Possessing 'the Fascination of Rattlesnakes Courting in a Bathtub.' Two Must-See Movies on TV Tonight
Watching the first episode of the return of “House of Cards” reminded me of a review I read recently that said watching certain characters on the screen possesses “the fascination of rattlesnakes courting in a bathtub."
But the review was not about “House of Cards.” It was written by an uncredited movie reviewer in Time magazine about “The Little Foxes,” a movie from 1941 that collected nine Academy Award nominations, including “Best Picture.” It didn’t win that major award, but neither did the real best picture of 1941, “Citizen Kane.”
But like “Kane” all these years later, “The Little Foxes,” with a screenplay by Lillian Hellman (with help from Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell and Arthur Kober, and based on Hellman’s play), still packs a wallop. And I am not comparing the greatness of “Kane” to “The Little Foxes.” But as the New York Times movie critic Bosley Crowther wrote at the time, “The Little Foxes” is a “most bitingly sinister picture” and “one of the most cruelly realistic character studies yet shown on the screen.”
The latter is thanks to Miss Bette Davis, who I think is one of the true acting geniuses in the history of movies.
“The Little Foxes’ is available on DVD, but not for streaming by either Netflix or Amazon. However, if you get TCM (Turner Classic Movies), you can either watch it or record it tonight, Feb. 26, 2014 -- without commercial interruption. It’s on TCM at 10 p.m. ET (and 7 p.m. PT).
As we eagerly await this year’s Oscar celebration this weekend, watching "The Little Foxes” is a good warmup. The plot of the movie takes place in 1900 and revolves around the slave trade and the exploitation of slaves. But as Steve McQueen, the director of this year’s “12 Years a Slave,” has noted, many old Hollywood movies don’t realistically portray the horrors of slavery.
In this sense, “The Little Foxes” is more like another of this year’s nominees, "The Wolf of Wall Street,” in that it’s all about those who are doing the exploiting, with nary a nod to the pain and suffering of those exploited.
But unlike “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Little Foxes” is a piercing, stinging drama of piranhas tearing the surface flesh off one another, leaving only the raw, exposed nerves dangling, like live electric transmission wires that have tangled and touched, exploding.
It was a tough production. At the helm of the film was director William Wyler. Davis had worked with him twice before, making “Jezebel, and “The Letter,” and she believed he drew out the best in her.
But in making “The Little Foxes” they fought more than they ever had. Wyler insisted that Davis see Tallulah Bankhead, who was playing the lead in “The Little Foxes” on Broadway.
According to Gabriel Miller’s 2013 book about Wyler, “The Life and Films of Hollywood’s Most Celebrated Director,” “Davis felt that Bankhead portrayed [the character] as a cold, greedy, conniving and evil woman -- an interpretation that made sense to her. Wyler, however, wanted a more shaded portrayal of [the character] as both funny and charming as well … .”
Miller then writes, “Finally, two weeks after shooting started, Davis walked off the set and went to Laguna Beach, where she had rented a house. ‘I was a nervous wreck,' she said. 'My favorite and most admired director was fighting me every inch of the way. I just didn’t want to continue.’”
Though Davis notoriously fought Jack Warner at Warner Bros. and refused to be in some pictures, she said this was the first time she had actually walked off a set and refused to work on a picture she had already began.
Miller continues, “[Producer Sam] Goldwyn implored her to return to the ['Little Foxes' set], but she adamantly refused. He then allowed her to take some time off, from May 12 to May 21. … Wyler was able to shoot around her. Rumors abounded in the press, and there was speculation that Davis was ill or pregnant. There were also rumors that she was going to be replaced by either [Davis rival] Miriam Hopkins or Katharine Hepburn. … Davis finally returned to the set on June 2, but she refused to accede to Wyler’s demands, and he was forced to accept her interpretation of the role.”
Wyler and Davis “never worked together again.”
That’s too bad, because their work together was indeed stellar.
On “The Little Foxes,” outside of Davis and Herbert Marshall, who plays her husband, Horace, most of the cast came from the original stage production of “The Little Foxes” and had never been in a major movie before. That includes Patricia Collinge, who plays Davis’ sister-in-law, Birdie, Charles Dingle (Ben), Carl Benton Reid (Oscar) and Dan Duryea (Leo). Duryea went on to have a terrific career in B-movie film noirs.
Peter McNally, in his 2008 book “Bette Davis: The Performances That Made Her Great,” talks about Davis performing with the original cast members of “The Little Foxes” in the film: “Because Davis was the consummate actress, she played well with the other Broadway actors. Tellingly, her character dominates the others, including her brothers. Davis had a star quality that none of her co-stars had; they were not Hollywood stars at all. So she not only became part of the ensemble, she added dramatic weight to the scenes in which she played. … With the ensemble approach, Davis not only blended in, but she did so without mannerism or upstaging. Her very stillness, at times, drew the audience to her character. She was the complex one, not the others. Gregg Toland’s deep-focus photography allowed one to see an entire scene in all its detail."
McNally then quotes Foster Hirsh in “Acting Hollywood Style”: “[W]ith few close-ups and forced to share the spotlight, Davis internalizes the character’s rage and her own … she gives a tight, brittle, murderously subdued performance.”
Interestingly, the other film Toland had shot earlier in 1941, most famously, was “Citizen Kane.”
But a year before, in 1940, Toland, who had shot “Wuthering Heights’ for Wyler and producer Goldwyn in 1939, was getting ready to shoot another Wyler film, this time at Twentieth Century Fox. The movie was going to be called “How Green Was My Valley,” based on a 1939 bestseller by Richard Llewellyn.
Early in 1940 the head of Twentieth Century Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck, had sent over to Philip Dunne, one of Twentieth’s hottest scriptwriters, a script of “How Green Was My Valley.”
In his 1980 memoir, “Take Two: A Life in Movies and Politics,” Dunne writes, “The script was long, turgid, and ugly, its central feature figure being an equally long, turgid, and ugly strike in a Welsh coal mine. A great part of the dialogue consisted of speeches and diatribes, pro- and anti-labor. The family which was the center of the script’s plot was torn apart by dissension and mutual hatred, and the overriding mood of the script was deeply depressing. I sent the script back to Zanuck with a note saying not only that I hoped I could be spared the assignment of rewriting it, but that I wondered what had persuaded him to buy the book in the first place.”
I mention “How Green Was My Valley” because it is the movie that beat out both “The Little Foxes” and “Citizen Kane,” among others, to win the Best Picture Oscar for 1941. Though certainly not as ground-breaking as “Kane,” it’s a wonderful movie that I highly recommend. As it happens, TCM is also showing it tonight, after “The Little Foxes,” at 12:15 a.m. ET, which is 9:15 p.m. here on the West Coast. It’s also available to stream from Amazon, but not from Netflix. And it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray.
