The Sundance Film Festival deals keep on coming! A24 is finalizing a U.S. rights deal for Mississippi Grind worth just over $2 million...allegedly. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film stars Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard and Robin Weigart.
Mississippi Grind is a drama is about a gambler who sets off on a road trip through the Southern U.S. with a young gambling addict in an attempt to change his luck. The film launched Saturday in the Premieres Section of the festival at the Eccles Theatre, with strong performances by Reynolds and Mendelsohn.
This film sort of felt like The Sting, but instead of centering on grifters we are engrossed in the world of two different types of gamblers. One gambles out of addiction and the other gambles literally for the high of it all and to make a little cash for his loved ones. Mississippi Grind took me on a roller coaster of emotions and often times I held my breath out of anticipation of what was to come next. It was intense in the way a good thriller keeps you on your toes with you thinking you have figured out the ending...only to be completely surprised in the end. Alfre Woodard, Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton are all equally compelling as a bookie and female escorts (respectively)
As I have said here many, many times, a good portion of the films that come out of Sundance end up being in future awards season conversation in the upcoming year...
I promise you...Australian Ben Mendelssohn and Ryan Reynolds will be on the lips of everyone when this film is released later in 2015. Here is an excerpt of an interview done with Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers with the two stars...
As a student at Howard University, I remember well the day the 2nd historic March on Washington happened. It was arctic cold and Dr. King's birthday was still not recognized like the national holiday we know today. There were a few states holding out, so the March on Washington happened spearheaded by Stevie Wonder who penned s song for the occasion.
Ironically enough, it was President Ronald Reagan who signed the bill into existence on November 2, 1983 with his widow Coretta Scott King present for this historic occasion.
In celebration of Dr. King and his legacy, here is a list of films chronicling the life of this man along with his famous speeches "Mountaintop" and "I Have a Dream"
You can also catch the made for television series by PBS - Eyes On The Prize on Amazon.com and a King movie especially made for children...
Enjoy, Embrace and Remember although much progress is made...we still have a long way to go. Nominated for two Academy Awards this year, SELMA is the recent film specifically dealing with the infamous Montgomery, Alabama march and is in theaters now. For my review...click on the link below
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. Carla Renata's Corner was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Ever wonder where the idea of a computer actually came from? Every time I use my smartphone or the iPad I type this on, I wonder what kind of a brain came up with an idea that has literally revolutionized the way we communicate in the 21st century. Alan Turing was and educator/mathematician, who during World War II participated in code breaking...specifically German ciphers. He used an electromechanical device ("Christopher") to decipher German enigma encrypted signals, which resulted in Turing being awarded an Order of the British Empire for his work.
With homosexuality being illegal in 1950's UK, Turing admitted to the police (whom he contacted after a break-in at his home) that he had sexual relationship with a man. After his arrest and conviction, he was forced to choose between temporary probation and hormone treatments. Choosing the later, he underwent chemical castration through injection and ultimately took his own life in 1954.
Benedict Cumberbatch exhibits his finest work as Alan Turing and it is only complimented when his scene partner Keira Knightly hits the screen. Both actors are magnanimously spellbinding from beginning to end.
The Imitation Game is in limited release and unarguably one of the best films of 2014. Do yourselves a favor and be educated and entertained all at once. It is released nationwide on Christmas Day.
The British Independent Film Awards Sunday were held Sunday, December 6th at Old Billingsgate in London.
The award for director went to Yann Demange for Northern Ireland-set thriller “’71,” outflanking John Michael McDonagh for “Calvary,” Lenny Abrahamson for “Frank,” Matthew Warchus for “Pride” and Mike Leigh for “Mr Turner.”
The victor in the actor category was Brendan Gleeson for “Calvary,” about a tough-minded Irish priest marked for death by one of his parishioners.
Gleeson paid tribute to the producers “who have to try to make independent film when it is almost impossible for people to risk commercially what is required artistically.”
Cumberbatch was the recipient of the Variety Award, which recognizes an actor, director, writer or producer who has helped to shine the international spotlight on the U.K.
In his speech, Cumberbatch said the award was premature, “given the output and standard of previous recipients,” but added that it would inspire him “to work harder to feel like I’ve deserved it, and that won’t really be difficult because I love my job, I love my industry, I love the people I get to work with, a lot of whom are in this room.”
Emma Thompson picked up the Richard Harris Award for outstanding contribution by an actor to British film. She said she had met Harris once and found they shared a devotion and commitment to alcohol. She jokingly confessed: “I have been with studios. I haven’t enjoyed it. I have tried not to get sucked in… I have done many things for money and I am sorry.”
