"WHY DON'T you wash that platinum outta your hair?"
That was Kirk Douglas snarling at the underrated, always spectacular Jan Sterling in Billy Wilder's way-ahead-of-its-time movie Ace in The Hole. This tells the grim saga of a man trapped in a mine, in a small town. A fading, arrogant newspaper reporter decides to sensationalize the story, with help from the trapped man's bored, callous wife (Sterling.) The circus surrounding the agonized, injured miner goes on for days and days. It is perhaps Wilder's most cynical film -- which is quite an accomplishment! -- and not a success in its day.
Perhaps audiences could not accept the realities of so-called reputable news reporting -- getting it in print and on the air and making a name no matter what. (Now we have CNN to remind us every day how unashamed "newsmen" are. )
"Ace in The Hole" is out now, newly restored by Criterion Collection DVD, which includes bonus features -- interviews with Wilder and Kirk Douglas. The movie was made in 1951, but hasn't aged a day.
•SPEAKING of the glut of cable news and way too much information (often about nothing), don't miss writer Lili Anolik's article in the new Vanity Fair. Titled It All Began with O.J. The piece reminds readers of the events of 1994, when 24-hour cable news was young, and a nation sat transfixed over every aspect of the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman murders, the often lunatic trial of O.J. Simpson and the shocking verdict. (Some were happily shocked. Others not so happily.) This is an important read. It takes us to a time of relative innocence, right into today's culture of complete vulgarity and vacuous news and "entertainment" programming.
•JON HAMM is on the cover of this issue of VF, looking impossibly handsome in his white tie and tails. The cover asks, "Is There Life After Don Draper?" (His famous Mad Men character.) He's a wonderful actor, but even if I didn't know this, of course there's life after Don -- just look at the front of Vanity Fair. Hollywood can't let a guy like this vaporize. (He has a new movie out any second, Million Dollar Arm.)
•The 4th estate keeps wondering where the "Mayor" of Michaels has gone? Joe Armstrong's vase of Texas errata has been missing from his table for weeks.
Well, we have a photo of the media maven, who now calls himself "Jerusalem Joe," with two young friends. He writes:
"Working 15 hour days with kids, starting at 6 a.m. and at night, just want to put my feet up. In NYC I do charity work on computer. But here the energetic work is so satisfying, it makes my heart soar. I love what I do, especially at this Christian mission in the old city.
Next will be the Paul Newman Camp on the Sea of Galilee where we take sick kids who are Christian, Jews, Muslim. They get along great. These children are having the time of their lives. (It's their parents who hate each other.) It's my 3rd year and make that 10 years in Connecticut this August. There I am in a log cabin and it's 24 hours a day caring for the needy children. Coming back to NYC at the end of June."
•BEFORE we forget -- one frivolous note from The Normal Heart premiere. Marisa Tomei, one of our favorite actresses and humans was there. In a white blouse and black skirt she looked gorgeous and all of 26. Whatever she is doing, she is doing it right!
•USUALLY WHEN I mention something I've watched on Turner Classic movies, it's -- a classic movie. But the other night I saw a 1974 TV special, Mitzi: A Tribute to the American HouseWife. It was part of TCM's salute to Mitzi Gaynor.
First of all, the show is in pristine condition. Then there were Mitzi's co-stars -- Ted Knight, Suzanne Pleshette, Jane Withers and a splendidly young and sexy Jerry Orbach. (People forgot, after all his years on Law & Order, that Jerry was an accomplished song and dance man.)
And then, Mitzi. This woman -- who still performs -- had it all. Looks, a gorgeous body and more talent than you could shake a shapely leg at. Somehow, she never quite made it in films, bigtime. 20th Century Fox, her main studio, didn't know quite how to package this petite dynamo. (Her choicest chance came in Josh Logan's screen version of South Pacific. But although a hit, Gaynor's career enjoyed little momentum.) Later, she became a giant attraction in nightclubs around the country and on TV.
Even in 1974, this had to have been something of a hoot (Mitzi's super "soulful" rendition of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life.") But there is some surprisingly effective and sophisticated material, including Sondheim's "The Little Things You Do Together" from Company.
And in the middle of it all, Miss Mitzi, in full variety show regalia. One number, that begins with the star enveloped in a mammoth, floating cape is just jaw-dropping.
Now, that was entertainment!
•ASIDE FROM the great reviews and apt remarks, one of my favorite parts of the magazine Film Comment is the last page. It's called "Graphic Detail" by Adrian Curry. He discusses classic poster art. This month Curry saluted the work of France's Boris Grinsson. The piece includes three examples of his work, one of them from the famous noir film, The Postman Always Rings Twice.
How it differs from American posters is that Grinsson, puts Lana in two-piece bathing suit, embraced hotly by John Garfield. And while Lana does wear a bathing suit in the movie, U.S. artists stayed away from this image. Too hot. But nothing was ever too hot for the French. (Or any of the Europeans who designed poster art. It was always much more provocative than ours.)