Showing posts with label Mitzi Gaynor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mitzi Gaynor. Show all posts

Monday, May 13, 2013

France Nuyen and Mitzi Gaynor at the Screening of South Pacific (1958)

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On Thursday April 25th, 2013, I attended a special screening of South Pacific (1958) at the pool of the historial Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. It began right after the opening night party and I got to hang out with Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood and Kaci. There were drinks and hors d'oeuvres and we got plastic leis before the screening. There were some seats in front of the screen but we opted to sit on the comfy lounge chairs by the pool.

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The event started with Polynesian dancers who performed with leaves and with fire. It was a great way to set the mood.

Ben Mankiewicz  was the host.

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France Nuyen was the first to be interviewed and this was done separately from Mitzi Gaynor. This was a wise decision on the part of the event planners. Nuyen is very soft-spoken and calm and Gaynor is a firecracker and I could see how Nuyen might have been overshadowed in conversation.

France Nuyen was born in France and came to the United States wanting to pursue her modeling career. Nuyen was a stunning young woman and she still looks beautiful today at the age of 73. In fact, Ben Mankiewicz pointed out that she was one of the most beautiful women in the world. Even with stunning looks, there wasn't much demand for her 5'4" frame and dark complexion in the States. Nevertheless, she had some professional shots of her taken and those photographs got her a meeting with Rodgers, Hammerstein and director Joshua Logan. They were looking for someone to play Liat in the film adaptation of South Pacific. Nuyen stated that went to that meeting and walked out of it with a 7 year contract. She told us that the only thing she had to do for that audition was to take off her shoes and run around a desk.

The studio paid for three weeks of Berlitz English lessons for Nuyen and then sent her off to Hollywood. She was very new to the area and didn't realize that Hollywood was part of Los Angeles. She asked a cab driver to take her to Hollywood and ended up spending $19 which was a lot in 1957. Mankiewicz joked that it would be $1,000 today.

On the set, France Nuyen wanted to look high fashion with full make-up. However, Director Joshua Logan wanted none of that and they took her to the bathroom to wash her face. Nuyen started crying because she thought she would be ugly without her make-up and she says she was lucky that master camera man Leon Shamroy was there to make her look beautiful. Nuyen is seemed really humble. She went on to say that she thought Mitzi Gaynor did a wonderful job as Nellie and called her "marvelous" and is in awe every time she sees the film.

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Ben Mankiewicz introduced Mitzi Gaynor very sarcastically saying that Gaynor was dull and nobody wants to hear from her. But he supposes he should introduce her anyways. I really enjoyed Mankiewicz' humor during various interviews. It lightened the mood for sure.

The back and forth between Mankiewicz and Gaynor was hilarious mostly because you could tell that the fiery and energetic Gaynor was more than Mankiewicz could handle. Although I'll have to commend it for doing the best he could to keep the interview on track!

The first thing Mitzi Gaynor was insist that Mankiewicz show the audience his newborn child which he did so reluctantly.

Then Mankiewicz went through a list of all the actresses that were considered for the part of Nellie in South Pacific: Lana Turner, Jeanne Crain, Deborah Kerr, Jane Powell, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Dinah Shore, Rosemary Clooney, Virginia Mayo, June Allyson, Shirley Jones, Susan Hayward and Doris Day. But Gaynor beat them all. Gaynor added that Elizabeth Taylor was also considered. Mankiewicz said he had heard that Taylor was too nervous to perform in front of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Gaynor said that she didn't know about that but did know Taylor was very busy getting married and all that. (At this point Gaynor starts rocking in her chair suggestively which Mankiewicz points out to the audience members who might have missed it.)

Gaynor had a really good chance at the role because she could sing and dance well, she looked the part and was young enough at 24. Some of the other actresses considered were much older. Gaynor related that she really wanted to do Sayonara (1957) which was also being directed by Joshua Logan. She thought she could get away with playing an Asian character because of her naturally slanted eyes she got from her Hungarian ancestry. However, Marlon Brando, who was also in the film, demanded that the role go to someone of Asian descent. She notes that Ricardo Montalban got a role in the film. Gaynor then sarcastically pointed out that he's definitely Asian and proclaimed to the audience "That Bitch!". To that Ben Mankiewicz responded to the audience "And then Mitzi Gaynor called Ricardo Montalban a bitch" and there was a roar of laughter.

At this point during the interview, I thought to myself how wonderful it would be to hang out with Mitzi Gaynor. She is just so hilarious and isn't afraid of shocking people.

Mankiewicz asked Nuyen if Gaynor was like this on the set and Nuyen pointed out that she didn't speak English so how would she have known. Gaynor made fun of Nuyen's English, saying it's worse now than it was back then, but quickly followed it up by gushing about Nuyen. Oaynor went on to relate the story of when she first saw Nuyen. She said Nuyen was an exquisite girl, with long dark hair, beautiful skin and gorgeous eyelashes. Then she pointed out that Nuyen is still beautiful and that she hasn't changed at all except that her hair grew in blonde. (See what I mean about having Nuyen come out first being a good idea?).