After Dunne sent his note to Zanuck, Zanuck simply had delivered to Dunne’s Fox office a copy of the novel. Dunne discovered that the initial adapters had missed the essence of the book. Dunne wrote that the book “was full of warmth, love, nobility and earthy humor. It was above all, the story of a family -- strong, proud, loving and self-reliant …”
After Dunne finished his first draft, Zanuck said that he had hired Wyler to direct the picture, and suggested that Dunne and Wyler work together on a final draft. That pleased Dunne, since he and Wyler were friends.
Zanuck OK’d the final script and, Dunne writes, “Gregg Toland was assigned as cameraman and our Welsh village and mine went up on the studio’s ranch in the hills behind Malibu. We originally had intended to shoot on location in Wales itself, but with Britain at war in 1940, this was impossible.”
As casting began, Dunne writes, "the axe fell. [Fox’s] New York office, showing its usual impeccable taste, hated the script, hated the absence of real starring roles, hated Wyler’s reputation as an extravagant director, predicted disaster for the entire project, and refused to put up the money for it.”
A furious Zanuck endeared himself to Dunne forever, Dunne says, by writing “a defiant letter to New York saying that this was the finest script he had ever had, and that some day he would find a way to make this picture, even if he had to take it to another studio.”
A few month later, Dunne writes, director John Ford, who loved the script, “agreed to bring in the picture for a million dollars, and on that basis New York had told Zanuck he could go ahead.”
Dunne says that Irishman Ford, "with only a few minor changes, faithfully and brilliantly shot the script that Wyler, Zanuck and I prepared.”
Then Dunne writes, “I often have wondered what ‘How Green Was My Valley' would have been like had Wyler directed it instead of Ford. There would have been differences, of course, completely different camera angles, different emphases, different shadings in the performances. But these differences wouldn’t have been much greater than the differences you might detect if you listened to Jascha Heifetz play Beethoven’s Violin concerto and then to … Yehudi Menuhim play the same work. In all the performing arts, individual interpretation is important, but never as important as the basic material.”
At the Oscar ceremony that year, Dunne writes, “ ‘How Green Was My Valley’ swept the board: best picture, best director, best supporting actor (there were no starring parts), best photography and art direction -- in fact, best-just-about-everything except best screenplay.”
That prize was won by “Here Comes Mr. Jordan.”
Several months later, both Dunne and Ford found themselves in Washington, D.C., working for Uncle Sam.
Dunne noticed an award on Ford’s desk, from the New York film critics, also honoring him as the best director of 1941. Dunne complimented him, and Ford dismissed the compliment. Dunne writes, “ 'I said, perhaps a little bitterly … that I would have loved to have gotten more out of the picture than just my salary.'
“ ‘You greedy bastard,’ he said, ‘you got the Oscar. What more do you want?’
“When I told him I hadn’t won the Oscar he was silent for a moment, I think really shaken, and then said, ‘Ah, the ballots were probably counted by Republicans. Come on out and have a drink.’
"I thought that was the end of it, but two days later his New York Film Critics Award arrived in my mail. On it he had scrawled in red crayon: ‘Thanks, Phil. Affection, Jack.’”
It was another big night for TV darlings “House of Cards,” “Behind the Candelabra” and “Downton Abbey” as their respective costume designers, Tom Broecker, Ellen Mirojnick and Caroline McCall took the top prizes at the 16th Costume Designers Guild Awards.
Held Saturday night, Feb. 22, at the Beverly Hilton, in ceremonies hosted by “Scandal’s” Joshua Malina, it’s the gala evening when costume designers in television, film and commercials get the glory for dressing actors who wear their creations in an event known for its relaxed yet festive atmosphere -- and one in which the definition of “black tie” is stretched to its creative limit.
The jokes are also flowing -- “I’m a 33-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam. Don’t judge,” Malina said in his welcoming remarks, which underscored the integral part costume design plays in storytelling.
Beginning with a clip reel of the year in design, it was easy to appreciate the range of artistry and historical eras brought vividly to the screen in shows including "Bonnie and Clyde,” ”Breaking Bad,” “Boardwalk Empire," “Scandal,” “Nashville” and "Mad Men" and films including "Her," "Blue Jasmine,” “American Hustle," "Philomena," "The Butler” and "The Great Gatsby” that were showcased.
The first award of the night set the bar for excellence, with Mirojnick’s win for HBO’s made-for-television movie “Behind the Candelabra.” Fittingly, in the spirit of the project, she wore a gold sequined cocktail dress and a bracelet with a Liberace charm on it.
In the contemporary television series category, it was Broecker and ”House of Cards” that triumphed over other worthy contenders “Saturday Night Live” -- for which Broecker was also a nominee -- “Nashville,” “Scandal” and “Breaking Bad.”
In the period/fantasy television series category, the costumes of “Downton” took the prize over entries from "Game of Thrones," "Boardwalk Empire," “The Borgias” and “Mad Men.”
On the big screen, Patricia Norris for “12 Years a Slave,” Trish Summerville for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and Suzy Benzinger for “Blue Jasmine” were awarded the trophies.
Benzinger’s acceptance speech was notable for the time she took lauding director Woody Allen, with whom she has collaborated for 20 years on a series of his films. “He’s fair, honest and taught me that work is the real reward. Even with all the accolades, we all feel lucky working with him. I respect and adore him,” she said.
Comedy highlighted the festivities even more than usual as writer/producer/director Judd Apatow was honored as a distinguished collaborator and feted by two of his most prominent proteges, Bill Hader and Jonah Hill.
Hill had the well-dressed crowd in the palm of his hand as soon as he mentioned that his mom was a costume designer on the beloved television classic ”Taxi,” before shouting out costume designer Sandy Powell for her work making him into “The Wolf of Wall Street’s” Donnie Azoff, for which he’s Oscar-nominated as best supporting actor.
But it was all about Apatow from that point on, springboarding off a montage of his work in film and television ranging from “Freaks and Geeks” to “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” to “Girls.” “Most of us you see here started because of Judd,” Hill said. “He saw something in us that no one else did. I’m so grateful for everything he’s done for me. But I’m shocked because I wouldn’t think of Judd in the context of costume design.”
Yet Hill related how much effort Apatow put into costuming the schlumpy high school characters in 2007’s “Superbad,” down to the Richard Pryor T-shirt he wore in his role as Seth.
“This is awkward, because I don’t love Jonah Hill,” Apatow began, to great laughter from the audience, before launching into an anecdote about breaking a button on his jacket before the ceremony and trying to glue it back together with nail polish.
“It’s hard for anyone to take advice from me, wearing cargo shorts and a T-shirt, telling them what’s in fashion. But when I look at the montage, I see that you kicked ass -- and how important the wedding gown was in ‘Bridesmaids,’ the costumes in ‘Talledega Nights’ and the green bikini in ‘Girls.’ But maybe my career highlight is trying to hide the bulge in Ben Stiller’s pants.”
The awards ceremony was sponsored by Lacoste, which presented its annual Spotlight Award to actress Amy Adams, who also used comedy to make her points about the value of costume design in fully creating a character.
“They’ve taught me many things, like the importance of always wearing undergarments to fittings and then bringing a lingerie bag to separate your things at the end of the day. No one wants to have to use tongs,” said Adams, who was presented with the award by her “American Hustle” co-star, Jeremy Renner.
