Oscar E Moore

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CHICKEN & BISCUITS – Guess who’s coming to the funeral

October 11th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Oh what a relief it is!  Laughing out loud with a packed house on Broadway!  And at a funeral no less!

The dearly departed in question is Bernard Jenkins (unseen until his casket is rolled out on stage at the Circle in the Square where CHICKEN & BISCUITS authored by Douglas Lyons has recently opened under the astute guidance of Zhailon Levington (the youngest Black director in Broadway history) to have BJ’s life celebrated by his extended family.

Harkening back to the golden days of Neil Simon we are treated to a true laugh-fest.  With a dash of such television favorites as The Jeffersons and All in the Family, Flip Wilson (as Geraldine) and a pinch of Chekhov this original, unapologetic old fashioned comedy began its life at Queens Theatre, Queens NY in February 2020 until it was stopped dead in its tracks by COVID.  But it has been remounted, rejuvenated and revitalized for all to enjoy.

Coming together at St. Luke’s Church, New Haven Connecticut to mourn, speak about, laugh and bitch, the bereaved include eight “vibrant” personalities:  Reginald Mabry (Norm Lewis) new pastor and faithful, peace keeping husband of Baneatta Mabry nee: Baneatta Jenkins (Cleo King) a strong and stubborn Christian woman, their two grown children, unlucky in love Simone (a subdued Alana Raquel Bowers) and Kenny (Devere Rogers) who is proudly gay and has brought his nervous, neurotic, “white” Jewish “friend” Logan Leibowitz along for the ride (Michael Urie)

Baneatta’s younger over-the-top sister the sartorial splendored scene stealing Beverly (Ebony Marshall-Oliver) and her 16 year old uneasy daughter La’Trice Franklin (Aigner Mizzelle).  The surprise mystery guest is Brianna (Natasha Yvette Williams) who shakes things up a bit.

Put them all together, mix well (as the director has accomplished) and you are in for a tasty treat of laughter and family love – with all the dressings.

Speaking of which, the simple all-purpose set by Lawrence E. Moten III, costumes by Dede Ayite (particularly the ladies hats) and lighting design (Adam Honore) add to this recipe for an old fashioned entertaining success.  It’s good to laugh.  Really laugh!

www.chickenandbiscuitsbway.com

Through January 2, 2022

NOTE:  I would not be surprised if this family became a successful TV sitcom.

100 minutes no intermission.  Proof of vaccination Photo ID Mask

Photos:  Emilio Madrid

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PERSUASION – BEDLAM at the Connelly

September 29th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Love won.  Love lost.  Love regained.  In short, the main plot of PERSUASION.  This exceedingly well put together, charming, theatrical, humorous, anachronistic, engaging bare bones production of Jane Austen’s final romantic novel beautifully adapted by Sarah Rose Kearns is a wonder to behold in its world premiere.

If you are acquainted with the Elliots and the Musgroves all the better.  I was a bit confused.  There are no programs distributed.  Everything now is e-tickets and websites.  Fortunately at www.bedlam.org/persuasion you will discover all you need to know to enjoy this production one hundred percent.  Including a Family Tree of the various characters.

“Will you marry me?”  These extremely important romantic and loving four words bookend this inventive production superbly directed by Eric Tucker.

Images (terrific staging).  Bonnets and boots.  Sounds (bird whistles, rain drops, and unseen passion). Strong willed, memorable characters.  Some forlorn sheep and outlandish situations will remain with you long after you have figured out who is who and what is what as this diverse, non-traditional ensemble – a truly exceptional ensemble, as all ten actors (some portraying multiple characters) are on the same wave length in style and substance – totally in sync with Jane Austen and her equally talented scribe Sarah Rose Kearns – going through their never boring paces.

At two hours and forty five minutes with intermission this all somehow works.  The actors winning us over with their ability to bring to life the characters of the past on a basically bare stage with a few metal chairs, a piano, some painted backdrops, with make-shift lighting effects illuminating a whole lot of ingenuity and creativity.

Our would-be lovers are Anne Elliot (Arielle Yoder) and Captain Wentworth (Rajesh Bose).  She is persuaded by family and friends not marry him as he has no social status and no money.  And so they go their separate ways until 8 years later when they are reunited.

