"It's easy to be warmly nostalgic about Humphrey Bogart's last film, 'The Harder They Fall.' But to do so is to run the risk of marginalizing one of Bogie's finest performances.
"The film was released in April 1956, just nine months before Bogart succumbed to esophageal cancer. And while he looks more worn down than we remember him, there's no mistaking his screen power.
"It's a great film, maybe the best boxing movie ever made, and a solemn reminder that Humphrey Bogart still had so much left in him." writes Ben Mankiewicz.
• And now for another celebrity who is in a class by herself.
Mr. Robert Osborne, the Turner Classic Movies maven, scored a coup when he convinced the usually reclusive Kim Novak to sit with him. This month, Novak is being saluted by TCM and her interview with Osborne has been airing.
I have always referred to Kim as "The Blonde Who Got Away." She opted out of Hollywood with her mind and soul and bank account still healthy. But listening to her speak so frankly and touchingly to Mr. O...well, I think I'll re-title Kim as "The Blonde Who (ital) Had (ital) To Get Away."
• This star speaks openly about the issues of mental illness in her family and says she herself is bi-polar. She was not the tough cookie that Marilyn Monroe could be. (Under the vulnerability, which was real, MM had a will of iron. She fought her demons like a warrior.)
Novak was apparently eventually worn down by the fight - to stay on top, to remain a certain way, to accept Hollywood's dismissal of her as just another troublesome blonde who asked too many questions.
She did get on surprisingly well with her directors, the terse Alfred Hitchcock and the fearsome Otto Preminger. Of Hitchcock, she said, "As soon as you accepted that he had a strong vision of what the character should look like - I hated that grey suit I had to wear - he allowed you to find the character. He'd say: "You're doing fine. If not, I wouldn't have hired you."
• Novak never rebelled against the system; Monroe did. Thus, Kim was not as disliked as MM. Her smoky voice and hesitant manner also assured her a more varied career than Marilyn's. But after the death of Columbia's detested Harry Cohn, Kim Novak's carefully crafted image suffered.
"Nobody had a good script for me," she says now.
Her "blonde bombshell" image had also suffered with Monroe's passing in 1962.
After a two-year hiatus from movie-making and then the failure of her "comeback" in the campy "The Legend of Lylah Clare"--Novak saw the handwriting on the wall. Her work would become infrequent, but at the same time, extremely effective. (Consider "The Mirror Crack'd.") And for all the distance she kept from most major films, she still had ambition.
This was shattered, however, after her 1991 experience with director Mike Figgis on "Liebestraum." Kim Novak breaks down recalling that debacle. (And she was cut from most of the film.) It is unlikely she will give anybody the opportunity to hurt her in this manner again.
Today, Kim Novak lives in Oregon with her veterinarian hubby of many years, her animals, her art and she is a sensitive painter. She seems content.
She is happy to be remembered so fondly. She is proud of her best films. She is genuinely moved to tell her story her way!
• And our dear highly-respected friend Robert Osborne seems quite swept away by Kim Novak. His studio audience gave her a tumultuous ovation.
Kim remarked that she wasn't much of a "fighter" in the matter of her career and some aspects of her personal life. Fighting is okay; it works for many actors. But Miss Novak got off the battlefield before the war was lost.
I was struck by columnist Frank Bruni's analysis of Pope Francis in his last Sunday column. Then, Bruni verged off into human beings in general and the human failing for self-aggrandizement. He wrote:
• "Politics is most depressing of all. It rewards braggerts and bullies, who muscle their way onto center stage with the crazy certainty that they and only they are right; while we in the electorate and the news media lack the fortitude to shut them up or shoo them away. They disgust but divert us, or at a minimum wear us down. Maybe we get the showboats we deserve."
• And, the most amazing thing I read were the words of Iran's former agriculture expert, Isa Kalantari. He cautioned that it wasn't the U.S. or Israel who are Iran's worst bugaboos. He offered this thought: "In 30 years, Iran will be (like) a ghost town. Forty-five million Iranians will have to live with uncertain circumstances because the droughts and lack of ground water will have made both Iran and Egypt uninhabitable."
• You might want to call the Lighthouse because on October 1st, I am going to be emceeing the annual big lunch there at the Metropolitan Club and I'll be introducing the wonderful biographer Jon Meacham and he'll be introducing the Lighthouse honoree for the Henry Grunwald award. None other than Dr. Henry Kissinger.