TV GUIDE has a cover story this week, asking the important question “Giada De Laurenttis: Is the sexy chef too hot for TV?”
Finally a media controversy that isn't as depressing as, say, the whole HOSTEL 2 debate.
It began a few weeks ago when someone wrote in to TV GUIDE to complain about Giada's revealing outfits. The new issue has letters from men and women defending her and the way she dresses.
I’ve written about Giada before. I’m a big fan of her show.
When I started watching, it was mainly to find out if she was related to producer Dino De Laurentiis. Even after I found out he is her grandfather, I stayed watching.
I’m not much for cooking shows, but the way the show is shot, and the food she makes, it makes you want to learn to cook. And, since pasta is one of the few things I can make, it is a good genre to watch. She makes it look easy, and isn’t as stuck up as Martha Stewart, or as giggly as Rachael Ray.
Ok, I may have noticed the outfits she wore sometimes, but so what? She is a beautiful woman, do they want her to wear a muumuu or something? I guess her show is big on college campuses among frat guys. And, head over to Youtube there are countless videos of her, uhh, greatest outfits.
Still, this shouldn’t detract from her cooking.
It isn't just like they got some attractive woman off the street, put her in an outfit, and made her cook. Giada knows what she is doing.
Anthony Bourdain, host of NO RESERVATIONS on TLC, recently blogged about all the Food Network hosts. Giada was one of the few that he liked. And he is a tough critic. (It looks like the blog is no more).
When I met Giada a couple years ago, she was incredibly nice as well. There was a line that ran for two hours of people getting her to autograph her cookbook. It was so long because she was spending time with each person, talking to them, taking photos, even making cell phone calls for people.
So, she is free to wear whatever she wants. This is America after all.
And now, here is her recipe for tomato sauce.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Deanna Durbin was one of the biggest stars of the 30’s and 40’s. She was the favorite actress of Winston Churchill. Anne Frank had her picture on the wall of her attic room. Yet today, sixty years after her abrupt retirement, she is pretty much forgotten. For those under the age of 40, she is just about unknown.
How could this be?
From starring in pictures that were the biggest of her day, sharing an Academy Award with Mickey Rooney, the highest paid actress of her time, how could Deanna Durbin be forgotten?
Even seeing her films today is a chore. While a few have been released on DVD in a single DVD collection, several have never even made it to VHS and rarely are any shown on TV.
Deanna began her career as a singer. Born in Canada, her family moved her to California to advance her career. There she appeared in a short film for MGM, EVERY SUNDAY.
EVERY SUNDAY featured Deanna as a young girl trying to help her grandfather keep his job as the conductor at the local town outdoor concert. When told that if he doesn’t have a good crowd at the next Sunday’s concert he will be fired, Deanna and a friend try to draw the biggest crowd possible by spreading leaflets about the show around town. When that doesn’t work, they take the stage to each sing a number with the band. This draws the crowd and saves his job.
The short didn’t do much to help Deanna’s career as MGM dropped her. In fact, the short wouldn’t really survive to this day if not for her co-star in it, someone that MGM was much more interested in, a young Judy Garland.
While it didn’t work out with MGM, Deanna had better luck with another studio, Universal. She was signed with them to appear in the film THREE SMART GIRLS.
In this film, she appeared as the youngest of three daughters of a divorced, wealthy woman living in Europe. When they read in the paper that their father is getting remarried, the three girls head to the US to get to know their father and try to stop the marriage.
THREE SMART GIRLS turned out to be such a hit that, legend has it, its profits saved Universal from bankruptcy. Deanna made all of her subsequent films with Universal.
Her follow up film was ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL, which stands to this day as one of her strongest, especially for the music. In this film, Deanna’s father is an out of work trombone player. He tries to get a job with Leopold Stokowski (playing himself). When he finds that difficult, Deanna joins in the fun.
The musical sequences in this film are outstanding. It opens with a five minute scene of Stokowski performing. Several other long sequence follow.
She went on to make 21 films in all. Most of them were very funny, lightweight musicals. Only one (CAN’T HELP SINGING) was shot in color.
She attempted to make more serious films. In CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY she played a bordello singer who marries a killer (Gene Kelly). And THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY began as a Jean Renoir directed film, but he left early on in the shooting, and it was lightened up quite a bit. You can still see some of Renoir’s influence on the film.
But, the audience wanted to see Deanna make the comedies she was known for. So, the studio kept pushing her back into that genre. Sadly, Deanna wasn't happy with the comedies and grew to dislike the whole industry because of it.
Her films are an excellent look at the time period, especially among the supporting cast. She worked with actors such as Charles Winninger, Eugene Pallette, Ray Milland, Mischa Auer, Arthur Treacher, William Frawley, Melvyn Douglas, S.Z. Sakall, Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone, and many more. Billy Wilder had an early job working on the script of one of her films (THAT CERTAIN AGE).