A comic celebratory dance at the finale is the cherry on top of this charming confection.

Check out the Family Tree.  Enjoy the play.  It is certainly worth the long trek over to the Connelly Theater at 220 East 4th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B.  Through Oct 31, 2021.  PROOF OF VACCINATION, PHOTO ID AND MASK REQUIRED!

The Company:

RAJESH BOSE • ANNABEL CAPPER • SHAUN BENNET FAUNTLEROY

YONATAN GEBEYEHU • CAROLINE GROGAN • CLAIRE HSU • SARAH ROSE KEARNS

RANDOLPH CURTIS RAND • NANDITA SHENOY • JAMIE SMITHSON • ARIELLE YODER

lighting design  LES DICKERT

costume design  CHARLOTTE PALMER-LANE

scenic design  JOHN MCDERMOTT

props design  CLIFTON CHADICK

intimacy direction  JUDI LEWIS OCKLER

choreography  SUSANNAH MILLONZI

sound design  JANE SHAW

casting representative  EB CASTING

press agent  POLK & CO.

production manager  ZACH JENKINS

production stage manager  BRETT ANDERS

directed by  ERIC TUCKER

Photo:  Ashley Garrett

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PASS OVER – reopens on Broadway – Proceed with caution

September 14th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Going to see this production at the August Wilson Theatre on September 11 – a day of remembrance was eerily strange.  It was a beautiful day.  PASS OVER was to be my first show since my forced sabbatical from reviewing.  Broadway had been shuttered since March 2020.

My very first Broadway show on a class trip in 1960 was A THURBER CARNIVAL which ran at this same theater then known as the ANTA.  What I remember most vividly was The Last Flower.  Deep into the 95 minute intermission-less PASS OVER a small plant ironically blossoms.

Opening night was August 22nd and this audacious production received some wonderful reviews.  It is not a new show.  The Chicago 2017 staging had been filmed and directed by Spike Lee.  A revised version by its author Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu was produced by Lincoln Center in 2018.  And now it is one of the first shows to reopen the Great White Way.  Some more irony as the play is about two homeless black men.

The staff at the August Wilson must be commended.  They are well organized.  Extremely kind and careful.  Checking Vaccination Cards and Photo ID’s before having its patrons pass through a metal detector and into the theatre wearing a mask where a strange cacophony of music played prior to the curtain going up on a stark and simple street scene with an oversized lamppost center stage.  This object, as the play progressed brought to mind something sinister.  I kept imagining a noose.

No wonder our two main characters are wary.   Jon Michael Hill is Moses.  Namir Smallwood is Kitch.  They are alert and afraid.  Especially of the police.  Watching and waiting for whatever.  With nothing but time on their hands.  They share a great rapport.  Sometimes speaking rapidly in an Abbott and Costello riff on “Who’s On First?”

A strange sound?  Hands above heads.  Both fantasizing a better life.  They share a similar vocabulary.  Same experiences.  Same fears.  And body movements.  As staged they could be mirror images of each other – Yin and Yang.  Kitch wanting to be killed and Moses wanting to be anywhere else but where they are.  Hoping for a better life.

Be forewarned – the word nigger is bandied about with abandon like a shuttlecock in a game of badminton in this bold and provocative take on race relations.

The direction by Danya Taymor runs the gamut from inspired to insipid.  Over the top theatrical to an old fashioned sing along.  Bill Irwin is Movement Consultant.  His unmistakable style adds tremendously to the production.

Into their world, a non-white man’s world, wanders Mister – a sensational Gabriel Ebert.  He is lost.  Dressed all in white looking like a friendly Good Humor Man with a picnic basket to bring to his ill mother.  He disrupts their lives while adding lots of humor and relief to one and all.  Mister’s (or is it Master’s) picnic spread is reminiscent of the old clown car circus routine.  Where from a small object comes an infinite variety of objects.  A magical highlight.

But there are lots of dull spots in between until Mr. Ebert returns as Ossifer – a dangerous, threatening Officer Krupke type character who winds up beating on himself, a feat somehow conjured up by Moses and Kitch.

Then it gets murky.  It seems that no one knew exactly how to end PASS OVER and perhaps suggested – “When in doubt – get naked” (including body mic apparatus – which somehow muffled much of the dialogue throughout) and tag on a happy, hopeful change of scenery finale.

