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The Turning Point (1977)

"This film is like Beaches long lost relative." -Mark

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, this film's 2 Best Actress nods should've gone to 3 Women" - Yavor

"I really loved Tom Skerritt in this. I think he deserved a nomination for Supporting Actor." -Tyler

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Entries in Tennessee Williams (22)

Friday
Jun242016

Jessica's Long Journey to that Triple Crown

With only three performances remaining in Broadway's Long Day's Journey Into Night which closes this Sunday, here's Eric to talk Jessica Lange's long and awards-full career.

Jessica Lange recently became the 22nd actor to complete the official Triple Crown of Acting (performers who have won competitive Oscar, Tony, and Emmy Awards - full list prior to Jessica).  It’s an exciting moment in time, as winning the big three isn’t easy. 

Ten of her Triple Crown peers are still alive and all working to one degree or another:  Rita Moreno, Jeremy Irons, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Al Pacino, Geoffrey Rush, Ellen Burstyn, Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, and Frances McDormand.  All of these actors have had decades-long success and still get enough offers for splashy roles that it’s not inconceivable that almost any of them could win another late-career major award.

As it stands, of all the 22 current Triple Crown winners, nobody has amassed more than six total competitive awards across the three fields of film, television, and theater.  The folks with six are Ingrid Bergman (3 Oscars, 2 Emmys; 1 Tony); Shirley Booth (1 Oscar, 2 Emmys, 3 Tonys); Maggie Smith (2 Oscars, 3 Emmys, 1 Tony); Helen Mirren (1 Oscar, 4 Emmys, 1 Tony), and now Jessica Lange (2 Oscars, 3 Emmys, 1 Tony like Dame Maggie).  At this point, Mirren and Lange, only three years apart (they’re 70 and 67, respectively) would break this (granted silly) awards record if they were to win one more of the Big Three prizes.   

Now, on to Jessica's own 'Long Journey' to this triumph...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jun062016

The Furniture: Decorating Madness in A Streetcar Named Desire

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

The 70th Tony Awards are in just a few days. I certainly can't be trusted with predictions, but I’ll make one guess. The award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play probably won’t be split three ways. That sort of near-impossible result has only occurred once, all the way back in 1948. The 2nd Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play was shared by Judith Anderson, Katharine Cornell, and Jessica Tandy. Tandy won for the original broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Of course, she didn’t get to be in the movie and so we will leave her behind. Elia Kazan’s film of Tennessee Williams’s masterpiece premiered less than two years after its Broadway run ended. Its success was that instant. It won four Oscars, though all but one was for acting. That fourth prize, of course, was for production design. [More...]

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Friday
Nov132015

Here Comes A Tennessee Williams Biopic

Recent indie upstart Broad Green has announced they are developing John Lahr's biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh for a biopic on the titular playwright. No talent is attached yet, but the potential is enticing.

Williams, legendary for work such as A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, has a life ready for any number of interpretations. Struggling with mental illness at an early age and battling rampant addiction, attracting and creating stars with consistently controversial and revolutionary writing, not to mention temptestous family and love lives - if nothing else, we have a catnip coctail for any actor who could fit the bill.

Could this be heading toward a fluffy, star-filled treatment a la Hitchcock or something more character-focused like Capote? Lahr's book, a finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, dives deeply into all aspects of Williams's life, so the adaptation could as easily become a "greatest hits" biopic as is it could focus intensely on a specific aspect of his career.

We rarely get to see the stories of our gay icons and early pioneers told on the big screen. The opportunity is especially exciting here considering how his sexuality impacted his work and pushed the boundaries about what could be talked about on stage and screen. Hopefully true to Williams' place in history, this will be an intriguing one to watch as it develops.

Tennessee Williams and his "Stanley Kowalski" Brando

Related: Much more on Tennessee Williams here

Thursday
Jun182015

Mothers & Imagination

The Film Experience is proud to turn the site over to Ann Dowd for the day. Enjoy...

- by Ann Dowd

As I’ve said I did not grow up in an environment where acting was a viable career choice. I remember once when I was a teenager seeing Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet and having to go to bed afterwards … from grief! Can you imagine? I had not read it and when I saw the tragedy happening I said  “NO NO NO” I just knew that there was no way Romeo would not get the message that she wasn’t dead, that she was just sleeping. But when it went in that direction — I just was “THIS CANNOT BE TRUE”. I had to go to bed. My mother said “That’s it — No more movies! That’s the end of it.” 

Later when I became an actor she was less than thrilled. I think deep down she saw it coming, mothers are smart that way, but I know she hoped the desire would fade and I'd stick with medicine. She felt that it was such an unstable life.  But she’s wildly supportive now. She’s on board now. I love her to bits.

Of course it will be different for my children if they are interested since they grew up in the environment. My husband is also an actor and he's the chair of the acting department at CAP 21. It’s a musical theater school, a great school. I'm not teaching at the moment because I'm not able to commit to a schedule but one of my favorite things was to teach Chekhov and Tennessee Williams. I hope to do it again because it’s a lovely thing when you’ve been at acting for awhile and you can understand enough of what the students are going through and be of use to them.  

