Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lady Sings the Blues

Lady Sings the Blues is a 1972 American biographical drama film directed by Sidney J. Furie about jazz singer Billie Holiday loosely based on her 1956 autobiography which, in turn, took its title from one of Holiday's most popular songs. It was produced by Motown Productions for Paramount Pictures. Diana Ross portrayed Holiday, alongside a cast including Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, and Scatman Crothers.

In 1936, New York City, Billie Holiday is arrested on a drugs charge.
In a flashback to 1928, Billie is working as a housekeeper in a brothel where she is raped. She runs away to her mother, who sets up a job cleaning for another brothel in the Harlem section of New York. The brothel is run by an arrogant, selfish owner who pays Billie very little money.
Eventually, Billie tires of scrubbing floors and becomes a prostitute but later quits and returns to a nightclub to unsuccessfully audition to become a showgirl. After "Piano Man" (Richard Pryor) accompanies Billie "All of Me", Jerry, the club owner, books her as a singer in the show.
Billie's debut begins unsuccessfully until Louis McKay (Billy Dee Williams), arrives and gives her a fifty dollar tip. Billie takes the money and sings "Them There Eyes". Billie takes a liking to Louis and begins a relationship with him. Eventually she is discovered by two men: Harry and Reg Hanley, who sign her as a soloist for their southern tour in hopes of landing a radio network gig. During the tour, Billie witnesses the aftermath of the lynching of an African-American man, which presses her to record the controversial song "Strange Fruit". The harsh experiences on the tour result in Billie taking drugs which Harry supplies. One night when Billie is performing, Louis comes to see Billie. He knows that she is doing drugs and tells her she is going home with him. Billie promises to stay off the drugs if Louis stays with her.
In New York, Reg and Louis arrange Billie's radio debut, but the station does not call her to sing; the radio sponsors, a soap company, object to her race. The group heads to Cafe Manhattan to drown their sorrows. Billie has too much to drink and asks Harry for drugs, saying that she does not want her family to know that the radio show upset her. He refuses and she throws her drink in his face. She is ready to leave, but Louis has arranged for her to sing at the Cafe, a club where she once aspired to sing. She obliges with one song but refuses an encore, leaving the club in urgent need of a fix. Louis, suspicious that Billie has broken her promise, takes her back to his home but refuses to allow her access to the bathroom or her kit. She fights Louis for it, pulling a razor on him. Louis leaves her to shoot up, telling her he does not want her there when he returns.
Billie returns to the Harlem nightclub, where her drug use intensifies until she hears of the death of her mother. Billie checks herself into a drug clinic, but because she cannot afford her treatment the hospital secretly calls Louis, who comes to see her and agrees to pay her bills without her knowledge. Impressed with the initiative she has taken to straighten herself out, Louis proposes to her at the hospital. Just as things are looking up, Billie is arrested for possession of narcotics and removed from the clinic.
In prison, Billie goes through crippling withdrawal. Louis brings the doctor from the hospital to treat her, but she is incoherent. He puts a ring on her finger to remind her of his promise to marry her. When she finishes her prison sentence, Billie returns home and tells her friends that she does not want to sing anymore. Billie marries Louis and pledges not to continue her career, but the lure of performing is too strong and she returns to singing with Louis as her manager. Unfortunately, her felony conviction has stripped her of her Cabaret Card, which would allow her to sing in NYC nightclubs. To restore public confidence and regain her license, Billie agrees to a cross-country tour. Billie's career takes off on the nightclub circuit.
Louis leaves for New York to arrange a comeback performance for Billie at Carnegie Hall. Despondent at Louis' absence and the never-ending stream of venues, Billie asks Piano Man to pawn the ring Louis gave her in exchange for drugs. While they are high that evening, Piano Man's drug connections arrive; he neither pawned the ring nor paid for the drugs. Piano Man is killed by the dealers. Within the hour, Louis and her promoter call Billie with news that they got Carnegie Hall. Louis returns to find a very fragile Billie who is traumatized and has fallen back into drugs. Louis takes her back to New York.
Billie plays to a packed house at Carnegie Hall. Her encore, "God Bless the Child", is overlaid with newspaper clippings highlighting subsequent events: the concert fails to sway the Commission to restore her license; subsequent appeals are denied; she is later re-arrested on drug charges and finally dies when she is 44. Nevertheless, the Carnegie triumph is frozen in time.

