WEIRDLAND: March 2018

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Glitz, Fleeting Nostalgia, Jerry Lewis

The glamour of pre–WWII Hollywood and the glitz of postwar Las Vegas are the playgrounds of young Esme Wells and her dreamer parents—her bookie father, and her movie star wanna-be mother who never gets past showgirl roles in B-musicals. Adrienne Sharp’s fourth novel is a grimly sad story of big dreams, bad luck, and worse decisions, as Esme and her parents move from Hollywood’s scams and cheesy musicals to the Las Vegas world of casinos, high rollers, suckers, and gangsters. By 1945 Esme’s father works for mobster Bugsy Siegel as the gangster’s vision of a gambling city comes true. Underage, she works as a casino cigarette girl, where her good looks draw the leering attention of Nate Stein, a ruthless thug who intends to take over all of Las Vegas. After Bugsy is bumped off, Esme falls in with serious mobsters like Mickey Cohen and Meyer Lansky, eventually becoming Stein’s teenage mistress and chorus line showgirl. When Esme discovers her father’s involvement with the less-than-legal dealings, the story builds to a dangerous boil. This glittering noirish tragedy, with its lushly imagined period landscape and subtle feminist trajectory, is both fun to read and sad to think about. Sharp’s narrative is a bold and gritty portrayal of unreachable dreams, anchored by its notable depiction of Esme. The Magnificent Esme Wells will be released on April, 10, 2018. Source: www.publisherweekly.com

The 1950s occupied a central position in the nostalgic imagination of the United States: indeed, it was the revival of 1950s Rock’n’Roll in the early 1970s that first made nostalgia a household term. It therefore comes as no surprise that nostalgia for the 1950s features heavily in two recent books: Michael Dwyer's “Back to the Fifties: Nostalgia, Hollywood Film, and Popular Music of the Seventies and Eighties” (2015) and Gary Cross's “Consumed Nostalgia” (2015). Dwyer rejects this “amnesiac model of nostalgia” interpretation, arguing “that nostalgia must be understood not as a reduction or denial of history but as a fundamentally productive affective engagement that produces new historical meaning for the past as a way of reckoning with the historical present.” Cross states this form of nostalgia “binds together not community nor families but scattered individuals”, it is “less about preserving an ‘unchanging golden era’ than it is about capturing the fleeting and the particular in its ‘authenticity’”, it helps “us cope with the extraordinary speed-up of time by letting us return to our childhoods”, and is “rooted in special emotions linked to recovering distinctive memories.”  The nostalgia for the 1950s, for instance, first became a subject of cultural criticism because it infected a younger generation without recollections of the period. Cross’ hypothesis that nostalgia is a reaction to social acceleration and fast capitalism has a lot going for it. According to sociologist Hartmut Rosa, every surge of acceleration is followed by nostalgic sentiments. In fact, Rosa makes the same argument in his theory of social acceleration. Source: nostalgia.hypotheses.org

Dean and Me is a snapshot of how a couple of divergent characters came together to literally change the face of popular entertainment: Martin and Lewis were the post-war pulse of a battle weary nation, and the resulting hilarity and hi-jinx looked like it would never end. So when the duo officially called it quits, 10 years to the day after getting together, fans were flummoxed -- and the confusion continued as neither man spoke to the other in 20-plus years. Many people outside the industry believe that the creative process comes easily and exacts never-ending rewards. Lewis debunks all those myths, especially when he's listing a performance schedule that required three shows a night (finishing around 3am) for several weeks, including a daily schedule that required publicity stops and business meetings. Lewis makes it very clear that Martin loved the ladies -- as he puts it, "often and very well" -- which was part of the make-up of male oriented show business in the '40s and '50s. Appearances are deceptive, though, and it's implied that Lewis had the higher sex drive of both entertainers.

Lewis does not blame his partner for the inevitable and bitter break-up in 1956. Instead, he makes it very clear that the separation was almost all his idea. He wanted to expand into filmmaking, and Martin was happy with continuing the nightclub comedy act. But there is also a kind of backward compliment being paid here, since Lewis indicates that it was Martin's seething rage, his lack of individual respect and his cold interpersonal nature that drove the divide between them. It's Dean's desire to step out of Jerry's generous limelight (Lewis was the beneficiary of glowing notices while Martin was universally panned) that really drove the decision to quit. Few see that Jerry Lewis is actually a bridge between the old fashioned chuckles of Hollywood's Golden Era and the more experimental, existential humor of the post-modern period. Instead, he seems forever fated to be the dopey dude, the kooky caricature of a nerd. Sadly, such a sentiment diminishes a great deal of very good work. Thanks to a famous collaboration with director Frank Tashlin and his own turns in the creator's chair, we can witness the rise, fall, and unjust dismissal of an amazing artist.

The Ladies Man (1961): It remains a monumental achievement in set design and art direction. Throwing his weight around as a box office behemoth, Lewis demanded and received an entire Paramount soundstage to create what is, essentially, an entire four story house complete with grand concourse, spiral staircases, open walled bedrooms, and an old fashioned elevator running up the side. It was a massive masterpiece of a playset, and Lewis made the most of it. Visually it is amazing, the comedy relying more on small moments than the epic environment created.

The Errand Boy (1961): As a love letter to the studio system, it stands as one of his true classic comedies. A skewering of Hollywood hubris in combination with the filmmaker's fleet footed physical shtick resulted in a creative combination that would underscore his next few films. Tinsel Town never took such a well-intentioned tweaking.

It'$ Only Money (1962) (with director Frank Tashlin): Relatively forgotten, even among Lewis fans, this oddball detective farce -- Lewis is a TV repairman and alongside a shifty private dick, get caught up in the search for a rich family's missing heir -- is one of the funnyman's forgotten gems. Lewis is loose and screwy in every scene, with terrific nonsensical, non-sequitur patter and ad-libs that equal his best moments on screen. Tashlin really amplifies his anarchic style, and Lewis loses himself in the relatively low key role.

The Nutty Professor (1963): Without a doubt, this stands as one of comedy's major cinematic milestones. By riffing on his relationship with ex-partner Martin (who Buddy Love is obviously mirrored after) and putting to use every kind of cleverness imaginable, we get a wonderful whirlwind of dopiness and deftness. In this Jekyll and Hyde satire, Lewis actually display a character study, not just weird variations of his persona, and the emotional underpinning of the relationship with Stella Purdy is heartfelt and very human. If you wonder what keeps Lewis part of the motion picture equation, even four decades later, this fantastic film is the answer.

