Monday, November 24, 2014

Watch Me by Angelica Huston

Angelica Huston. Watch Me: A Memoir. New York: Schrber, 2014.

Huston was a noted “high fashion” “exotic” model in New York. She did not find as much success in southern California as she was not the “tanned blonde” that seemed more desirable there. Her father, director John Huston, gave her a role in his movie “A Walk with Love and Death”. Critics were not kind to her.

Huston dated actor Jack Nicholson. She would later marry Robert Graha. She told Nicholson she liked acting. Nicholson stated he “hated actresses” yet thought they could work together in their next movie “The Fortune”. Nicholson asked director Mike Nichols to consider Huston for the female lead. Huston, fearful for her past bad reviews, did not want to risk it.

Sam Spiegel, MGM’s Chief, and director Elia Kazan wanted Jack Nicholson for their movie “The Last Tycoon”. They gave Huston an audition, perhaps in hopes of luring Nicholson. Nicholson agreed to a lessor supporting role. She was cast. While filming, she learned to consider “the other character’s state of mind.”

Huston writes that director Roman Polanski was “restless, opinionated, urban, brilliant, impatient, and mercurial....You had to work to keep up with him. He was staying at Jack Nicholson’s residence while Nicholson was away. The police raided the house and arrested Polanski and Huston for drug possession. Polanski was also arrested for sexually assaulting a 13 year old. Huston writes she did not witness that.

Huston’s father had emphysema. Due to that, his least films he directed were low budget films.

Nicholson found director Stanley Kubrick a “taskmaster” and “all genius.”

Lee Grant asked Huston to be in the movie “Playing With Fire” which Grant director. Grant could not get the project fuded

Sue Menger, a noted agent, turned down Huston’s father’s request that Menger represent her. Menger stated she represented Ali McGraw who Menger thought look similar to Huston. Menger and Huston, though, became “good friends.”

Huston auditioned for a role in the movie “This Is Spinal Tap”. She received a smaller role than for what she auditioned.

John Foreman asked Huston to be in the movie “Prizzi’s Honor.” Foreman then asked if her father would direct it and if Jack Nicholson would act in it.

Huston won an Academy Award for her role in “Prizzi’s Honor”. She was the only person from the film to win an Academy Award for that film.

The Huston family challenged Ted Turner from colorizing movies filmed in black and white. French law prohibited doing this if the original creator objects. In the U.S., the National Film Preservation Act prohibited substantially altering, including colorizing, a film it had labeled without the creators participating int the altering.

Huston played the Supreme Leader in the Disneyland 3D short “Captain EO.”

Huston agreed to be in a Woody Allen movie knowing only about the character she would play. She had never met Woody Allen and offered to meet him for a drink. Allen said he was sick. She suggested another day. Allen asked what if he would be sick then, too. The drink meet never occurred. Yet she did appear in his movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Huston researches her character before filming. She wants to know her character
s health, choices, hopes, dreams, disappointments, and secrets.

Huson most enjoyed her acting in the movie “The Grifters”. She was nominated for Best Actress.

Huston played Mortica in the film “The Addams Family”. Her corset made her look well yet it was painful to wear. She had troubled turning her head, it gave her big headaches, her neck blistered, and she could not sit.

Woody Allen asked Huston back to appear in his movie “Manhattan Murder Mystery”. She agreed. She found the dialogue required a lot of fast talking. She worried about missing cues.

Huston filmed an Addams Family sequel “Addams Family Values”.

Huston filmed the movie “The Perez Family”. She found she and Mina Nair had conflicting styles. Huston “was sensing her impatient and feeling a certain discomfort in performing actions without having found my original impulse.”

While filming “Buffalo Girls”, Huston was diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma which was on her nose. It had to be removed surgically after radiation did not work. Two years later, her nose was reconstructed using cartilage from her ear.