Gaynor relayed the story about how she got the part  of Nellie. She had meeting with director Joshua Logan and her agent husband Jack Bean. They chatted for three hours and it was planned that she would meet Rodgers. Gaynor went onto inform a confused Mankiewicz that Rodgers' wife invented the Johnny Mop. She had left the meeting and went back to work with Frank Sinatra on the film The Joker is Wild (1957). She got a call that she was going to sing for Oscar Hammerstein on a Wednesday but Gaynor was busy trying to film an important scene in the movie with Frank Sinatra. Sinatra noticed her crying and arranged it that they would work around Gaynor's important scene so that she had the opportunity to audition for Hammerstein.

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Gaynor performed for Hammerstein who responded to her audition with a "thanks so much you've been a wonderful sport". Not the most encouraging response. Gaynor related Hammerstein's response to Director Joshua Logan. She went on to do the film Les Girls (1957) with Gene Kelly. Gaynor was tired and worn out from all the dancing. She received a call from her husband Jack who asked her if she would feel better spending August in Hawaii because she got the role in South Pacific!

Mankiewicz then asks Mitzi Gaynor about her handsome co-star Rossano Brazzi. Gaynor said she didn't speak very good Italian, restaurant Italian she calls it. She told Rossano Brazzi that he was the most beautiful man and the most wonderful actor in the whole world. Brazzi responded saying "Mitzi Gaynor-i, I know" and grabbed his crotch. Gaynor demonstrated this to the audience in the back and the front to make sure we all saw it. I cracked up laughing this was so funny!

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Mankiewicz asked Gaynor what her favorite musical number was in South Pacific. She said "I Think I'm In Love with a Wonderful Guy". Gaynor noted that it was a difficult film to do but Joshua Logan was wonderful and she had fun with that number. Nuyen chimed in saying that she had a lot more to do with the character of Liat in the film than on stage because of the advantage of filming on location and not being limited to a theater.

Mankiewicz asked Nuyen about her memorable love scene with John Kerr. Director Joshua Logan wanted to film that scene with Kerr with his shirt on then his shirt off later which would be a visual clue that they had just made love. A compromise  was made for the censors and Kerr would start the scene with his shirt off. Nuyen said that she was the luckiest girl in the world because she got to act with one of the most handsome men in Hollywood. She said that Kerr was glorious and that she misses him very much (John Kerr died a couple months before this interview. It would have been great to have him there alongside Nuyen and Gaynor!).

Mankiewicz points out that while it's a wonderful musical with lots of happy numbers, which the audience will see if Mitzi Gaynor ever shuts up (his words not mine!), that is also explores interracial relationships in a very serious way. Nuyen said that the filmmakers had to fight to be able to keep that plot line in. Gaynor mentioned that Oscar Hammerstein wouldn't have stood for that being changed. She also points out that the Bloody Mary character is selling her daughter like one would peddle dope. Nuyen steps in and says that Bloody Mary dreams of having a white son-in-law,guards her child until she finds the man for her, and that what she was really selling was matrimony. Two very interesting perspectives.

The event finished off with Mankiewicz making a joke about the Clairol commercial "I Want to Wash That Gray Right Out of My Hair", a spoof on the song from South Pacific and introduces the movie. 

This was my first time watching South Pacific (1958) and I enjoyed it. It became less than enjoyable when I started to get chills from the cold night time air and being poolside. We eventually moved inside where the film was showing on a small screen inside Club TCM. I'm forever grateful to TCM for doing that and for hosting such a wonderful event!

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Friday, April 26, 2013

TCM Classic Film Festival Day #2 Recap

Thursday was the first full day of the TCM Classic Film Festival. For those of you at home, if you saw the intros last night on TCM for Bite the Bullett (1975) or The Great Race (1965), you may have spotted me in the background of the actor interviews conducted by Ben Mankiewicz. This is the intro with Marvin Kaplan and this is the one for Theodore Bikel. You might see me in the background of an interview in the intro for The Angry Hills (1959) on April 30th on TCM too!

The first event I attended on Thursday was the Meet TCM Panel. It was moderated by Scott McGee and included a panel of 6 TCM staffers who related a lot of very interesting information about what goes on behind-the-scenes at TCM. The first half of the event included questions from Scott McGee and then the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. I think that second part was a mistake. A few people asked good questions. Others wanted to relate their life stories once they got the microphone.

I was a little late to the trivia game So You Think You Know the Movies? at Club TCM. The Club was packed and I had to sit in the way back. Which was okay for ONE REASON. Norman Lloyd walked right by us. OMG. I couldn't snap a picture fast enough unfortunately. If you look in the above picture, Norman Lloyd is the shorter gray haired gentleman in the dark suit. Aurora of Once Upon a Screen... is standing to his left. She got to shake his hand! The trivia game was pretty cool. They had a few surprised guests who were tied into trivia questions including Michael Badalucco, James Karen and Norman Lloyd. I think it was amazing to have the actors there. 