This is where my aforementioned flower blossoms; the set transforms into a Promised Land version of Eden and Ossifer and Kitch separately walk off into the sunrise bare assed as Moses hesitates.

Will he join them?  Will life be better?  That remains to be seen.  After all, nothing is guaranteed in life.

PASS OVER is ultimately unsatisfying despite the excellent acting.

Through October 10th.   www.passoverbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

NOTE – I decided, out of respect to those killed at the Twin Towers and the reopening of Broadway that I would revert to wearing a navy blue blazer, beige trousers, crisp shirt and a favorite tie and try to look my best under the circumstances.  I soon felt like an alien.  No one was dressed for the occasion.  Nary a tie in sight.  Anywhere.  Dressing up seems to be out of style.

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The lesson for today is RESTORATION

July 12th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Welcome to THE TWILIGHT ZOOM.  In this time travel panel experiment we meet its leader Mrs. Malaprop and her guests Dr. Faustus, Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Ruth as they discuss the merits of Restoration or its demerits per se…in…

AN

UN

CONVENTIONAL

EX

PERIMENT

A series of cubicles – that will be illuminated when that person is on the air – when not speaking they can react to what is being said.  To interrupt one must raise a hand to be acknowledged.

 

MRS.  MALAPROP

(SHE is bewigged, bewildered and be-rouged wearing contemporary sweats (out of camera range) with period costume top adorned with a fanciful hat)

I do hope that you have heard of me.  If not, you should have!

I am Mrs. Malaprop – a most linguistically confused character in Richard (Dicky to his closest and most intimate circle of friends of whom I am one) Dicky Brinsley Sheridan’s legendary 1775 reformation comedy of manners THE RIVALS – the highly touted pineapple of caustic wit and scandalous intrigue.

And since the subject matter at hand is RESTORATION (close enough) I welcome you, one and all, to our intimate affair ala ZOOM.

And no I am not the outspoken Dame Edna nor am I Hyacinth Bucket, though they have oft been mistaken for me.  And vice/versa.   Not to mention Archie Bunker who got it right!  And please, no snide remarks will be tolerated.

VOICE of DR. FAUSTUS

Forsooth!  Why doth she babble on so?  This is a ten minute production.

VOICE of DR. FRANKENSTEIN (sounding like Boris Karloff)

More like a theatrical experiment, I would bravely venture!

VOICE of DR.FAUCI

So let’s get on with the data.  And remember to social distance.  One mistake could be deadly.

MRS. MALAPROP

I have doth been anointed by my peers to moderate a panel…

VOICE of DR. FAUCI

Wait! I’m just getting started.  Wear a mask.  Maybe two.  We can’t be certain but data suggests “better safe than sorry.”

MRS. MALAPROP

As I was saying… to moderate a panel of three illustrious, infamous and some might say ill-mannered doctors from across the ages in a discourse on whether or not they want to restore or is it reform (I can never tell the difference) – what once was or move onward into that mystifying unknown space in time.  Known as THE TWILIGHT ZOOM.

They have all be sworn to tell the truth.  But what is the truth these days but a riff on a lie?  A rose by any other name kind of thing, that is.

Yet no one is a suppository of all wisdom.  And so we will hear many sides of the same story.  Where this leads us is suspect.  Whether going bach to the future or plumbing ahead into that vast unknown we will see where we are when we get there.  So without further ado…

We welcome Dr. Faustus –

(Cubicle light up.  HE is in HELL’S KITCHEN – a fire extinguisher at hand.)

DR.  FAUTUS

A Christopher “Kit” Marlowe creation am I – Lusting for a life of excessive excess, magic, Mephistopheles, misadventure and power – all from being bored out of my mind!  Che sera sera!

MRS. MALAPROP

Thank you kind Sir!  You shall have your moment to shine in your cubicle anon.

To recap.  This overly ambitious Doctor of divinity and mediocrity had his hands full dealing with the Beard of the Thames and Lucifer of all people!   Completely disgusted with science and medicine he made a deal – selling his soul to the master of Hades for twenty four years and getting a lot less than he bargained for.

DR.  FAUSTUS

Nay Madame!  I had many a good time with the Seven Deadly Sins!