Very Rare- Diana Ross Interviewed On Lady Sings The Blues. 


The Full Film Lady Sings The Blues 1972 Starring Diana Ross

Dearest Faye – Dunaway and Crawford

“Why can’t you give me the respect that I’m entitled to?” —Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford
For over 30 years, Mommie Dearest has been the high-camp champ of motion pictures. There have been a number of worthy contenders, like Valley of the Dolls and Showgirls, but gay movie fans have a special reverence for both Joan Crawford and Faye Dunaway, who took on the movie idol and lived to regret it. The film’s famous lines (almost any line in the film!) “No more wire hangers,” “Tina, bring me the axe,” etc., have entered camp nirvana. So why at this late date do we still need to talk about Mommie Dearest, and what more can be said? For starters, Faye Dunaway should be given the respect that she’s entitled to.

For the past three decades, Faye Dunaway has squirmed at the very mention of Mommie Dearest. She blames the movie for ruining her career (not true), and she goes out of her way to avoid the subject at all costs. But the simple fact remains—Faye Dunaway gives the greatest performance of her life in Mommie Dearest. Dunaway was nominated for an Academy Award three times in her career, for Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Chinatown (1974) and Network (1976). She won for Network, and her driven TV executive Diana is just a warm-up for her take-no-prisoners performance as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Faye Dunaway has no one to blame but herself for the state of her post-Oscar career. In the years between Network and Mommie Dearest, she made only a few films, Eyes of Laura Mars, Voyage of The Damned, The Champ and The First Deadly Sin. Why Dunaway picked these films is a mystery. She wasn’t even the star of the last two but a supporting performer to Jon Voight and Frank Sinatra. When Faye Dunaway made Mommie Dearest, she was at a low ebb in her career and she was 40 years old—the kiss of death in 1980s Hollywood.

In her 1995 autobiography Looking For Gatsby, Dunaway writes:
“‘No more wire hangers!’ Those words remain, even now, an ugly wound on my psyche.” She continues: “I’ll go all the way with something, because that’s how I work. … But if you do that, fling yourself into it, you need a director shaping the performance. You’re in the middle of it and you have to trust that someone will keep the entire film in sight, that someone will keep the proportion of it in line.” Dunaway’s empathy for Joan Crawford is also revealed: “I certainly had a sense of the price of her stardom, though I had missed the contract studio era, which seemed even more brutal than the Hollywood I had to deal with.” She sums up her Mommie Dearest experience with: “Without question, Mommie Dearest was a turning point in my career. … After Mommie Dearest, my own personality and the memory of all my other roles got lost along the way in the mind of the public and in the mind of many in Hollywood. It was a performance. That’s all that it was. For better or worse, the roles we play become a part of our persona. People thought of me as being like her. And that was the unfortunate reality for me about this project.”
Faye Dunaway threw herself into the role of Joan Crawford with a vengeance seldom seen on stage or screen. Interestingly, Crawford herself had written earlier in My Way of Life, “Of all the actresses, to me, only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the class and the courage it takes to make a real star.” Faye Dunaway was the perfect choice to play Joan Crawford. Both women came out of nowhere and clawed their way to the top. Both women were tough and both were survivors.

