Friday, March 25, 2011

Rudolph Valentino Birthday Event - May 11th

May 11th is the revised date. Mark your calendars!
The Board of the Hollywood Heritage has invited me to participate in an Evening at the Barn Event to celebrate Rudolph Valentino's 116th birthday.

On the docket from me will be a presentation of rare shots of The Sheik Offscreen and I expect a Q&A session. On display will be some incredible Valentino memorabilia from the collection of my good friend Tracy Terhune ( he's got the best collection of personal, autographed and just some amazing items all related to Valentino. If you are in LA, don't miss this opportunity to see some primo stuff on display.

An abdiged version of Blood and Sand will be screened with Rudolph Valentino and the 88 American Beauties.

I'll have copies of my book Rudolph Valentino the Silent Idol on hand for sale and to be autographed.

Hope to see some LA peeps there, it's going to be a fun evening!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

Peggy Ann Garner and Elizabeth Taylor in Jane Eyre

First, there was her overwhelming beauty. A heart shaped face, delicate beauty like the most exquisite china doll. From her earliest appearances on film, as in Jane Eyre, you could not take your eyes off this gorgeous child.

Second, she was as S-T-A-R. She epitomized the glamour of old Hollywood and the swank of the swinging 1960’s. She relished it and so did we!

Third, she grew into a fine actress. Not much was required of her beyond her spectacular beauty in so many of her films. As she was nurtured by the likes of George Stevens and her dear friend Montgomery Clift for A Place in the Sun, her depth as a performer grew. Hardly perfect, she gave 100% and left some fabulous performances that will live on as classics long after my generation is long gone from this earth.

A Place in the Sun

She was a gusty woman, an earthy lady by all reports. She could swear a blue streak and delighted in it. When it was required, she could be one of the boys. She was more than the sum of her legendary career. She lived her life to the fullest; she had her demons and conquered most of them. She survived more marriages and had at least one great love in her life. She was a loving mother and grandmother. She was an intensely loyal friend. She had tremendous courage. She’s a person I wish I had the chance to know.

Her death was not unexpected; she nearly died so many times. Her life was plagued by ill health of all sorts as well as addictions, accidents and a brain tumor. She gave so much with a real and truly generous heart, it’s no wonder it gave out at last.

We’re fortunate to have so many films to remember her by, the fun, the campy, and the truly fine. This is all wonderfully delicious gravy.

For me, I keep turning back to the words courageous and loyal. As much as I love her films, it is that which I will always remember her. Elizabeth Taylor took her fame and twisted it into something to do something truly good. The creation of AmFar and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the worldwide good it has done for AIDS research and AIDS patients is a tremendous legacy to leave. She tried very hard to give where it mattered most to her. Before ill health prevented her, she traveled the globe for her cause and donated countless millions and gave of her heart and time. When she accepted her Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, she said "I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being — to prove that we are a human race, to prove that our love outweighs our need to hate, that our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame." She was no saint and I am sure would raucously laugh at the hint of it. She did what she believed in. That's admirable.

RIP Liz, I think I’ll watch Cleopatra, it’s such good fun. Sleep well and thank you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Diva Meets Diva

Thanks to a posting on a Yahoo Group dedicated to my favorite soprano of the 1950s and 1960s Renata Tebaldi, here is a wonderful photo of Diva meeting Diva. Gloria Swanson and Renata Tebaldi and I first assumed was taken at the Old Met Opera House. Upon reflection, this looks like a costume Tebaldi sported for the Verdi's Falstaff. This will date the photo to be circa 1958 at the Chicago Lyric Opera under Carol Fox. Both Divas looks absolutely terrific.

I love how Tebaldi looks absolutely delighted to be chatting with Swanson. I am sure Swanson thoroughly enjoyed the performance. The cast for this Falstaff is truly mouth watering, along with Tebaldi as Alice, Anna Moffo as Nanetta, Giulietta Simionato as Mistress Quickly, Anna Maria Canali as Meg Page, Tito Gobbi as Falstaff, Cornell MacNeil as Ford, the divine Tulio Serafin conducted. To have been a fly on the wall that evening!

Gloria Swanson, of course, was a long standing opera fan who had a close friendship with one of my other favorite sopranos, the soprano nicknamed "the Caruso in Petticoats," Rosa Ponselle.