The Patsy (1964): Often cited as one of Lewis's more cynical films, this droll look at celebrity and the shallowness of fame is, in reality, on par with The Nutty Professor as a certifiable sensation. A dynamite combination of silent film gags, pop culture spoof (see Ed Sullivan mocking himself!), and insightful evisceration into the cult of personality, it's a brilliant and brazen farce.

Three on a Couch (1966): Attempting to make the leap into more 'adult oriented fare', many feel Lewis succeeded with this sincere psychobabble. The therapeutic theme is prevalent throughout Lewis’s films, including That’s My Boy (Hal Walker, 1951), The Delicate Delinquent (Don McGuire, 1957), and The Disorderly Orderly (Frank Tashlin, 1964). One of the film’s most magical sequences is Lewis and Leigh dancing in a ballroom with a beautiful, dreamy lassitude (Lewis’s back to the camera and Janet Leigh’s enraptured eyes looking heavenward as the two glide on an arc of rapture).  Three on a Couch becomes a film about the need for expressing love and a restatement, in different terms, of the self-reliance theme of The Nutty Professor. Source: www.popmatters.com

Monday, March 26, 2018

Arthur Miller: Writer, Marilyn Monroe, Alienation

What hot-blooded heterosexual American man of the 1950s wouldn’t have married Marilyn Monroe? But the more you know about Monroe—her brooding, contemplative nature; her often-fetishized love of reading—the more her attraction to Arthur Miller starts to make a poignant kind of sense. He saw not only her artistic potential, but a kind of brokenness about her that most men found convenient to ignore. In the documentary, an elderly Miller recalls something he said to Marilyn many years before their marriage: “I said, ‘You’re the saddest girl I’ve ever met.” Or at least that’s the story he always told her, the one she repeats in footage used in the new documentary Arthur Miller: Writer. “As he describes it, I was crying when he met me,” said a hesitant Marilyn. “What makes you so sad?” Clark Gable asks from beneath the brim of a cowboy hat. “I think you’re the saddest girl I ever met.” “You’re the first man that’s ever said that,” a morose Monroe says in an scene from The Misfits


Arthur Miller: Writer (which premieres on HBO on March 19) is a documentary directed by Rebecca Miller, the playwright’s daughter from his third and final marriage to the Austrian photographer Inge Morath. “Where Jean Harlow had been the bombshell-as-feminine symbol of wealth and military might,” Karina Longworth notes: “in post–World War II America, Marilyn became the feminine icon of plenty and of the victory of pleasure divorced from worry or responsibility.” In 1986, Gloria Steinem published a biography of Monroe, Marilyn: Norma Jean, a corrective to the salacious and largely ridiculous 1973 Monroe biography by Norman Mailer, in which he posited that the star had been murdered by the U.S. government. (Mailer admitted the same year, on 60 Minutes, that the book was a cash grab.) In Rebecca Miller’s interviews, filmed at his kitchen table in Connecticut near the end of his life, the playwright seemed to retain a real compassion for Marilyn. The strange benevolence of this one-sided portrait of Monroe and Miller is that you walk away from it thinking that he really understood her. That under slightly different circumstances, they could have been happy.

“She was witty,” Miller says, gazing wistfully from his kitchen table in Connecticut. “She was making fun of the situation as she was playing it. That was the difference. People thought they could imitate her by being cute. But she was being cute and making fun of being cute at the same time. There was another dimension, which is very difficult to do.” Source: www.theringer.com

Ruby became a showgirl and companion but she didn't sleep with her admirers. The homely, awkward Don Knotts look-alikes who attended ham radio conventions got the same, velvety Ruby Wilde presence as did the members of Rotary clubs and The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the men who came to find distraction after a miserable, wallet-emptying divorce. Ruby soon realized that more often than not they simply wanted to be heard, to tell their stories without criticism or interruption. The high rollers bought her rubies and garnets, sapphires to match her eyes. They bought her designer clothes at the casino boutiques. Her bathroom counter was crowded with bottles of perfume. She owned silk negligees, and even a supremely soft cashmere robe dyed the peaceful color of a doe bedded down on a forest floor. But there were gifts more extravagant than necklaces. Johnny Litchfield, a high-stakes gambler from Chicago, offered to buy Ruby a penthouse in the Windy City, where he said he’d be able to keep an eye on her. Ruby was learning to turn men down gently, with such finesse that they didn’t feel rejected. Ruby turned down Johnny’s Peter Piper penthouse. Instead, she accepted a ten-thousand-dollar poker chip, and every time Chicago Johnny came to town he found her—and gave her more outlandish gifts. He was a hard-bitten man with a cratered face and pale blue eyes that were too small. But those eyes were surrounded by ribbed fans of wrinkles, the kind that came only with repeated laughter. And Johnny made her laugh. He told her stories of outrageous gambling wins and losses, of his days as a middleweight boxer and then as an MP in Hawaii, corralling World War II soldiers on leave. She sold the jewelry she didn’t particularly like at the jewelers all the girls used—Goldfarb’s on East Twain Avenue. She banked the money, earning eight percent interest on her savings. When an enamored Saudi prince gave Vivid a boat, the Sunglow Apartment girls ended their nights by Lake Mead as the sun rose. Ruby, Rose, Vivid, and Dee christened the boat Siren Song and for their naming ceremony piled caviar onto water crackers and emptied three bottles of Bollinger Blanc de Noirs champagne. It was just girls. They scrambled eggs on the boat’s little propane cookstove, ate crusty bread donated by the chef in one or another casino restaurant, and brewed dark, French roast coffee. Ruby studied Vivid, saw how she touched a man’s arm or shoulder lightly to let him know that he’d arrived in her inner circle. Ruby gained more than luxurious possessions from the men she entertained. She leaned in intimately, enticingly, so that a man could light her cigarette. Like a pearl forming about a grain of sharp sand, she used her newfound etiquette to further escape her rube beginnings. —"All the Beautiful Girls" (2018) by Elizabeth J. Church