Adams highlighted another of her current roles, albeit a smaller and less showy one, alongside Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze’s “Her.”
“On ‘Her,’ costume designers turned me into a hipster. That’s nearly impossible -- as I am a nerd,” she admitted. “You’ve also been magicians, therapists, friends and collaborators and it’s an honor to turn your visions into reality.”
Many other familiar faces from current movies and TV shows took part in the ceremony as presenters, including June Squibb and Will Forte from “Nebraska,” Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Debra Winger and Scott Foley.
There was also a memorable appearance by Raquel Welch, who claimed her costume in 1966’s “One Million Years B.C.” is what made her legendary career. “There wasn’t much dialogue. It was all about the bikini,” said Welch, who looked stunning in a black sequined number that showed off her famous curves.
And there was this commentary from Apatow: “My 16-year-old daughter is not aging as well as Raquel Welch.”
Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight Show' Debut Is Tonight. Does He Believe Enough in Himself to Excel? Back to the Future
I’ve seen a leaked script of what may be Jimmy Fallon’s debut tonight on "The Tonight Show," and here’s the cold opening -- instead of a monologue -- which notes that there is plenty of room for ad-libs:
Title cards superimposed on the screen, and unseen announcer Steve Higgins tells us that we’re watching a TV show that’s a salute to Obamacare: “What’s My Pain?”
Close in on Fallon as the host, in a bow-tie, affecting an accent that sounds part American and part British. As a panel of "experts" posture diagnostically on the edge of their chairs, the first contestant signs in, protesting that he’s not a hypochondriac. His name: Mel Brooks. His pulse: 78. His blood pressure: normal. The panel fails in its first snap judgments -- upset stomach, twisted esophagus – and, eventually, as time runs out and Fallon throws all the cards over, we find out that the correct ailment was a sty.
Lucky contestant Brooks wins the full prize: two weeks' free hospitalization.
Furthermore, one of my friends on Madison Ave. slipped me the following NBC sales sheet about the new “Tonight Show": “ ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ is a completely informal and mostly ad-libbed variety program starring comedian Jimmy Fallon. No set format will be used on the show -- instead the entertainment revolves around Fallon and what he decides to do next. Planning of each night’s show is held to a minimum so as to provide the maximum of elasticity, so that the program can take advantage of any situation that might come up, whether right there in the studio, outside in the street, or in some other city in the U.S. Fallon usually opens the program playing a selection on his guitar -- then he rambles over to his desk to read a few notes and comments on whatever strikes his fancy. One or more guests will be featured on the program.”
Okay, time to ‘fess up. This “memo” from Madison Ave. is actually taken from a real NBC in-house document that was circulated right around the time the "Tonight" show -- then called "Tonight!" -- debuted on Sept. 27, 1954. And it made no mention of Fallon, of course, but referenced the original "Tonight!" show host, Steve Allen, and his playing of a piano, not a guitar. I found it in the 2005 book by Ben Alba, “Inventing Late Night: Steve Allen and the Original ‘Tonight’ Show.”
Likewise, what I wrote above as the leaked “cold opening” of Fallon’s show tonight is almost a verbatim paragraph from Time magazine describing a bit on Allen’s “Tonight!” show that appeared 59 years ago this week. It was a send-up of the then very popular TV quiz show “What’s My Line.” (And the part I said was to be played by Mel Brooks was actually played by Allen “Tonight!” show regular Steve Lawrence, who did numerous comedic bits in addition to singing with Eydie Gorme, on the show.)
I make the comparison of Fallon, 39, to Allen (who was 32 when he transformed his antic local New York City program into the national "Tonight!" show) because it’s always been clear that Fallon is much closer in style to Allen than to any other of the previous “Tonight” show hosts. Allen was a comedian who was also a pianist, wrote songs and sang. Fallon is a comedian who plays the guitar and drums and not only sings, but, seemingly, can mimic anyone else who has ever sung.
Fallon himself has made the comparison between himself and Allen. In a piece last week in The New York Times, Bill Carter quoted Fallon as saying, “What I do is more a variety show. It’s always been older in style. I’m an old soul. “ Fallon added that his “Tonight” show “will be a new take, but the show will have an old soul.”
Carter continued, “Specifically, [Fallon] feels linked to the first ‘Tonight’ show host, Steve Allen, who featured humor and music but also wild and silly stunts like climbing into a bowl of banana splits.”
Fallon, to his credit, after five years and almost 1,000 episodes of hosting “Late Night,” has a good grasp of what he’s good at and what he’s not good at.
Carter wrote, “Mr. Fallon acknowledged that his ‘Tonight’ will not be a place to go -- at least initially -- for hard-hitting interviews with politicians or celebrities dealing with some unpleasantness. When President Obama and Mitt Romney were his guests, Mr. Fallon had them ‘slow jam the news,’ one of his signature bits. If that means taking criticism for soft interviews, Mr. Fallon said, so be it.
“ ‘Other people do that better,’ Mr. Fallon said. ‘I leave that to Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey. The political stuff? Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, they have it. And Stephen Colbert, who is an animal. He’s amazing. Those guys are good at it. I don’t want to mess with that.’ “
Good for Fallon for recognizing his strengths and weaknesses. But then, oddly, Carter notes that “Mr. Fallon recently began extending his monologues on ‘Late Night’ and will extend them more on 'Tonight,' though [Fallon’s executive producer, Lorne Michaels] noted that one difference would involve inserting news clips to illustrate the humor.”
Huh? Jimmy, you just said Jon Stewart and Colbert and Maher own that space concerning humor about news events. Stick to your strengths, Jimmy. There are enough late-night monologues, and almost all those other hosts do it better than you have done it on "Late Night." Why not start your new gig on the "Tonight" show with various comic cold openings, be them in song or not?
Elsewhere in Carter’s piece Michaels says, “Jimmy is by no means a pure stand-up, far from it.”
And that’s Jimmy’s ace-in-the-hole. It’s why he can be hugely successful on the “Tonight’ show. As Carter notes, “Given the range of his talents -- singing, guitar playing, impressinons, sketches -- the big shift in a Jimmy Fallon 'Tonight Show' would seem to be toward a variety show rather than stand-up based comedy.”
Absolutely. In a real sense it’s what Allen was doing when he started the “Tonight” show 50-plus years ago. For many years, part of what made Letterman so much fun to watch is that he adopted much of Allen’s comic zaniness, from the lunatic stunts Dave would attempt to the kooky interactions he’d have with folks such as local shopkeeper Rupert Jee. And Letterman has acknowledged a debt to Allen.
But Letterman long ago stopped being wacky and madcap in the Allen tradition. Jimmy Kimmel has certainly borrowed from Allen as well -- in particular, his man on the street interview -- which Kimmel calls “Lie Witness News,” is a variation of the man on the street bit Allen popularized.
What Fallon has got that his rivals don’t is his talent for mimicry and musicality. And, of course, the best band on TV.