MRS.  MALAPROP

Poor lost soul!   Being short-changed like that.  Not adapt at making advantageous deals, was he?

(Another cubicle lights up with flashes of light and thunderous effects.  HE is wearing a lab coat and heavy rubber gloves)

Introducing Mary Shelley’s Dr. Victor Frankenstein whose claim to infamy was recreating, rearranging and reanimating one extremely tall dead body only to have “the monster” un-create him.  ‘Twas a pity. It ‘twas.

DR.  FRANKENSTEIN

He wasn’t a monster.  He was lovable – seen in the correct context.

‘Twas all Mary’s fault.  The shrew!  What a nightmarish mind she had wrought.  She thinketh for me.  Spoketh for me.  She had ALL the answers.  She wouldn’t listen.  Nay, not to anyone.  Especially me.  Just all those horrible voices in her head that had to be released and scribbled down on parchment.

I did so want to be more compassionate.  Really I did so.  But not Mary. Monster and me could have been best bosom buddies.  We would have gotten along.  Truly.  He needed a friend.  I needed a friend.  She was JEALOUS and forbade it to happen.   I wanted to name him Ulysses, but Mary was so head strong.  Afraid that people would accuse two men of being in love.  Defile us…Curse us…

MRS. MALAPROP

(Interrupting DR.  FRANKENSTEIN)

I fear the hour grows late Victor.  Have a spot of tea and relax a bit.  We will return to you in two shakes of a ram’s tail.

And so grooving right along I have the distraught pleasure of introducing Dr. Anthony Fauci.  A scientist and immunologist that no writer could foresee.  He is real.  Not the fig leaf of some writer’s imagination.

(Another cubicle lights up.  He is wearing a COVID-19 mask with mini teddy bears)

A spry, intelligent “follow the science” kind of guy.  Seemingly ageless.  The kind of guy that so irked Dr. Faustus.

DR.  FAUCI

(lowering his mask)

Science will be the cure!  We must remain vigilant.  We…

DR.  FAUSTUS

(Shouting)

O monstrous science!

DR.  FAUCI

It works, damn it!

MRS. MALAPROP

Not yet Tony!   (HE raises his mask)

A true media slash medicine man if there ever was one!  Dr. Flip-Flop to some, Dr. Genius to others trying his best to eliminate a deadly virus or at least get the world-wide pandemic under control with a prick of a nettle.

(HE lowers his mask to speak)

DR.  FAUCI

I have been freed from the bondage of 45.  Now I can speak freely.  Back then – it seems eons ago – it was as if someone was writing dialogue for me.  One need not be a fictional character to be manipulated.  Now I am my own man.  I am alone.  I am safe.  Please be safe too – remember to wash your hands, sing Happy Birthday and keep your distance.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel and, I promise you, it is not an express train approaching.  But it could be!  So beware!

MRS. MALAPROP
Thank you Tony.  Such sage advice.

And above all keep the mind alert.  Embrace change.  I myself apprehend new words every day and put them into practical misuse immediately.  Aren’t you proud of your Auntie?  We must always move forward or forever get stuck in the muck.  Now then…

Sit back.  Think of coral beaches, palm trees and piecemeal thoughts.  Turn yourself on.  “You are not there” eaves-drooping as Mr. Concrete might have intoned but you are there (pointing straight out) – at home perhaps in your jammies or better still – stark naked – sitting on your lap top or Mac or I Phone eagerly awaiting this opus to entertain you.  And so –

Welcome one and all to The Twilight Zoom.

VOICE OVER as All screens go dark

Your video presentation will resume after this short public service announcement from Dr. Ruth

(HER cubicle lights up SHE is wearing a revealing teddy)

DR.  RUTH

Naked is gut.  Sex is gut.  Porn and sex toys can help.  You better believe it!  Sex is like a natural vitamin.  So healthy.  Done properly it is OK.  Be happy!  And don’t forget bubbies – use protection and vash those magical fingers…

VOICE OVER

(Interrupting)

Now back to our experiment.

MRS. MALAPROP

Due to circumstances beyond our wildest dreams, this is not a play.  In the traditional sense of the word, that is.  Egads!  We have become an “in-your-face audio /visual transfusion.  Up close, full frontal, face forward – enlarged nostrils vying for your rapt attention.  We have been reduced to some annoying patchwork quilt of talking heads – at times un-synchronized.