Christina Crawford’s 1978 scabrous memoir of her adoptive mother Joan Crawford sold over 4 million copies. Hollywood was horrified by the hideous revelations of child abuse, alcoholism and other seedy secrets. Paramount bought the film rights, and Anne Bancroft was the initial choice to play Crawford. Bancroft bailed on the project when none of the scripts submitted to her were acceptable. Faye Dunaway finally accepted the role despite the advice of many who warned her to stay clear of such notorious material. Frank Perry, who had directed Tuesday Weld to a great performance in Play It As It Lays, was chosen to guide Dunaway through the emotional minefields inherent in Christina’s book. When Mommie Dearest opened in 1981, the reviews were abysmal and the studio even turned on the film when it became apparent that people were coming to the film just to laugh. The newspaper ads went right for the camp angle with “No more wire hangers … ever” in large print followed by a drawing of a coat hanger and the line, “The Biggest Mother of them All.” The film’s producer threatened to sue Paramount, but the damage had been done. Mommie Dearest and Faye Dunaway had been thrown to the wolves. To add further insult, Christina Crawford blasted the film, stating ironically that her book had been “turned into a Joan Crawford movie.”
Looking back, it is amazing that Faye Dunaway received some of the greatest personal reviews of her career. Legendary critic Pauline Kael raved, “Faye Dunaway gives a startling, ferocious performance in Mommie Dearest. It’s deeper than an impersonation; she turns herself into Joan Crawford … she digs into herself and gets inside ‘Joan Crawford’ in a way that only another torn, driven actress could. Dunaway lets loose with a fury that she may not have known was in her. She goes over the top, discovers higher peaks and shoots over them, too. Has any movie queen ever gone this far?” Even those critics who attacked the film could not fault Dunaway’s performance. Vincent Canby in the New York Times: “Mommie Dearest doesn’t work very well, but the ferocious intensity of Faye Dunaway’s impersonation does.” At year’s end, Faye Dunaway’s incredible transformation into Joan Crawford was the runner up for Best Actress by both the New York Film Critics and The National Society of Film Critics.

Watching Mommie Dearest 30 years later you certainly see all the faults. The movie is lumpy, there are composite characters (to avoid lawsuits), some of the dialogue would floor Meryl Streep, the time elements and career references are garbled and most of the supporting performers are weak. Mara Hobel as the young Christina is pretty amazing, but the grownup Tina is played by Diana Scarwid as if she were chloroformed. Plus Scarwid slips into a Southern accent occasionally and she is so passive that Faye Dunaway has no really strong adversary to play against. Rutana Alda is fun as the long-suffering Carol Ann, but no one in the cast can stand up to Joan Crawford or Faye Dunaway. The only gold in all this dross is Faye Dunaway. As Pauline Kael astutely wrote, “The best that can be said about the movie itself is that it doesn’t seem to get in the way of its star.” Faye Dunaway captures every facet (imagined and real) of Joan Crawford. Dunaway is sexy, grotesque, moving, funny, maudlin—sometimes all in the same scene. She gives a gigantic performance. It’s like grand opera without the music.

Faye Dunaway’s post-Mommie Dearest career had a lot of low points and a few highs. Her Evita Peron in a TV miniseries was first-rate, as was her Golden Globe-winning supporting role in Gia—and she was excellent in a few indie films like Barfly. And Mommie Dearest was the turning point in her career. Faye Dunaway pours a scalding galvanic fury into her performance. It’s part Kabuki, part opera and full of bile. Mommie Dearest is a flawed masterpiece. Campy? Of course. Over the top? Yes. But Faye Dunaway gives one of the truly great performances in movie history. Take a look at Mommie Dearest again. Forget why you first saw it and just concentrate on Dunaway. Movie acting doesn’t get much better than this. Pauline Kael was prophetic in the last line of her Mommie Dearest review: “It could be hair-raising if Faye Dunaway were to have trouble shaking off the gorgon Joan.”

Raquel Welch, 74, looks youthful as she takes a brisk stroll around Hollywood

She's known for aging gracefully.
And on Wednesday, Raquel Welch gave onlookers a glimpse at how, at 74-years-old, she still maintains her fit physique.
The sixties movie icon - who starred in such classics as One Million Years BC and Bedazzled - was up bright and early to rev up her metabolism with a brisk walk around the Hollywood Hills.

Her most famous role yet: Welch starred in One Million Years BC in 1966