Monday, February 11, 2013

Melissa McCarthy: My Movie Pitch

There was a time when Hollywood regularly gave women Academy Award nominations for acting in comedies.  Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Jean Arthur and Barbara Stanwyck were all Best Actress Oscar nominees for comedy performances.  Claudette Colbert, Judy Holliday and Diane Keaton won their Best Actress Academy Awards for comedies.  Teri Garr and the late, great Madeline Kahn netted Oscar nominations for comedies.  Then exceptional funny work by women seemed to be overlooked by Hollywood.  The 1996 performance Debbie Reynolds delivered under Albert Brooks' direction in Mother really should've earned the Hollywood veteran her second Oscar nomination.  Excellent character comedy work!  Because women in comedies have been overlooked by Oscars in recent decades, many of us were thrilled when Melissa McCarthy scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 2011.
That lovable character she created for Bridesmaids was just so wrong that she was right.
I have been a fan of her work ever since I saw her in the 1999 movie, Go, now one of my favorite counter-culture holiday movies.  A Christmas rave in L.A. goes all wrong.  Go could've been called It's a Blunder-full Life because of all the misfits who get involved with a party drug purchase.  She played a gay guy's cheerful and totally clueless roommate.
Her role was brief but she totally stood out -- and she stood in a cast that starred Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Taye Diggs and Sarah Polley.  I followed McCarthy over to TV on the sitcom Gilmore Girls and, currently, Mike & Molly.

I have an idea for McCarthy.   Back in the 1960s, one of the top comedy teams around was Mike Nichols and Elaine May.  This couple starred on stage and in appearances on network television variety shows.  Their comedy albums were best-sellers.
Nichols and May were smart, inventive, good actors and -- above all -- very funny.
Both went on to become film directors who guided actors to Oscar nominations.  Under his direction, Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis won Oscars for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft were Oscar nominees for The Graduate.  Meryl Streep was an Oscar nominee for Mike Nichols' Silkwood and Postcards from the Edge.  Hollywood veteran Eddie Albert and actress Jeannie Berlin got their Oscar nominations for 1972's The Heartbreak Kid, directed by Elaine May.

Elaine May wrote, directed and starred in a 1971 comedy that, I'm so glad to report, has finally made it to DVD.  A New Leaf  co-stars Walter Matthau as a vain, selfish New York City playboy who blew through all his inheritance money pampering himself and living the high life.  Henry is broke and desperate.  He's forced to borrow money.
He has a certain amount of time in which to pay back a sizable loan.  Suicide would be too painful.  He can't do that.  Then one day he sees the solution to all his problems.  She's Henrietta, the klutziest and most socially awkward white woman the Good Lord ever put into a pair of pumps.  She's a botantist.  She's a mess.  She's single.  And she's got money.  She's a rich, single mess.  Henrietta just became beautiful to Henry.
Will the playboy wed her and knock her off for the money?  Can klutzy Henrietta keep from accidentally killing herself by simply walking?  This sweet woman is practically an accident just waiting to happen.  I love A New Leaf.  I could see this being remade with Melissa McCarthy as the loveless botantist who believes she's finally found romance.
Who would I cast opposite her as the playboy with marriage and murder on his mind?
The star of TV's Mad Men -- the handsome Jon Hamm.
He's done some fine dramatic acting as the morally adrift advertising man on that series.  I really dig the way Hamm does comedy.  His guest appearances on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live broke me up.  And he's funny in Bridesmaids too.  He's perfect to play the over-aged trust fund baby done in by his own sense of entitlement.
Melissa McCarthy is an Emmy winner for her sitcom work on CBS' Mike & Molly.
Last weekend, her comedy movie Identity Theft opened.  One reviewer liked it and referred to her as "a female John Candy."  I felt that was an uninspired compliment, obviously comparing her to the late Candy because he was a plus-sized actor.  McCarthy plays a wife on a hit sitcom, she's good at physical comedy and she also makes movies.  I'd compare her to someone like Lucille Ball.  Or Carol Burnett.  Or Bill Murray -- a comic actor who also graduated from weekly network TV comedy to Oscar-nominated film work.  Melissa McCarthy and Jom Hamm in a remake of Elaine May's A New Leaf -- that's my Hollywood pitch.

You think it's a good one?


  1. She was so good on Gilmore Girls because she played a real person not a caricature. I hope more of that is in her future. Your idea would be a good start.

  2. KiKi, this is more proof that Hollywood needs to be listening to you and me.

    1. I absolutely love this idea- Melissa is an incredible actor and your brilliant idea would once again reveal her talents . Pitch it Bobby !

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