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In the modern era, ‘alienation’ came into its own as a talismanic term in the 1950s and ’60s. At the time, the United States was becoming increasingly affluent, and earlier markers of oppression– inequality, social immobility, religious persecution–appeared to be on the wane. ‘Alienation’ rose spectacularly from 1958 to its height in 1974. In short, alienation in the second decade of the 21st century has not actually faded away as a descriptor of human distress. Rather, it has become most visible in the anxiety of those who bemoan the transformation of a beloved homeland into an unrecognisable nation of aliens. America these days is not a happy place. Even though the economy is up, polarization is at an all-time high, and a feeling of malaise, or worse, grips the nation. Our subjective well-being has declined across the board in each and every state, even as the economy has sprung back to life. America is growing increasingly unhappy and the trend toward unhappiness is concentrated in the places that used to be among the very happiest. Whatever the reasons, America’s collective psyche is clearly suffering today. You’d expect happiness to rebound in a period that saw the economy recover from the Great Recession. In fact, the opposite happened. When we compared Gallup’s data on well-being to the Gallup data from 2009, we found that well-being actually declined in all 50 states between 2009 and 2017. What’s more, these declines are concentrated in the very states that had higher levels of well-being in 2009. Source: www.citylab.com

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Life with the Invincible Bette Davis

Time Warner’s Turner and Warner Bros. reached a deal to stock Turner’s FilmStruck with more than 600 classic Hollywood films each month from the Warner Bros. library. At the same time, WB’s Warner Archive subscription-streaming service — launched in 2013 — will be shut down, and current customers will be migrated over to FilmStruck. Titles in Warner Bros.’ catalog coming to FilmStruck include many that have never been available on a subscription video-on-demand platform. Those include “Casablanca,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Singin’ In the Rain,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Music Man,” “Bringing Up Baby,” “The Thin Man,” “Cat People,” “A Night At The Opera,” “An American In Paris” and “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” In addition, FilmStruck will introduce new curated themes around WB’s Hollywood classics such as “Rogers & Astaire: The Complete Collection,” “Neo-Noir,” and a “Star of the Week” theme featuring titles with Bette Davis, Hepburn and Tracy, Ava Gardner and others. Source: variety.com

Bette Davis was the first person to receive 10 Academy Award nominations and she twice won for Best Actress. The first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, and the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Davis was in the twilight of her career when the two met, but Kathryn Sermak still witnessed the flamboyant actress’s uncompromising work ethic in her final roles. “I lived with her for several years – it was like a mother/daughter relationship – and she became my best friend. Miss D was not only incredibly generous to me but very fair. I only know that when I first started working for her, Miss D and Bede were super, super close. Whenever she was on a set, photos of her children would come out for display in the dressing rooms. She was very proud of her family. Miss D was such a giving person and always believed in giving to others while she was alive. She gave Michael the Oscar she won for ‘Dangerous,’ and me the one for ‘Jezebel. ’ She told me I would know what to do with it one day.” 

The 1938 “Jezebel” Oscar sold at Christie's auction house for $578,000 which Sermak says at the time “was the highest paid for an actress’s Oscar.” The sale of the Oscar helped fund scholarships for aspiring actresses and actors through the Bette Davis Foundation. Sermak says of B.D. Hyman's My Mother's Keeper: “that book was such a huge betrayal I would never have believed her daughter could have done anything like that.” Still, she maintains, “my book is not about B.D., and I tried to take the high road. But Miss D said, ‘One day, you will tell the story.’” Sermak adds: “I want Miss D to be proud,  she was my teacher, and my mentor. From the response at the many book signings I’ve done, it’s clear people still love Bette Davis. I realize they’re not coming to see me, but want a part of Miss D.” The love between these two women—platonic, aspirational, and nurturing—is the capstone of Miss D & Me: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis. It is a type of female bond rarely portrayed in either books or cinema.

Bette Davis would often call Kathryn Sermak her “chum-friend-daughter.” “She was always the greatest supporter of women,” Sermak explains. “What she didn’t like was that women could be back-biting. She always said that women should empower other women—just like what men do in a boys’ club. She really did teach me everything – Discretion, respect. She was the most honest, respectful person. It didn't matter if you were the elevator person, she would greet them all. Always respect, she said. Everybody has a job to do. You're no higher or lower. Your fans are your bread and butter, the ones who pay the money to go to your movies.” 

The recent TV series Feud painted a picture of Davis as a difficult character in the actress' rivalry with Joan Crawford. Sermak implies that the tension between Davis and Crawford was born from the latter’s thwarted attempt to romantically woo the former.  “Joan did have a crush on Miss Davis, but Miss Davis is a man’s woman,” says Sermak. Feud is entertaining; it's not accuracy. Miss D was always the first to admit when she was wrong. That's what a strong person does. She taught me about women – you bond together. She loved men, but she was supportive of women.” Of her last husband, Gary Merrill, Davis had said: "Gary was macho but none of my husbands was ever man enough to become Mr Bette Davis." Relationships and her abortions were not something Davis discussed with her ingĂ©nue assistant, although Kathryn learned about men from her employer. “She talked me through the stages of having boyfriends. She certainly helped me with Pierre [one significant other] and his messiness.” It became a competition between Pierre and Miss D for Kathryn, and it was clear Pierre stood no chance. The most difficult man in Bette's life was son-in-law Jeremy, married to her biological daughter, Barbara, known as B.D. They met when B.D. was 15 and he was 29, at the Cannes Film Festival. Jeremy was the British nephew of American film executive Eliot Hyman. Miss D was being escorted by the director Robert Aldrich – who, by the way, she never had an affair with, as they insinuated in Feud – and she needed an escort for her daughter. Jeremy went to pick up B.D., who was tall, slender and very striking, and she fell in love with her handsome companion.

Central to the book is a family reunion for July 4 Independence Day celebrations, when tensions reached a head between Bette and Jeremy. It had been a huge operation, with Bette and Kathryn preparing to make sure everything would be perfect for the arrival of the family for the holiday in a house in Huntington Bay. "She spared nothing for her family because she loved them so much." In an argument about whether there are clams in the Bay, the two personalities clashed. B.D.'s book was an enormous shock to Bette. "The betrayal – that was worse than the stroke. Miss D was completely blindsided by it. That's what killed her – a broken heart. She loved B.D. more than anything. She loved her adopted children and treated everybody fairly, but there was that mother connection with B.D. I once asked her, 'How did you give your daughter a lake?' and she said: 'A lake of money.'" She thought she wanted to die, so I exploded: "If you want to die, go ahead, we're going to fight this together." Miss D would not, says Kathryn, have liked today's Hollywood. "She wouldn't approve. She knew she and that world were going. Then came animation – it was just different times." Source: www.nowtolove.co.nz