But, after 21 films, before she even turned thirty, she had enough. She walked away in 1948 never to make another film.
So, what ever happened to her?
Deanna moved to France with her husband and stayed there. She still lives there today. She kept in touch with her Hollywood friends but lived far from the spotlight. In the sixty years since leaving Hollywood, she has rarely even given an interview
In 1980, she sent a current photo of herself to Life Magazine, with a note saying that she was tired of reading all the stories of her gaining weight, so she wanted to prove to the world she didn’t.
She has communicated with her fans, singing photos, and such. But hasn’t made any appearances on film. She will be 89 in December.
After seeing one of her films on TCM a few years back (IT’S A DATE) and reading the story of her life, I was fascinated with it. I then was able to track down all of her films. That was quite a chore in itself, as many have never even been released on VHS.
There was a DVD release of six of her films a few years back, but that is all that is currently available in the US. A second volume is in the works for 2010 release.
In the UK, where she is more popular due to the popularity of her films in wartime, 19 of her 21 films are available. Two of them (one of my favorites SPRING PARADE and IT’S A DATE) have all sorts of rights issues around them that have held up their release.
It is hard to believe that she went from being so popular, to barely even being remembered. I once began work on a biography on her, since there has never been one written. But, early on in my research, I found out another was in the works. It seems it has fallen through. I have read that she was against any bio being written, so I guess I won’t continue.
Her films do deserve to be seen a lot more. They still hold up today.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Welcome to the GREASE 2 25th Anniversary Blogathon!!
On June 11, 1982, GREASE 2 was released to theatres. While not a big hit theatrically, it went on to develop a huge and loyal cult following during its frequent cable airings in the following years.
Were you a fan of GREASE 2? Well, let your love of the film be known!
Bloggers, email me a link to your post, or post it in the comment section.
Don’t have a blog? Post in the comment section.
And a big thanks to Grease2.net for their help, and for helping me find a lot of great links. Check over there also for details of the upcoming 25th anniversary reunion.
"Hope He's Proud of What He's Done" (Edward Copeland on Film)
A Tale of Two Careers (Lazy Eye Theatre)
"Grease 2 is 25" (Politics, Culture, And Other Wastes of Time)
"On This Day" (USA Today's Pop Candy) - Pop Candy linked to this blog (thanks!) and there is a great discussion going on about the film in the talkback section.
"Happy 25th Anniversary, Grease 2" (Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch) - The folks at Popwatch join in with reasons why you should care about the anniversary.
"Academy of the Underrated: GREASE 2" (Club Parnassus)
"Why Grease 2?" (Moviezzz)
Grease 2 Novelization Book Review (Moviezzz)
What Ever Happened to GREASE 2 stars Jean and Liz Sagal and Lucinda Dickey (Moviezzz)
Roger Ebert’s review – It wasn’t that bad, he gave it 2 stars.
Variety’s Review – They think the musical numbers are better than the original.
Grease2.net - The Ultimate Grease 2 Fansite
Tab Hunter – The Official Site of Mr. Stuart.
Eddie Deezen – Eugene’s official site
Lorna’ Luft’s Official Site - Paulette's Site.
The Sagal Twins – Features a great bio
Box office report – Why Grease 2 didn’t do well at the box office. Look at what it was competing against!
Wikipedia Entry – Which raises one point I never thought of, about Michael asking Stephanie “Have you ever read a Superman comic?”.
Grease 2's IMDB Page
Grease 2 Transcription
Yale Cabaret Grease 2 Play Review
Shiny Gun - Great essay on the film.
More to follow today.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
To get ready for tomorrow's blogathon, here is an explanation as to why GREASE 2 matters.
On June 11, 1982, a sequel was released to theatres that just about every critic agreed was better than the original. Audiences loved it and it was talked about and watched for years to follow.
That film was STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN.
But on that same day in theatres, another sequel was released. The reviews weren’t quite as good. Some were pretty bad. They all agreed the original was better. And audiences didn’t exactly flock to the theatres to see it, even those that loved the original.
That film was GREASE 2.
Yet a funny thing has happened over the years. While KHAN is still a popular film, GREASE 2 is the one that turns up on TV more often.
I have to be honest, I never saw GREASE 2 in theatres. Most of the film’s fans today didn’t. I did see KHAN though. A few times, if I remember.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the film, GREASE had been a favorite of mine. I saw it several times in theatres, and wore out the soundtrack listening to it. I WANTED to see GREASE 2, but the reviews had me convinced it wasn’t worth seeing.