These cubicles cannot and should not replace actors interacting as an ensemble on a stage – together.  Stanislavski would not approve.  I do not approve.  We must see the entire scena completa – not isolated heads supposedly speaking to one another.  Alas!  Without touching. Kissing.  Spanking?

And so, my dear panel of doctors, the question is…what matters most? A – A return to the past (a restoration – no pun intended) of well-worn traditions?  B – Moving on – forward if you will – into the unknown? or C – Staying put?

DR.  FAUCI

May I now contribute my two cents worth Mrs. Malaprop?  We must return to normalcy.  As quickly and as safely as possible. Or else run the risk of everyone making a deal with the devil.  I cite Dr. Faustus as a prime example.  Kids back to school.  Parents and lovers back into bed with one another or perhaps group therapy.  Double dating.  Touching.  Fondling.  Exchanging fluids.  We must march on…

DR.  RUTH

I agree you handsome devil you.  Such joy should once again be normal.  I salute you Dr. Fauci.  Like the turtle – in order for it to move it has to stick its neck out!

DR.  FAUSTUS

I had all that and more.  Buckets more.  What a life I doth had.  A life that I conjured up.  Thanks to Marlowe.  But at times I doth wanted to go down one path and Kit had me go down another.  Way down!  He was in charge as the playwright of course.  No matter what I thinketh, I doeth and sayeth what he thinketh and writeth.

DR.  FRANKENSTEIN

Mary was so mean.  A mean and wicked temperament hath she.  Fearless.  Wielding power with each lightening slash of her pen.  So unkind.  I would bring Ulysses back.  Restore and renew our friendship through chemistry, alchemy and electricity.  Bring him back ALIVE!!!

MRS. MALAPROP

Can we ever go back?  To change perchance what we didn’t like or want to do back then?  One fears to imagine if we all started changing and rearranging our past lives there would be chaos – UDDER CHAOS!  Not that chaos isn’t already at our throats.  What a mess!  No let’s keep it the way it was – for nostalgia’s sake.  What ho!

DR.  FAUSTUS

I cannot blame Marlowe completely.  He was a tad more helpful.  Giving me those Good Angels and Bad Angels to nudge me along.  But did I listen, what I mean is did Marlowe want me to listen?  We must LISTEN.  Then make our own decisions.  Hopefully for the best of all mankind.  That is, the correct decisions.  Remembering ALWAYS the reasons for our decisions.  Is it for POWER?  Is it for WEALTH?  Or is it out of BOREDOM?

DR.  FRANKENSTEIN

Yeees…Boredom is the bane of our existence…

DR.  FAUSTUS

(Interrupting)

May I?  (He opens a poem that he has composed)

“I speaketh words from my heavy heart

Not words chosen for me by Marlowe from the start.

Wouldst he excuse me, I wouldst depart from his text

And tarry forth not expecting what cometh next

My lost love of science is what I seek

Who perchance can help

To perchance sneak me a peak?

It is not wealth and power that filleth one’s bowl

But faith in all that is good that wouldst sootheth my hapless soul.”

MRS. MALAPROP

So much to say with so little time left to say it.  Precisely two minutes.  And so I must have the last words.  BE KIND.  Whatever your decisions be.  Be compassionate.  Be alert.  Above all – be kind.

If not Restoration.  Try elimination.  Drain the swamps of ruthless no gooders.  Inspire love.  Bring back style.  Manners.  And never be bored or boring.  And do not ever let anyone else speak for you.  Unlike those three mystic monkeys – Hear, see and speak out loud for what you stand for and believe in.  Do not turn away.  Get involved.  Be safe.  Get your shot at life!  And hope to hell it all works out for the best.

Now dearest panel – one last word from each of you…What wouldst thou restore.  One word please.

DR.  FRANKENSTEIN

Compassion.

DR.  FAUSTUS

Humility.

DR.  FAUCI

Sanity.

DR.  RUTH

Dat vun is a toughfie…How about…(Singing) R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  Yah! (ALL applaud)

MRS. MALAPROP

Forsooth M’Ladies and Gents, I might add one additional most important condiment – Civility.

