"OH, Blanche. You know we got rats in the cellar?"
That was one-time child star Baby Jane Hudson, played by Bette Davis, tormenting her wheelchair-bound sister, the well-groomed movie queen, Blanche, played by Joan Crawford, whose career was cut short by a car accident.
This is one of the innumerable great moments in the movie version of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane."
But what many fans don't realize is that the movie is based on a book by the late Henry Farrell. It was Joan Crawford who read the book and thought it would make a fine vehicle for herself and Miss Davis. She visited Davis backstage during the controversial run of Bette's "Night of the Iguana."
(That was a production and performance Tennessee Williams hated. And Miss Davis, of course, was pleased when her "Iguana" co-star, Patrick O'Neal came to loathe her. Bette could only work in full battle mode.)
Anyway, a brand-new edition of the book has been released. It contains extras such as Farrell's biography, written by Mitch Douglas. And three of Farrell's short stories, in print for the first time.
Douglas also includes some info on the famous Davis/Crawford feud, which is always fun to read about, though I honestly believe it has been greatly exaggerated. One way or another, it is Davis who comes off much worse than Crawford. (But who can resist Bette's tale of Joan wearing iron falsies, the better to make it more difficult for Davis to lift her off the floor?)
And it should come as no surprise that there is a West End/Broadway version of "Baby Jane" in the works. It doesn't appear to be a musical. Although there are limits to what Blanche Hudson could do, being in a wheelchair. Casting? How about Vanessa Redgrave and Judi Dench?
The new edition of "Baby Jane" comes from Grand Central Publishing.
I did get a kick out of "entertainment reporter" Bill McCuddy saying that he now knows that the star Alec Baldwin "is old" because his new MSNBC show, called "Up Late," is on the air at 10 p.m. EST; 9 p.m. Central.
Nevertheless, Baldwin is compelling, whatever the hour. His heart-to-heart with the elusive and sometimes mysterious actress Debra Winger was absolutely riveting. In the first place, these two talked about acting, publicity and stardom in a charming manner. They are both self-interrupters, which makes one strain to follow them and stay on point. Because neither is run of the mill and not "into it" for any obvious reason, they keep you concentrating. They are not run-of-the-mill stars out working to be better known or to sell anything.
I just loved it. I wish Alec would talk to other actors more because, frankly, I am sick of almost every politician I have ever heard of.
This show reminds me a little of another MSNBC host, Lawrence O'Donnell, who does as he darn well pleases and has a big sense of humor. One senses he might just chuck it all right in the middle of the show.
I haven't met even half of the people MSNBC puts on beginning at 5 p.m. each day but I like sticking with this liberal network. I feel almost everyone on MSNBC could be a personal friend, even when I don't agree with them.
THE GREAT Shirley Jones, who was a sensational, beautiful star of movie musicals before she became the mullet-haired, pants-suited matriarch of TV's "The Partridge Family," is returning to the stage. She will star in playwright Josh Ravetch's new work, "The Astronomer." No word on what it's about, but public readings have been very good and Miss Jones has signed on for a full-blown production.
And in case you need reminding, Shirley Jones won a best supporting actress Oscar in 1961 for her portrayal of a hooker in "Elmer Gantry." That same year Elizabeth Taylor took best actress for her call girl role in "BUtterfield 8. I'm racking my brain trying to think if such a confluence of sluttiness ever occurred at the Oscars again?
LAST WEEK'S gripping episode of "Homeland" gave me hope that the series had regained its footing. However, the one that ran this past Sunday made me wonder if the writers had gone as crazy as Claire Danes' bipolar CIA operative Carrie Mathison? The "twist" ending of the most recent episode seemed tacked on, riddled with holes. (I won't spoil it for those who might be behind on their DVR viewing.)
Even more distracting, are the misadventures of Brody's (Damian Lewis) daughter, Dana. It's all very teenage and "Twilight," minus the fangs and super-pale make-up. The young actress, Morgan Saylor, who portrays Dana, is quite attractive and an able actress, but her plotline is totally off the radar of what the show promised to be. And viewers are almost unanimous in their distaste for Dana's story arc. Of course, critics always go too far, especially online. They write -- all in caps -- that they want the character dead! (Morgan should have a chat with Anna Gunn, who had to defend her character, and herself, in a New York Times article!)
I won't give up on "Homeland." I just hope the show hasn't given up on its original fan base.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
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