To ask Fallon to reinvent late-night would be an unfair burden. But certainly he’s got the chops to give "The Tonight Show" the jolt of energy it needs. If he hasn’t already, I’d suggest he study up on what Allen did both on the old “Tonight!” shows, his old prime-time show, and the later syndicated late-night program Allen did for Westinghouse for two seasons in the early 1960s.
Ultimately, Fallon only will be great by not compromising what he feels is right from within himself. But as he starts his new journey tonight, he should keep in mind that glancing back might give him a good blueprint for the future.
Sex! Thrilling Ecstasy! Stabbing! More Sex! Hollywood! Scandal! It's One of the Most Salacious Pieces We've Ever Written, All in an Attempt to Convince You to Set Your DVR to Record a Movie with a Dull Title That's One of the Best We've Ever Seen
In the summer of 1936, the biggest news on the world stage was the Olympics. Four years after the mostly uneventful games in Los Angeles, Germany’s chancellor, Adolf Hitler, was trying to make a political statement with the games in Berlin, which ran through the first two weeks in August. African-American Jesse Owens did much to thwart those ambitions.
In New York, The New York Times wrote that hot August that New Yorkers were taking advantage of their parks as never before, with “as many as 6,000 persons in an evening attend[ing] the twice-a-week dances in Central Park.”
Back in Los Angeles, Time magazine, in a cleverly written non-bylined piece, says that the week of Aug. 10th, 1936, brought “another of those scandals which periodically afford the U.S. film followers an intimate glimpse of high & low life in Hollywood. While the cinema colony shamefully hung its tail between its legs, while circulation managers of the tabloid Press howled with delight, [actress] Mary Astor and Dr. Franklin Thorpe battled for custody of their 4-year-old daughter in a mud-slinging contest in which the purpose of each was to make the other appear grossly immoral.”
At the time of this custody case, Dr. Thorpe, Astor’s former gynecologist and ex-husband, was 44, and Astor was 30.
According to the Time article, the case swiftly “passed from the nursery to the boudoir as each of the disputants began telling not the Judge but the Press how oversexed the other was.”
The story continues, “A tattling nurse produced by Miss Astor named four women who at various times after the divorce had apparently spent the night with Dr. Thorpe. One of these, a blonde onetime showgirl named Norma Taylor, was also recalled by a Los Angeles policeman. Dr. Thorpe had summoned him in after Miss Taylor, intoxicated, had invaded his dining room when he was eating with his daughter, brandished a candlestick, chased him upstairs, cornered him in a bathroom [and] plunged a fork into his thigh.”
Not to be outdone, Dr. Thorpe’s team of mouthpieces said they had a copy of Astor’s diary, which they had obtained under questionable circumstances. Said Time, “Its revelations, doled out day by day from [Thorpe's] attorney's office, were as purple as the ink they were written in.”
The Time account continues, “[N]o screen lover but a sad-eyed dramatist was cast as Miss Astor's No. 1 partner-in-sin. Browsing through Miss Astor's diary, the doctor's lawyers said they found that she had recorded experiencing a ‘thrilling ecstasy’ in the company of [playwright] George S. Kaufman [“Dinner at Eight,” “You Can’t Take It With You,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner” “Animal Crackers”]. ‘He fits me perfectly,’ stated Miss Astor, recalling, ‘many exquisite moments . . . twenty—count them, diary, twenty. . . . I don't see how he does it... he is perfect.’
"In October 1935, Actress Astor admitted on the stand, she had telephoned Mr. Kaufman, whom she had not met, from a Manhattan saloon, asked him if he would care to make her acquaintance. He would and did, the upshot being that playwright and actress spent ten days together in a ‘snug and delightfully cozy’ Manhattan apartment. Miss Astor wrote in her diary that she asked Mr. Kaufman: ‘How is it that you don't tell me you love me?’ The worldly, 47-year-old dramatist, according to the Astor diary, replied, ‘Well, I'll tell you; I am not going to say I love you because I don't. I was through with love long ago.’ "
Kaufman had been subpoenaed to testify in the custody battle, but never showed up. Time magazine, however, was able to track down Beatrice Kaufman, George’s wife: “[She is the] fiction editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Interviewed in London last week she declared, ‘I knew all about this case before it caught the limelight. ... I know Mary Astor well. My husband met her just about this time a year ago. I was in Honolulu and he was working in Hollywood. They had a flirtation. ... I cannot see any terrible harm in that. Is it unusual for a husband to flirt with an actress? We have been married 20 years. We are adults, leading our own lives in adult fashion. George is a good husband. I love him very much and he is in love with me. . . . Please do not ask me to discuss Miss Astor. She is a film actress and kept a diary. Very stupid, that. . . .’ ”
A week later, in its issue of Aug. 24, 1936, Time magazine reported on the outcome of the case: "To Actress Mary Astor, suing her onetime husband, Dr. Franklyn Thorpe, for full custody of their 4-year-old daughter, the Los Angeles Superior Court awarded the child for nine months a year. Before rendering his decision, Judge Goodwin J. Knight called for Miss Astor's diary in which she recorded her irregular love life and which Dr. Thorpe's lawyers tried to use obliquely to disqualify her as a fit mother. After four hours of reading the manuscript from cover to cover Judge Knight ordered the diary impounded with the court.”
Knight later became the governor of California, from 1953 to 1959.
And what ever happened to Astor’s diary? Kenneth Anger’s infamous “Hollywood Babylon,” which was published in Europe in 1959, but didn’t get to the U.S. until 1965, published this 1935 entry from Astor's diary which Anger claimed was authentic:
His first initial is G, and I fell like a ton of bricks. I met him Friday. Saturday he called for me at the Ambassador and we went to the Casino for lunch and had a very gay time! Monday—we ducked out of the boring party. It was very hot so we got a cab and drove around the park a few times and the park was, well, the park, and he held my hand and said he’d like to kiss me but didn’t.
Tuesday night we had a dinner at ‘21’ and on the way to see 'Run Little Chillun' he did kiss me—and I don’t think either of us remember much what the show was about. We played kneesies during the first two acts, my hand wasn’t in my own lap during the third. It’s been years since I’ve felt up a man in public, but I just got carried away.
Afterwards we had a drink someplace and then went to a little flat in 73rd Street where we could be alone, and it was all very thrilling and beautiful. Once George lays down his glasses, he is quite a different man. His powers of recuperation are amazing, and we made love all night long. It all worked perfectly, and we shared our fourth climax at dawn. I didn’t see much of anybody else the rest of the time—we saw every show in town, had grand fun together and went frequently to 73rd Street where he fucked the living daylights out of me.
Is this really what that diary said? We will never know. In 1952 the court ordered Astor's diary burned.
