Monday, November 30, 2009

Reconsidering Richard Crenna

November 30, 1926 - January 17, 2003

It was easy to overlook Richard Crenna - or, at the very least, take him for granted. His rugged, reassuringly solid presence in every other TV movie of the 1980's (and, somewhat less nobly, the Rambo series) made him a familiar, if not terribly exciting, face and name. But digging deeper into his career and filmography is an eye-opening experience. For one thing, his list of leading ladies is nothing if not impressive. There was Gloria "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" Talbott in an episode of the western series Frontier (1956)...

...the Destitute Man's Gloria Grahame, Cleo Moore, in the pulpy neo-noir Over-Exposed (1956)... even-wackier-than-usual Shirley MacLaine in the subversive spoof John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965)...

...the luscious Ann-Margret, and even more luscious Louis Jourdan and Chad Everett, in Made in Paris (1966)...

...a terrorized Audrey Hepburn in her Hollywood swan song, Wait Until Dark (1967)...

...Dame Julie Andrews in the campy, cult-ish Star! (1968), in which they locked lips and clashed plaids...

...and the intense, drag queeny Janice Rule in the sub-Jackie Susann howler, Doctors' Wives (1971).

Clearly, a re-evaluation of Mr. Crenna's ouevre is in order. Oh, and as the deal clincher, we realized that, as the unfortunate husband of Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1981), Crenna displayed an admirably lean physique at age 51; we would have kept him and dumped William Hurt who, frankly, always sort of freaked us out. Creepy dude.

Before the Parade Passes By

We wouldn't ask this Efrem to let us go.

November 30, 1918

Guess Who?

Who Needs a Zhu Zhu...

...when you can wipe your feet on Eve Arden?

Actually, there are few people we'd be less likely to even attempt walking over than the formidable, fabulous Ms. Arden; but we love her, love this ad, and love our friend Drew for sharing it with us - so that we can share it with you. And that, darlings, is the true meaning of the holiday season: urbane homosexuals trading clippings of brassy character dames from the 1940's and 1950's - the gift that keeps on giving. Mary Christmas!

The Three R's

Ravishing, redheaded Rita, schooling us in the Teaches of Peaches.

The Girl Can't Help It

Wigged Out

The Lady in Question

And we do mean "lady": our latest Mystery Guest, who fooled everyone, was one of our favorite character actresses, the always-elegant Cathleen Nesbitt, whose 121st birthday it would have been on the day we posted her photo. A highly respected stage actress on both the London and New York stages, Nesbitt is perhaps best known for her supporting roles roles in a series splashy, frothy American film productions.

Besides inflicting its irritating, ubiquitous, yet ultimately irresistible title song upon an unsuspecting public, Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) also marked Nesbitt's American screen debut. The role of "La Principessa" set the tone for Nesbitt's persona for the rest of her career: aristocratic, vaguely Continental, often imposing. The 1950's also found Nesbitt performing before her largest Broadway audiences, again in haughty character roles, in such hits as Gigi (1951), Sabrina Fair (1953), Anastasia (1954) and My Fair Lady (1956).


Drawing upon her French education at Sorbonne, Nesbitt also displayed a rare and touching tenderness in what may be her most widely-seen performance, as Cary Grant's grand-mère Janou in An Affair to Remember (1957).

Strangely, the hugely successful Affair marked the end of Nesbitt's association with 20th Century Fox after four critically- and popularly-acclaimed appearances. At the very least, she gained a wider reputation from her time there, and managed to go to a few swell parties.


Nesbitt's next major film was Separate Tables (1958), which bore the distinction of not only Oscar-winning turns by David Niven and Wendy Hiller, but also the meeting of two of Britain's greatest actresses: Cathleen Nesbitt and Gladys Cooper.

There were a few more film roles (including a memorable turn as Hayley Mills's staunchy Bostonian grandmother in The Parent Trap, 1961); an Emmy for the television film The Mask of Love (1974); and a reprisal of her role as Henry Higgins' mother in the 1981 Broadway revival of My Fair Lady, once again opposite Rex Harrison, and performed when Nesbitt was into her nineties! Indeed, Cathleen Nesbitt had one of the longest careers of any actress, spanning eight decades. She passed away at age 93 in 1982.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Middle Ages

We were described by someone as "an older, middle-aged Asian man."

We'll be spending the weekend applying various masques, ointments, wraps, and monkey glands. See you on Monday, darlings. If we haven't been carted off to the home.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

B-Girl Birthdays

November 26, 1929

November 26, 1917 - November 22, 2002

The Law vs. Billy the Kid. The Crime Dotor's Diary. Tarzan and the Lost Safari. Fireman, Save My Child. Corridors of Blood. Girls in Prison. City of the Dead. Runaway Daughters. The combined filmographies of Betta St. John and Adele Jergens indicate that, befitting their birthday, they knew their way around a turkey. Incidentally, they both also had bit parts in the considerably more prestigious Jane Eyre (1944) - Betta as an "Orphan Girl," and Adele as a "Girl at the Party." Strangely, though, we're more inclined to sit through Adele as one of her many gun molls in Armored Car Robbery (1950), or Betta as an exotic prncess crashing the suburbs in Dream Wife (1953).