And so we leave you with our final frightful thought to thinketh about – Like the inability to digesteth too many radishes “History Doth Repeat Itself” – I fear that is how it tis and tis will be forever!

And with that we respectfully bring our unconventional experiment to an inconclusive foreclosure.  Fare thee well.  Beware and be kind!  Parting is such sweet…something or other…

(ALL kinds of explosions in each cubicle occur as each screen dissolves into the darkness of The Twilight Zoom.)

LIGHTS OUT.  END OF EXPERIMENT.

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JAYNE MANSFIELD – the girl couldn’t help it by Eve Golden

June 29th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Fads come and go.  Flavors of the month come and go.  As do hairdos and hemlines and bust sizes.  But the infamous, legendary Jayne Mansfield still fascinates.  After all, she didn’t ask to be born with big boobs.  They just appeared.  Let’s just say that the thought might have crossed her mind…Why not make the most of them?

Who was the real Jayne Mansfield?  Even she wasn’t quite sure according to Eve Golden.  What she was sure of was her searing ambition and total lack of self-doubt.  Two big things that she had going for her.  Aside from her obvious, well-publicized measurements:  40 – 21 – 35.

In this eye-opening, intriguing and oft-times laugh-out-loud biography of the busty blonde bombshell, Eve Golden has managed to bring to three dimensional life the facts and fantasies surrounding the ubiquitous sex symbol of the 50’s and 60’s.

The narrative speeds along as fast as Mansfield’s life attempts to catch up with her goals.

Lots of amazing photographs peppered with Golden’s subtle, sly humorous asides.  Quoting friends and foes alike Eve Golden sure knows her movie-land history.

Born a brunette April 19, 1933 Vera Jayne Palmer was a mere thirty four years old when she tragically died June 29, 1967 of instantaneous brain trauma caused by a horrific automobile accident as Jayne Mansfield – the breathy, baby-talking, gaudy and bold super star celebrity she had become.

A Broadway sensation in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

A mediocre film actress at 20th Century Fox.  They didn’t quite know what to do with her assets as opposed to the “Playboy” publisher who did.

A nightclub performer with her second husband Hungarian hunk Mickey Hargitay “Mr. Universe 1955” whom she met and abducted from the Mae West Review at New York’s Latin Quarter and had three children along with her first child Jayne Marie with Mr. Mansfield.  She loved them all.  She loved it all.  Motherhood, men and her wild career.  Married and divorced three times.  Five children.  The most famous, following in her mother’s footsteps, Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order fame.

Jayne’s public persona was ripe for double entendre jokes, puns and playfulness.  Publicity could have been her middle name.  She seemed to be everywhere.

A girl who couldn’t say no, who never refused the press for interviews and photographs or let the truth stand in the way of a good story continually stoking the flames and feeding her fans a steady diet of gossip with self-deprecating good humor and revealing photos.  She played the piano and violin.  Spoke five languages.  And had a high 163 IQ.

A complicated eccentric who was genuinely interested in people as well as loving her Holmby Hills Pink Palace on Sunset with her heart shaped pink swimming pool and pink bathtub who never met a pink ribbon she wouldn’t cut or a supermarket opening she would turn down to keep her spendthrift lifestyle afloat.  She filled her days and nights to overflowing levels with an endless supply of energy, drive, wit, men, wardrobe malfunctions, children and a menagerie of animals.  Including a poodle dyed pink.

It would be impossible to make all this stuff up.  Eve Gordon has turned in a perfect summer read.  Light and frothy.  Titillating.  And all true.

Jayne Mansfield eventually gave up her dream of being a serious actress when she was paid big bucks as the model for a sexy starlet hot water bottle.  Twenty two inches of pink vinyl – all in perfect anatomical proportion.

Highly entertaining.  As the expression goes – “Double your pleasure, double your fun” and get a copy of Jayne Mansfield – the girl couldn’t help it!

Published 6/29/2021 – The University Press of Kentucky  502 pages   72 B/W photos  Hardcover $34.95

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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
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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
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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
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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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Edwin Wilson – MAGIC TIME a memoir THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTER I HAVE NEVER MET

August 21st, 2020 by Oscar E Moore
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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

HOW TO ORDER

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
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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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