Huston agreed to direct the film “Bastard OUt of Carolina” for the Turner Network Television. SHe was upset she did not know as much about the technicalities of filmmaking yet she “survived on instinct and by surrounding myself with great people from whom I could learn.” The film took 28 days to film. Ted Turner and Jane Fonda screened the film and were upset over the rape and masturbation scenes. Turner declined to air it. It was shown at the Canes Festival. Showtime aired it. Huston was nominated for an Emmy and  Directors Guild awards.

Huston filmed “Ever After”. She first found costar Drew Barrymore giggling during the filming which upset Huston. Huston yelled at Barrymore “All right, missy, I’ve had it.” Barrymore, the next day, sent Huston a card reading “Thank you for making me a better actor.”

Huston filmed “The Golden Bowl”. She found Jim Ivory was “calm” while Ismail Merchant was “loquacious and outgoing”.

Huston filmed “The LIfe Aquatic”. he stated it “was deceptive in that it looked simple, but a great deal of effort went into the set, the costumes, the location.”

Huston filmed “The Darjeeling Limited” in India.. There were no wardrobe or make up artists. Each actor created his or her own look.

Michael Mayer asked Huston to be in the NBC TV series “Smash”. She agreed. The pilot took three weeks to shoot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” New York: Random House, 2014.

Dunham made a web series called “Delusional Downtown Divas”. THere were ten episodes filmed. THey used many of their parents’ friends in small role “who still viewed us as children doing an adorable class project.” In retrospect, she notes the camera was shaky and the images blurry. It was “amateurish, a little vulgar.” It was shown at a SoHo gallery.

In 2009, the Delusional Downtown Divas hosted the Guggenheims First Annual Art Awards.

Dunham observes that filming a sex scene is “weird”. While many actors call it part of their job she sometimes found the experience “humiliating”. She does not think of the audience while filming nude. She notes “getting naked feels better some days”. She is not afraid to do them. She appreciates that showing her body imperfections allows others to more easily accept their body imperfections.

Dunham is Executive Producer, writer, director, and acts on the HBO TV series “Girls”. She has won two Best Actress Golden Glove awards. She has been nominated for eight Emmy Awards. She also wrote and directed tow movies.

Dunham’s grandmother Carol Marguerite Reynolds was her best friend until age 12. She felt her loss deeply when she died. Carol’s sister Doris “Doad” Reynolds Jetwett died on December 10, 2003 at age 100.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

So, Anyway…by John Cleese

John Cleese. So, Anyway....New York:Crown, 2014.

Cleese learned when young that humor was a useful tactic in dealing with bullies.

Cleese was involved in theater in Clifton College. In his first straight acting performance, the sight f him in tights as the supposedly fearsome Satan drew audience laughter instead of the intended fear. Cleese never worked in straight acting again for 37 years.

Cleese met Graham Chapman at Cambridge. They performed in theater together. He learned his strength was comedic timing. He notes comedic timing “depends on confidence; you cannot o great comedy if you are not relaxed...any anxiety, any tension. and the flow goes wrong, you snatch at the joke, you force too hard, you lose the rhythm.” He notes “the greatest cure for anxiety is familiarity. The better you know the sketch...the more effortly it starts to flow.”

Cleese worked at BBC Radio. He wrote for an early evening magazine show. He then wrote comedy sketches.

He then toured New Zealand for six weeks with “Cambridge Circus”. During one performance, a bell tester did his job testing the bell. “Cambridge Circus” played on Broadway. He later appeared on Broadway in “Half a Sixpence”.

David Frost asked Cleese to work on his sketch show “The Frost Report”. Cleese also helped work and perform on a David Frst comedy series “Frost Over Britain”.

David Frost was listed as the lead writer of his shows although some wondered if he wrote any of his shows. It was noted by another writer “how greatly David has always improve our punctuation.”

Cleese worked on “The Frost Programme” that aired three times a week. Terry Gilliam was hired to sketch guest Shirley Bassey. From that show, Cleese learned “ that when you stop concentrating on avoiding mistakes, you relax a bit, and actually make fewer” mistakes.

