Saturday, May 7, 2016


When I was a kid, our mother rarely watched old movies on daytime TV.  So, if she put chores aside and watched one and suggested that I watch too, I knew that movie was significant.  That's exactly what happened late one afternoon when the local CBS station aired ALL ABOUT EVE.  Mom's face lit up and she said, "Ooooh, that's a good one!"  Need I tell you that Mom was right?  The movie got 14 Oscar nominations.  Two in the Best Actress category (Bette Davis and Anne Baxter) and two in the Best Supporting Actress category (Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter).  George Sanders won for Best Supporting Actor.  Joseph Mankiewicz took home Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.  His 20th Century Fox film won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1950.
ALL ABOUT EVE airs on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) at 8p ET/5p PT for your Saturday, May 7th, entertainment.  The screenplay and the performances are so rich, so sophisticated that you may want to give this classic your full attention if you're seeing it for the first time when you catch tonight's TCM presentation.  Don't check Twitter for live tweeting, don't keep checking Facebook for messages, save the Wikipedia and IMDb trivia for when the film ends.  You can find out later who Sarah Siddons and Poodles Hanneford were.  Lose yourself in this marvelous movie -- for it's rare that we get such writing, such wit and such wonderful roles in a female-driven story from Hollywood today.  Think about it -- four actresses nominated for Oscars for performances in the same film.
Margo Channing (superbly played by Bette Davis) is a Broadway legend.  Duplicitous Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) eases herself into Margo's life.  Margo's kindness opens the door for Eve to move in on Margo's career and Margo's man.

For decades I've read that Claudette Colbert was originally slated to play Margo Channing.  That's pretty much common knowledge now among classic film fans of all ages.  Colbert sprained her back and, heartbroken, had to withdraw from the project.  Bette Davis was contacted by Mankiewicz as a last-minute replacement.  Her career was in a lull at the time.  The 2-time veteran Oscar winner had completed years of service under contract at Warner Bros.  Bette Davis would say that ALL ABOUT EVE was her career "resurrection."  With that in mind, notice something:  In the script, Margo's maid and loyal friend Birdie (perfectly played by Thelma Ritter), warns Margo that Eve studies how she "walks, talks, thinks, acts" -- like Margo is "a set o' blueprints."  Eve is out to replicate Margo.  For a character who's trying to copy her stage idol, actress Anne Baxter is styled more like Claudette Colbert instead of Colbert's replacement, Bette Davis.  Here's a pic of Colbert in 20th Century Fox's 1951 comedy, LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL.
Compare her hair styling to the styling of Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in the photos above that photo.  Baxter looks like she's copying Colbert more than she's copying Davis.  If Colbert had played Margo, Eve and Margo and Phoebe at the end would've had a similar short-coiffure look.  But we do love the larger than life, occasionally bitchy but diva-with-a-heart of gold quality that Davis gives Margo Channing.  The hair, the walk, the talk...perfect.  Bette Davis was born to play Margo.  She made terrific acting choices in her characterization and she was smart in the costuming note she gave to famed designer Edith Head.  Head also won an Oscar for this film.
Bette Davis reportedly suggested to Edith Head that the now-famous party dress be off the shoulder.  She felt that Margo, from descriptions in the screenplay, was an off-the-shoulder dame.  There's Margo's party dress in the above photo of Bette Davis and Thelma Ritter.  Another bit of business in ALL ABOUT EVE fascinates me.  And it's a statement on how one never knows what The Fates may have in store for a Hollywood career.  Look at the top photo and you see screen newcomer Marilyn Monroe in a bit part as Miss Casswell, Addison DeWitt's showgirl date who's not exactly the brightest bulb on the chandelier.  As he says during a conversation, "You have a point.  An idiotic one, but a point."  You also see Monroe in the photo from LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL with Claudette Colbert.  In that comedy, Monroe had a bigger part.