The winner of the actress honor was Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Amma Asante’s “Belle,” which is inspired by the true story of a mixed-race girl raised as an aristocratic lady in England around the time of the abolition of slavery.
Mbatha-Raw said: “It has just been such a special experience this job, this story showing a period of history that we have seen so frequently on the screen, but to be able to see it from the perspective of a woman of color in the 1780s, in the Jane Austen era, which is part of our cultural heritage.”
The winner of the award for international independent film went to Richard Linklater’s Oscar contender “Boyhood.” Linklater devoted the award to the memory of the late Lindsay Anderson, director of “If” and “O Lucky Man!”
“Frank” writers Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan took the screenplay prize, Imelda Staunton won the supporting actress contest for Matthew Warchus’ “Pride,” a feelgood 80s-set drama about gay rights activists who join forces with striking coal miners. The supporting actor award went to the film’s Andrew Scott.
The Douglas Hickox Award for debut director was picked up by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard for Nick Cave documentary “20,000 Days on Earth.”
The documentary award went to “Next Goal Wins,” a crowdpleaser about the world’s worst international soccer team, directed by Mike Brett and Steve Jamison.
The award for most promising newcomer went to actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, the star of Daniel Wolfe’s thriller “Catch Me Daddy,” which tracks the doomed attempts of a British Asian teen runaway to escape the long arm of her violently protective family.
The Special Jury Prize went to “Deliverance” and “Hope and Glory” director John Boorman. The jury also paid tribute to producer Chris Collins. Technical achievement winner was Stephen Rennicks for the music for Lenny Abrahamson’s musical comedy “Frank,” which stars Michael Fassbender.
The honor for achievement in production was picked up by Guy Myhill’s coming-of-age drama “The Goob,” which played at Venice. The Raindance Award was taken by “Luna,” and “The Karman Line” won the prize for British Short.
17TH MOET BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS – WINNERS AND NOMINEES BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM Winner: Pride
INTERNATIONAL INDEPENDENT FILM Winner: Boyhood
DIRECTOR Winner: Yann Demange – ’71
THE DOUGLAS HICKOX AWARD FOR DEBUT DIRECTOR Winner: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard – 20,000 Days on Earth
SCREENPLAY Winner: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan – Frank
ACTRESS Winner: Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Belle
ACTOR Winner: Brendan Gleeson – Calvary
SUPPORTING ACTRESS Winner: Imelda Staunton – Pride
SUPPORTING ACTOR Winner: Andrew Scott – Pride
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER Winner: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Catch Me Daddy
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT Winner: Stephen Rennicks – Music – Frank
DOCUMENTARY Winner: Next Goal Wins
THE RAINDANCE AWARD Winner: Luna
BRITISH SHORT Winner: The Kármán Line
THE RICHARD HARRIS AWARD (for outstanding contribution by an actor to British Film) Emma Thompson
THE VARIETY AWARD Benedict Cumberbatch
THE SPECIAL JURY PRIZE John Boorman
and now awards season has officially begun...
Mentor...A word usually associated with an individual who has a profound impact in one's life. A person who is generous enough to guide one on their way to whatever path or road they are choosing to take. A person whose advice you heed and who you look up to and admire.
Everyone has a mentor in one shape or another. I have had several mentors in my lifetime through my various stages of creativity. Whoopi Goldberg had one...Mike Nichols.
Had it not been for Mike Nichols, it s very possible that we may have never know the comic genius of Whoopi Goldberg. witnessed film debut of Calista Flockhart in The Birdcage, witnessed the explosive relationship of Burton and Taylor played out onscreen in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf or listened to Dustin Hoffman utter those famous words in The Graduate, "Mrs. Robinson...are you trying to seduce me?"
Mike Nichols, one of only 12 people (including Whoopi Goldberg) to have been honored with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award (affectionately known as EGOT), was a celebrated director for over 60 years.
Arriving in 1931 America at 7 years old speaking little English, German born Nichols came to the US when his family escaped Nazi Germany. His legacy as a director is left in such Broadway and the silver screen hits – from "Barefoot in the Park" and "The Odd Couple" to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "The Graduate." He earned the best director Oscar for "The Graduate."
He started his show business career with comedian Elaine May. Their three comedy albums reached the Billboard Top 40 between 1959 and 1962 and garnered them a Grammy.