Plus, it was a very busy time in the theatres. In addition to KHAN and POLTERGEIST which also opened on the same day, in the weeks before and after June 11th, E.T., FIREFOX, ANNIE, ROCKY III, BLADE RUNNER, ROAD WARRIOR, DINER, MEGAFORCE, Al Pacino’s AUTHOR AUTHOR, THE THING, a rerelease of BAMBI and PORKYS were all playing. So, it really isn’t a surprise that it wasn’t a box office hit.
But the next year, in the summer of 1983, GREASE 2 premiered on cable.
I still remember my first reaction. It premiered on a Saturday morning on HBO. I was on my way out, and planning on watching it that night when it aired again, but I tuned in. It was in the middle of the PROWLIN number. I watched a few minutes, and then went to my sister and said, “I saw part of GREASE 2. It looks pretty bad.”
That night, I saw the entire film.
And then, a few days later, I saw it again.
I saw it again…and again…and again.
I think I saw it every time that HBO aired it. I was literally obsessed with the film.
I LOVED GREASE 2!!! I liked it more than GREASE.
Well, there was the music. From that Four Tops opener “Back to School Again”, “Cool Rider”, “Score Tonight”, “Reproduction”, “Love Will Turn Back the Hands of Time”, the film is filled with memorable songs.
The musical numbers themselves are these big, over the top spectacles with the screen filled with dancing extras (especially on the widescreen DVD, where the Panavision frame is filled).
And then there was Michelle Pfeiffer.
There really is no question that Michelle in this film is one of the most beautiful actresses of all time. Right when I saw this, I knew that she would be a star. After seeing her in this, I watched everything she did, from her after school special ONE TOO MANY to Alan Alda's SWEET LIBERTY.
So, I loved the film. But, remembering the critical reaction, I kept my love for it rather quiet. Is it a good thing to declare your love for a film that was considered a critical and box office failure? Probably not.
When the internet took of, I realized something. I wasn’t alone! On film boards, I often found other fans of the film. And when the DVD was finally released in 2003, others seemed just as excited about the release as I was. Even in the recent documentary MY DATE WITH DREW (where a guy tries to get a date with Drew Barrymore), the filmmakers use as one of their ways to get to her the fact that she is a fan of the film, and the filmmakers are fans.
So why do all these people, of a certain age (early to mid 30’s), love the film?
I think it all goes back to all those summer cable airings in 1983.
Remember, 1983 was before the 400 channels of cable. I think there were only 40 channels. And also, VCRs had yet to really take off.
So, for everyone home from school, what else did they have to do but watch it on HBO? It literally played all summer, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. In this age of DVDs, the internet, On Demand downloads, this type of impact is not possible. But back then, people at home with cable had nothing else to watch.
Even today, the film is shown quite often. It regularly turns up on Sunday afternoons on ABC Family, or HBO. It gets shown a lot more than STAR TREK II or most of the films that were playing in the box office around the same time period. If I see it on TV while flipping around, I will put down the remote and watch.
It is also the sort of film that I won’t even try and convince people is a great film.
I loved the film, and that is all that matters.
The following is part of Monday's GREASE 2 Blogathon
One film marketing tool that has almost disappeared today is that of the novelization.
Back, especially in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it seemed every film would have a paperback tie-in recreating the story. These were written usually based on the screenplay, and released at the same time as the film. Often they would include scenes not in the film that were cut, or never even filmed in the first place.
Since this was before even VHS, I often collected them for a lot of films. Even films I never saw. You couldn’t own the film, but these along with the soundtracks were the closest you could get.
One of the best was for the original GREASE. It was done in a format called the “Fotonovel”. The book was the size of a standard, mass market paperback, but instead of text, it was made up of color stills from the film, with each still made up like a comic book, with word bubbles, telling the story of the film. There were several of these Fotonovels released in the late 70’s.
When GREASE 2 was released, it didn’t get the Fotonovel treatment, but instead was in the standard novelization form. The book was written by William Rotsler (who wrote a lot of novelizations, as well as sci-fi novels. According to the IMDB, in the 60's and 70's he wrote and directed several exploitation films as well.) The book was based on the screenplay by Ken Finkleman (who also wrote the screenplays for AIRPLANE 2, WHO’S THAT GIRL and would create the Canadian TV show THE NEWSROOM).
The biggest change in the book is that it is written as an actual story, and not a musical. The characters do not break into song. It is kind of difficult to read because of that. Many of the music lyrics are changed into dialogue. The opening number, “Back to School Again” features the students arriving at school and just reciting the lyrics. It doesn’t work.
Later, when Stephanie tells Michael “If you really want to know, what I want in a guy”, and goes on to tell him about the “Cool Rider”, it is all in text form. Kind of makes you realize how silly the musical format is.