By 1955, Marilyn Monroe would no longer be a bit player.  She'd be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, an international sex symbol, and -- like Bette Davis -- she would become a Hollywood legend.  Marilyn Monroe and Thelma Ritter are seen together in a shot during the staircase conversation at Margo's party.  Guests are seated on the staircase chatting about the highs and lows of seeking a career in the theater.
In 1961, Marilyn Monroe would be the star of THE MISFITS.  Her leading man was Clark Gable.  Think of the line that Max Fabian says on the staircase at Margo's party:  "Did she say sable or Gable?"  John Huston directed the drama.  The original screenplay was written by famed Broadway playwright and Marilyn Monroe's husband at the time, Arthur Miller.  By the way, Miller is mentioned a couple of times in ALL ABOUT EVE when Margo blows up at her director/boyfriend and her playwright when she learns that Eve Harrington has become her understudy.  In the supporting cast of THE MISFITS and doing scenes with Monroe, was Thelma Ritter.
Thelma Ritter was an Oscar nominee for ALL ABOUT EVE in which Marilyn Monroe was a bit player.  She acted opposite top Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe in what would be Monroe's last completed film before her untimely death.
Wow. What a Hollywood story.  Enjoy ALL ABOUT EVE.  I wish Hollywood was making movies that bright and dialogue-driven today.  I bet a lot of middle-aged actresses do too.

The year before Joseph L. Mankiewicz won his Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscars for his 1950 Bette Davis classic, he won the Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscars for 1949's A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, also a sparkling and sophisticated script with juicy roles for women. It starred Ann Sothern, Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Thelma Ritter, the voice of Celeste Holm and Kirk Douglas.

You don't get TCM on your TV?  Both must-see classics are available on DVD.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Date with SABRINA

One of the Best Actress Oscar nominations that the late, great Audrey Hepburn earned was for her luminous, intelligent, sophisticated work in Billy Wilder's SABRINA.  The movie opens like a modern day fairy tale with the words "Once upon a time."  Wilder's 1954 classic, a lemon peel twist on the Cinderella tale with a look at social class mobility and divisions in American, put Hepburn in a tough and highly exciting Oscar race.  The top two contenders were Judy Garland for her spectacular film comeback in the dramatic musical A STAR IS BORN and Grace Kelly for ditching glamour and dressing down in THE COUNTRY GIRL, a movie in which she played the drab, serious wife of a co-dependent alcoholic singer on the skids.  Garland was the favorite.  Kelly won the Oscar.  As for SABRINA, the role of the chauffeur's daughter who sees the playboy son of her father's boss as her Prince Charming, fit Audrey like a long velvet glove.
Sabrina's father knows that she pines for David, the handsome playboy son who lives leisurely in the Larrabee mansion, but the wise father realizes that David does not see Sabrina.  To him, she's invisible because she's the daughter of a member of the wealthy family's domestic staff.  As her chauffeur father tells her, "There's a front seat and a back seat -- and a window in between."
Sabrina will undergo an elegant emotional and fashion makeover when she leaves Long Island and studies in Paris.  She left home a caterpillar, she'll return as a butterfly.
Now the charming, carefree David will notice Sabrina.  Make that the charming, carefree and engaged David.
He will invite Sabrina to a party.  It happens to be on the Larrabee grounds.  The butterfly will be the belle of the ball.  David's fiancee will also be at the ball.  But David will make Sabrina's dream come true when he takes her in his arms and dances with her.  When he asks "Where have you been all my life?, she responds "Just over the garage."
Sent to deal with all this and keep David from, yet again, breaking up with another woman...a woman's whose heartbreak will be mended with a sizable check...his older and more business-like brother Linus will enter Sabrina's scene.  Sabrina is not like David's other girls.  She could care less about his money.  William Holden played David.  Humphrey Bogart played Linus.  Sabrina will be a breath of fresh air in Linus' life -- and she will discover that a man does not have to be young and handsome to be a Prince Charming.
Linus' bachelor life is all about work.  But responsible, wealthy Linus embraces the working  class.  When he's in the limo on the phone making Wall Street investments that will increase the Larrabee fortune, notice that he keeps the window rolled down so that the family's longtime chauffeur, Sabrina's father, can overhear and get some stock tips.  Listen to Linus in the office.  He cares about who'll benefit from his deals.  He wants to know that he's done something that will help a poor kid in Puerto Rico.  Sabrina sees Linus' heart.  He noticed Sabrina before and after her Paris transformation.  She urges him to vacation in Paris and let it transform him too.
Years ago, I saw SABRINA at a revival theater in New York City.  A young woman sitting behind me snarked, "That would never happen."  She meant that a young, lovely lady like Sabrina Fairchild would never choose the older, average looking man over the handsome, hotter one.  Well, it happens more often than we think.  Here's an example that I love:  Actress Sophia Loren, a famous screen beauty, fell in love with Carlo Ponti.
He was balding and not exactly a man one would call "a hunk."  But they married, they had two kids, and the marriage lasted until his death 40 years later.
The late Carlo Ponti continues to be the great love of Sophia Loren's life.
She turned down the chance to marry her two-time movie co-star Cary Grant and married Carlo Ponti instead.