Katharine Hepburn claimed in an interview for People Magazine in 1976 (shocking coming from an actress with such liberal background): "Most films today are about lunatics and degenerates. I try to avoid degenerates, because I think too much has been done for people who are totally alien to decent society. I would line them up and eliminate them." Unlike Hepburn, Bette Davis’s legacy is ultimately predicated upon her unique ability to understand and fully inhabit truly unlikable characters. She excelled at playing wounded and wounding women without an air of apology or condescension toward the characters (or audience). She played complicated characters whose monstrosity sometimes turned physical in the form of thick, mask-like makeup or physical scars. It isn’t that there haven’t been other actresses to take up this mantle. But none have done so with the consistency, honesty, and sheer delight that Bette brings to the screen. But more than anything, Davis turned anger into an art form and showed the humanity in the kind of women our culture often ignores. Bette Davis’s legacy is even more personal in the way she feels like a voice, an image reaching across the darkness to tell us there’s another way to survive. Source: www.rogerebert.com

For all of the media buzz over B.D. Hyman’s memoir of her life with mother Bette Davis, My Mother’s Keeper is a pathetically unrevealing book. When rumors of the book began leaking out several months ago, columnists speculated that the tome was going to be a Mommie Dearest–style scandalfest about another beloved superstar. Unlike Christina Crawford’s catalog of genuine horrors, B.D. Hyman has filled pages with some of the silliest and most mundane examples that have ever been committed to print. Based on the “evidence” in this book, Hyman’s case against Bette Davis would be thrown out of any court. Hyman gives us a few anecdotes involving heavy drinking, and egomania on the part of Davis. I doubt that this behavior is unusual in most families, let alone the high-pressured world of Hollywood stardom. Like so many familial mudslingers, Hyman tries to paint herself a passive victim of her mother. Rather than generate sympathy, however, it makes her look dumb. Hyman rails hysterically at Bette Davis in the manner of someone who wants to blame her mother for all of her own neurotic behavior. The book verges on parody in the section in which Hyman attacks her mother for passing off Stouffer’s frozen macaroni as a home-cooked dish (the woman includes a step-by-step description of Davis’ deception—I kid you not!). My Mother’s Keeper lacks an exposition of the sort of bizarre traits that Joan Crawford supposedly possessed. While Hyman’s report depicts Davis as an imperfect woman, some readers might react by saying, “So what?” Aren’t there a few other imperfect mothers in the world? And do we expect a movie queen to behave like a well-adjusted suburban housewife (assuming there is such a creature)? Epilog to review: Shut up, B.D. —The Sunday Post (1985) by Joe Meyers

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Jerry Lewis!


Jerry Lewis (The Joke Explained) video. Happy Anniversary!

Don’t try to sound wise or informed about Jerry Lewis, don’t try to shed light. He rejects being understood, quite properly, and his impulses live in darkness—a fact Jerry’s every twitch elucidated. The countless commentators who worked through the decades to label Jerry, judge him, pass sentence, never sat with him at the table, yet eagerly framed him in personal, not professional, terms. It is interesting that Jerry, an unwavering source of brilliance, was somehow not a source of illumination. Illumination was neither his method nor his path, although he was a blinding sun. The confession speech at the end of The Nutty Professor, where he breaks up during “That Old Black Magic,” then stands on the stage and tells the story of his life: it is pure sunshine, if also, simultaneously, degradation. One positively needed him to keep on, to be an ultimate survivor, a defier of time who would never lose his path in the desert of the real (Zizek). To claim that at the end he was no longer young is an immaterial lie, because he was young in a way that hurt us to consider: embarrassingly young, insouciantly young, proudly young, critically young, a person with young sensitivities, to whom rudeness was an attack. 

Jerry was young against the tide. He had succeeded in retaining what so many of us are pleased to surrender. It was charming and affronting in Visit to a Small Planet that the alien he played was all of, and nothing but Jerry Lewis, and that, coming to earth for a short while (he liked to say, “I will not come this way again”) he did not offer the creepy sagacity of Robert Wise’s Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still but gave instead unfamiliarity, wonder, awkwardness. Magic, which is not to imply that he acted without limit or responsibility, that he was always, somewhere underneath, “The Kid” audiences around the world came to know so well. Forget mnemonics, forget sensibility, forget pointing to something. Just use your mouth, and then recall how Jerry used his mouth, chewing and tasting language and soundfulness. It is possible to mean “saying” without meaning “that which one says.” Children do this all the time. And so do drunkards. And people suffering from certain neurological disorders. And comedians. Memories change in the winds, but their status as memories does not. They persist as iconic images. Iconic Jerry Lewis has permanence. Or the helpless, profitless attempts at well-behaved articulation, the wholly civil Jerry, as when Julius Kelp needs to explain something to his Dean (Del Moore), with the tongue emerging from the teeth. Meaning only goodness, trying very hard. But unable to meet the vicious demands of modernity, the  heartless, incompassionate orders from above, and because of a nature over which he has no authority. 

We have all been there, initiates to a much cultivated ceremony that we do not grasp, whose features are all mysteries, and surrounded by a coterie of uninterested insiders who have forgotten their own initiations and treat us like dirt. We have all been there, and have forgotten. When he invokes the memory, we resist. We say, with our lips turned down, “Such a clutz!” Indeed, clutzes we are all, but have forgotten, thinking now, in our elegance, that because we are socialized, because we survived the torture that Jerry never escapes, we were always naturally this way, always cool, and it is only with him that there is something very wrong. I love the delicate way he sings Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s “By Myself” in The Delicate Delinquent, because, as need hardly be said, in the late 1950s so many people took delinquency as a serious problem they were incapable of conceiving how a delinquent could be delicate. Hollywood or Bust, his previous film, had been his final collaboration with Dean Martin. Dean was a crooner, like Mel Torme, like Sinatra, like Tony Bennett. Jerry used a harshly tuned whine, like an animal in pain. Jerry was always in sympathy with the “animal” in pain. The question with Dean and Jerry was never who could sing better but which voice we preferred to hear. I was supposed to prefer Dean, but I preferred Jerry.

