Turner Classic Movies to honor the late, great Richard Widmark

The Baltimore Sun

Well, we have complained often here about the Academy Awards folks neglecting to give Richard Widmark a lifetime achievement Oscar. (The actor died at 93 last week, after making his mark in many movies, including the 1947 classic for which he was nominated, Kiss of Death.) Now Turner Classic Movies will honor him with a special triple feature in April, showing Alvarez Kelly, Take the High Ground! and The Tunnel of Love.

Turner Classics is very much in the news. Every other person I meet asks if I know the genial, knowledgeable host, Robert Osborne. When I say I have known him for years, even back when he wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter - their next question is, "Will you introduce me to him?"

Mr. Osborne is firmly ensconced at TCM but is putting on his own Classic Film Festival in Athens, Ga., April 10 through 13. This outing gives a chance to show on a giant screen the classic movies most folks only see on television. The TCM host spends time each month down in Atlanta taping introductions for the classics that keep us up at night. But he is a real New Yorker.

And now, TCM is pairing him with the sexy, smart actress Rose McGowan, 34. "I love that she's not an obvious pick," says TCM head of programming Tom Brown. (I'll say! In 2007, Rose appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone attired in nothing but several well-placed gun belts. She is in the inamorata of the Texas film dynamo Robert Rodriguez.)

In the past, Osborne has appeared with legendary film partners - Rob Reiner, Sydney Pollack, Peter Bogdanovich and Carrie Fisher. Now he has a sex-bomb partner. I asked how this feels. "I feel great. She is really with it on film. I am looking forward," says Osborne, ever the gent!

May we entertain you?

"Rose is a monster," writer Arthur Laurents told Ethel Merman in his first meet with the musical comedy star back in 1958. "How far are you willing to go?" "I'll do anything you want," said Merman, and so the first Mama Rose of "the best damned musical ever" was on her way. Now Patti LuPone stars as Mama Rose, getting her girls "up and out" at the St. James Theater. She is demonic, devastating, a powerhouse and very R-E-A-L as the stage mother par excellence. "Sing out, Louise!" The audience gives a standing ovation as she comes down the aisle and another one before the show even ends.

I have seen all the versions of Gypsy. What can I say? Only that this one is the best yet. At 90, Mr. Laurents has had his way with this re-creation, and while we still celebrate Jule Styne's music, Stephen Sondheim's lyrics and Jerry Robbins' choreography - this is Arthur's show all the way.

The cast is spectacular: the best Herbie ever in Boyd Gaines. (His sexy love affair with Rose is punctuated by the singing of "You'll Never Get Away From Me" where the couple fall in ecstasy on the floor, displaying Rose's undies.) Laura Benanti, who goes from the pale lover of a little lamb to the knockout Gypsy Rose Lee, stripper deluxe, is simply fabulous. (I liked her as much as I liked Natalie Wood in the terrible movie version.)

This is not just your ordinary theater experience. Gypsy moved theater past Rodgers & Hammerstein's beloved schmaltz. As one critic dubbed it, "Gypsy is the Medea of musicals!"

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