My oldest boy doesn’t have an interest in acting. My girl, who is 17, does. My littlest one came into the world singing and dancing. Living in New York our children are exposed to a lot: Music, plays, books. We remind them that there are other ways to negotiate the world besides technology. Keeping your imagination alive and well is a big thing in our house. 

Previously: Playing Patti on The Leftovers and Falling in Love with Acting 
Next: A Few Key Roles

 

Wednesday
Oct012014

A Year with Kate: The Glass Menagerie (1973)

Episode 40 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn takes to TV to show that Laurette Taylor can eat her heart out.

Apparently Kate adapted to TV quickly. Mere months after her first two part television interview on The Dick Cavett Show, Katharine Hepburn returned to the small screen, this time to act. Director Anthony Harvey (last teamed with Kate directing The Lion in Winter) did away with the more fantastical elements of the play in order to get a more "natural" feel, relying on strong acting rather than stagecraft. Nonetheless, The Glass Menagerie remains a touching work of nostalgia and regret that comments in unexpected ways on its legendary lead actress’s life.

When The Glass Menagerie premiered in 1944, Laurette Taylor’s performance as Southern matriarch Amanda Wingfield effectively revolutionized American theatrical acting. In her second foray into Williams’ world, Katharine Hepburn steps out of Taylor’s long shadow. Hepburn's Amanda is not a dreamer, but a fighter. (The biggest shock: Katharine Hepburn, she of the infamous Bryn Mawr brogue, nearly conquers a Southern accent.) Kate plays the most Yankee Southern Belle; she speaks quickly and she demands rather than cajoles. As Kate plays her, Amanda uses her frequent escapes into memory as anecdotal proof that her current suffering is undeserved.

Trivia, nostalgia, and a good reason never to clean out your closet after the jump.

Another explosive family dinner courtesy of Tennessee Williams.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug122014

Visual Index ~ Suddenly Last Summer (1959)


This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot episode is devoted to the film adaptation of Tennessee William's Suddenly Last Summer (1959) in which a brain surgeon (Montgomery Clift) whose hospital is in dire need of cash is enlisted by a filthy rich woman (Katharine Hepburn) to perform a lobotomy on her niece (Elizabeth Taylor) because that niece keeps telling lies about her dead gay son. Got that? That's just the kick-off to the crazy.

This sensationalistic film, which was the third and final onscreen pairing of bosom buddies and immortal stars Taylor and Clift, was nominated for three Oscars: Two Best Actress nominations and Art Direction.

 

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (1959)
Cinematography by Jack Hildyard
Shots are displayed in their rough chronological order. Click on the shot to read the corresponding article.
11 Shots Selected By 12 Participants

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Tuesday
Aug122014

Elizabeth Taylor in "Suddenly Last Summer". Oh how that star burned.

This is an episode of Hit Me With Your Best Shot

"Suddenly... last summer" is spoken so often in Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Joseph L Mankiewicz & Gore Vidal's adaptation of Tennessee Williams play, that it starts to take on a kind of trancy grandeur. The actresses retreat inward, psychologically, in the thrall of their own theatricality, the overheated jungles of art direction around them, and surely their good fortune to be playing Tennessee Williams characters.

my favorite scene in the film

To a minor degree the repetition of "suddenly...last summer" is not unlike the effect of Rita whispering "Mulholland Drive" like an incantation in Mulholland Dr. The comparison seems apt since both films are batshit crazy sexually charged nightmares in which a beautiful brunette has selective amnesia issues.  But let's not drift away to 2001. We stay in 1959. And two beautiful brunettes is exactly what I want to talk about since Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor loom large in my own movie fantasies, as two of my all time favorite actors. 

Suddenly Last Summer might seem dated in some respects as psychological films often do as science progresses but Elizabeth Taylor's star power hasn't aged a day. She's impossible to look away from and aces the tricky role of Catherine Holly, a woman who is fully sane but goes a little mad sometimes... and not just from the PTSD she's clearly suffering. Taylor is a smart enough actress to go for gray shadings in both Catherine's sexuality and psychology even when the gorgeous lighting by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai) is so high contrast and her monologues go so extremely black (the absence of memory) or white (the blazing white beach where her trauma began).

more after the jump

best shot

The beach was very white. Oh how the sun burned. It was like the eye of God watching us, burning, burning. There was no air that day. The sun had burned up all the air. Outside it was like inside a furnace.

And then they came...

This image seizes me. Elizabeth in the sun; Monty eclipsed. 

Which you might say is true of the movie. Both Actresses were Oscar nominated but Monty is constantly overshadowed. I'd argue that his is this adaptation's most difficult role because there's so much less to work with that it's easy to disappear as the surgeon ricochet's between two madwomen. He's best in this, his first scene with Liz; they loved each other dearly offscreen and their chemistry always blazed. It's a long duet in which he coaxes her towards memory and they flirt and spar not a little. The structure of the scene will be somewhat mirrored in the film's climax, Catherine's memory returned.

By contrast Monty practically disappears in his scenes with Katharine Hepburn, where he goes frustratingly blank even when the role suggests so much more than he's giving, particularly in Violet's insistent refrain that he is like Sebastian, her dead (gay) son, in this way or, undoubtedly, that. 

runner up images after the jump if you're a completist or so inclined to consider more options...

Click to read more ...