Life happens. Erosion happens. Jerry lived his life in his art, he gave his life in his art. Perhaps every Jerry fan has his own Jerry but I have surely never met a Jerry fan whose own Jerry was a Jerry I recognize.  I learned to love the Jerry who was in love with Anna Maria Alberghetti in Cinderfella. The Jerry running up and down the stairs to carry a telephone message to Dean in Artists and Models. The Jerry sternly lecturing Robert De Niro in King of Comedy. My own Jerry—the single Jerry I find both impossible and wondrous—is the Morty Tashman who conducts an invisible jazz band in the “board room” sequence of The Errand Boy. It is mime, it is conducting, it is cigar-lighting and puffing to the beat, it is irony, it is sarcasm, it is desperation, it is supreme confidence, it is music. Oh, but Jerry was music. Jerry is music. The Jerry who was music has gone, but the music remains. Source: kinoslang.blospot.com.es

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Feud, Bette Davis' Lonely Life, Aldrich's Baby Jane

Olivia de Havilland, the recipient of two Oscars, for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949), filed a lawsuit against the FX network and Ryan Murphy Productions over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in last year’s docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan, about the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, a day before she turned 101. It was also just a few weeks after the Queen bestowed upon de Havilland, whose equally famous and estranged sister Joan Fontaine died in 2013, the title of dame for her services to drama. The last time de Havilland had a case before the California Court of Appeals was in 1944. Risking her career, she sued Warner Brothers to get out of her contract, which she had signed in 1936, and won. 

“When Feud was first being publicised, but before it went on the air, I was interested to see how it would portray my dear friend Bette Davis,” de Havilland wrote in an email. “Then friends and family started getting in touch with me, informing me that my identity was actually being represented on the programme. No one from Fox had contacted me about this to ask my permission, to request my input, or to see how I felt about it. When I then learned that the Olivia de Havilland character called my sister Joan ‘a bitch’ and gossiped about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s personal and private relationship, I was deeply offended.” The FX network says that de Havilland’s consent was not needed, because Feud falls squarely under protected speech around fictional works in the public interest. Additionally, it contends that her portrayal is positive. “She is portrayed as a wise, respectful friend and counsellor to Bette Davis, and a Hollywood icon with a unique perspective on the past.” Source: www.independent.co.uk

'Feud' is a wildly overused Hollywood word. Did Bette Davis and Joan Crawford ever feud during the filming of Baby Jane? No! Joan Crawford and me got along famously much to the huge disappointment of the Hollywood press. Until we were cast as the costars of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? I knew Miss Crawford only slightly. Our paths had seldom crossed, even though for three years we had adjoining dressing rooms at Warners. For reasons known only to herself, when she came to Warner Bros. from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer she had asked for one next to mine. We did not compete for parts since we were opposing types of actresses. In truth, I did not know her any better after the film was completed. Twenty years after we had worked together, and years after her death, we are still a team in the public’s mind. Joan was a pro. She was always punctual, always knew her lines. I will always thank her for giving me the opportunity to play the part of “Baby Jane” Hudson. 

The budget of Whatever happened to Baby Jane was under a million dollars—small by any standards. Before 1960 there were no thirty-million-dollar films. Then came a new and absolutely stupid age of megabucks, in which stars received salaries that once would have financed the costliest epic. Joan and I agreed to accept salaries of $50,000, far below our usual standards. Baby Jane was one of my favorite parts. During our first week of shooting, Henry Farrell visited the set and said, “My God, you look just exactly as I pictured Baby Jane.” Compliments from authors always mean the most to me. When I danced on the beach in the famous scene that ends the film, and my face seemed to glow as I twirled up to the ice cream stand, people swore I had changed my makeup. I had not changed a thing. I changed inwardly and it reflected on my face. I was nominated for an Oscar for my performance. Joan did everything she could possibly think of to keep me from winning. She campaigned openly in New York, contacting all the Oscar nominees who were in plays in New York that year. She offered to accept their Oscars if they won and were unable to attend the ceremony. She also contacted all the members of the Academy who lived in New York, requesting that they vote for one of the nominees then on Broadway.

Leaving aside the fact that I felt I deserved to win, the rule of thumb was that an Oscar winner usually added at least a million dollars to the box-office receipts of a film. Since Joan had a percentage of the movie, how Medean, how foolish she was to work against my winning. I was the actress and she was the big Movie Star. There is a need for both in this profession, but, my dear, at times the woman could be insane! For an actor, the Old Hollywood had one distinct advantage: the contract system, as much as we may have felt abused by it. With the contract system you made one picture right after another. It might take ten years, but with a little luck along the way you could become a star. You had to contend with a good share of inferior scripts in the beginning, but in spite of this the public gradually got to know you. There is no continuity to careers anymore. They no longer write scripts for actors, they just cast them. Reading a newspaper today you will see huge ads for films you never heard of, starring young players you have heard of even less. The world’s problems are wars, drugs, crime, political corruption—all the ills that involve men much more than women.

"Hollywood expected an  eruption when Joan Crawford and Bette Davis got together for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? But it turned out to be love in bloom," Hedda Hopper wrote in her column. Joan Crawford was famous for developing 'meaningful' relationships with either her male star or director. She felt these relationships gave her power, and there is no doubt in my mind they did. I have known men who consider it a test of manhood to show no more feeling than a Greek statue. I have often advised young women to beware of a man who never cries. When I was nineteen, I was proposed to by a student at Yale with the proviso that I give up my desire to have a career as an actress. He put a ring on my finger. I wore it for four or five days, then returned it, telling him it would be impossible for me to comply with his request. I never wanted to be a man. I always felt like a woman. I had no penis envy. I have loved it all and would relish living almost all of it over again. On my tombstone it should be written: “She did it the hard way.” That is an accurate description of my life and my career.  —The Lonely Life (ekindle, 2017) by Bette Davis

Watch the final scene at the beach, wherein Crawford’s Blanche ‘admits’ to Davis’s Baby Jane that Jane was not responsible for the accident that crippled Blanche, but Blanche was. Concomitant with the raves accorded Davis’s Jane in that moment is the assumption that Blanche is telling the truth about how she got crippled. But we never see the two women’s faces during the accident scene that precedes the film’s credits. And, as Blanche describes things, it’s simply not a plausible scenario. She claims that she drove the car, wanting to crush Jane, and that the impact, after the drunken Jane got out of the way, snapped her spine. That’s hardly likely from a crash of several feet at a few miles per hour. Less likely is the claim that, with a severed spine, Blanche crawled out of the car to sit by the fence, after a dazed Jane ran away, to frame her sister. It simply is not a real possibility, even given ‘movie magic.’ More likely is that Blanche, after years of her sister’s abuse, is trying to get the final knife in her sister, as she believes she is dying, and thus trying to plant a final guilt of wasting her own life in Jane’s mind. Also, she may very well be looking to save her own skin, and believing that an ‘admission’ will buy her a reprieve. Either interpretation, though, makes more sense than the usual implausible one. Aside from the implausibility of a newly paralyzed woman having the strength and mind to pull herself from a wreck to frame her sister, there is a certain dissonance between Crawford's words and her facial expression in her final scene. Source: www.hackwriters.com