My favorite moment in the film is the “Love Will Turn Back The Hands Of Time” number. On the film’s soundtrack, the discussion between Michael and Stephanie in the middle of the song goes on longer. “But, I don’t even know your name!” she tells him at one point. That line is not in the film, but it is in the book.
There are some minor changes in the book that probably showed what the original screenplay was like. The Sagal Twins’ cheerleaders are not related in the book. And there is more about Michael’s home life. It seems he is staying with his father’s war buddy, a paranoid right wing patriotic type (it was his uncle in the film). In one scene not in the film, Michael is given a tour of the bomb shelter.
Mr. Stuart (Tab Hunter) in the book is actually a lot creepier a character. As it states when he arrives at the school he “eyed the Pink Ladies with undisguised lasciviousness”. While “Reproduction” takes place offscreen in the book, the Pink Ladies reaction was that Mr. Stuart was trying to hit on them. I think that was changed for the better in the film.
But the big revelation in the book occurs at the end, where Michael says goodbye to Dolores (played by Pamela Segall, best known today as the voice of Bobby Hill on KING OF THE HILL).
In the film, she tells him “I’ve got another man on my hands” and then Michael whispers something unheard to her, to which she replies “That’s the breaks”.
This was sort of the LOST IN TRANSLATION moment of the film. What does he say? I’m sure this inspired Sofia Coppola in making her film and the ending scene.
The book has the dialogue!!
Michael tells her “It’s too bad we didn’t meet in another place at another time”
WOW!! After all these years we know!! I think that is what Bill Murray tells Scarlett Johansson as well.
With DVDs today, we really don’t need novelizations. It is more fun to watch the film than to read a second generation recap. But, for the time, they were all we had.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
To get ready for next Monday’s GREASE 2 Blogathon, I thought I’d devote this week’s “What Ever Happened to” to two stars from that film, Jean and Liz Sagal.
While Michelle Pfeiffer was probably the biggest star to come from GREASE 2, in some ways you can say that the Sagal twins were the FIRST stars to emerge from it.
Jean and Liz came from a show business family. Their father, Boris Sagal, was the director of THE OMEGA MAN, RICH MAN POOR MAN and other films and TV shows (he was tragically killed in 1981). Their sister, Katey, would later go on to fame as Peg Bundy on MARRIED WITH CHILDREN.
The twins began as dancers, and were two of the most memorable Doublemint Twins in the famous commercials.
Then came GREASE 2, where they played the cheerleaders. You remember them, at the opening, greeting Miss Mason.
“I love your hair Miss Mason.”
“Oh, thanks” She leaves
The twins in unison “All 300 pounds of it”.
They were there in most of the big musical numbers, and sang, “Brad” in the talent show.
After the release, while Michelle Pfeiffer was still doing supporting roles in features (and afterschool specials like ONE TOO MANY, anyone remember that?), the Sagal twins went on to star in the leads in an NBC sitcom, DOUBLE TROUBLE.
DOUBLE TROUBLE had an interesting history. It ran on NBC in 1984-1985, where the girls played the daughters of a single father (Donnelly Rhodes) who ran an exercise studio (allowing the girls plenty of time for dancing). Patricia Richardson (who would go on to star in HOME IMPROVEMENT) played his girlfriend.
Then, it came back as a midseason replacement, only it was revamped, set in New York, with the girls living with their aunt, Barbara Barrie. I didn’t care for this format as much, but it ran longer than the earlier season. It was soon cancelled, but lived on in reruns for years.
They worked together again in episodes QUANTUM LEAP, 21 JUMP STREET and a 1992 episode of PICKET FENCES.
On their own, Liz appeared in HOWARD THE DUCK as one of Lea Thompson’s bandmates and a few TV episodes. Jean appeared in a lot of episodic TV (CAGNEY AND LACEY, TRAPPER JOHN M.D., KNOT’S LANDING).
But since the early 90’s, they have retired from acting.
So, what ever happened to them?
They are both still in the industry, both behind the camera.
Jean wrote and directed several sitcoms, including JUST SHOOT ME and even MAD TV. She directed a TV series starring the Olsen Twins. I guess she probably was a good choice to work with them. She is now married and has a child.
Liz has written for such shows as MAD ABOUT YOU, TWO GUYS AND A GIRL, and was a story editor on CHARMED.
It is good to see they are still working, but I'd love to see them in front of the camera again. Maybe do a DOUBLE TROUBLE reunion movie. Ya think? Or at least release the series on DVD. 23 episodes, that could fit in one box set.
For even more information, be sure to visit SagalTwins.com
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Just a reminder, the 25th Anniversary GREASE 2 Blogathon will be Monday, June 11th.
You can find the details here.
I know it is a busy blogathon time, with THE SIMPSONS the weekend before, and a couple others coming the following week, so that is why it is only going to be for that one day.
More details to follow, but if you are interested, email me and let me know.