Entries in RIP (66)
By now, I imagine most of you have heard that Joan Rivers passed away today, at 81 years old, following complications from throat surgery. The loss is doubly shocking - not just because it came about so abruptly, without any history of health problems, but because Rivers was still such a prickly, alert life force: in her reliable appearances at red carpet events and her E! television presence, she had the same quick, tart wit that made her a pop culture mainstay for a solid half-century.
Rivers' presence in cinema was limited compared to her TV and stand-up: several cameos as herself, both in live-action and animation, and a part in Mel Brooks' sci-fi parody Spaceballs as a sarcastic robot make up virtually all of her movie roles of note. She did, however, appear as the subject of the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, a remarkably intimate and comprehensive look at her career from the earliest days. It's available for viewing on Netflix, and if you haven't seen it yet, I'd highly recommend it: its presentation of the aging Joan as unapologetically confident and aware of her own mind is bracing and hilarious, and the volumes of vintage footage of a much younger Rivers in the early days of her standup showcases a biting, shockingly fresh voice that those of us who only ever knew the comedian thanks to her latter-day profession as living punchline could hardly imagine.
The world is not full enough of women who get a chance to speak truthfully, angrily, and boldly about their minds, and can be absolutely hilarious while doing it, and a true icon has been lost today. The Film Experience expresses our condolences to Joan's family, and we keep them in our thoughts.
Alexa here, with my late entry eulogizing last week's departed greats. I always find it interesting when we lose two idols at the same time, and they become linked in our mourning. There couldn't be two more different performers than Williams and Bacall, could there? Bacall, with her sultry, almost somnolent cool, and Williams, with his live-wire kinetics. Here are some curios, vintage and handmade, to celebrate their careers in film.
Here are some curios, vintage and handmade, to celebrate their careers in film.
She arrived on the scene fully formed, the most womanly, not girlish, teenager you ever did see. In truth Lauren Bacall was newly 20 when To Have and Have Not premiered but it's tough to imagine that she made it at 19. The enormous age gap with co-star Humphrey Bogart (a full quarter century) who she'd marry offscreen almost instantly was mitigated by her steely maturity. There'd be faint echoes of Lauren later, arguably, in the great Kathleen Turner's throaty sensuality and Scarlett Johansson's uncommonly early self-possession, but like all true stars Lauren Bacall was an original and remained her own inimitable thing.
2014 has been unusually cruel in the taking of key giants from Hollywood's golden age but we'll always have their films to remember them by. And in Bacall's case the filmography stretches and stretches and stretches across the eras of cinema. Bacall died yesterday at 89 in Manhattan, bringing her unusually enduring career to an end. She might not have been the most gifted or versatile actress from her peer group, but she had real onscreen fire. Perhaps it was her agelessness - she always seemed 40ish to me, whether she was a teenager or an old woman -- that helped her age so naturally onscreen. She worked consistently right until the end, finding key roles in every decade. That's something to celebrate in and of itself, in an industry so obsessed with youth.
After the jump, 10 essentials covering every decade of her career:
Robin Williams, Mork himself and Mrs Doubtfire... the clown, the blue genie, the Oscar winner, the charitable celebrity died Monday at 63. The actor, who had severe depression, apparently took his own life*. You never know how deep people's personal battles run but it's hard not to think of the unhappy cliche that many comics aren't laughing inside; the tears of a clown. To his credit the actor harnessed that duality in a few of his best roles.
But immediately our thoughts must go out to his friends, loved ones, co-stars, children and his wife who released the following statement.
This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin's death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.
Losing loved ones is traumatic enough when it's private. It surely can't be any easier when there are cameras and media and press releases. And there will have to be more of this since the actor had been quite busy recently, with a sitcom, three recent films and upcoming films, too. His new indie drama Boulevard about a closeted man played at Tribeca earlier this year (reviewed here) but it was only one of a handful of new projects. He recently completed work on three more films.
For my part I would just like to thank him for his best work over the years but especially that beautifully damaged and whimsical soul in The Fisher King (1991). As long as I live I'll cherish that gorgeous double date sequence with the big hearted humorous ensemble acting and conversation giving way to the hushed almost reverential moment when he sang "lydia the tattooed lady" to his new eccentric lady love. I'll just never forget it.
The brilliant Terry Gilliam, his Fisher King director, shared this tribute to him...
Robin Williams, the most astonishingly funny, brilliant, profound and silly miracle of mind and spirit, has left the planet. He was a giant heart, a fireball friend, a wondrous gift from the gods. Now the selfish bastards have taken him back. Fuck 'em!
What's your most cherished memory or role of his career?
* I know this is a horrible thing to mention but it's very upsetting that two Oscar winners have committed suicide in the same summer. Please if you are having such thoughts yourself seek help. Depression is a real illness and it shouldn't cause anyone shame and it doesn't discriminate. Successful people aren't any more immune to it than others.
When Colleen Donaghy died on 30 Rock in the episode "My Whole Life is Thunder" I tried to think of it as tragicomic rehearsal. A chance to acknowledge that death was coming for the beloved theater great but to laugh at it or at least about its absurd finality.
Elaine Stritch herself wouldn't have approved of my wussiness. She might've said something like "it's me who's dying, not you!" (albeit in a much funnier manner) because she had a tart tongue and was quite a truth teller. In the documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (reviewed) released early this year she references her impending death more than a little as she prepares to move back home (Detroit) and retire finally, in her late eighties, for good.
But even this documentary didn't quite convince me that she was leaving us.
I saw Elaine Stritch’s famous one woman Broadway show “At Liberty” in early 2002 a couple of years after moving to New York. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was nothing short of spiritual ecstasy but then showbiz is my religion and actresses are my only gods.
I had mythologized her, you can see in that excerpt of that intro to my review of that documentary. How could Death conquer such a life force?
It wasn't until after the special screening here in NYC that Stritch (or as I like to call her "Stritchieeeeeeeee!" imitating her imitation of an angry director in At Liberty) was wheeled out to greet us that it finally sunk in. She looked undeniably more like a feeble old woman than the giant of the theater in white shirt and black tights that I was accustomed to looking up at with awe.
The last time I'd seen Stritchieeee in the flesh before that she was also in a wheelchair. It was late 2010 when she took over for Angela Lansbury in the Broadway Revival of "A Little Night Music." She sings her big number "Liaisons" from a wheelchair. But that was just acting. More rehearsal.
When Elaine set out to do something she worked her ass off until she did it right.
So here's to the girls on the go--
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!
And this Tony and Emmy winning legend did it right. A final round of thunderous applause please because this time there's no more encores.