As David Cochran notes in America Noir: Underground Writers and Filmmakers of the Postwar Era, the role of the grotesque formed a key part of an American post-war critical modernism that attacked the institutional values of a repressive culture. Aldrich uses this form in a manner intended to destabilise normal audience perceptions as seen in Jane’s haggish, grotesque persona and Blanche’s depiction as a victimised post-Griffith heroine. For most of the film Jane appears to be the monstrous grotesque “other” until the climax reveals who is the actual monster but in a manner defying conventional audience identification and rendering any official moral judgment hypocritical. As Edwin T. Arnold and Eugene I. Miller recognise in The Films and Career of Robert Aldrich: “Despite appearances, despite unexpected revelations, we can never take absolute sides with either Blanche or Jane. They are both villains, and they are both victims. By the film’s end, to condemn either would be an act of supreme hypocrisy.” Source: sensesofcinema.com 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

“Marilyn, Madness and Me”, All the Beautiful Girls

Cal State University, San Bernardino, Palm Desert is doing a month-long tribute to the Rat Pack and they’re now presenting local writer Frank Furino’s stage fantasy of what could have caused Marilyn Monroe's death in “Marilyn, Madness and Me” at the school’s Indian Wells Theater. The story is “an intriguing fantasy that speculates on many rumors about legendary events in Marilyn Monroe's life and fits them into a pat, plausible hypothesis." The Rat Pack celebration continues March 16-17 with a tribute show to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., and March 23 with cocktails at Melvyn's, where Sinatra held his pre-wedding party in 1976. 

And watch for the world premiere of "Becoming Marilyn Monroe" at the next American Documentary Film Festival April 6-14. “Marilyn, Madness and Me,” a play by Frank Furino as part of the Rat Pack in the Desert celebration, 6:30 p.m. wine reception, 7 p.m. play, Indian Wells Theater, CSUSB Palm Desert campus, 37500 Cook St., Palm Desert. Source: www.desertsun.com

In All the Beautiful Girls (2018), a novel by Elizabeth J. Church's, Lily Decker becomes a Las Vegas showgirl in the 1960s. Her feathery, sequined reinvention on the Vegas strip introduces a world of romance, riches and fame, but perhaps only love and a true sense of agency can banish the shadow of her past. This touching and deftly written novel moves from the tragedy of untold pain into a glamorous world of Ratpackers and movie stars. Las Vegas in the 1960s with its neon lights, topless showgirls, high rollers, glamorous superstars like Frank Sinatra, is the glittering backdrop for this novel. Feeling guilty for the car accident that killed Lily's parents, ‘The Aviator,’ whom Lily nicknames Sloan, funds her dancing classes. As a showgirl in Vegas, she wears sky-high headdresses, stilettoes, and costumes dripping with feathers and rhinestones. Gaudy Vegas and life in the sixties at the dawning of more liberal times is conjured skillfully in a novel that also explores the complex issues that era presented for our loveable yet flawed heroine.  Source: www.betterreading.com.au

Miami Beach, Florida, February 1965: Frank Sinatra was going to be performing at the Fontainebleau Hotel for a few dates and had invited me to fly over with him from Vegas. Frank never referred to him and the guys as the Rat Pack. That came from the newspapers. He always referred to their meetings in Vegas and their shows at the Sands, as the Summit. The limo took us along Collins Avenue, which ran parallel to the beach, and before long the hotel loomed ahead of us. It also fronted the beach and was the most lavish hotel in Miami Beach. Frank had filmed a scene from the movie A Hole in the Head at the hotel in 1959. In 1960 it was also the setting for Jerry Lewis’ movie The Bellboy. Jerry shrugged, looking up at the dancing stage. “I wouldn’t mind meetin’ some of them girls.” I said: “You’re such a bullshitter, Jerry.” He jerked his head back to me. “Huh?” “You’re way too much of a shy gentleman to meet those girls,” I said. “Maybe,” he said, almost indignantly, “I ain’t as shy as I used to be.” He’d been super shy with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, but maybe he had changed since then. I remember he was big brother friendly with those ladies. —"I Only Have Lies For You: A Rat Pack Mystery" (2018) by Robert J. Randisi

A new study by a group of psychologists at SUNY Buffalo led by associate professor of psychology Julie Bowker is the first to show  that a type of social withdrawal could have a positive effect – they found that creativity was linked specifically to unsociability. They also found that unsociability had no correlation with aggression (shyness and avoidance did). Some people withdraw out of fear or anxiety. This type of social withdrawal is associated with shyness. This was significant because while previous research had suggested that unsociability might be harmless, Bowker and colleagues’ research paper showed that it could actually be beneficial. Source: www.sciencedirect.com

Jerry kept stealing glances at me. He was completely drawn to my orbit, acting like a schoolboy pursuing his first crush. I thought he was so cute in the way he kept trying to sneak a peak at me which made me feel so sexy. Without saying a word he'd grab me by the waist and kiss me. When there were people around, Jerry usually acted like the perfect putz. Nobody suspected that we were amorous with each other. There was something about his naivetĂ© that made me as hot as a firecracker. One night I was seated on the edge of the bed, peeling off my stockings. “I don’t care what kind of girl you are,” he said. “I'm sure it's my kind!” the jokes never seemed to cease with Jerry. That night he looked a little wistful and he mumbled: “I don't really expect you to believe me but I care about you.” That caught me off guard and I just said “you’re being awfully decent and I believe you.” —"Jerry Lewis, the Bombshell and  The Last Vegas Show" by Jeanne Harvey Source: medium.com

In most relationships we don’t encounter an entire person; we experience a composite of the bits of that person we want. The felt burden of this is what, in a poem, D H Lawrence termed ‘image-making love.’ The truth is we like to use people. For validation, for entertainment, for simple relief from boredom. Perhaps (as Marx argued) this dynamic is intensified by capitalism, which makes commodities of people, transactions of relationships. But our instrumentalism runs deeper than this. Capitalism only exploits what is already lurking there: our all-too-easy tendency toward a vicious, unwavering selfishness. Real love, the sort of love people wander through their lives craving, wants above all to distance itself from lust by shedding its preening self-regard. Falling in love is partly the terrifying realisation that you have stepped into reciprocity; that someone is now able to cause you terrible pain. Even if indiscriminate love is impossible, it is a glorious and gloriously daunting ideal. Even ‘in the mud and scum of things,’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘there alway, alway something sings.’  Source: www.aeon.co

Monday, March 05, 2018

Frank Tashlin, Jerry Lewis, The Age of Anxiety


Dorothy Dandridge has some fun with Jerry Lewis before she sings "Julie," at the 1957 Academy Awards ceremony. Ms. Dandridge, who was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Carmen Jones (1954) at the 1955 ceremony, had just presented the award for Special Effects with Mr. Lewis.