Not that one needs to remake a Billy Wilder classic, as Sydney Pollack admitted on TCM when he was a guest host.  He remade SABRINA, a 1995 release starring Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear and Julia Ormond.  But if there was another remake of the sparkling Billy Wilder classic, here's my idea for the lead actress to play the chauffeur's daughter:  Lupita Nyong'o.

 The Oscar winner and current Tony nominee could be fabulous in that romantic comedy role.

Billy Wilder's SABRINA airs today on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at 4:00 pm Eastern time.  BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S follows at 6:00 pm Eastern.

Audrey Hepburn was born this day in history, May 4th.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kevin Spacey, Michael Shannon & Me

ELVIS & NIXON is the name of their new movie.  A trim 90-minute comedy that takes place mostly in The White House, it's a "what if" movie based on the actual meeting of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon.  Michael Shannon is not an actor you'd think of right away to play the latter day rock 'n' roll superstar, but he's fascinating to watch.  He takes a different approach to playing Elvis Presley, different from what other actors have done, and he brings you something fresh.  Also, he's funny.  We don't often to get laugh when watching a Michael Shannon performance but, in this movie, we do.
As for Kevin Spacey, he's a pro at making us laugh while he's played intimidating bosses.  This performance is no exception.  He's a hoot as Richard Nixon.
One of the big stars of this project is someone we don't see.  This comedy could've easily become too broad, like a sketch on a TV comedy show.  But it doesn't.  There's always a sense of humanity and heartache in the situations of Elvis Presley and President Nixon.  You can connect to the characters in a real-life way.  I'd give a big round of applause to Liza Johnson, the director of ELVIS & NIXON.  Add her name to the list of Women In Film that Hollywood should recognize.
I interviewed Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey recently.  We talked their approach to playing two very famous American men who were at opposite ends of the popularity scale.  Also, Kevin Spacey tells me how a performance by Jack Lemmon in a Billy Wilder classic helped him win one of his two Oscars.  Before you play the interview, here's a short clip from ELVIS & NIXON.  The two men are making house notes.  One residence being The White House.

Here's my interview.  By the way, Michael Shannon opens on Broadway in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT co-starring Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne on April 27th.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


This film should not work. But it does and it's fun.  Two internationally famous men at opposite ends of the popularity scale had a brief meeting in the White House.  President Nixon met with rock superstar, Elvis Presley.  The photo of them shaking hands a few days before Christmas in 1970 became a must-see pic of American pop culture in that decade. An imagining of what occurred during that meeting serves as the basis for ELVIS & NIXON.  Two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey stars as President Nixon.  Michael Shannon, seen recently in the sci-fi chase movie MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, is a most unlikely choice to play Elvis.  He looks more like an early David Letterman type than a 1970s Elvis.  But in this new movie, he plays Elvis and he's a winner in the part.  What a totally cool surprise!  Shannon hits a high note with just the right pitch as the rock 'n' roll legend.
Elvis Presley has been good for a couple of actors.  Kurt Russell was terrific as Elvis in a 1979 TV mini-series biography directed by John Carpenter.  Shelley Winters co-starred as Elvis' mother.  In 1990, critics loved Elvis, the ABC TV series based on the rock star's early years with actor Michael St. Gerard getting fabulous reviews as Presley.  But TV audiences just didn't take to the show and it was pulled about about 10 episodes.  With hair and make-up, both actors did resembles Elvis Presley.  Kurt Russell even sounded like him.  Michael Shannon doesn't resemble Elvis Presley and doesn't try to imitate his throaty speaking voice.  What he does do is bring you into Elvis' heart and sensitivity.  He plays Elvis as a world-famous entertainer with just enough ego to feel that the President of the United States should make time to see him.  He knows he's like catnip to the ladies.
He knows that Elvis the Star is a creation that's made him rich and famous.  It's not Elvis the real person, the man that his closest friends like Jerry Schilling know.  Jerry's the character in the left corner of the elevator photo up top.  He was a member of Elvis' Memphis inner circle.  He serves as a producer for the movie and he's played in the movie by British actor Alex Pettyfer.