He earned his eighth Tony two years ago for the revival of "Death of a Salesman and recently been working with HBO to adapt "Master Class ( “Wit” and “Angels in America” were also Emmy winning successes for Nichols and HBO)," Terrence McNally's Tony Award-winning play about opera legend Maria Callas. The project would have reunited him with frequent collaborator Meryl Streep.
“An inspiration and joy to know, a director who cried when he laughed, a friend without whom, well, we can’t imagine our world, an indelible irreplaceable man,” said Meryl Streep, who worked with Nichols on “Silkwood,” “Heartburn” and the HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.”
Nichols was married to ABC newswoman Diane Sawyer and I can only imagine how this massive loss must be impacting her today...or his kids and many grandchildren.
I , for one, will miss the twist on reality in his films that made us wince, look twice and laugh at ourselves just a little bit harder under the most dire of circumstances. Whoopi Goldberg said it best...
RIP...Hope you and Anne Bancroft are having the reunion of a lifetime...
My uncle Cedric and my cousin Arthur died from A.I.D.S. A.I.D.S., otherwise known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, was a word in the 80's synonymous with mystery, disease and the gay community in America. People were so ignorant that it was believed you would contract it by simply being in the same room or breathing the same air as someone who had been diagnosed with the disease.
AIDS was a diagnosis that took the lives of hundreds of thousands like a biblical plague and the prejudice that went with it was horrid. It was hard enough being labeled as a "homosexual", but if you had A.I.D.S. or were H.I.V. positive, certain groups of people worldwide made life almost unbearable for one to survive freely as a citizen of the human race. It's interesting the types of emotions and passions that can arise out of fear...isn't it?
Summer of 1984 in the U.K., Margaret Thatcher was in power and a group of gay activists got together and formed an organization LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) raising money to support the families of miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers. But there is a problem. The Union seems embarrassed to receive their support. Why? Because they are gay, different and assumed to be riddled with AIDS.
The activists decide to ignore the Union and go directly to the miners. They set off in a mini-bus to make their donation in person to a mining village located in deepest part of Wales...Dulais Valley. Thus, beginning an extraordinary alliance between two seemingly alien communities who form a surprising and ultimately triumphant partnership.
LGSM, with the support of the Dulais community produced a fundraiser. At the end of LGSM's infamous Pits and Perverts gig, South Wales miner David Donovan had this to say to the young activists and donators:
“You have worn our badge, “Coal not Dole”, and you know what harassment means, as we do.
Now we will pin your badge on us, we will support you. It won’t change overnight, but now 140,000 miners know that there are other causes and other problems. We know about blacks, and gays, and nuclear disarmament. And we will never be the same.”
By January 1985, there were 11 LGSM groups around the UK.
Mark Ashton was the face of LGSM and died just two years later, but he lived long enough to see his dream of gay rights becoming part of the political agenda realized. Also in 1985, the Labour Party Conference saw a motion to support equal rights for gay men and lesbians go down to the wire. It was carried only due to the block votes of the National Union of Mineworkers and its allies. With the release of PRIDE, a surge of interest has been sparked regarding Ashton's political activism and a fund in his memory has received donations of more than $16,000 since the film's release.
PRIDE is a film that only deals with the issues of gay acceptance in the UK, but touches upon the prejudices that surround being gay and the struggle for those in the closet who are not yet at peace with sharing their world with family and friends. One of the original LGSM members Jonathan Blake was one of the very first to be diagnosed with AIDS in the 80's and thanks to medical breakthroughs, is still with us today. He is portrayed brilliantly by actor Dominic West.
For aforementioned reasons, PRIDE struck a particularly huge emotional chord for me, but it also reminded me that the struggle worldwide for gay rights is still being fought. Equal Marriage for Gays and Lesbians continues to be in the forefront of daily news reports. I , for one, look forward to the day when people are viewed as human beings...NOT gay human beings, NOT black human beings, NOT transgender human beings...just SIMPLY HUMAN.
PRIDE opened in September 2014 and in in theaters now.
Q: What is the one thing actors feel they can not do without in order to move their career forward? Ding, Ding, Ding!!!!
A: An Agent
Not just any agent, but one who sees the vision for your career the same way that you do.
Here's the thing...
If you are right out of college...you may not be ready for rep...
If you don't have a truck load of credits...you may not be ready for rep...
If you are one of those people whose friends and family tell you how good-looking and talented you are and that you SHOULD be an actor...you may not be ready for rep....