The idea that we are all roles played clumsily by our fantasies and desires is psychologically corrosive stuff, especially coming from a film as garishly colored as The Nutty Professor. The relationship between Lewis’ two performances—one an extreme version of a klutzy persona he’d been developing since the 1940s, the other an over-the-top self-parody—is open-ended. “You might as well like yourself,” murmurs Kelp in his climactic speech, the sweetest and most poignant moment in Lewis’ body of work. “Just think about all the time you’re gonna have to spend with you.” But which “you” is that exactly? One can debate The Nutty Professor’s merits as comedy (we here at The A.V. Club happen to think it’s pretty damn funny), but it’s definitely art. That’s more than you can say about most serious, Oscar-winning performances. Source: www.avclub.com

The publication of Ethan de Seife’s lively study of Frank Tashlin in 2012 provides an opportunity to reconsider the work and legacy of one of the most inventive practitioners of American screen comedy. Tashlin gained experience as a director by working for several key animation studios through the 1930s and early 1940s – including Disney, Columbia’s Screen Gems and the Leon Schlesinger unit at Warner Brothers, purveyors of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies gagfests. Despite personal friction between them, Schlesinger clearly appreciated Tashlin's contribution to the stylized comic antics of Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and company. As de Seife shows through his admirably detailed analysis, Tashlin brought a distinctive style to animated comedy. As cartoon historian Michael Barrier points out, Tashlin’s work for Warner Brothers was distinguished by an unusually ‘cinematic’ approach to animation, as he packed his 7-minute short films “with cartoon equivalents for claustrophobic closeups, deep focus, and oblique camera angles, in scenes that suggested F.W. Murnau more than Walt Disney”. In between engagements at the cartoon studios in the 1930s, Tashlin wrote material for comic performers at the Hal Roach lot, contributing to films featuring Laurel and Hardy. From the mid 1940s, he worked as a gagman-for-hire on films starring the Marx Brothers, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball and Bob Hope. His valuable input into the Hope vehicles Monsieur Beaucaire (1946) and The Paleface (1948) led to Tashlin being entrusted with directing retakes for The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) which was a box-office success and amply demonstrated Tashlin’s talent as a director of live-action comedy. He would helm 22 films over the next 17 years - ending his Hollywood career where he began, with Bob Hope (in the 1968 wartime farce The Private Navy of  Sgt. O’Farrell).

Serving frequently as both writer and director, and sometimes as producer, Tashlin specialized exclusively in comedy. While several of his films rely on narratively articulated comic scenarios – especially the sexual comedies Marry Me Again (1953), Susan Slept Here (1954) and The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956) – half of Tashlin’s feature output is built around comedians who were trained in the performance milieus of US variety entertainment (vaudeville, burlesque, Borscht Belt resort hotels, or nightclubs). After The Lemon Drop Kid, he made two further comedies with Bob Hope – Tashlin’s most sustained comic partnership, however, was with Jerry Lewis, whom he directed in two of the final Martin & Lewis screen vehicles, and then in six of Lewis’s subsequent solo ventures. As de Seife suggests, Lewis’s hugely contested status, as both comedian and filmmaker, has tended to overshadow Tashlin’s critical reputation, but their collaboration was clearly crucial to both men.

During his late 1950s heyday, Tashlin was championed by critics of the influential French screen journals Positif and Cahiers du Cinema. Jean Luc Godard coined the adjective ‘Tashlinesque‘, which de Seife borrows for his examination of Tashlin’s cinematic career from his early cartoon work through to his final, faltering films of the 1960s. Tashlinesque offers a deft combination of textual analysis and historical research. Tashlin’s approach to screen comedy was influenced not by the European wit and sophistication of Ernst Lubitsch but by the distinctively American tradition of popular humor that was nurtured in the performer-centered realm of variety entertainment. This vaudeville aesthetic, as Henry Jenkins (1992) terms it, provides the common ancestor of the Schlesinger unit’s gag-based cartoons, the slapstick comedy of the silent era, and the films of subsequent comedians such as Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers and Jerry Lewis. For De Seife, Tashlin’s work “provides the most extensive, compelling case study of the deep generic connections between Hollywood animation and the American comic tradition”.

Recent years have seen a resurgence of critical interest in Lewis as a performer, a filmmaker and a hotly contested celebrity. For his part, Tashlin always referred to Lewis in friendly and respectful terms. In a recent interview with Fujiwara, Lewis distinguishes films such as Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958), to which the two men contributed equally, from Cinderfella (1960), which was more a Lewisian project, whereas in Who’s Minding the Store? (1963) and The Disorderly Orderly (1964) Tashlin was the main creative force. By contrast, de Seife argues that Rock-a-Bye Baby, Who’s Minding the Store? and The Disorderly Orderly are all closer to the films Lewis directed than to Tashlin’s work, asserting that Lewis’s input serves to jam the transmission of Tashlin’s comic specialties. As he sees it, these are schizophrenic films that are torn between Lewis’s sentimentality and modularity and Tashlin’s interests in bawdy humor and the gag-narrative axis. 

As a director, de Seife comments, “Lewis pushed to extremes the use of a modular, gag-based narrative”. Instead of regarding this as a purely negative attribute, one could flip the valuation around to suggest that this approach liberated Lewis’s filmmaking from fictional constraints and allowed him to explore other structural possibilities. The Ladies Man (1961) and The Errand Boy (1962) are highly idiosyncratic and imaginative films that question orthodox understandings of comic practice and response, with Lewis refining Tashlin’s use of the non-gag and investing it with deconstructive purpose. It is simply not the case, as de Seife asserts, that Lewis jettisoned sex-oriented comedy to pursue a wholesome star image. Even a cursory glance at such Lewis-directed films as The Ladies Man or The Nutty Professor (1963) attests to the centrality of sexuality to his work, although he offers a far less conformist understanding of sexuality than is found in Tashlin’s films. 

