Oscar History

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Where My (Legendary) Girls At: Jane, Lily, Diane, and Debbie

Any 24 hour period that has wonderful news about four film legends is a good day, at least in part. We have to grasp at happy straws considering the "real" world outside of the arts. So, let's start with the best best actress news of the day week month...

first still (since pulled it looks like it)

That Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin Netflix series "Grace & Frankie" is really happening and Jane Fonda wrote about it while sharing the first still and behind the scenes photos yesterday: 

I had a brief hard spell the first day, moving away from my Leona Lansing-Newsroom mode and into comedy. Comedy requires different muscles, a subtle shifting of gears, of attitude. It’s harder, in my opinion. This kind of comedy has to be real, the comedy has to come out of reality, out of pain, yet it has to be funny... 

Some actors don’t like to watch dailies (the footage you shot the day before). I, on the contrary, benefit from watching them, and not just the footage that I’m in. I’m one of the producers on this series and I need to see everything. Besides, it helps me calibrate my performance.. 

Jane Fonda would make the best Smackdown guest because she takes acting so seriously, articulates it well and still has curiousity about it; my heart practically burst at a Fonda event a year or two ago when she mentioned her plan to go back to acting class for reasons that there's always more to learn about your craft. This from a two time Oscar winner who, at her best, is pretty untoppable in terms of acting magic. It reminded me of Madonna taking vocal lessons in the 90s and then guitar lessons in the 00s -- Mega-successful people who still stay humble about their talent and seek to improve are a rare breed and deserve enormous respect. One of the great dangers of success is laziness and coasting, you know.

As for Lily, her 75th birthday is next month and we'll be sure to celebrate it somehow.

Debbie Reynolds & Diane Keaton after the jump... 

As you may have heard - the news spread fast on Twitter yesterday - Debbie Reynolds will be the next Lifetime Achievement Recipient at the SAG Awards. SAG is so much kinder to actresses than other awards shows. In this century alone they've honored 7 of them with lifetime salutes or nearly 50% of their honorees. The Globes and Oscars are much more sexist, egregiously sexist really, with women only accounting for a tiny margin of Honorary statues with only 2 of 13 and 2 of 24 respectively this century (I did not include the Jean Hersholt Huminatarian Award in this number... I'm just talking traditional Honorary Oscars).  

Debbie Reynolds is such a great choice. Not only did she star in one of the indisputably greatest films of all time (Singin' in the Rain) but she kept working from decade to decade on stage and small and large screens (Mother, Will & Grace, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Bundle of Joy, The Mating Game, Behind the Candelabra, The Singing Nun, and more...) delighting audiences of multiple generations. She has also contributed to film history entirely outside of her own luminous career in four major ways:


  1. She brought Carrie Fisher into the World
  2. She inspired one of the great showbiz novels and films (Postcards from The Edge)
  3. She granted Elizabeth Taylor even more "edge" and erotically potent mythology with that massive 50s scandal when Liz (Debbie's friend) swiped her husband from her
  4. Her memorabilia obsession, museum, and auctions helped keep Hollywood nostalgia and history alive. 


Congratulations to Debbie. Can't wait to see the tribute on January 25th, 2015

You can't dispute that she's legendary but, as we discussed on the last podcast, there's plenty to quibble about in how she's using that status on her career choices this century. Still, the legends often get their "victory tours" even if their current work is alarmingly beneath them. She'll be honored with the Golden Icon award on October 1st in Zurich.

Keaton photographed by the great Peggy Sirota recently

I was relatively quiet on the Keaton topic on the podcast but let the record show that my own taste in Diane Keaton is a little off-consensus. I think of her as one of the great dramatic actors despite most of her legend stemming from comedy. Of course she's just genius in Annie Hall, a comedy, and regularly darling in them. But Reds and Looking for Mr Goodbar are just sublime dramatic performances and my other two favorite star turns from her relatively strong filmography -- strong until post-Something's Gotta Give I mean. 

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Reader Comments (18)

One of these days I will rewatch Unsinkable Molly Brown. I haven't seen it since I was seven (it was an illicit Christmas Eve showing where I stood and watched all of it in my mom's room when I was supposed to be getting ready), and back then my main reactions were "A baby is floating down a river! That happens?!!?" and "WHY DOES EVERYONE HAVE SUCH WHITE TEETH IN THE WILDERNESS?"

I wonder if it holds up. I mean outside of the dental work.

Fun choice by SAG, but they usually make good choices. Hope Carrie Fisher is part of the presentation.

August 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKacey

My favorite Diane perfs are Reds and Goodbar too! I can't believe we still haven't gotten a good release of the latter, it makes me so ANGRY. I did get to see it on a big screen here in NY a couple of years ago and it's a GORGEOUSLY shot film, which you can hardly tell from the copies that are around.