Having been a working actor for more than 20 years, I can assure you there was a time when I was NOT ready for rep and thought that I was. I had little to no real credits, had not studied ANY type of technique and surely didn't have a clue of what my "type"or "image" was.
I would audition for any and everything hoping I would just book a gig and had no real plan. Then I discovered K Callan's - New York Agent Book. It changed my life and my career. It made me painfully aware of 3 top reasons I wasn't ready for rep.
1. Not Understanding My Unique Image
I figured I wasn't getting rep, because I didn't look like everyone else who was booking. So, I went hardcore and transformed my body to look like the chick from The Terminator. You could play multiple musical instruments on my washboard abs...lol. Of course, a new headshot session was called for.
Proudly displaying my six-pack abs, my agent looked at me, shook her head and asked, "Why are you killing yourself trying to look like every other girl...when you could make a killing as a character actress". Clearly, that was not the response I was looking for. Feeling defeated, embarrassed and pissed off, I covered up my abs and took the first thing smoking back up to Harlem.
Years later, it turns out that I make a very good living being what? You guessed it...a character actress. As a matter or fact, I made history being the only actress to recur on four sitcoms at the same time. Lesson: Sometimes other can see what you can't figure out for yourself. Be open, realistic and embrace who you ARE...not the girl or guy down the street.
2. No Training
Was I in acting class? Nope. Had I ever been in an acting class.? Nope. Do I study now? HELL YEAH!!! Listen kids...You HAVE to study and arm yourself with the very tools to assist you in NOT doing the old crash and burn at your audition or agent interview. Trust me, there are a dozen guys and dolls trained within an inch of their life who will wipe up the floor with you and walk away with the gig/rep you want and feel you deserve.
How do you fix it? Research and audit classes and teachers until you find the right fit for you. If you can't afford class, start a workout group with your actor friends once a week or once a month. It will keep you sharp and ready for the one. REMEMBER: Luck =Prepartion + Opportunity
3. No Networking Skills
An agent told me once that he is in the "repeat business". That means, you have have to establish and network yourself in this business to make people want to recommend you for gigs and work with you multiple times. The more you network, the more people know you, the more chances you have to create an arsenal of contacts that will go out of their way to hook you up. If you look at my resume, you will see from my credits that I have worked with various people multiple times. Now...let's keep it real. You will only get referrals and repeat business if the professionals tossing your name around trust that you will make them look good and represent them in the best light. Why? Repeat Business...my dear Repeat Business.
Barry Moss was memorialized yesterday in New York City. If it weren't for this dear sweet man, Wayne Cilento and Joey McKneely, my career on Broadway would have never begun.
To me... Barry Moss Was Broadway. He and his longtime friend Judy Rich also kickstarted my career on television by bonding together over how to get me an agent. They put me in touch with their best friend. ..a casting director for a very popular show. He shut down his office and called agencies all over Los Angeles until he found just the right fit for me.
I loved him and will be forever grateful for making this little girl from the Midwest fulfill her dream on performing on a Broadway stage...Thank you Barry!!!
As an adult, there's always a little part of us that lights up when a childhood memory is rekindled in the form of a smell, a picture or simply a feeling. I remember fondly, with anticipation, every year when all the Christmas specials would come on television. You see, at that time, there were no DVD's or the internet. You had to wait once a year to see your favorite special. For me, it was Santa Claus is Coming To Town and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
These specials were created with what those in the movie business call "stop motion animation". It's a technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence. As a matter of fact, 3D printers were often used in the his animating process.
At a recent Q&A, the animators revealed that a waltz sequence (one of many highlights) took nearly 18 months to complete the animation. Whew! I know their hands must be seriously broke down...lol. The animators got only one rehearsal, which can take up to three days. It's kinda like have an opening night in the theatre for 18 months until the sequence is completed.Here a little preview of how that works...
As you can see it is not a new concept, but one that in recent years has been revived in animated features such as Coraline and Paranorman. This week, we have the pleasure of watching another creation of stop motion animation released by Focus Features - The Boxtrolls.
The Boxtrolls (based on the alan snow Book) reminds me of the children's fable Pinnochio. You know the one where the wooden boy desperately wants to be a real boy. In this case, we have a real boy, who thinks he is a box. He talks like human, but behaves and lives like a boxtroll until fate steps in and changes everything. It's kinda like the tagline for the film..."Heroes come in all shoes and sizes...even rectangles".
Much to my delight, I found myself getting swept away with the storyline and its characters much to my delight!!! The characters are voiced by Tracy Morgan, Sir Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning and newcomer Isaac Hempstead Wright.