Joanna Rapf argues, for example, that The Ladies Man delivers a critique of patriarchal assumptions. In this film the woman-shy Lewis figure Herbert H. Heebert enters a stylized world of aspiring female performers, where he is allowed to shake off the demands of patriarchal masculinity. De Seife’s blindness in this regard seems a product of his self-appointed mission to rescue Tashlin from Lewis’s shadow, and this does impair his otherwise valuable study. One could even argue that the sexual humor de Seife values so highly, and so unquestioningly, may actually be one of the most significant limitations of Tashlin’s comic art.  As Lewis’s directorial career flourished through the 1960s, Tashlin’s faltered. The book is rather tentative when it comes to identifying the causes of Tashlin’s decline, although de Seife does point to the presence of waning or unsuitable (Doris Day) stars. De Seife ends with two chapters that depart from the chronological structure that coordinates the rest of his monograph. Chapter 7 seeks to evaluate Tashlin’s contribution to US cinema by comparing him to auteur-directors such as Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks, who invested their films with their creative personalities and, on the other hand, to efficient technicians such as Norman Z. McLeod and Norman Taurog, who helmed more generic ‘program pictures’. He concludes that Tashlin was a director who blurred the line between the two groups, as “an auteur who directed program pictures.” —Spirited Vulgarity: Frank Tashlin as Comic (2013) by Frank Krutnik

The Age of Anxiety? Birth Cohort Change in Anxiety and Neuroticism, 1952-1993: Two new meta-analytic studies show that anxiety has increased substantially since the 1950's. In fact, anxiety has increased so much that typical schoolchildren during the 1980's reported more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did during the 1950's. The findings appear in the American Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. First, large panel studies have consistently found that younger cohorts show more, and longer, episodes of depression. Some psychologists have gone so far as to label this effect a modern epidemic of depression (Seligman, 1995) or age of melancholy (Hagnell, Lanke, Rorsman). Other authors have noted that lack of connection in a society may produce alienation and feelings of loneliness and despair. Western societies have experienced a noticeable decrease in "social capital" (broadly defined as social connectedness and a sense of community) since the 1960s (Putnam, 2000). 

"The results of the study suggest that cases of depression will continue to increase in the coming decades," says psychologist Jean M. Twenge, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University. The type of anxiety looked at in these studies is known as trait anxiety, the individual differences in anxiety-proneness, which is different than state anxiety, a temporary emotion experienced due to a particular situation. Why the increase in anxiety? In both studies, anxiety levels are associated with low social connectedness and high environmental threat. During the study period, social connectedness decreased because of higher divorce rates, more people living alone and a decline in trust in other people. "Our greater autonomy may lead to increased challenges and excitement, but it also leads to greater isolation from others, more threats to our bodies and minds, and thus higher levels of anxiety," said Dr. Twenge. The study also cites increased media coverage as a source of a greater perception of environmental threat since the 1950's. Social connectedness has not improved very much since the early 1990's. "Although divorce rates have decreased somewhat, the percentage of people living alone continues to increase, and levels of trust are still declining," said Dr. Twenge. "Until people feel both safe and connected to others, anxiety is likely to remain high." Source: www.apa.org

The film industry changed drastically during the mid-sixties involving a shift in the tastes of the audience, film techniques and also of the film production. During the fifties, each film studio would put out sixty films per year. In the late sixties and early seventies the entire industry put out roughly sixty films per year. Gloria Jean (born April 14, 1926) co-starred in 26 feature films between 1939 and 1959. Upon the (bad) advice of her agent, Gloria decided not to renew her contract at Universal in 1946, and when she returned to Hollywood, she found diminished interest in her career. Gloria began a second career with Redken, a national cosmetics firm, where she worked until 1993.

Jerry Lewis signed her for a singing role in The Ladies Man (1961), although Gloria appears only as an extra and has no dialogue. It was her last theatrical motion picture. "Jerry Lewis called me. When I walked into his office I saw him smiling. But the important thing is he wanted to help me, to give me a chance to get started on my career again. And as for Jerry's wife Patti, I am sure she realizes that he is one of the kindest, most unselfish men in the world. He's the only other man I've ever met I would compare to Dick [Powell]." Her authorized biography, Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven, was published in 2005. Gloria notes perspicaciously that there is a serious lack of original voices in today’s musical landscape. "When you hear somebody sing, they never carry the melody. I can’t believe that the singers today don’t really sing. To me, it isn’t music." 

Quinn O'Hara (1941–2017) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland as Alice Jones. She co-starred in low-budget productions as The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) and Cry of the Banshee (1970). O'Hara's first official acting role that got her into the Screen Actors Guild was a commercial for Lifeogen, which was oxygen in a can in case of emergency. Her big screen debut was in an uncredited bit part in The Errand Boy (1961) directed by Jerry Lewis, where he plays a goofball· hired by the CEO of a movie studio, Paramutual Pictures, to spy on his employees. O'Hara would go on to work with Lewis again in The Patsy (1964), playing the minor role of a cigarette girl. "Jerry was fantastic to work with," exclaimed Quinn. "Of course he was a crazy man but also a real perfectionist. His office had clowns all around it. But Jerry is quite a deep person too and has a lot more depth than people think. He was quite different than he comes across on film." Lewis also hired O'Hara for a role in Who's Minding the Store? (1963), but her scenes were cut. Coincidentally, Lewis' costar in that movie is another fiery redhead, Jill St. John (whom O'Hara describes as a very cruel person).

Sue Casey began the '60's playing a party guest in the musical Bells Are Ringing (1960), starring Judy Holliday and Dean Martin. ("In the musical number 'Drop That Name,' Judy's character looks in this window, and we are all standing around wearing these gorgeous sleek gowns. The dresses were, so tight that we couldn't sit down in them so they had to provide leaning chairs for us.") In 1961, Casey did a bit role in The Errand Boy, her fifth time working with Jerry Lewis. "He is a fascinating guy and way ahead of the times," comments Casey. "He was the first director to use a monitor while filming if he wanted to save the shot. He was always very nice to me. I had been working with a children's charity called The Footlighters for years and he was always very generous towards us." During the '60s, Casey continued playing bit roles in such major MGM and Paramount productions as Where Love Has Gone (1964), and The Carpetbaggers (1964), directed by Edward Dmytryk. —"Drive-In Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties" (2012) by Tom Lisanti