A month after the end of the child custody case, Mary Astor’s latest motion picture opened in September, 1936. It was a drama that had the name of what seemed like a western: “Dodsworth.” Here’s the beginning of Time magazine’s review, also not bylined:
“Dodsworth (Samuel Goldwyn-United Artists). 'Why don't you try stout, Mr. Dodsworth?' drawls a woman's voice from the shadowy corner of a steamship deck. Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) who has just asked the steward for a drink that will soothe his nerves, whirls around, surprised. Mr. Dodsworth's surprise was nothing to that of Producer Sam Goldwyn and his staff when, at this line, the audience at a Hollywood preview last week burst into applause. The applauders were not partisans of stout but of Mary Astor, whose first line they recognized even before the camera moved over to her. Throughout the picture they kept applauding frequently and as she was coming out of the theatre in the flesh with Screenwriter Marcus Goodrich and her mother, they mobbed her. Cheered her. Shouted ‘You're all right, Mary!’, begged her for her autograph.
“Thus did the public affirm its recognition of a fine performance, its sympathy for Mary Astor's position in her recent suit to get custody of her daughter (TIME, Aug. 17 & 24). Meanwhile Fate had brought Mary Astor the greatest picture, the most human and sympathy-winning role of her life just when she needed it most.”
Legend has it, according to “America’s Film Legacy” by Daniel Eagan, that producer Sam Goldwyn once famously said of “Dodsworth,” “I lost my goddamn shirt. I’m not saying it wasn’t a fine picture. It was a great picture, but nobody wanted to see it. In droves.”
In fact, due to the interest in Astor at the time, box-office numbers from Variety indicate the film did just fine filling theaters, thank you.
What is true is that, outside of film buffs, the movie is not well-known today. But “Dodsworth” is on my short list of best movies ever, and I urge you to see it today or record it on your DVR. It’s on TCM at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) today, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. It’s also available on DVD, but it’s not available to stream by either Netflix nor Amazon. If you are reading this after "Dodsworth" has already been shown on TCM, and you don't want to buy a copy on Amazon or elsewhere, keep an eye out for it. TCM repeats it periodically.
While Astor is fine in the film, the most memorable performance is by Walter Huston. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in the movie, and should have won. (He was beaten by Paul Muni in “The Story of Louis Pasteur.”) "Dodsworth" is based on a best-seller by Sinclair Lewis. Sidney Howard later adapted the novel to the stage, and Howard then wrote the deliciously scintillating screenplay.
The movie itself was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to “The Great Ziegfeld.” In fact, “Dodsworth” is a joy to watch for its acting, its story and for all the great craftsmanship it exhibits, from art direction to editing.
Robert Osborne, the wonderful host on TCM who clearly knows a lot about classic movies, has said this about “Dodsworth”:
“Directed by William Wyler, who is, if not the best director, one of the best. It’s got a dull title and a cast that no one particularly knows–Walter Huston stars in it, Anjelica Huston’s grandfather [and the father of director/actor/writer John Huston]. It’s an absolutely riveting story about a very successful man who retires and takes a trip to Europe with his wife, and the wife is someone who decides she doesn’t want to grow old. It’s about the conflict of what it does to their life together.
"It’s an amazing film to me, because not only is it fascinating, but for something made in 1936, it is so up to date, and so modern. It could be a movie made today and people would like it. I actually introduced it once with the son of the man who produced it, and the crowds were so large for this 1936 film that they had to show it three times, which shows the grip that it can have on an audience today. Anyone can relate to the problem of getting older, the problem of not wanting to be dismissed by people. It’s that line we all come to eventually when you’re no longer young, but you don’t want to be old, and you haven’t made the adjustment of the fact that you’re not 25 anymore.”
On the Scene at aTVfest: A Digital Media Experience -- The Secrets Behind 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' ' CeeLo Green's The Good Life' ... and So Much More
It turned out to be the calm before Winter Storm Pax threatened Atlanta, but instead of calm, there were three days and nights of excitement as the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) presented its second aTVfest: A Digital Media Experience, with screenings, panels, Q&As and parties at venues throughout the Midtown area.
Even during the winter season, there is certainly no shortage of media and film festivals, most of them well-established. So that’s why it was especially impressive that this new entry drew such light and heat to an otherwise chilly Atlanta February 6-8, thanks to previews of highly anticipated new shows including Sundance Channel’s “The Red Road,” TBS’s ”CeeLo Green’s The Good Life” and Fox’s “Gang Related.”
But it’s not just about TV shows, although there were also screenings of “Looking” (HBO), “Justified” (FX), “The Walking Dead” (AMC), “The Americans” (FX) and “Archer” (FX) along with the Season 3 premiere of “Dallas,” upcoming on TNT. And naturally there are respected honorees, who this year included Angie Harmon, who received the Spotlight Award, Connie Britton, who was honored with the Icon Award, and Megan Boone, who received the Rising Star Award.
The fest celebrates design, creativity and innovation in television and media production, showcasing quality work in broadcast, cable, online, music video, animation, advertising and social media. Award-winning above and below-the-line talent take part in a series of informative panels, discussions and workshops held at SCAD’s state-of-the-art Digital Media Center, its main Atlanta campus and at the stunning new SCADshow theater, with finishing design touches put on just hours before the opening-night screening.
Many producers, writers, directors and industry executives from companies including ABC Entertainment, AMC Networks, FX, Discovery Channel, FremantleMedia, National Geographic Television, HGTV and The Gersh Agency come in from Los Angeles and New York, and there is major representation from the Atlanta-based Weather Channel and Turner networks including TBS, TCM, TNT and CNN.
Hometown heroes Green and the reunited Goodie Mob (Big Gipp, T-Mo and Khujo) drew a sellout crowd to SCADshow to preview their new show with executive producers Andrew Jameson and Eli Frankel.
“The opportunity came from Andrew,” said Green, who was sporting a black “Sons of Anarchy” T-shirt. “TBS wanted to get into reality and I had said ‘no’ before but when we were in the studio [making an album] we realized we missed each other after 14 years. So this was an opportunity to showcase where we are now.”
Shot during a seven-week residency in Las Vegas, “The Good Life” is partially scripted in a style that Jameson compared to Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
“The guys are coming up with great ideas but some of them are disastrous and pretty outrageous, like incorporating a tiger into their act,” he said.
“It’s like a dream come true for us,” said Khujo, before the discussion shifted to the origins of the Goodie Mob 20 years ago, when Southern rap was not accepted outside the region.
“We loved each other and hated the stereotype. The way we behaved was in revolt,” Green recalled. “We were a collection of MCs, poets and philosophers -- a band of gypsies.”
Speaking of “Curb,” which has not been on HBO since 2010, I had the opportunity to interview its executive producer Tim Gibbons in a 90-minute session at the Digital Media Center’s theater.
“It’s up to Larry, whenever he wants to come back. HBO has given him an open door -- and they never give him any notes,” said Gibbons, who is currently the EP of BET’s breakout hit “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
The audience was treated to a round of clips from “Curb” as Gibbons explained that absolutely none of the show was scripted and that David often preferred that some of the cast, especially Cheryl Hines, who plays his wife, not even see the outline so that they would come to their scenes totally fresh. Rehearsals are only for camera blocking and “mumble” dialogue is used so the improv and jokes are as spontaneous as possible.