Do yourself a favor and take the family out on September 26th...you won't regret it I promise...
As I am posting this obituary...I am still in disbelief. Joan Rivers was the last standing guard of pioneer female comedians. If it were not for her, Moms Mabley, Totie Fields, Lily Tomlin, Phyliss Diller and countless others who are no longer with us. We may not have been able to enjoy the comedy of Rosanne, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Mo'Nique, Sommore, Sheryl Underwood and the list goes on and on and on.
Rivers, known for her catchphrase “Can we talk?,” was a pioneering confessional,self-depricating comedian known for joking about her personal life, marriage and plastic surgery on TV and in clubs for more than five decades.
Whatever gig Rivers was doing whether it was as a permanent replacement host on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” co-host of “Fashion Police,” her syndicated talk shows, Vegas engagements, bestselling books, commentating on awards’ show arrivals along with daughter Melissa or as a QVC saleswoman — Rivers was never too far out of the spotlight.
Her ability to ad-lib effortlessly in any situation endeared her to generations of television viewers, but at the time gained her many a critic. Joan Rivers was never afraid of sounding politically incorrect and repeatedly stirred up controversy by doing so. This summer alone, she first ruffled feathers when she called First Lady Michelle Obama “transgender”, implied that President Barack Obama is gay and who can forget walking out on CNN anchor Fredericka Whitfield, but not without proclaiming that Whitfield "was not the person to interview anyone about comedy."
Her life was also marked by the tragedy of her husband and manager Edgar Rosenberg’s suicide, which was played out in the media, especially since her relationship with Rosenberg had been so much a part of her comedy routine.
She wrote, directed and appeared in “Rabbit Test,” a film about a man (Billy Crystal) who becomes pregnant. Although Rabbit Test wasn't blockbuster River would later make appearances in films such as “Spaceballs” and “Serial Mom” and did voice-over work in film such as “Look Who’s Talking” and “Shrek 2.” She cameo’d in 2011’s “The Smurfs.”
In 2008, “Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress,”, played the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and London’s Leicester Square Theater, but critical response in London sunk the show’s prospects for Broadway.
Her many books include the autobiographical “Enter Talking,” “Still Talking,” “Bouncing Back” and “Don’t Count the Candles: Just Keep the Fire Lit!” and her most recent book "Diary of A Mad Diva".
In addition to her daughter, survivors include a grandson, Cooper. Her sister Barbara died in 2013 at 82.
Joan Rivers was one of a kind. She never apologized for ANYTHING, which made her (in my opinion) refreshing in a world where people are apologizing every two seconds for who they are and/or what they supposedly stand for.
I owe Joan Rivers a huge debt. My career in commercials started largely in part to her. You see, the very first commercial I ever did was for The Joan Rivers Talk Show with Joan in the late 80's. That day I witnessed a Joan Rivers that was kind, funny and a lovely human being.
RIP Joan...Hope you, Johnny and Edgar are able to catch up and have a few more laughs...
Here is the trailer from a documentary chronicling the life of this groundbreaking woman called a A Piece of Work. It can be seen on NETFLIX.
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Charlie Chaplin is one of my favorite movie stars. I could watch his films - silent and with sound until my eyeballs popped out! So, when I heard that Sir Richard Attenborough was directing a film on my fav starring one of my other favs...Robert Downey, Jr. I was beside myself! Although Chaplin gave RDJ his first Oscar nomination, by Hollywood standards, the film was considered a flop. Of course, this was a blow to its director, who just five years earlier was lauded for his film Cry Freedom starring Denzel Washington about South African activist Steven Biko.
However, it is his direction of Ben Kingsley in his Academy Award winning role as Gandhi that most remember the directing genius of Richard Attenborough. Mr. Attenborough brought the film to fruition after a 20-year battle to raise money and interest often reluctant Hollywood producers, one of whom famously predicted that there would be no audience for “a little brown man in a sheet carrying a beanstalk.” (Mr. Attenborough ended up producing it himself.)
The film had 430 speaking parts and used over 300,000 extras for Gandhi’s funeral. No one expected it to recoup its $22 million cost, but it wound up earning 20 times that amount.
Attenborough, left directing briefly to re-claim his acting career with the role of John Hammond in the mega-hit Jurrassic Park.
