Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lindsay Lohan: My Wish

I admit it.  I'm hoping she has a successful stay in rehab and heals the hole in her heart.  I really felt that after I saw her weeks ago on David Letterman's show.  For a moment, he got her to expose a vulnerability she probably had not been prepared to expose.

Did you see Lindsay Lohan as the late Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor?  It was like watching a high school production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Don't put all the blame on Lindsay.  The entire cast was burdened with a lame script.  If Liz & Dick was any cheesier, it would've been a fondue. Years ago, one of my best friends introduced me to the talented little Lindsay Lohan.  She urged me to see the 1998 remake of Disney's The Parent Trap.  I did and I was charmed.  Lohan was delightful in it, as was Hayley Mills in the 1961 original.  I did an interview of Tina Fey at the Directors Guild in New York City when 2004's Mean Girls went to DVD.  Fey is in it and she wrote it.  Lohan starred.  I watched the teen comedy and, again, was impressed with her acting skills.
The 2006 film Bobby, written and directed by actor Emilio Estevez, is not a great film but it does have some fine moments.  Lohan is in those moments.  She plays one of the people assembled at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night our presidential hopeful, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated there after a political victory.
Then her personal life started to fray, giving fuel to tabloid journalists, and her irresponsibility started to affect her performances.  I had to endure her work in 2007's Georgia Rule and review it on national radio.  That was one dog of movie.  Again, very sad.   Especially when you consider that she was obviously talented enough to act opposite Meryl Streep in 2006's A Prairie Home Companion.  She didn't put much effort into her LifetimeTV biopic role.  She didn't attempt to capture the 2-time Oscar winner's definite cadence and pitch to her voice.  She didn't get Taylor's sexy and wry spark in her eyes.  She didn't have her voluptuousness.  She didn't get Taylor's legendary compassion for others, her humanitarian spirit, and ability to laugh at herself.  Taylor was rarely on time in her superstar years.  The Cleopatra star had it written in her will that she'd be late for her own funeral.  Yes.  Elizabeth Taylor's casket arrived late for the services.  Lohan's performance was devoid of humor.  Maybe that's how her life is right now.


I wish that Lindsay Lohan could pull it together, with the help and support of responsible people, and use someone like Ann-Margret as a career role model.  A lot of us babyboomers totally dug Ann's teen movies and groovy sex kitten roles.  In Hollywood, she had the reputation for being a sexy Kitten With A Whip on the screen, but being more like a librarian on the set.  She was disciplined.  She did the work.  I was one of those kids who begged his parents to take him to see her in Bye Bye Birdie and then in Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley.  That pop musical movie was a huge hit with kids. 
While America's youth was spending its allowance to see gorgeous Ann-Margret shake her groove thang in teen-oriented musical comedies, she was gaining respect.  Gypsy writer/director Arthur Laurents told National Public Radio that he wanted Judy Garland for the film version.  But Warner Brothers Studio nixed that wish claiming Judy, a recent Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for her dramatic work in Judgment at Nuremberg (a Best Picture nominee) and still hot from a now-legendary concert at Carnegie Hall, was 15 pounds overweight and too heavy to play a middle-aged mother of two who ages 15 years in the story.  So they gave him Rosalind Russell.  Word had it that Ann-Margret would've been considered to play Gypsy to Garland's Mama Rose.
My mother got so tired of me talking about Ann-Margret that she said she was going to the movies to see what all the fuss was about.  Mom and Dad went to see The Cincinnati Kid.  Ann-Margret was in that Norman Jewison drama with Steve McQueen and Karl Malden.  When they got home, Mom said "SHE is good.  Like actresses from when I was a girl.  She's like Joan Blondell good."  Mom told me to mark her word that Ann-Margret would move up from those teen movies.  Mom was right.  Ann-Margret's first Oscar nomination came for her dramatic supporting role opposite Jack Nicholson in Mike Nichols' Carnal Knowledge (1971).  She played the dark side of the sex kitten image.


Her second Oscar nomination placed her in the Best Actress category.  In Ken Russell's 1975 rock musical, Tommy, she was the mother of the blind pinball wizard.


She won the the respect of acclaimed Hollywood veterans like Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell.  She worked onscreen with Bette Davis, Bing Crosby, John Wayne and starred opposite Claudette Colbert in the TV adaptation of The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.

This 1987 made-for-TV movie, based on a novel by Dominick Dunne (seen in photo with the two stars), was a return to the cameras for Claudette Colbert and it was also her last film.  Colbert and Ann-Margret were Emmy nominees for their performances.

Look at the impressive resumé of Ann-Margret's career.  She went from Bye Bye Birdie...



...to playing Blanche DuBois in a 1984 special ABC TV presentation of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.  Treat Williams co-starred as Stanley Kowalski.

Whether she was or wasn't as good as Jessica Tandy or Vivien Leigh isn't the point. The point is that she did the work.  She challenged herself.  Lindsay Lohan could have just as impressive a resumé.  Liz & Dick was not a good TV biopic.  But there are hundreds of young women who could have played that role better if given the opportunity.  And many of those young women are currently doing part-time clerical work or taking your lunch orders and asking "Would you like fries with that?"  Seriously.  They finish their shifts at those jobs and take acting classes to improve their craft.  They dream of getting the chance to audition for the kind of quality work that Lindsay was offered at one time.

I wish Lindsay Lohan could get that pain out of her heart, revive her talents, and be like Ann-Margret.  Not like Neely O'Hara in Valley of the Dolls.


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