Frost offered Cleese his own show. He did 13 episodes of “At Last the 1948 Dhow”. He included fellow writer Marty Feldman, who had not acted in awhile, and Graham Chapman.

Cleese notes wen Graham Chapman told Cleese that Chapman was homosexual, Cleese was surprised but it did not affect their writing relationship in any way. hey wrote several movie and numerous TV scripts together.

Cleese appeared in the move “The Magic Christian” with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Cleese states Sellers and director Jimmy Burrows were two geniuses that he worked with.

Chapman liked the TV show “Do Not Adjust Your Set” which starred Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam animation. Chapman ased the, if they wanted to work with him and Chapman. The idea of all these people working together was approved without a pilot.

Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989 at age 48. Cleese noted Chapman “had a priceless, quite uncanny knack of knowing what the audience was going to laugh at.”

Clleese notes most of Monty Python were primarily writers rather than performers. They never fought over casting seeking instead to put the wrong person with the right role.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pigtails, Presley, and Pepper by Cynthia Pepper

Cynthia Pepper with Victor J. Hangor. Pigtails, Presley, and Pepper: A Holllywood Memoir. Author House, 2014.

Pepper recalls residuals from one of her movies. The first residual check was for $300, the second check was for $13, the third was for $7, and the fourth was for $2.

Pepper’s grandfather worked in vaudeville. Her father was an actor appearing in moves and on an “Our Gang” episode.

Pepper modeled and appeared in theater as a child At the age of 12, she appeared in her first movie with Cary Grant. She was shocked when she heard Cary Grant swear.

When in high school at Hollywood High School, Pepper joined a sorority, Each sorority met under a tree, Stephanie Power was in her sorority, She recalls when some boys were mad at her sorority and they cut down their tree.

Pepper appeared in episodes of “The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis” among other series. She then had steady work appearing on “My Three Sons” The other actors and crew made her fell welcome. Fred MacMurray would quickly film his scenes and leave. The rest of the cast then filmed their scenes. Actors talking to Fred MacMurray’s character would speak to an off-screen mop.

Pepper’s character dated Tom Considine’s character in “My three Sons”. In real life, she was married and he had a girlfriend They were friends and did go on double dates.

Pepper was paid $400 a week for being on “My Three Sons”. SHe was on eight episodes from 1960 to 1961.

Pepper was then cast in the TV series “Margie” as Margie. The studio had unwritten rules of no obscenities and no smoking. The show as shot with one camera on 35 mm black and white film in front of a live audience even though a laugh track was added As “Margie” was successful, Pepper was then hired to sing on reords. She jokes “this record is my Million Seller...that’s right, I’ve got a Million in My Cellar”. Marie merchandise was also produced with her likeness. She has never paid for any of the merchandising. She was pictured on a TV Guide cover which became, for then, the highest selling issue.

“Margie” lased two seasons on ABC, despite its 20 share, The show was costly to produce. ABC was moving towards showing more Westerns. Proctor and Gamble, wich sponsored “Margie” began moving their advertising towards more daytime soap operas.

Pepper next filmed an episode of “The United States Steel Hour”.

MGM called Pepper film “Kissin’ Cousins” with Elvis Presley. Elvis called her Speckled Pup. There is a scene where Pepper throws Elvis to the ground. As a joke, Elvis pretended to be unconscious after falling.

Pepper’s contract work was over after “Kissin’ Cousins”. She worked on some TV episodes She did a guest appearance on “My Three Sons”. She then got the role of the neighbor on “The Addams Family”. She filmed a pilot “Three Coins in the Fountain” which was not selected yet was shown on TV five years later as a TV movie.

Pepper appeared in summer stock theater in “Under the Yum Yum tree” with Edd Byrnes and David Hedison, Tab Hunter later replaced Hediosn. Margaret O’Brien replaced her.