He was credited with inspiring Princess Diana, whom he coached in public speaking, to start her campaign against land mines. Christopher Hart, writing in The Sunday Times in London, called him “an ennobled Champagne socialist of the old school, a mass of good causes and inconsistencies.” On the set he was known for his genial charm, calling everyone “darling,” however mighty or marginal they were. William Goldman, the screenwriter of “A Bridge Too Far,” called Mr. Attenborough “by far the finest, most decent human being” he had ever met in the movie business.
Ironically, In 2008, he published an autobiography, “Entirely Up to You, Darling.” The book chronicles a full and eventful life. But it ends with the death of his daughter and granddaughter in the 2004 tsunami, and his regretting the time he never spent with them.
"Work", he wrote, “always took precedence.” RIP Sir Richard...
I was on Broadway in a little show called The Life and one of my co-worker's was Sam Harris (you know from Starsearch back in the days when Ed McMahon hosted). He invited us to his home for a party over the holiday season. When I arrived, sitting on a sofa in his living room were Liza Minnelli and Lauren Bacall. It was absolutely nuts!!! I was like what is my life right now!!!! Ms. Bacall was breathtakingly beautiful in a classic, movie star sort of way. I can't really explain it. It was like a halo followed her around.
Of course, I was introduced to Lauren Bacall while watching old movies with my Mom. We were watching the film that launched her career at the tender age of 19 years old from the being on a cover of Harpers Bazaar and relationship with husband/movie idol Humphrey bogart - To Have and Have Not. The scene where she ask for a light of her cigarette was famously parodied in several early morning Looney Toon cartoons and it would make me howl every time.
As an enormous fan of All About Eve, I adore the fact that Bacall won a Tony Award (C) for her role in the musical version Applause. It was classic musical theatre.
However, it was after 50 years in the film industry that she was nominated for her first Supporting Actress Oscar (c) as Barbra Streisand's Mom in 1997's The Mirror Has Two Faces. Though considered the front runner that year, she didn't win and was honored with a Governor's Award for Life Achievement in 2009.
Bacall’s 1978 autobiography “By Myself,” written without the aid of the usual ghostwriter, translated that gravel voice onto the written page and became a bestseller.
She also penned “Now,” in which she wrote about her career, family and friends since ’78 but which she declined to call an autobiography. In the book, she wrote, “I’m called a legend by some, a title and category I am less than fond of.” Lauren Bacall was one of the last sirens of the silver screen and she blazed it with the best of them. She was class personified...a movie usher at 17...a movie star at 19...a movie legend...forever.
Just a few weeks ago, I watch "The Birdcage" with my Mom. That film starred Nathan Lane and Robin Williams. I remember telling my Mom how hard I laughed at a scene where he was explaining the dance styles to one of his nightclub dancers. It was absolutely hysterical and would make me howl each time I watched it!!
So, when I saw a report of his passing from The Hollywood Reporter, I thought it was some type of sick hoax. Alas, it was true. THE funniest man on the planet was gone...but will NEVER be forgotten.
Mork and Mindy, Good Will Hunting, Aladdin, Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs. Doubtfire are just a handful of films in which the comedic comet we knew as Robin Williams made us smile and look at life just a little bit brighter if only for the few hours we shared with him in a movie theater or television set.
I remember well watching him Guest Star as "Mork" on the hit ABC comedy "Happy Days". His star power was undeniable and resulted in "Mork" being spun off into his own show on ABC. Williams' comedic timing was so brilliant and his quips were strewn out at lightening speed, which made it almost impossible for others to keep up let alone duplicate.
His unique take on characters made me laugh so hard that my stomach would be in knots. It's ironic that someone that brought so much laughter and happiness was so incredibly troubled.
Julliard trained, often times pages of script would be left blank in various projects he starred in as his improv skills were ridiculous.
With all my heart, I hope that Robin and his spirit are at peace. Like so many around the world...my heart is broken and my spirit saddened that he is no longer in the physical realm. However, there is comfort in knowing if I need to chuckle deep down in the heart of my belly, I can always pop in one of his many films or comedy albums and be reminded how Robin Williams was the master at harnessing the power of laughter ...in everyone. RIP Robin...your comedy genius lives on in our hearts.
#Actors! Are you investing in more coffee shop chats and lunches than in your career? Complaining and waiting for the phone to ring instead of taking action? If the answer is yes, then you will want to sign up for #Blueprint4Actors Survival Strategy Game Changer workshop. I will teach you to uniquely brand yourself without crossing the boundaries of gatekeepers. In just 7 weeks, you will go from a novice to a mean, lean marketing machine! Time and spaces are limited for the next session beginning mid-July!!!! Grab your spot now!
