Sunday, June 30, 2013

More DEVIOUS MAIDS

I got to see the second episode of Devious Maids.  Just like the premiere episode, it was great fun to watch and I like the smart way it serves up entertainment with a soap opera format that also has a dash of tart social commentary.  As I wrote before, it's delightfully subversive and well-acted. Eva Longoria and Marc Cherry are the producers.
Tonight, we learn that one of the young maids is a fan of classic films.  She likes James Cagney.  She likes Hitchcock movies.  Her favorites are Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest and, especially, Rear Window.   That is a brilliant writer's choice because the maid wants to go into fashion design as a career.  She would be paying close attention to the suspense -- and to the Grace Kelly fashions designed by Edith Head.



That was a brilliant touch.  I grew up in South Los Angeles and I graduated from a high school in Watts.  When I had part-time jobs in predominantly white companies, most folks would be surprised to hear that I, too, could carry on a conversation about classic films -- domestic and foreign.  Today, there's nothing that would really give you the impression that minorities embrace classic films.  When AMC was a movie channel, most of the hosts were white guys.  Whoopi Goldberg was a special guest host.  The two hosts on Turner Classic Movies are non-minorities.  In the shrunken field of movie critics on TV news programs, that's still pretty much a Caucasian Boys' Club.  A young Latina familiar with films made by Hitchcock, Raoul Walsh and Billy Wilder made my heart take wing.  That was a wonderful character detail.  It may seem like a small detail but it's very significant culturally.  It shatters a stereotype. A disagreement she has with her mother about dating and social class echoes talks my parents gave me back in South L.A. when I was growing up.  That's an example the tart dash of social commentary Devious Maids gives you.

As far as giving good role to mature actresses, Devious Maids deserves big applause.  Again,  Susan Lucci shows solid chops in comedy mode.  She makes you laugh as the Beverly Hills mom.  It's exactly the kind of character and performance that lit up many a screwball comedy back in the 1930s and early 40s.  Rebecca Wisocky has really got the gift.  In my previous blog, I wrote that Judy Reyes has that Thelma Ritter quality -- like Thelma in Rear Window and All About Eve with Bette Davis.  Ms. Wisocky, with her former Ziegfeld Girl-like carriage, has that Eve Arden charisma here.  Directors like Lubitsch, Wilder, Minnelli, Hawks and Curtiz would've kept Rebecca quite busy with film work.
She'd have made a great Vera Charles, the best friend to Auntie Mame.  If you've never seen that comedy classic starring Rosalind Russell, rent it soon for lots of laughs.
I mention these actresses from Hollywood's Golden Era for a reason.  Irene Dunne was a glamorous 40 when she delivered one of her best screen performances.  Love Affair, the film remade for the first time as An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, put Dunne in the Oscar race for Best Actress of 1939.  In her late 30s/early 40s, Jean Arthur was doing some of her best work as the leading lady/love interest in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington with James Stewart, Only Angels Have Wings and The Talk of the Town (both with Cary Grant) plus The More the Merrier, a romantic comedy that earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination.  Rosalind Russell, the lady in red in the above pic, was about 50 when she gave that energetic, madcap performance as Auntie Mame, a performance that put her in the Best Actress Oscar race.  Thelma Ritter made her film debut when she was in her mid 40s.  After Miracle on 34th Street, she went on to other films and racked up a total of six Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress.  Bette Davis was in her early 40s when she landed the plum role of Broadway legend Margo Channing in All About Eve.  She gave it a legendary performance.

Nowadays, Hollywood wants to give a woman her AARP card as soon as she turns 29.  Cheers to Devious Maids for giving good work to seasoned actresses.  That's the way it should be.

My favorite tart moment of tonight's episode:  "Page 43."  That just said it all.  So true. So very true.




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