Elvis is concerned about the direction of America, an America still involved with the Vietnam War and one having student protests on college campuses.  Elvis, like a movie cowboy, wants to help clean things up. He basically wants President Nixon to deputized him, if you will, and give him a badge.  What I loved most about Shannon's performance is that he gave you a look inside Elvis' broken heart and also played Elvis' extreme loopy rock star behavior as it was completely logical.

President Richard Nixon has been played onscreen previously.  Anthony Hopkins and Frank Langella got Oscar nominations for playing him in drama.  Dan Hedaya played him for laughs in the satire, Dick.  Kevin Spacey plays him for laughs here.  In this film, he's the strict and not exactly photogenic Republican president and not popular with young Americans the way Elvis is.  This Nixon is cranky, jealous, a little confused and ultimately impressed with the star whose presence could make the president seem a bit groovy with the kids.
Big praise goes to director Liza Johnson.  She's got the comedy gift.  She kept the tone disciplined and rooted in true human feelings.  Keep in mind these two men live in a couple of the country's most famous homes -- one lives in The White House and the other lives in Graceland U.S.A.  One of my favorite scenes in AMADEUS (Oscar winner, Best Picture of 1984), is when Jeffrey Jones as the clueless Emperor Jones tells the young genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, that his new composition has "too many notes" adding that there are only so many notes that the ear can hear.  It was the reaction looks on the faces of the emperor's companions listening to his sheer idiocy that broke the audience up with laughter.  Liza Johnson has the same touch Milos Forman displayed in that scene.  She displays it, with a dab of Preston Sturges, in all of ELVIS & NIXON.  Here's a trailer.

I did a TV interview of Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey this week.  I'll post it online probably next week after it's edited.

I've been a Michael Shannon fan for a few years now.  Especially when I saw his lead role in the indie drama, BUG, in 2006.  His is a face that seems to have been molded specifically for drama.  If you saw his Best Supporting Actor Oscar-nominated performance in 2008's REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and if you watched him as the 1920s Prohibition era federal agent on the HBO series BOARDWALK EMPIRE, you know what I mean.  In his meaty supporting and lead roles, rarely has delivered scenes with a comedy tone that made us laugh.  Michael Shannon made me laugh in ELVIS & NIXON.  He's quite good.  So is Spacey, an actor who's had way more comedy assignments onscreen that Shannon has.   The movie is really just about that odd meeting, one that disrupts the White House schedule.  There's a B-story about Jerry Schilling's love life and how it might suffer because he constantly has to be Elvis' wrangler.  It's an underwritten part of the script but it's so minor that it doesn't get in that way of the odd couple situation played by Shannon and Spacey.
I hope Hollywood takes notice of director Liza Johnson.  ELVIS & NIXON could've come off like an extended Saturday Night Live sketch that grew tiresome after 60 minutes.  But it didn't.  She gave us a breezy, entertaining, funny movie and a new look at the rich talents of Michael Shannon.

ELVIS & NIXON runs about 90 minutes long and it opens on April 22nd.  That's the day Nixon died in 1994.  Coincidence?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I took a chance on a foreign film on Netflix and I loved it.  I want to share it with you.  It's a subtitled Mexican film that, for English speaking audiences, is called 4 MOONS.  The Mexican title is CUATRO LUNAS.  The movie is a quartet of stories about love, disappointments and acceptance.  We see non-heterosexual males in various age categories in the stories.
There are two young men in college.  They're friends who discover they have more intimate feelings for each other than just being college buddies.  We see a couple that has been together for about ten years.  These two urban professionals present the perfect picture of a happy gay male relationship.
But there's tension.  Tiny cracks are forming in that perfect picture.  They're forming and getting bigger very quickly.
One takes immediate action to repair those cracks.  In another story, we see a bookworm type of Catholic schoolkid who develops a crush on his male cousin.  The sweet, shy bookworm is cruelly outed.  And we see the story of a senior intellectual, a married man, who's lusting after a handsome young man who seems angry at the man merely because he's old.
When I read a description of the stories, especially with the older gent having the hots for the hot young man, I was going to pass on watching the movie.  I felt like I'd seen those stories already in American films and I knew what to expect.  Well, this is not an American film and 4 MOONS gives us something different.  It's a difference worth watching.  Here's a trailer.

