s weeping would become part of the mise-en-scène.
Every single night, there was a palpable sense of catharsis in the theater before, during and after the performance. The production was a release for a community in mourning, and also managed to infiltrate popular culture in a way that created much wider awareness about a largely misunderstood disease. (A few years later, Tony Kushner would dramatize the horrors of AIDS to an even wider audience with his epic “Angels in America.”)
I can’t think of any significant national trauma during my life to which dramatists haven’t held a mirror, from the Vietnam War (“Hair,” in 1967) to the Sept. 11 attacks (“The Guys,” December 2001). It’s what we do. The theater provides a fundamental way in which we process pain and learn to heal. And now, in this moment of such great loss and confusion, where do we go?
Privately, we are keeping our community intact through video chats and telephone calls. When one of us falls ill, the other members of our community rally around. While the “Moulin Rouge!” actor Danny Burstein was hospitalized and recovering from the coronavirus, I spoke to him numerous times every day. Right now, as another actor who has been infected, Nick Cordero, battles the illness, a group of his friends hold a daily online gathering to pray, commune and dance to his original music.
Publicly, our analogue art form has gone digital — play readings over Zoom, musical performances via Instagram Live and the proliferation of new podcasts. Theater people are nothing if not resourceful when it comes to reaching an audience.
Our ability to connect with audiences and one another through technology is useful, but I miss the real thing. I long to hail a cab, head to Midtown, hand over my ticket, grab a Playbill and settle into my seat, as a thousand strangers and I breathlessly wait for the lights to go down and the curtain to go up.
Until then, I’m taking comfort in the thought that at hundreds — maybe thousands — of desks around the world right now, great playwrights with too much free time on their hands are unleashing their wisdom, their fury and their boundless compassion upon the challenges we face. We may just have to wait a little longer than usual for the relief and understanding that all of that important work will provide.
And when that important work arrives, I’ll be ready. As the entertainer George M. Cohan, who I had the honor of portraying in the 1968 musical “George M!” once wrote, “Whisper of how I’m yearning/ To mingle with the old-time throng/ Give my regards to old Broadway/ And say that I’ll be there e’er long.”
Maybe, at 88, I’ve finally learned a little patience. Here I am, as optimistic as ever, looking forward to those eventual opening nights, and so much more.
Joel Grey is an Academy and Tony Award-winning actor and director.
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FOLIES BERGERE – 1935 musical an unexpected delight!

March 29th, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

Starring Maurice Chevalier, Ann Sothern & Merle Oberon


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March 22nd, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

As performed by Zach Timson


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February 29th, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

The torch has been passed.  WEST SIDE STORY will never be the same.  The JETS and the SHARKS have evolved in this daring, audacious, re-imagined, multiracial, up-to-date, timeless, violent yet beautifully touching phenomenal production now playing at the Broadway Theatre – hopefully for a very long time – directed by Ivo van Hove who has taken over the creative reins from Jerome Robbins who conceived, directed and choreographed the original in 1957.

In the words of Stephen Sondheim the lyricist of West Side Story then and now – “having the vision’s no solution, everything depends on execution – putting it together that’s what counts.”

This quote from SUNDAY IN THE PARK is what really matters.

And Ivo van Hove has put together an altogether impressive production with some most original and controversial choices.  Somehow it all works to evoke the tragic love story of two young people from opposite sides of the raging gang wars of the upper west side of Manhattan trying to stay together as they are torn apart by prejudice.

Tony (a mesmerizing Isaac Powell – his “Maria” is sensational) and Maria (a totally realistic match for him) both with astounding voices make us truly believe in their love for one another.  Perhaps their first love.  The playfulness, the tenderness the wonder of young love and their tragic outcome due to circumstances beyond their control.  You will weep at the explosive outcome.

The new vibrant street-wise choreography has been created by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker with great success.  It’s not easy to make us momentarily forget the great Jerome Robbins.

But she accomplishes just that with her ensemble of terrific triple threat actors.

Of course the penultimate star is Leonard Bernstein with his majestic, timeless score that has been retrofitted with new orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

How impressive to hear it live with a full orchestra in the pit led by Alexander Gemignani with lyrics by a young Mr. Sondheim.  Listen closely to some of the foreshadowing words in “One Hand, One Heart” and chills will race up your spine.

Now for the extensive use of videos (design by Luke Halls) directed by Quinn Matthews.  They work.  Sometimes you have to work at what to focus on – as there are many – but in the long run they are so smoothly integrated into the production that they are a marvel to behold.  Giving you multiple perspectives of the action.  Sometimes live action video, or filmed.  Close ups and long shots that add just the perfect details.

Jan Versweyveld (scenic & lighting design) has also done a superlative job – leaving the mammoth stage wide open for the dancers yet having smaller spaces at the rear of the stage for Doc’s drugstore and the shop where Maria works with her best friend Anita (a fiery Yesenia Ayala) who is the girlfriend of Maria’s brother Bernardo (a fierce Amar Ramasar) who is Tony’s antagonist.

Resulting in an avalanche of events to the explosive rumble, with bare chested tatted men fighting it out.  In the rain.  Lots of rain.  And violence.  And death.

The original production was way ahead of its time.  WEST SIDE STORY has now caught up to itself.

When was the last time a show left you breathless?

“Daddy-o” (book Arthur Laurents) might even become cool again.




Photos:  Jan Versweyveld

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