“Much more footage is shot than in a scripted show and Larry will star certain lines in the edit that can become the centerpiece of a scene. The whole process can take up to a year for 10 or 12 episodes,” he said.
Gibbons said “Real Husbands” developed from a skit Kevin Hart did on the BET Awards lampooning Bravo’s “Real Housewives.” It blew up on social media the next day and the network moved quickly to develop it.
Billed as “the fakest reality show ever,” and featuring J.B. Smoove, Nelly, Boris Kodjoe, Nick Cannon and Duane Martin, it premiered in January 2013 and is currently shooting a third season.
Other well-attended panels included “Instant Classics: Lifestyle Television Series We’ll Never Forget,” “Network Branding in the Age of Digital Media,” “The Pitch,” "Big Vision Empty Wallet: Strategies to Get Your Foot in the Door Without Breaking the Bank,” “Sci-Fi on TV,” “Beyond Passive Entertainment: The Second Screen,” “Demystifying the Development Process” and “Deconstructing the Co-Production Deal.”
The events went late into the evening as organizers, led by SCAD President Paula Wallace, hosted afterparties at Atlanta hotspots including Lure, Livingston Bar + Restaurant and Tap.
Four months after its record-breaking series finale, the accolades for “Breaking Bad” keep rolling in. The latest came Saturday night when the AMC drama took the award for best drama series at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards, which honor outstanding achievement in writing for film, television, radio, promotion, new media and videogames.
"This has been an amazing last seven years. No one saw it coming,” said the perennially modest creator, writer, producer and sometime director Vince Gilligan, who won the DGA the previous weekend, in accepting the trophy. “I'm continually reminded that motion pictures -- movies and television -- are collaborative. I can’t imagine doing this without the amazing cast, producers and directors. But I’m reminded that it all starts with the word created on the page.”
The award was handed out near the end of ceremonies held on the West Coast at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles, while a separate East Coast kudofest took place in New York City’s Edison Ballroom. Some Los Angeles attendees were unnerved to find out the winners were published online before they were announced in the Pacific time zone.
Still, that didn’t diminish the joy for the writers of HBO’s “Veep,” which took the award for comedy series in a field that included “Modern Family,” “30 Rock,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Parks and Recreation.”
The prestigious new series prize went to Netflix’s much-lauded “House of Cards.” The other contenders were “The Americans,” “Masters of Sex,” “Ray Donovan” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
“Her” writer Spike Jonze won the award for original screenplay, which was up against David O. Russell for "American Hustle,” Woody Allen for “Blue Jasmine," Bob Nelson for "Nebraska" and Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for "Dallas Buyers Club."
In his acceptance speech, Jonze called the trophy “an award for pain, because writers endure a very specific kind of torture.”
In the adapted screenplay category, Billy Ray took the prize for “Captain Phillips” in a field that included Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County,” Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for “Before Midnight,” Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor” and Terence Winter for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
“I owe quite a debt to Captain Richard Phillips, who survived something I know would’ve killed me,” Ray said in his acceptance speech about the real-life ordeal the hijacked captain endured. “It was Captain Phillips who wrote this movie. I just wrote it down.”
Jonze and Ray are also nominated for Oscars in their respective screenplay categories.
The Los Angeles ceremony, which was not televised but streamed live on latimes.com, was hosted by actor Brad Garrett, who got flack on social media by starting things off with racial jokes about “Gravity” that many considered offensive.
West Coast presenters included Julie Delpy, Bruce Dern, Julianna Margulies, Stana Katic, Walton Goggins, Dermot Mulroney, Nick Offerman, Joe Manganiello, Amber Tamblyn, Betsy Brandt, B. J. Novak, Sasha Alexander and “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek.
The writing staff of “Jeopardy!” received the first-ever WGA Award for quiz and audience participation.
The honorary awards were especially poignant this year, honoring Paul Mazursky, Garry Marshall, Sam Simon, Alex Gibney -- all of whom gave moving and often funny speeches -- and posthumously honoring Thomas C. Cook, whose daughter accepted graciously on his behalf.
The WGA also recognizes individual episodes of drama and comedy, for which “Breaking Bad’s” Gennifer Hutchison and “30 Rock’s” Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock took home trophies.
In the hotly contested comedy/variety series category, the writing staff of “The Colbert Report” beat nominees from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Conan” and “Portlandia.”
'Breaking Bad' Creator Vince Gilligan Piles Up More Hardware, as DGA Honors Achievements in TV and Film
“Breaking Bad” continued its streak of racking up hardware after wrapping up its five-season run, when show creator Vince Gilligan picked up the honor of outstanding directorial achievement in dramatic series at the 66th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards.
Gilligan took the DGA for the concluding episode, “Felina.” One of his four competitors in the category was the show’s star Bryan Cranston, for directing the “Blood Money” episode during the epic final season. The other contenders nominated for directing some of television’s most lauded dramas were David Fincher (“House of Cards”), Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”) and David Nutter ("Game of Thrones”).
The multi-talented, cross-genre Cranston was also a nominee in the comedy series category for an episode of “Modern Family.” The award went to Beth McCarthy-Miller for directing an episode of another dearly departed show, “30 Rock.”
Director Don Roy King took the prize in the regularly scheduled variety/talk/news/sports category for “Saturday Night Live with Host Justin Timberlake.”
The movies and miniseries for television category had directors of three HBO programs (“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” “Phil Spector” and “Behind the Candelabra”) vying against those who helmed National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Kennedy” and NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!”
It was Steven Soderbergh, who was also honored with the Robert B. Aldrich Service Award, who took the gold medallion for the celebrated Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra.” “The best way to describe the people I worked with on this are performance-enhancers,” he said of his directing team.
Soderbergh, a previous nominee for “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich,” can now add the DGA to the Emmy Award he won for “Candelabra,” which he originally intended as a feature film but could not get financed.
Egyptian-born filmmaker Jehane Noujaim was awarded outstanding directorial achievement in documentary for Netflix's “The Square,” which chronicles the revolution that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak through the eyes of six protestors.
“You have to believe in the impossible,” she said, and noted that her film was not cleared for release in Egypt yet was pirated, copied and uploaded 750,000 times in the last few days. Normally creators don’t condone piracy, but under those circumstances, she seemed pleased that her film is getting seen in her home country.
Alfonso Cuarón may not be a master of the art of speaking English, according to his “Gravity” leading lady Sandra Bullock, but he clearly demonstrated his proficiency in directing by taking the DGA's top prize.
With Bullock encased in a 9’ x 9’ lightbox for hours on end to shoot her astronaut scenes in the blockbuster drama, she had only Cuarón’s voice to guide her. “But I didn’t understand any of the words he was saying, whether it was ‘ice’ or ‘eyes,’” she told the black-tie audience of 1,600 at the Hyatt Regency’s Century Plaza Hotel’s California Ballroom Saturday night. Previously, Bullock, who is up for a lead actress Oscar for her performance, had remarked on not being able to differentiate his pronunciations of “herpes” and “earpiece.”
