Camp David


By • Feb 1st, 2001 •

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If you are anything like me when it comes to the yearly ritual of viewing the Academy Awards, you watch, you laugh, and sometimes you fell like throwing up all over the voting membership (or regard it like China: “When will the old order die off and let some new blood into the 21st Century?”) To me the most sage remark of the evening was when MC Steve Martin observed that it was time for gay actors to quit pretending they’re straight and Hollywood mega stars quit getting married and divorced declaring “It’s for eternity!” one minute and then telling the media a la Tom and Nicole “Will I part with my private jet so Nicole won’t have to fly commercial or can she get by on an expense account of $75,000 a month?” Speaking of Mr. Cruise, the current rumor around Tinseltown is that Mr. Mission Impossible is ready to assume the title role in a forthcoming biopic of Vegas icon LIBERACE. If this comes to pass will we be bombarded once again about how very heterosexual he is in real life? Or yet through the miracle of acting can he turn it around (as in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE)? Or doth he protest too much?

Thank God we’re living in the 21st Century where old scandals can take on the aspects of antique camp. Case in point: the new deluxe Anchor Bay, limited edition DVD of Terry Southern’s notorious CANDY made into a film at the height of the psychedelic delirium otherwise known as the Sixties. The cast includes EVERYONE that was hip circa 1968. That includes Ringo Starr, Richard Burton, Marlon Brando, John Huston, Charles Aznavour and directed by actor and sometimes director Christian Marquand. Except for a couple of screenings on cable this film has never been seen since its release as it will be on this DVD-uncut, letterboxed and digitally enhanced. When it opened, it was to withering reviews and ill-attended boxoffice making it one of the great mega bombs of the era. Possibly Terry Southern’s 1958 novel (co-written with Mason Hoffenberg) was impossible to film, yet the novel was a sensation in Europe. Indeed, CANDY, about a woman-child whose sexual exploits land her in the arms of an oversexed faith-healer and a lunatic hunchback sold an estimated 12 million bootleg copies in the States alone. Having said this, making a film from said material was risky to say the least, but I for one cannot wait to see the end result. Personally this film has always represented a particularly notorious anecdote involving a photograph of Marlon Brando giving a Monica Lewinsky to an unknown recipient. The tell-tale photo hung in my bathroom as a conversation piece for many years. I always assumed the recipient was the late Wally Cox (no pun intended) but was enlightened by author Terry Southern himself who was over for drinks one afternoon and identified the unknown person as CANDY director Marquand. Quelle scandale!

Having just spent two days in the celebrity-filled Beverly Garland Autograph Show at her hotel in North Hollywood, Yours Truly makes a point of attending the quarterly event with or without a star to support. This time around I sat next to Edie Adams who regaled me with great offset stories regarding Rock Hudson, her own comic genius Ernie Kovacs, and the recent death of Steve Allen, a close family friend.

Long before Billy Idol did his “Rebel Yell,” Edie Adams was there first playing Rebel Davis in Stanley Shapiro’s witty LOVER COME BACK in which Rock Hudson plays a straight man pretending to be gay so he can go to bed with Doris Day. Edie recalled that Rock was a joy to work with. In a key comic moment where she is naked except for the sheet she is wrapped in, Hudson very subtly pulled her body further down on the massage table. When she inquired what he was doing, he asked how many films she’d been in. Edie replied, “This is my eleventh picture.” To which Rock said, “Honey, this is my 58th film, and you’ve got to learn where your key light is and remember to stay in it.” From that moment on, Rock took care of her and made sure she was always in her key light and even stayed to run lines when he was off-camera. Edie recalled that Rock was learning what a great comic actor he really was but still was uneasy with the gay aspects of the script, which at that time went over the heads of most Doris Day fans of the Sixties.

Edie also was the first to tell me that Steve Allen did not die of a heart attack as originally noted in the press. Due to an automobile accident earlier in the day, a type of “fender-bender” where Mr. Allen felt there was no need to be examined in emergency, he died later that evening as a result of his injuries. When will the press get it right?

Special congratulations to VCI Entertainment which will be celebrating its 25th Silver Anniversary as one of the oldest surviving video companies in the United States today. On May 21, 2001 VCI will be restoring & releasing more classic films than ever before with over 2500 new titles in their library. It is a film buff’s dream. I am very pleased to be a part of the VCI family of contributors. Hopefully the director’s cut of Curtis Harrington’s RUBY will be out on DVD with a special interview conducted by Yours Truly as a special feature.

VCI has put both FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE and the Buck Rogers serial (both starring Buster Crabbe) on DVD chapters and all. Well worth the price! Will keep readers abreast of titles as they come out. Congratulations VCI!

AGATHA CHRISTIE MYSTERY CLASSICS released for the first time on DVD through Anchor Bay Entertainment include two with the legendary Inspector Hercule Poirot (played by Peter Ustinov). First, DEATH ON THE NILE which won the Oscar for Best Costume Design with guest stars like Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, Maggie Smith and Mia Farrow filmed entirely on location in Egypt. Secondly, my personal favorite, EVIL UNDER THE SUN written by sleuth author Anthony Shaffer. Again with Ustinov as Poirot but more importantly it is Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith who shine with star turns especially in a duet of “You’re The Top.” In fact, the whole score is by Cole Porter. The last two, THE MIRROR CRACK’D and ENDLESS NIGHT are less glamorous but not without a certain fascination. Elizabeth Taylor & Kim Novak have a definite frisson in their scenes together and ENDLESS NIGHT is the only one in the group scored by Bernard Hermann, Hitchcock’s favorite composer. These DVDs have “Making of” featurettes and are presented widescreen and are an enhancement to any film library.

In preparation for the Tenth Anniversary issue of ‘Scarlet Street’ magazine, I screened the MGM version of THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY with the late Hurd Hatfield with some friends and even though my contribution to that issue is not about Hurd it rekindled memories about him I think might interest my readers.

I met Hurd at one of Curtis Harrington’s parties about 1978 . He was staying with Curtis and loved to go the rounds of Hollywood parties and most of all hold court on the Golden days at MGM when Hepburn and Tracy were an item and ‘Mr. Gray’ put an unknown actor into the limelight which he would never relinquish in his lifetime. Hurd was a snob not unlike the character George Sanders played in the film. However it was very unlike Mr. Sanders the way Hurd went after the handsome waiters and young actors whose paths would cross his along the way. Hurd would always fall for some young hunk and promises of airline tickets to Ireland and access to all his wealthy and famous friends were dangled like a carrot to first one and then another. Oscar Wilde would have been proud since Hurd had no money to make good these promises. Hurd knew no shame for the love that dared not say its name. Times changed and I am glad Hurd lived to see the closet doors swing open in his lifetime.

If Hurd was not at Curtis’s he would stay with actress Jean Stapleton when in Tinsletown. I saw him thoughout the 80s at numerous parties and he always contemplated where his career might have gone had Dorian Gray not come into his life. He was a brilliant stage actor and his film work like EL CID or MICKEY ONE with Warren Beatty was always fascinating. I wrote his obituary for ‘Cinefantastique’ magazine and remembered his love/hate relationship with the role that made him famous. He would always say ‘” You know I was never a great beauty in GRAY and I never understood why I got the part and have spent my career regretting it.” Hurd really felt it typed him in the same way DRACULA did Bela Lugosi.

Death came to Dorian Gray in an Irish castle after a dinner party in which his alter ego, Hurd Hatfield, regaled his companions with countless anecdotes of a life well lived. He bid the guests goodnight and retired to bed and oblivion.

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