Happy Birthday, gals! Your special brand of manufactured glamour is sorely missed today.

Give Thanks!

May your fruit be bountiful.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, darlings!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feliz Cumpleaños

November 25, 1920 - January 14, 2009

We miss him, and his chest.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Guess Who?

Darling Duff

November 24, 1944 - March 21, 1974

November 24, 1913 - July 8, 1990

Somewhere in the cosmos, Candy Darling and Howard Duff are celebrating their birthday together. And, of course, here at SSUWAT.

Girl Talk

"You are getting very sleepy...and when you will be as talented as I, Academy Award-winning actress, Joan Fontaine."

"Lesh name shome cockatils af'er us, 'k, girlsh? Screaming Mimi, Boozy Clooney and Plenty Valente! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

"Her initials are B.D., but she's really full of B.S.! 'What a dump'? She must have been looking in the mirror!"

"'I've got an idea,' too, Lucille...howzabout sharing some of that Cuban ham with me?"

"Well, Mitz, your wiglets were the biggest things in the room a minute ago."

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Shadow of His Smile

November 23, 1925

As a musician, he played with Count Basie and Zoot Sims. As an arranger, he's won two Grammy Awards and worked with the likes of Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand. As a composer, he's written some of the most gorgeous melodies of the post-Great American Songbook era (our favorites include "The Shining Sea," "A Time for Love," "Close Enough for Love" and "Quietly There"). But despite this accomplished list of achievements, it's for one single composition that Johnny Mandel will forever be remembered: "The Shadow of Your Smile."

Inarguably the best (and certainly the most tasteful) thing to come out of the bloated, would-be blockbuster The Sandpiper (1965), Mandel's haunting theme captured the hearts and imaginations of nearly everyone, becoming a massive hit even as the British Invasion, Motown and the early murmurings of psychedelia and acid rock were all but obliterating "middle of the road" pop from the charts and airwaves. Interestingly though, not one single version (and there were plenty to choose from, as we'll soon see) became the definitive, chart-topping rendition. Mandel's music had seduced the world, and such was the strength of the music, it seemed to matter little who was giving voice to it.

Still known as "Love Theme from The Sandpiper," the song first became a minor chart hit for Tony Bennett on Columbia - reportedly incensing Peggy Lee over at Capitol, who had recorded it months prior to Bennett; hers was probably the first cover of the theme, recorded literally days after the film's June 1965 premiere and rush-released soon after. (Lee's single didn't chart, but it made an appearance on her Then Was Then, Now is Now album a few months later.) Lou Rawls, La Lee's Capitol labelmate, recorded a souled-up version which first gained Mandel's ballad entrez to the R&B chart in early 1966. Perhaps sensing overkill (or not wanting to steal Bennett's thunder), the good folks at Columbia curiously withheld Barbra Streisand's uncharacteristically demure rendition as a single - except, of course, in Japan.

Unfortunately, the film itself didn't receive the same kind of rapturous reception as its swoonsome theme song (which ultimately won the Best Original Song Oscar, as well as the Song of the Year Grammy Award), though not for lack of trying. One of the many tie-in promotions featured co-star Eva Marie Saint with her smartly-matched American Tourister luggage - all ready for a chic yet quick getaway from the deadly reviews.

One of the more amusing promotional campaigns was a Saks Fifth Avenue collection "inspired by the "dramatic story and scenic beauty" of The Sandpiper. The youthful, chic clothing was indeed "very Saks Fifth Avenue," as the ads would say, and designed by Lynn Stuart; the sight of the increasingly zaftig Mrs. Burton in her Irene Sharaff painter's smocks in the actual film reminded one wag more of Lane Bryant.

Meanwhile, "The Shadow of Your Smile"'s juggernaut continued unabated, with new singles, and album tracks, and albums titled after the song hitting the shelves weekly. It became the one mandatory song for every Adult Contemporary vocalist of the generation to record, with one glaring exception: the Chairman of the Board never made a studio recording of it, although he did include a quick, two-minute performance on his Sinatra at the Sands (1966) live album.

And what would the creator of all this think? Surely, it must be gratifying to have one's work, albeit just a 3 minute portion of it, so celebrated and loved and universally known. On the flip side, what of all the other work (some of it far better), which has gone relatively unnoticed, consumed by the huge, looming Shadow? Since he's described as one of the nicest, most generous guys in the business, we'll assume that Johnny Mandel has taken it all in stride, and with typical graciousness. Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandel. And just between us, even though you call Diana Krall your favorite singer (well...even geniuses are entitled to inexplicable quirks), we'd love for you to revisit a 1982 album by one SSUWAT's favorites, Miss Sue Raney. She's as lovely as your music, and the match is one made in heaven.