Sergio Tovar Velarde directed and co-wrote this 2014 film.  What drew me to it was how recognizable characters and situations were.  I saw some of my young adulthood in the story about the two college friends.  I understood their situation, the feelings and the heartbreak.  The Catholic schoolboy's confessional scene in church made me think "Been there, done that."  There's also heart in this movie -- heart and compassion, wit and surprise.  The director has a cast of very good actors to tell his stories.  In each story, you see that the male is brave to be honest at some point about his sexuality.  He's brave because there's the risk of rejection from family, church and society.  There's a physical risk.  There's also the risk of self-loathing and loneliness.  It's obvious that the director/writer cares about people.  He cares about the people in his film.  I think you'll care about them too.

There is male nudity in this film.  Front and back nudity.  You will see two men making love.  You will have to read the movie because it's subtitled.  If you can handle that, look for this good movie on Netflix.  4 MOONS runs about 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I always get a kick out of watching some obscure movie late at night and getting hooked may be low budget and obscure, but it's surprisingly good.  I had that experience last week with an undercover reporter drama called BEHIND LOCKED DOORS.  This crisp 1948 crime story is only about 1 hour long and it moves.  It's entertaining, it has energy and style.  There's noir-ish quality to its black and white cinematography.   The top thing that caught my interest was when I read that actor Richard Carlson was the star.  When I was a kid, his was a familiar face on TV shows.  Also, he was known to us kids because he was in very popular 1950s horror movies that aired frequently on local TV.  One of his best roles was in The Little Foxes, directed by William Wyler.  He's the young man who stands up to the intimidating Regina Giddens, played by Bette Davis, and courts her innocent daughter.  I liked Richard Carlson.  He had looks, class, charm and he could act.  You see that in Behind Locked Doors.  He's so cool as the private investigator.
The other thing that grabbed me was that this drama is the last film Lucille Bremer made before she decided to leave movie-making, marry and have a successful life as a businesswoman.

Behind Locked Doors has a plot that may have seemed familiar to some moviegoers when they saw Sam Fuller's 1963 thriller, Shock Corridor.  In 1948's Behind Locked Doors, a newspaper reporter (played by a non-dancing Lucille Bremer), is hot on the story of a corrupt judge who's on the run.  She believes he's hiding out in a mental institution and dodging the law by pretending to be crazy.  She hires a private eye to pose as her husband and become an institution patient so he can bust the crime from the inside.  Yes, there are shady staff members running the asylum.  And, yes, the private eye falls for the gorgeous reporter.

In Shock Corridor, a journalist hungry to win a Pulitzer Prize gets himself committed to mental institution and pretends to be crazy so he can solve an odd murder case from the inside.

For hardcore classic film fans, you look at Behind Locked Doors as being "Six Degrees of An A-List MGM Musical."  Four of the actors were in top MGM musicals.  Richard Carlson, at far right in the black and white photo, played opposite Judy Garland Presenting Lily Mars (1943).

Lucille Bremer (to the left in the color photo) and Judy Garland played sisters in Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), produced by Arthur Freed. Bremer and Garland shared screen time again in Freed's Till the Clouds Roll By.  Formerly a Radio City Rockette who went on to dance in a hit Broadway musical and was reportedly discovered by Arthur Freed, Lucille Bremer was Fred Astaire's lovely, graceful dance partner in Yolanda and the Thief (1945) and the all-star Ziegfeld Follies (1945).

Douglas Fowley was one of those versatile character actors you saw but probably didn't know by name.  In MGM's excellent WWII drama, Battleground, he's the G.I. whose dentures slip.  In the musical Singin' in the Rain (1952), he's the high-strung director trying to get silent screen star Lina Lamont to speak into the new 1920s technology called a microphone.
In the first scene of The Band Wagon (1953), he's the auctioneer who tries to get a bid on the movie top hat once worn by former screen star Tony Hunter as played by Fred Astaire.
In the above photo from Behind Locked Doors, you see Richard Carlson (left), Douglas Fowley (rear middle) and Lucille Bremer (right).  Fowley's a heavy in Behind Locked Doors.
This movie was directed by Oscar "Budd" Boetticher, a man who got rich performances out of Randolph Scott in 1950s westerns.  Later in the Behind Locked Doors story, you see a nurse.  That bit part is done by the very recognizable Kathleen Freeman.  Freeman also had a stand-out small role in Singin' in the Rain as Phoebe Dinsmore, diction coach to Lina Lamont.
If you're familiar with the history of MGM, you know it was the Tiffany of Hollywood musicals.  No studio did them better the 1930s and 40s, the heyday of deluxe Hollywood musicals.  Arthur Freed productions were such gems that he had what came to be called "the Freed Unit," utilizing master craftspeople in the production of movie musicals.  Meet Me in St. Louis, Yolanda and the Thief, Ziegfeld Follies, Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon were Arthur Freed productions.  So were The Wizard of Oz, Babes in Arms, Cabin in the Sky, For Me and My Gal, Easter Parade, On the Town, Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat (1951), An American in Paris (Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1951) and Gigi (Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1958).
Freed was also an acclaimed song lyricist.  MGM's Singin' in the Rain is practically a tribute to him.  Just about all the songs in it are from the Arthur Freed music catalog.  Some of those Freed songs were "Make 'Em Laugh,"  "Good Morning,"  "You Were Meant For Me,"  "Fit As a Fiddle," "Broadway Rhythm" and the title tune, "Singin' in the Rain." Freed could also sing.  At the end of the Halloween section of Meet Me in St. Louis when actor Leon Ames as the head of the Smith Family sings in the living room, his "You and I" vocal was dubbed by producer Arthur Freed.  Freed was singing another one of his compositions.

