A pained statement: The solely intriguing tales on Hollywood this week consisted of obits – all types of obits. There have been obits reminding us of the exceptional lives of Sidney Poitier, Peter Bogdanovich and Betty White. Also speculative obits concerning the Golden Globes, sentimental obits concerning the extinct twentieth Century Fox and even speculative obits about MGM and ICM.
The obit state of mind even prolonged to ticket patrons as an entire. Having anointed such movies as West Side Story and The Power of the Dog as computerized award winners, critics puzzled why ticket patrons gave the impression to be boycotting them. Had the film viewers disappeared into streamer heaven?
If the “business” obits have been lugubrious, the non-public ones usually have been inspirational. Obits for Poitier, who handed at age 94, documented a wealthy and fulfilling life – an acceptable reward for dangers effectively taken. He additionally had robust private ties with different strong-willed risk-takers, like Harry Belafonte.
Those of us who crossed paths with him discovered a gracious, self-contained soul whose fame imposed its personal constraints. Poitier knew that strangers held on his each phrase and therefore delivered even informal remarks with stentorian precision. “His vocal and physical grace at times seemed almost supernatural,” Martin Scorsese as soon as noticed.
Poitier’s steely persistence was challenged on the set of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner as I noticed him work together with a cranky and terminally ailing Spencer Tracy, a prickly Katharine Hepburn and a director, Stanley Kramer, who had the disposition of a drill sergeant. The youthful Poitier floated in an island of calm.
Poitier yearned for a delicate film about identifiable individuals. The irascible Kramer needed to make a press release about our disruptive society — a “message picture” on the order of his Judgment at Nuremberg. Poitier, in fact, achieved the last word mega-moment of Oscar glory in 1968 when his two starring movies, Guess and In the Heat of the Night, went up towards one another. Heat of the Night gained; so did Rod Steiger as Best Actor.
Bogdanovich’s obits depicted an intensely neurotic dreamer and movie nerd who achieved a curious immortality together with his well-known admission, “we blew it.” His mission in life was to grow to be a revered filmmaker like his heroes (John Ford, Howard Hawks) and occasional colleagues (Francis Coppola and Billy Friedkin). Having achieved his directing credentials earlier than age 30, Bogdanovich proceeded to indulge his proclivities for erratic relationships and ill-conceived movie tales. The cool simplicity of The Last Picture Show erupted into the pretensions of At Long Last Love and Daisy Miller.
On a private degree, I noticed the very best and worst in Bogdanovich. As a Paramount government, I introduced him with a completed screenplay titled Paper Moon by Alvin Sargent, which I used to be suggested he would by no means learn. His then-wife, Polly Platt, a savvy manufacturing designer, forcefully persuaded him to direct the movie (starring Ryan O’Neal and his daughter, Tatum), even proposing he shoot it in black and white. Platt quickly was put into turnaround, with Bogdanovich turning his consideration to Cybill Shepherd and the ill-starred interval romantic novel Daisy Miller.
Betty White symbolized his mirror reverse as a Hollywood persona. Relentlessly upbeat and completely skilled, she would usually say merely, “Let’s make things work.” Typically, once I as soon as invited her to affix me for an NBC interview, she drove herself to the Burbank studio in full make-up, rejecting the proffered limo. She was a cheerful 90 and charmed the grizzled NBC employees.
The solely seemingly celebratory obit of the week was accorded the Golden Globes, with the media gleefully reporting on a celebration that nobody attended. The listing of Globe winners through the years has tended to mirror the field workplace numbers, which this 12 months, nevertheless, had primarily vanished. Its two largest winners — West Side Story and Power of the Dog — doubtless will once more be accorded Oscars honors March 27, with maybe an analogous non-impact.
Where did the viewers go? The New York Times’ resident awards professional, Kyle Buchanan, provided this evaluation in his viewers obit: “I lay this failure of West Side Story squarely at the feet of the marketing campaign. The posters were oddly grim, the trailers and TV spots way too bashful.”
Well, at the least one thing constructive emerged from the obit listing.