The untelevised Directors Guild of America ceremony ran longer than Martin Scorsese’s three-hour “The Wolf of Wall Street” -- with seemingly none of its f-bombs -- and Scorsese appeared visibly disappointed at not winning the feature directing trophy, whose contenders also included Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and David O. Russell (“American Hustle”).
The show has a unique format among awards galas. Yes, there are cocktails and dinner after a red carpet, but each of the feature film directors up for the highest honor has time in the spotlight while being lauded by a high-profile participant involved in their project under consideration.
This year, they were all actors -- Tom Hanks for Greengrass, Sarah Paulson for McQueen, Bradley Cooper for Russell, Rob Reiner for Scorsese and Bullock for Cuarón -- who bestowed their directors with a golden medallion, giving real currency to the throwaway line that "It's an honor just to be nominated."
Within the industry, it’s also chance to lobby each contending picture further down the campaign trail to the Academy Awards, which take place more than a month from now.
All five of the DGA’s nominees are among the nine feature films up for Best Picture.
As per tradition, it was last year’s DGA winner, Ben Affleck for “Argo,” who opened the envelope that contained Cuarón’s name.
But breaking with tradition was the host of the ceremonies, actress Jane Lynch. “It’s the first time they’ve had a non-director host the show,” said Lynch, after being introduced by DGA President Paris Barclay. “And I’m also the first female. You know, it won’t be long before we’re going to want to vote, have equal pay and wear pants out in public.”
Women also played a prominent role in several other big moments, including the Diversity Award that was presented to Shonda Rhimes and producing partner Betsy Beers, in recognition of their commitment to diversity hiring and providing jobs and opportunities to women and minorities in DGA-covered categories.
In her acceptance speech, Rhimes, the creator of “Scandal”, “Grey's Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” told an anecdote about a male roommate who did the dishes one day a week while she did them the other six -- and he wanted praise for it -- lamenting that an award was necessary for what should be standard business practices of hiring diverse people in front of and behind the camera.
“It’s like washing dishes, something all of us should be doing anyway. There shouldn’t be an award for it, and we’re a little pissed off about that, yet one has been given only four times before this,” she said, while underscoring that the Directors Guild is the only guild that gives out such an award. “Different voices make for something original, which is what the public is hungry for.”
Beers and Rhimes are the first women to receive the Diversity Award. Previous honorees, named in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2005, include cable net HBO, Steven Bochco and John Wells.
The quirks of this year’s awards season calendar, with the 19th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards coming just four days after the Golden Globes and on the eve of the Academy Awards nominations announcement, served to cement the favorites and frontrunners heading into the Oscars.
Cate Blanchett. Matthew McConaughey. Jared Leto. Lupita Nyong’o. “12 Years a Slave.” “American Hustle.” “Frozen.” All were critical darlings who took the CCMA in their respective categories during a two-hour telecast hosted by Aisha Tyler on the CW Jan. 16.
Like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does for its Golden Globes, the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) separates drama, comedy and animation categories for its movie awards. (The organization honors excellence in television at a separate ceremony scheduled in June.)
It was abundantly clear that both groups marked their ballots nearly identically when it came to awarding the top films and best lead and supporting actors and actresses. The only exception was that the Globes honored Jennifer Lawrence with the supporting actress statuette for her role in “American Hustle,” while the critics went with Nyong’o -- who also got the statue at the Screen Actors Guild Awards over the weekend, as did Blanchett, McConaughey, Leto and “American Hustle.”
Both HFPA and BFCA also gave gold to “Hustle’s” Amy Adams and to Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” For directing, both also awarded Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity,” which took a total of 7 statuettes, a CCMA record.
Like the Oscars, the critics recognize both original and adapted screenplays. The prizes went to Spike Jonze for “Her,” and John Ridley for “12 Years a Slave.”
With the exception of Ridley, all of those honorees were in attendance at the ceremony, as were other nominees, winners and presenters, including Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Bradley Cooper, Emma Thompson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonah Hill, Ben Kingsley, Mark Wahlberg, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Harvey Weinstein and Margot Robbie.
The A-list turnout is a testament to the importance of the kudo-fest, which will mark its 20th year next year.
Also similar to the Globes is the freewheeling, fun spirit of the CCMAs, which took place at Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar and led to at least three bleeped f-bombs and other words you can’t say on broadcast television.
One instance came when Sandra Bullock was accepting the award for best actress in an action movie and an off-camera announcer interrupted, apparently tossing to a break. But after her bleeped WTF, Bullock soldiered on with her speech.
Another censored bit came from the mouth of Bradley Cooper when the cast of “Hustle” took the podium for the best acting ensemble award; and yet another when host Tyler let loose with a profanity, which was drowned out in the hall by audience laughter.
Here's the complete list of winners:
Picture: “12 Years a Slave”
Actor: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Supporting actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Young actor/actress: Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue Is The Warmest Color”
Acting ensemble: “American Hustle”
Director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Original screenplay: Spike Jonze, “Her”
Adapted screenplay: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity”
Art direction: Catherine Martin (production designer), Beverley Dunn (set decorator), “The Great Gatsby”
Editing: Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger, “Gravity”
Costume design: Catherine Martin, “The Great Gatsby”
Hair and makeup: “American Hustle”
Visual effects: “Gravity”
Animated feature: “Frozen”
Action movie: “Lone Survivor”
Actor in an action movie: Mark Wahlberg, “Lone Survivor”
Actress in an action movie: Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Comedy: “American Hustle”
Actor in a comedy: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Actress in a comedy: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Sci-fi/horror movie: “Gravity”
Foreign language film: “Blue Is the Warmest Color”
Documentary feature: “20 Feet From Stardom”
Song: “Let It Go,” Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, “Frozen”
Score: Steven Price, “Gravity”
Joel Siegel Award: Forest Whitaker
Louis XIII Genius Award: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater for their trilogy “Before Sunrise,” ”Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight”
Hollywood’s Hottest Star: Benedict Cumberbatch
The Golden Globes, Airing This Sunday, Are Usually More Adventuresome Picking Their Winners Than the Emmys. Let's See Whether That Holds Up This Year. Here Are Hillary's Picks
When it comes to handing out hardware to television shows and talent, Golden Globes voters have a long history of being ahead of the curve in recognizing quality new programming on the small screen. Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) seem to have no issue giving trophies to freshman outings -- rather than waiting to award them after they have several seasons under their belts, as often happens with other kudo-fests.
Yes, Emmy Awards, we’re talking about you. No disrespect, but ATAS voters didn’t fully wrap their arms around “The Sopranos” as Outstanding Drama until many seasons in on HBO, amongst many other such examples of delayed recognition.
But back to the Globes, which air this Sunday on NBC with second-time hostesses with the mostest, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who go in with job security that they’ll be the emcees next year as well.
The HFPA’s willingness to award the new over the established could bode well for several of this year’s TV contenders. Here are my predictions as to who the Golden Globe TV winners will be:
Best TV Comedy or Musical
Parks and Recreation
The Big Bang Theory
Hillary’s Pick: It would be a huge upset if Fox’s new comedy “B 99” took the honors from defending champ “Girls” or awards darlings “Big Bang” or “MF” -- both of which were nominated for Globes last year -- but it would be trophy rocket fuel for the Andy Samberg/Andre Braugher starrer.
