"IT DOESN'T matter if you're good. If you're just good you won't succeed. If you have patience and persistence and talent and that's it, you will not have a successful career as an actor. The elusive thing you need is luck."
That's Bryan Cranston in the current issue of GQ, a man who has certainly found the elusive quality that defines stardom.
Cranston is not only inside, but also on the cover of GQ, looking terrific, all dressed up and not at all resembling the TV character, Walter White of "Breaking Bad." This show, which ends its six-year run this season, wasn't being talked up much when it first appeared on AMC. Now, I'm not going to take credit for the huge success of "Breaking Bad" but after I started watching it, I also couldn't stop writing about it or the miraculously talented Mr. Cranston. I'd like to think that I was at least a little bit responsible for what Bryan Cranston would call "luck" in his career.
I don't know what Cranston is up to next -- goodness knows he needs a break from the intensity of "Breaking Bad." But TV won't be the same without this show, which has beautifully and brutally highlighted how good guys can go bad and then learn to accept, indeed embrace, the dark side. No other actor in the world could have done what Bryan Cranston has with Walter White.
No matter what the future holds, Walter was the role Bryan was born to play. But now that I have seen him so spiffy in GQ, he's definitely in the romantic leading man category. Less meth, more kisses!
Gloria Swanson, perhaps the original, excessive "star of stars," is profiled in a new book subtitled "The Ultimate Star" coming by Stephen Michael Shearer from Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin's Press. I haven't had time to delve into Miss Swanson's life but remember her well from her late years in New York after I had been introduced to her by the director George Cukor. (By then, Miss Swanson had already made her big comeback in the movie "Sunset Boulevard" and she was a character if there ever was one.) At a lunch in La Cote Basque, she asked me about the name printed on the lemons, which had been served with the fish. "Does it say these lemons are Sunkist?" she asked. When I said it did; she threw up her hands! "POISON! I'VE BEEN POISONED!"
She then ate her lunch vigorously, ignoring her own premonitions and told me that a woman with a dozen lemons from a grocery store had driven with them "sealed up in a little car and had died en route."
I think this new Swanson book should probably be read in concert with "The Patriarch," the book that came out about a year ago on Joseph Kennedy, the father of JFK and family. This book was a real work of history and corrected many misimpressions about Kennedy's movie successes with his star, Ms. Swanson. Among other things.
The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas owns Gloria Swanson's papers.
I see that The Hollywood Reporter has done an article on what happens when celebrities and stars form their own foundations for charities -- what it means sometimes, charity-wise and tax-wise. And why it may be better to contribute directly to known established organizations.
Here's their list of "Hollywood's Biggest Foundations" -- the five that take in the most money.
They are the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which lists $83.3 million for Parkinson's research, Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, getting $17.3 million for coping with cancer, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, bringing in $14.9 million for spinal cord injuries and paralysis, Elton John's AIDS Foundation, brings $9.76 million for HIV/AIDS and last, but not least and most unusual, Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project, which gets $9.7 million for establishing neighborhood parks and cleaning up New York City.
I am so pleased to be a part of the latter, though I guess I've shilled for all of these groups. But believe me; the Restoration Project is all because of Bette and Mayor Bloomberg and eager New Yorkers! It's amazing the difference Bette has made!
Shirley Herz, a longtime pal and the only legitimate theater press agent to ever be given a Tony Award, even has a lobby at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on West 47th Street named after her.
Shirley was so upset over the accidental death recently of her friend and fellow press rep, Miller Wright (he fell from a high window) that she became ill herself and was rushed to Mt. Sinai and is recovering from brain surgery for a blood clot.
She is now at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Tyne Daly, Angela Lansbury, Enid Nemy, Liz McCann, Barry Brown, Diane Judge and her many admirers, including theater philanthropist Sam Altman, are in attendance.
Shirley is very popular as theater writer Michael Riedel reported recently.
LET'S add to our Ava Gardner lore, which has dominated lately because of the dazzling new book on her by Peter Evans, "Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations."
My friend Peter Rogers, living now in New Orleans, sends me a story from his days when he scored nearly every big star in America and points east for the "What Becomes a Legend Most" advertising campaign for Blackglama Mink.
"I heard Ava was at the Regency so I decided to call but waited till after lunch, thinking she would have had a few drinks. Obviously, I wanted her to do the Blackglama ad along with the rest of the stars of the world, as there never had been or now will be any woman as beautiful. So I called about 2:30 p.m. and she answered the phone herself. I introduced myself and my reason for calling. I told her we'd give her whatever kind of Blackglama mink she liked.
"She had obviously had a few drinks and her reply was this: 'Sure, honey I'll do it -- for a leopard coat!' She then hung up. So much for what became a legend most!"
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun