I had the privilege (and pleasure) of producing the very first studio movie in which the adult Beau Bridges appeared. It was a nice romantic comedy called For Love of Ivy and happened to be the first studio-financed film ever to star two black leads. The fact that Sidney Poitier was one of them made it very viable for distributor CBS-Cinerama Films, and Sidney even got credit for writing the original storyline, a 19-page outline which I read on a plane to Los Angeles and bought the moment we landed. As Production VP for Palomar-ABC Pictures, I had been given the pages by Poitier's agent, Mart Baum, and we soon cast the wonderful black jazz singer, Abbey Lincoln, as the other lead. The story, created by Sidney, was a funny piece of fluff about a debonair black gambler who had a huge gambling truck which every night picked up affluent Park Avenue wagerers and drove around the city while they rolled dice and played cards inside it. During the day, Sidney's 'front' was to use the truck for deliveries for a department store owned by Carroll O'Connor. He had two kids, Beau Bridges and Laurie Peters, and these kids were intent on playing matchmaker for their lovely maid, Ivy, played by Abbey. That's where Sidney's character came in; the kids knew of his nocturnal activities and blackmailed him into taking out their maid on a date. The reluctant Poitier takes her to a Japanese sushi restaurant....and you know the rest. (Incidentally, it was the fiist musical fim score by Quincy Jones, and he was nominated for it.) When I was casting the role of the young son, I turned to two old friends, Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges, who suggested I meet their son Beau. Yes, he was charming cute, and believable. I watched a little independent film in which he appeared, Hal Ashby's first directing effort, The Landlord, and hired the young Beau. He did a notably good job....and we have been friends ever since.
Which will explain why I was in the packed audience of LACMA's Bing Theatre last night for an Academy event, A Tale of Two Bridges, an evening paying tribute to the two Bridges, older Beau and younger brother Jeff, as well as father Lloyd. My Huffington/Los Angeles readers may recall yesterday's headline, DUDE, showing Jeff in a Dodgers uniform after he 'pitched' the first ball in Friday's LA Dodgers/Chicago Cubs game. Well, he didn't exactly 'pitch' the ball, rather he rolled it on the turf towards home plate, playing 'The Dude' character from his legendary film, "The Big Lebowsky." Jeff was promoting his new film, The Giver, out next week, which he told us all last night was a young adult book he had optioned 18 years ago as a vehicle for him to direct his father. Lloyd died before he could do it, and he held it all this time until he grew into the grizzled codger in the story. I have watched every episode of HBO's Masters of Sex, and Beau is playing a major role in that ground-breaking series as a closeted hospital executive. This night they were led in a two-hour discussion about their long remarkable careers. The siblings selected clips from each other's work and discussed the legacy of a legendary Hollywod dynasty. I won't go into detail about their amazing careers, but I will note something which is rare and admirable....these are two of the nicest, kindest and most honest people in show business. And what I also love about them is that they are so family-oriented....in fact, the audience was full of Bridges family and relatives. Last year I favorably reviewed a play at Theatre West in which Beau and his daughter, Emily, appeared....and later he told me that he and she had adapted the play, Acting, The First Six Lessons, from a 1933 book of that name by Richard Boleslavsky which his father had given him years before.
I was particularly intrigued last night by the extensive time given to the one picture in which they appeared together, the sensational The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989). I happened to have been doing some press work for David Begelman's Gladden Entertainment when they made it with 20th Century Fox, so it brought back many memories. It was written when Steve Klovis was 22, and he directed it when he was 25. (Klovis had previously written a film called "Racing With the Moon," which my late partner, Alain Bernheim, had co-produced.) Jeff told us last night that he had been cast first, and they were seeking big stars for the other brother role when he suggested Beau. The latter was reluctant at first, not wanting to ride on his brother's coatails, but the moment he read the script he knew he had to play it. You may recall it is the story of two brothers, Frank and Jack Baker, who are professional musicians, lounge jazz pianists, playing schmaltzy music in small Seattle clubs. Jobs are getting scarce so they decide they need a female singer to zip up their show, and audition several..when Susie, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, shows up (late) and sings. Her presence revitalized their careers while causing the brothers to reexamine their relationship. It is a truly wonderful ageless film and I strongly suggests you get a copy on Netflix or whatever and see it tonight. The most memorable moment is when Michelle, in a blazing red dress, sings 'Makin' Whoopee' on New Year's Eve while slithering around on Jack's grand piano. Priceless. The picture was nominated by the Academy for Best Actress, Best Cinematographer, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Score. Michelle won the Golden Globe that year as Best Actress, and her career took off from there. In addition to showing clips last night, the brothers had the audience roaring with laughter as they described the brutal fight scene when Jeff almost broke Beau's fingers. ("We didn't have a safe word," is how they explained it.) I still tear up remembering the last scene, when she gently rejects brother Jack and he walks off as she's singing "My Funny Valentine."
Like I said, these are two wonderful actors and men who set a standard for performance and behavior which is unmatched. These are Bridges worth crossing!
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