Everyone knows "The Supremes" and if you don't...they were a chart-topping hit female group in the 60's and 70's who boasts twelve #1 hits including "Where Did Our Love Go", which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
What you also didn't know is that Scherrie Payne and Susaye Green partnered up in 1979 on an album called "Partners". 30 years later and after many dedicated fans lobbied for a re-release, the ladies re-emerged as "Supreme Partners" and their "Partners" project has been re-released by Universal Japan.
This past weekend the ladies kicked off their "Supreme Partners" LIVE tour with a concert at the Sheraton Gateway LAX to benefit New Directions for Veterans . Hosted by masterful and hilarious Kevin Jordan and in the spirit of Independence Day weekend, the evening kicked off with a Color Guard presentation by New Directions and boasted a lineup of special guest artists including vocal powerhouse and Broadway veteran Charlo Crossley Fortier.
“The “Partners” album was a fantastic collaboration and we had so much fun doing it,” says Scherrie Payne. “We always felt that it was a little ahead of its time, but we’re so thrilled to know that at last, it's been released in CD format and fans are supporting it.”
Longtime Supreme fans are in awe and are showing great support for the CD released in Japan last October. Scherrie and Susaye share songwriter and associate producer credits for the album.
Susaye Greene traveled with musical genius Ray Charles as a Raelette and featured vocalist, as well as, Stevie Wonder's Wonderlove and sang a duet with him: "Joy Inside My Tears" on his "Songs In The Key of Life" album. Together they penned many tunes, including "I Can't Help It," which appeared on Michael Jackson's hit album "Off The Wall" and has been covered and sampled numerous times. Susaye also collaborated with Deniece Williams on her first million seller "Free," and was the last member of the Supremes signed to Motown Records. Most recently, Susaye had a recurring role in director Michael Ajakwe's new TV series, "Basketball Wife," and was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Twenty Feet From Stardom," directed by Morgan Neville. She is currently producing and recording a new solo album.
In 1973, Scherrie Payne became the final lead singer of Motown's legendary recording group "The Supremes."“He’s My Man,” “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking,” "Let Yourself Go;" and “You’re My Driving Wheel” were the singles that Scherrie sang lead on in Motown’s closing chapter of The Supremes. In June 1977, The Supremes performed their final farewell concert and the group was officially retired.
Since 1986, Scherrie has been a member of The Former Ladies of The Supremes, a group reflecting the unique essence of The Supremes. Scherrie is an avid writer and has written over 18 screenplays. In September 2012, her screenplay "It Always Rains On Sunday" was produced by director Donald Welch and had a 3-day sold out run in Los Angeles.
I had the pleasure of interviewing these ladies for "On Air With Tony Sweet" at UBNRadio.com and they are as lovely on the inside as they are on the outside.
The energy and positivity they exude in performance is infectious! Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the ladies hitting us with all the hit tracks from "Partners" and solo performances. The highlights were witnessing Susaye and her son collaborate on "Children of the Ghetto". There is nothing more heartwarming than a Mom's tears of joy dropping with pride at their offspring. Scherrie's solo featuring a song from one of her plays was a showstopper garnering a standing ovation.
The evening sadly came to a close by motivational speaker Bryant McGill, who shared a reading of the Goodwill Treaty that he and Susaye have been spearheading. For more on the treaty and to sign it go to http://www.bryantmcgill.com/treaty
For more information on New Directions for Veterans, go to www.ndvets.org
For Kevin Jordan Stand-up dates www.kevinjordan.com
and of course for all things "Supreme Partners" log onto: http://www.supremepartnerslive.com
A legend has left us today...I met her when I was assigned to be a talent escort for an award show in Los Angeles. She was wickedly funny, brilliant, beautiful and sharp as a tack. Her name was Ruby Dee.
Ruby Dee, best known for her role in 1961’s “A Raisin in the Sun”(the play, Poitier and Richards were all nominated for Tonys) and latterly for her Oscar-nominated turn as Denzel Washington’s mother in 2007’s “American Gangster,” passed away Wednesday in New York. She was 91.
Ruby Ann Wallace was born in Cleveland but grew up in Harlem and graduating from Hunter College with degrees in French and Spanish in 1944.
She began her career on the stage, making her 1943 Broadway debut playing a Native in a play called “South Pacific” (not the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical). She was a replacement in the American Negro Theater-produced hit “Anna Lucasta” and toured with the show. Dee appeared in three more plays in the late 1940s that had only brief runs on Broadway, including 1946’s “Jeb.” She first met Ossie Davis, who was playing the title character in “Jeb,” at this time and married him two years later. Off Broadway she appeared in “The World of Sholom Aleichem,” stage managed by Davis, in 1953.