Best TV Drama
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Masters of Sex
Hillary’s Pick: Two newbies, “House” and “Masters,” broke through and knocked out previous favorites including “Homeland” and “Mad Men.” Globe voters have never been “Bad” and therefore we doubt that they will change their tune despite its boffo finale. Tough call on who will take the trophy, but we’ll place our bets on Netflix’s entry, “House of Cards.”
Best Actress in a TV Drama
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Hillary’s Pick: The three women in three new, acclaimed dramas -- Maslany, Schilling and Wright -- each hold a strong appeal for the HFPA. Margulies is the only repeat contender in this race for best leading lady -- she took the trophy in 2010. Claire Danes, winner the past two years for “Homeland,” isn’t in the running. We’re thinking W -- as in Wright.
Best Actress in a TV Comedy
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Hillary’s Pick: Dunham got the statuette last year, but the HFPA doesn’t often favor repeat winners. Julia Louis-Dreyfus hasn’t won this category since “Seinfeld,” and given her feature nomination for “Enough Said,” seems to be attracting much Globe love, so JLD is my pick here.
Best Actor in a TV Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
James Spader, The Blacklist
Hillary’s Pick: Talk about the freshness factor. Recent winners starring in still-running shows, Steve Buscemi and Damian Lewis, aren’t even in the running. Each one of the current entrants is incredibly strong, but we’re betting on Spacey to take it home and give Netflix yet another reason to celebrate its move into original programming.
Best Actor in a TV Comedy
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Hillary’s Pick: Cheadle is the reigning king, Parsons won three years ago, Bateman was anointed for the original “Arrested” in 2005. Since the HFPA isn’t known for year-to-year repeats, with few exceptions -- sorry, Mr. Cheadle -- Samberg and Fox will battle it out for the 2014 Globe, with Fox taking the statuette.
Best Miniseries or TV Movie
American Horror Story: Coven
Behind the Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake
Hillary’s Pick: Starz is making quite a splash with two entries, “Dancing” and “White Queen,” but as usual, HBO is the one to beat in this category with my pick, “Candelabra.”
Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Rebecca Ferguson, White Queen
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake
Hillary’s Pick: Ferguson is the new face, Mirren, Lange and Carter have the movie star appeal and Moss broke out from her award-winning role as Peggy on “Mad Men” to take the lead on a noir crime drama. We’re feeling Lange has the most chops to impress the foreign press.
Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Al Pacino, Phil Spector
Hillary’s Pick: Movie stars all, with Ejiofor and Elba getting lauded all around this season for their feature roles in “12 Years a Slave” and “Mandela.” Yet Douglas as Liberace feels like a lock for the HFPA’s crown.
Best Supporting Actress in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer, White Queen
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Monica Potter, Parenthood
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Hillary’s Pick: It’s the Starz women, Bisset and McTeer, against the broadcast networks’ supporting femmes. McTeer would be the boldest choice, Vergara the most populist/mainstream. Since the HFPA likes to be on the leading edge, I say that they’ll likely go cable and will choose McTeer.
Best Supporting Actor in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
Hillary’s Pick: It will be difficult for any of the contenders to top Voight’s over-the-top portrayal in the Showtime drama “Ray Donovan,” his best role in years, filled with passion, pathos, subterfuge, sex and humor.
One of my favorite scenes in “Lawrence of Arabia” is when Alec Guinness, as Prince Feisal, makes reference to a secret treaty that he’s not supposed to know about that will split up Arabia between the British and the French after World War I. He is talking to Lawrence and Lawrence’s boss, General Allenby.
Well, General, I will leave you.
Major Lawrence, doubtless, has reports to
make about my people and their weakness,
and the need to keep them weak in the
British interest...and the French
interest too, of course. We must not
forget the French now...
I've told you, sir, no such treaty
Yes, General, you have lied most bravely,
but not convincingly. I know this treaty
He does it better than you, General, but
then, of course, he is almost an Arab.
Please, far be it from me to call New Jersey Governor Chris Christie a liar after he has so convincingly pleaded his ignorance in the Bridgegate scandal today. Christie’s press conference -- which lasted just shy of two hours -- was a master class on contrition for a politician caught in a scandal. He said he had had no knowledge of the closing of the traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee, New Jersey, and he had fired his top aide who, we found out yesterday, did know about it.
And if it turns out that Christie did have knowledge of the lane closings, we’ll all be saying -- based on how Christie handled himself at the press conference -- “Wow, he certainly fooled me.”
Oddly though, I thought, what seemed to most bother Christie is that the top aide in question, Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, had not stepped forward about a month ago when he asked all of his top staff whether they knew anything about the lane closings. To him, this was a huge, devastating betrayal.
And, Christie said, given how he thinks of those closest to him as “family,” and that he trusts them and considers their relationship with him one of mutual loyalty, he was thinking long and hard about how this could have happened.
What he said he was not thinking long and hard about is why some of those closest to him thought this would be OK to do. He claimed that Kelly was not acting on any instructions from either her boss -- his chief of staff -- or himself.
Kelly’s now infamous email to Christie appointee David Wildstein at the Transit Authority said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Why would she act as a rogue player and send such an email? Of course we don't know yet if she was indeed a rogue player.
Regardless, my gut tells me that she sent the email that looks like it triggered the eventual lane closures because she thought that it was OK and the right thing to do, politically. Where would she get such an idea? If not from Christie himself, then most likely from someone who she knew or felt was very close to Christie. And, again, my gut tells me that she did it because she knew or she felt -- having worked with Christie for almost three years -- that it’s what Christie would have wanted her to do.
And since she most likely realized that this was a dirty tricks kind of operation, part of her job would have been to make sure that it could never be traced back to the governor, even if he did know about it.
We might have found out a lot more answers about all of this today because Wildstein was due to testify before the New Jersey State Legislature, but he took the Fifth Amendment.
Still, as noted, Christie dazzled during his press conference, invoking all the right adjectives. He said, repeatedly, that he was hurt and humiliated. He said he was heartbroken and stunned. He said he was blindsided. He said he was sorry to the voters of New Jersey. Since the emails and texts broke yesterday morning tying the scandal directly to one of his top aides, he has held her accountable by firing her. He also said he’s through with his former campaign manager, who was also involved in the materials released yesterday. As for anger, he said for the most part he’s not quite there yet, but he expects he will eventually experience that emotion as well. He was patient, soft-spoken and kept saying that he was taking responsibility for what happened, regardless of the fact he knew nothing about it.
As the press conference droned on and on, and began to get repetitious, I think I must have dozed off for a moment or two, and, somehow, my cynical side overtook me. Because I thought for sure that right before the press conference ended I heard Christie say, in all sincerity, that he most likely would not have stupidly ordered the lanes shut down in the first place on that hot summer’s day if he hadn’t been in a drunken stupor and maybe smoking crack …