August 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Did you see Fonda's AFI speech? It showed, once again, that that woman is PURE CLASS and TALENT. And when she began saying "in all these years acting there was only one person who asked me about acting", I immediately knew who that person was :) And she gives the most eloquent advice about the craft I've ever seen - I mean, her Inside the Actors Studio interview is magnificent.

August 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Diane Keaton's performance in Shoot the Moon is absolutely incredible.

August 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

"My heart practically burst at a Fonda event a year or two ago when she mentioned her plan to go back to acting class for reasons that there's always more to learn about your craft..."

Hear that, JLaw?

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Hear that, JLaw?

Beware that Guy Lodge reads this blog and he worships that bitch.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

You forgot to mention Debbie Reynolds' greatest performance, The Catered Affair.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Goodbar, Interiors, Shoot the Moon, Reds, The Godfathers... I'm also probably a bigger fan of Keaton's dramatic work on the whole.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Diane was sublime in Goodbar...I simply love the movie, not to mention the soundtrack (it was also the first time I heard 'Try me I know we can make it' by Donna Summer). As for Jane, she was easily one of my three favourite actresses back in the 70s. I do also like her in some of the 60s flicks like Cat Ballou, Barefoot and of course They shoot horses:) Yes I agree with one of the commenters here that her appearance in Inside the Actors Studio was simply a revelation.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJans

It isn't de rigeur to say, but Keaton is really very good in Marvin's Room. And Debbie Reynolds will always be Tambrey Tyree from Tammy and the Bachelor to me (although it, too, isn't everyone's cup of tea).

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

Jane Fonda deserves praise for a memorable body of work, but let's not forget the sublime talents of Lily Tomlin. I am looking forward to this Netflix program, anything that gives the sharp and witty Tomlin a chance to show her stuff.

Of Diane Keaton's dramatic work "Shoot the Moon" is an astonishing performance, I don't know why that film is so obscure.
Debbie Reynolds has gone in and out of fashion, and I admire her staying power.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

When I saw the headline I thought they were all about to star in something together - that would be exciting.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe (uk)

My favorite guilty pleasure in the movies is the "movie makeover." The Unsinkable Molly Brown is essentially just one long makeover, so heck yeah, it still holds up. Makeover of looks, homes, "inner lives," etc. The music is pretty forgettable except for Molly's big "I"m Gonna Learn" song or whatever it is called.

I like Diane in just about everything including her "minor" movies like Mrs. Soffel and Manhattan Murder Mystery.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

Growing up, I always admired Jane Fonda, but it has only been in the last decade that I have grown to truly appreciate how amazing her talent is. Not to mention what a fascinating and intelligent woman she is. That performance in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is nothing short of shattering. I recently watched her early film Sunday in New York, and while the movie didn't really impress, Jane shone like a true star. That kind of power on screen is so rare.

Diane has always been one of my favorites (she's in my Top Ten), since The Godfather Part II. Once at a dinner party after a few cocktails, I re-enacted the infamous abortion speech. Got the party going.

I agree that her dramatic prowess, which is very underrated, impresses me most. I don't think anything would have stopped her Oscar win for Annie Hall, but her work in Goodbar surely sealed the deal. She should have been nommed for Shoot the Moon (I woulda taken out Winger), and she is wonderful in Reds. I also love her in the controversial The Little Drummer Girl. And Baby Boom--oh yeah.

I would have Oscared her for Marvin's Room. Beautiful, delicate work.

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Why the hell doesn't Lily Tomlin have her Kennedy award yet? Complete travesty.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

I too am a disciple of Dramatic Diane, especially in Reds and Shoot the Moon.

@Nathaniel: I totally get what you mean and I admire your loyalty but (Miranda voice) it's still somewhat ...comical to imagine Madonna being "humble about her talent." Surely among Madonna's many virtues, humility is not high? Taking acting classes despite having two Oscars and a legendary career seems not the same as taking vocal lessons because you are a genius pop innovator and songwriter but are in no way ready to sing a demanding musical-theater role. And arguably remained unready, though I think people are often too hard on her performance in that part. I admired what she did. I appreciate what you're saying. Good for her. But humble? (You can throw this back at me when I inevitably defend Mariah's integrity and underappreciated verbal ingenuity at some later date, even though I will mean it.)

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

After 10 years of crap roles Miss Keaton needs to take on more diverse roles. She is still a vibrant actress and has the talent. As mentioned in various interviews/ articles etc.. she has lots of other things going on besides acting. Along with Gena Rowlands , Judy Davis , and , Miranda Richardson, she is a great actress in need of a great role to showcase talent now!.. a true Individual on every level.

August 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDino From Dublin Ireland

Nick -- i take your point. Maybe because I did read it in Miranda's voice. Perhaps Humble was the wrong word but I emphatically mean every other word in that paragraph.

August 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

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