The actress was first married to blues singer Frankie Dee Brown in the 1940s.
Dee’s Oscar nomination in 2008 for her performance as the feisty mother of a Harlem druglord played by Washington in Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” was particularly impressive because the actress made an impression on the Motion Picture Academy with only 10 minutes of screen time. She won a SAG Award for the same performance.
Dee and her husband, Ossie Davis (who died in 2005) , who often performed together, were among the first generation of African-American actors, led by Sidney Poitier, afforded the opportunity for significant, dignified dramatic roles in films, onstage and on television. They were civil rights activists beginning in the early 1950s during the controversy over the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Later they were involved in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.
When they were announced as recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004, the center described them as “one of the most revered couples of the American stage, two of the most prolific and fearless artists in American culture. As individuals and as a team they have created profound and lasting work that has touched us all. With courage and tenacity they have thrown open many a door previously shut tight to African American artists and planted the seed for the flowering of America’s multicultural humanity.”
Dee made her bigscreen debut with a prominent role in the all-black musical “That Mine of Mine” in 1946. She starred opposite boxer Joe Louis, playing himself, in 1949 crime drama “The Fight Never Ends,” but she came to prominence with her role in 1950’s “The Jackie Robinson Story,” with the first African-American in Major League Baseball playing himself and Dee playing his wife. She had an uncredited role in Sidney Poitier’s first film, “No Way Out,” the same year.
For seven months beginning in September 1961, Dee and Davis starred on Broadway in the racially charged, Davis-penned satire “Purlie Victorious,” which attracted much controversy for, among other things, its setting: a modern Confederate plantation and in the 1963 film “Gone Are the Days!,” an adaptation of “Purlie Victorious,”, as well as, the 1967 film “The Incident.”
The actress first made her mark on the smallscreen in a 1963 episode of “The Doctors and the Nurses,” drawing her first Emmy nomination. During the 1960s she had recurring roles on “Peyton Place” and daytime soap “Guiding Light” while guesting on other programs.
Dee won an Obie and Drama Desk Award in 1971 for her starring role opposite James Earl Jones in the original Off Broadway production of Athol Fugard’s “Boesman and Lena.” She won another Drama Desk in 1973 for her work Off Broadway in Alice Childress’ “Wedding Band.” She played Gertrude in a 1975 Shakespeare in the Park production of “Hamlet” that starred Sam Waterston.
On the bigscreen, Dee appeared in the Davis-directed “Black Girl” in 1972; she starred with Davis in the Davis-penned and -helmed 1976 film “Cool Red,” whose tagline was “A Dynamite Story of African Revolution!” Other films Dee starred in were with Poitier and Harry Belafonte in Poitier’s “Buck and the Preacher", the telepic “It’s Good to Be Alive,” about Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella’s recovery from a tragic accident and Spike Lee’s controversial “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.”.
Dee picked up Emmy noms in 1979 for her role in “Roots: The Next Generations” and in 1988 for her part in the miniseries “Lincoln,” based on Gore Vidal’s novel. Another highlight of the period was a TV adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in which Dee starred as Mary Tyrone. She went on to pick up an Emmy in 1991 for her performance in the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” pic “Decoration Day”, in addition to, being nominated for guest roles in 1990 on “China Beach” and in 1993 on “Evening Shade.”
The actress returned to Broadway after a long absence in 1988 with the comedy “Checkmates,” starring with Denzel Washington and Winfield. In 2001 Dee appeared in two Off Broadway productions, “Ruby’s Eyes” and the Davis-penned “A Last Dance for Sybil.” She received the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence at the 2002 edition of the Lucille Lortel Awards, which recognize achievements in Off Broadway theater.
In 2001 Dee and Davis shared a Grammy nomination with others for best spoken-word album for “The Complete Shakespeare Sonnets”; they won in the category in 2007 for “With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together.”
Dee and Davis were awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 1995. At the presentation of their SAG life achievement award in 2001, SAG president William Daniels said: “For more than half a century, they have enriched and transformed American life as brilliant actors, writers, directors,producers and passionate advocates for social justice, human dignity and creative excellence.”
Dee was married to Ossie Davis for 56 years and is survived by their three children: daughters Nora and Hasna and son Guy Davis, an actor, blues musician and choreographer.
Here is a clip from her brilliant performance in A Raisin In The Sun