After the trivia game, some members of the media and bloggers attended a press conference hosted by Robert Osborne at Club TCM. He made the following announcement:

Bonhams to Present Auction of Rare Movie Memorabilia Curated by Turner Classic Movies

Bonhams is a fine arts auction and appraisal house. They plan to have the first auctions with TCM in Hollywood and New York in November of this year. Future locations include Hong Kong and London. Some of the proceeds of the sales will go to The Film Foundation. 

There were two pieces on display at Club TCM that will be part of the future Bonhams-TCM auctions. One of them was Humphrey Bogart's suit from The Big Sleep (1946) and the other was Michael Keaton's batsuit from Batman (1989).  Osborne had three people from Bonhams up on stage to discuss a little about the partnership and about movie memorabilia auctions. One of the dealers said that the suit came from a private Humphrey Bogart collector who wanted to focus more on other types of ephemera. It's a really cool suit! The dealer also said that there will be some smaller yet quality pieces with important movie connections up for auction in the $200-$500 range in addition to the other big pieces that go for the big bucks.

After the press conference, the Club TCM Opening Night Party started. Some of us headed to the pool and hung out for a bit. A lot of people were dressed to the nines! A couple hours later, the poolside special event for South Pacific (1958) started.

There were Polynesian dancers and lots of fire!

Ben Mankiewicz hosted the interview with actresses France Nuyen and Mitzi Gaynor. France Nuyen had a one-on-one interview with Mankiewicz before Gaynor came out which was very smart of them to do because Gaynor pretty much took over from there. More details to come in a future post but let's just say that Mitzi Gaynor referred to Ricardo Montalban as a bitch, she had so much energy she couldn't sit still in her chair and she got up and grabbed her crotch TWICE to demonstrate something that she had witnessed her co-star Rossano Brazzi do. I already thought Mitzi Gaynor was adorable but now I just want to hang out with her and have a couple drinks. She was so much fun and such a delight!

A full moon was out and we watched South Pacific (1958) under the stars. It got cold so...

we went inside and were really happy to see they were also screening the film inside Club TCM.

Overall a great night. Mitzi Gaynor was the highlight for sure. I really wish I had gotten a picture of her grabbing her crotch because that was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

Stay tuned for more details and future recaps.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Les Girls (1957)

Les Girls
The year is 1957. Major movie studios are feeling pressure to get people back into the theaters and away from their television sets. Cinemas were losing business and subsequently closing locations. International moviemakers, who had fewer restrictions in showing sex and other themes in the films that were not friendly to the still active Hays-Code, were luring American viewers away from domestic films. So what we see during the late 1950s are American studios making desperate attempts to produce films that will capture the public's eye and make movie goers reach for their wallets.

What we get during are a lot of films that push boundaries and test the waters. Films like Baby Doll (1956), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959). Studios were using the shock value of their new films to keep themselves in business. So where does a tame little movie like Les Girls (1957) come in?

Let's take a look at what was on television in 1957:

Perry Mason
Leave it to Beaver
Have Gun - Will Travel
Wagon Train

What did 1957 American television not have?:

A Metrocolor musical directed by George Cukor starring Gene Kelly with Cole Porter songs and wardrobe designed by Orry-Kelly.

Who cares if Les Girls (1957) comes out like Les Blech?! As long as it's pretty, has song and dance numbers, has a lot of big names attached to it all while Gene Kelly's ego can be fed, then why the heck not. It's pure money.

For the moviegoer who can't go to Broadway to watch a big theatrical production, a film like Les Girls is the next best thing. It's a reason to get out of the house. It's a reason to abandon the TV. It's a reason to spend some of your money.

And yes. I feel a bit strange having seen this film on my own home television.

I didn't much care for this movie. It seems like the sort of film that was made just so Gene Kelly could be pleased (and hey, it was his last musical so why not!). As Millie from ClassicForever describes it, the film is Gene Kelly's love letter to himself. However, this film still managed to fascinate me. I think it's mainly because it's so different from the other 1950s films that I'm normally drawn to.

I like how it's a sign of the times. I like how it's so bad that you can't help but watch the whole thing. I like how pretty all the women look and how I want each and every single outfit they wear. I like the fact that the title is "Les Girls" but it's really about "L'homme".

And on a final and somewhat related note, I'm oddly curious about Kay Kendall, and have been ever since I saw The Reluctant Debutante (1958) . She passed away of Leukemia in 1959 at the tender age of 33, only a couple of years after Les Girls (1957) hit theaters and after she had been diagnosed. At the time of her diagnosis, she was having an affair to then-married Rex Harrison. He learned of her diagnosis, knew she only had two years to live, didn't tell her about it, divorced his wife and immediately married her to take care of her. But Harrison and his original wife planned to remarry after Kendall died. Huh?! She went on working in films, theater and television until the day she died. All the while she thought she had an iron deficiency. Harrison never remarried his original wife because she fell in love with someone else. How did Harrison get the diagnosis? Why didn't the doctor tell Kendall? Doesn't this strike you as odd?

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