As for Behind Locked Doors, keep it in mind.  It's a brisk little crime drama. Try YouTube.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


It's a sunny but disappointingly cold Tuesday in New York.  It's disappointing because there are gusty wind chills in the current weather reports and this is opening day for the Yankees.  There's just something wrong about having to wear a parka while you're at the ballpark for a spring game.  I'm indoors and I listened to today's FRESH AIR hosted by Terry Gross on NPR (National Public Radio). In the last 10 minutes of the hour-long show, after the book review segment, there was a truly sweet send-off for a longtime staffer named Dorothy.  Dorothy is retiring.  Terry mentioned that one of Dorothy's many qualities was that she had no patience for anything "pretentious."  Another was that Dorothy had an audio clip from the 1987 satire HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE, a very funny and low-budget indie feature from actor, director and writer Robert Townsend.  He's pure gold as the aspiring black actor determined to get a break and break through color barriers in Hollywood.
Terry Gross played the clip of articulate and educated black actors submitted to audition for stereotypical ethnic roles.  In this current age of "Oscars So White" and racial diversity issues in the film business, Hollywood Shuffle deserves a second look and some major re-appreciation.
Terry apparently has loved hearing that audio clip for many years around the production office. Here's a trailer for 1987's Hollywood Shuffle.
I interviewed filmmaker Robert Townsend on VH1 when he was promoting that comedy.  If you know my career and my blog posts, you know that I'm proud to have been the first black talent to get his own weeknight prime time talk celebrity talk show on VH1.  I was host and writer.  Some of my guests were Kirk Douglas, Norman Mailer, Dominick Dunne, Anne Rice, Paul McCartney, Carlos Santana, The Smothers Brothers, Marlo Thomas, Alan Rickman, John Cleese, Michael Caine, Meryl Streep, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minnelli, Gregory Hines, Whoopi Goldberg, Spike Lee, James L. Brooks, Patrick Swayze, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, Dolly Parton and Fay Wray, star of the original 1933 King Kong.

I didn't have an agent before I got that national show and I didn't have one during its run.  I got an agent after my 3-year contract with VH1 was completed in 1990.  My first agent was with the New York City office of a top East Coast/West Coast agency.  Even though my talk show host work got me excellent reviews and coverage in The New York Times, People magazine and TV Guide, my agent submitted me to audition to play a low-level black crook in the sequel to Weekend at Bernie's.  Rather than explain the role, I'll show you a clip.  I was submitted to play the shorter of the two crooks -- the one in the red jacket rolling dice and trying to perform voodoo on Bernie's corpse in the men's room of a Times Square porno theater.
 The casting call specifically sought two black actors for those two roles.  The script I got the audition had the two characters trying to perform that voodoo with a bucket o' fried chicken on the side.  Seriously.

My 1990 occupational life imitated art -- the art of Robert Townsend's 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle.  Just like the funny audition sequence in the movie, that one from which Dorothy pulled the audio clip, my audition was for a Caucasian trio.  I've had great luck in my career.  One such great piece of luck was that I did not get that part in Weekend at Bernie's 2.

Here's another short clip from Hollywood Shuffle.  It's now out on Blu-ray thanks to Olive Films.  You can find it on

To hear the Terry Gross Fresh Air broadcast from today, April 5th, look for *Programs* at the bottom of the home page, click on to it and look for "Fresh Air" after to go to