Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Oscar Goes To…

  “Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.”
~ Rosalind Russell

With Robert Conrad and Norman Taurog on the set of  "Palm Springs Weekend"

With Robert Conrad and Norman Taurog on the set of
“Palm Springs Weekend”

Who is qualified to judge the best actor in town?  Award winning actors are all around us.  You, me, the window cleaner and especially the car salesman at the used car lot on the edge of town trying to convince you that the clapped out 2007 Chevy may have a few dents here and there, but the inner workings are in great shape and good for another five years, while all the time keeping his legs crossed that the lemon of the lot will make it out of the yard. …and how about the bedraggled panhandler bringing tears to your eyes  when he tells you about his starving wife and ten kids in a shack on the wrong side of town?  When in reality his wife and two daughters are on the game, bringing in a thousand bucks a day at Fifi’s secret bordello on the right side of town. We’re all actors, and the award should go to the one who succeeded in selling the lemon on the lot, or the panhandler who stroked your conscience until you threw a couple of coins into his begging bowl.

How could Cate Blanchet be a better actor than Judy Dench or Meryl Streep? They all convinced us they were playing the real thing. We were there sitting amongst an audience caught up in their drama, witnessing their problems, their plight, shedding a few tears or enjoying the humour of their situation. Granted there are a few deadbeats on the screen who experience problems crawling out of ye olde paper bag, but it’s highly possible they gave an Oscar winning performance in the producer’s bedroom a few nights earlier.

Having been to scores of Hollywood Press previews, the one I’ll never forget is because the hard bitten audience of critics applauded one scene so loudly they literally stopped the show/film. It was from THE MIRACLE WORKER, the story of Annie Sullivan’s struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Annie was the teacher who had the patience of a saint and the strength of a lion, dragging Helen to a water pump in the garden and patiently taught her to say the word WATER.  It was so painful, so exhausting and so real, the entire audience of film critics stood up en-masse and applauded for so long, the projectionist re-wound the film and showed the same scene again. I doubt if that has ever happened before or since… They were both rewarded with a well deserved Oscar.

Actors in film are only required to learn a few lines at a time, and can film the scene over and over again until they get it right. I remember being on the set of  PALM SPRINGS WEEKEND with Connie Stevens and my friend Robert Conrad playing the frustrated boyfriend.  Robert waited patiently while the lead actor fluffed his line again and again about fifteen times until Robert desperately looked straight into the camera. “Excuse me, you guys,” he groaned, “but I gotta take a leak.”   Conversely, stage actors have to remember the whole script and rely on the prompter behind the curtain if they forget their next line …but no prompter could help out when English actor Kenneth Williams, who starred in the popular “Carry On” film series, was performing on the stage in London. Kenneth and Dame Edith Evans were starring in the   London Stage production of Gentle Jack.

Edith and I were on stage supposedly dining in a very expensive restaurant being served by a snooty waiter,” explained Kenneth. “As the waiter bends over to serve Dame Edith, he suddenly breaks wind ─ a loud rip roaring fart.  The audience were hysterical laughing and poor Edith tried so hard to keep a straight face. When the laughter finally died down, Edith looked out at the audience and said in a very haughty voice.
 “My Goodness! This place has certainly gone downhill since last night.”  Remember your lines and don’t knock over the furniture  is the advice usually given to stage actors, but there is no advice to any actor who breaks wind.

Some of the characters in my book THAT’S HOLLYWOOD are based on real people. Big Max is based on a real life producer I once knew. The fat gutted s.o.b. with his penchant for porno, and stinking gut-twisting belches, always gave an Oscar winning performance. Chewing on his ever present ten dollar cigar and dribbling down his white shirt, he delivered his acid comments like a well-trained stage actor, pausing every few seconds to judge the reaction of his audience… and Kurt Hahn, the prevaricating producer at Fairfax Studios also features in THAT’S HOLLYWOOD, Stan Laurel, if he was still around, would be perfect casting in the movie.

I should have been awarded an Oscar for my acting performance in the Cuban jail. My fellow prisoner and I had just witnessed six drunken guards enjoying an afternoon’s entertainment shooting off the arms and legs of a dozen prisoners outside our cell. I was trying to convince my hysterical cellmate that we were not destined for the same firing squad, we were being held for ransom, even though I expected to be lined up and shot any minute. ..  It’s all written up in my book CUBAN TRADER.

The Oscar Awards? Who is it? Who are they? Uncle Oscar or Oscar de la Renta? Is it an award show for the supposed Best Actor, or a fashion show for the supposed best dressed?   Some actresses give an Oscar winning performance sashaying up the red carpet, stopping or slowing down for anyone with a camera or microphone. Many are wearing a rented gown still warm off the model’s back ─ other’s, desperate for attention, wear a transparent blouse and no bra to prove they’ve “still got it” (or them) and have joined the Beverly Hill’s chapter of the “Burn the Bra” brigade.

…and the winner is Lady Gaga walking upside down!!!!  Well Folks! That’s Hollywood.


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