Duvall has a passion for bedtime stories


Popeye is Shelley Duvall's kind of man.

And not just because the lithe actress was Olive Oyl to Robin Williams' Popeye in Robert Altman's 1980 film about the spinach-slurping sailor man.

"There's only so much you can do on Malta," Ms. Duvall said of the idyllic Mediterranean island where Popeye was filmed. So Ms. Duvall read and read and read during the six-month shoot.

Sometime during the filming, someone commented that Mr. Williams would make a "great frog." He agreed. So did Ms. Duvall.

Well, there's not much call for actors to play frogs except in kissy-face fairy tales. So Ms. Duvall said something on the order of "Robin, would you play a frog in a TV production of a fairy tale?"

Mr. Williams said yes and voila! Ms. Duvall was on her way to becoming cable TV's queen of storytelling.

First came Faerie Tale Theatre, for which Ms. Duvall was executive producer. On Showtime from 1982 to '87, the much-laureled series featured stars doing star turns in children's classics. FTT was followed by Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales and Legends.

Now comes Bedtime Stories, another brainchild of Ms. Duvall's fertile imagination. This animated half-hour series first aired in April on Showtime. The first three segments are on video as of this month.

Unlike FTT and Tall Tales, the selections in Bedtime Stories are from current children's books. The books are not classics -- not yet, anyway -- but they are popular. Most importantly, they have to be liked by the series' producer: Ms. Duvall.

"The book stops here," said the 43-year-old actress-turned-businesswoman. Each Bedtime video starts with a scene of Ms. Duvall in a life-sized pop-out of a bedroom overflowing with books, books, books.

Ms. Duvall said the show's bedroom is not unlike much of her entire house. She has more than 2,000 editions of the world's greatest children's books. In essence, they have taken over her residence.

Tape one of Bedtime Stories has Ringo Starr narrating Elbert's Bad Word and Bette Midler guiding viewers through Weird Parents. The former is a gentle no-no against bad language delivered with the buoyancy expected of the former Beatle; Weird Parent says all one needs to know in its title -- and narrator. It's great fun.

Tape two has an alligator theme. In "Elizabeth and Larry," Jean Stapleton tells about a retired lady and an alligator who become best friends. "Bill and Pete" -- about the friendship between a bird and alligator -- is told matter-of-factly by Dudley Moore.

The third tape starts with "Little Toot and the Loch Ness Monster." Rick Moranis steers viewers through this tale of a tiny tugboat's efforts to prove itself. It does so on a search for the Loch Ness monster.

Ms. Duvall said more videos of Bedtime Stories will be out in early 1993. She was also thrilled to announce that Showtime had just ordered five more shows.

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