January 6, 1988 |
The Whales of August is a modest garden for two gloriously faded flowers: Lillian Gish, that shrinking violet of American silents, and Bette Davis, sound film's showiest and thorniest rose. It's unclear whether this movie about geriatric sisters spending what is perhaps the last summer in their mother's Maine cottage is an artifact belonging in a museum of natural history or a masterwork appropriate to a fine-arts gallery. It would be at home in either, for this film document amounts to a history of American cinema as well as an icon of two spirits who represent the poles of femininity.
March 4, 1993 |
One day on the set of The Whales of August, which paired screen icons Lillian Gish and Bette Davis, director Lindsay Anderson was waxing rhapsodic to an assistant about how radiant and youthful Gish, then in her 90s, looked in her close-ups. The director realized that Davis was within earshot only when she snidely rejoined, "Of course, Lillian looks great in close-ups. She was around when they invented the damn things. " Gish, the last surviving legend from the silent era, was rightly called the first lady of film.
March 2, 1993
THERE THEY GO AGAIN New Jersey state police superintendent Justin J. Dintino predicts that "sooner or later, some kook or drug trafficker is going to go into a supermarket, or shopping mall, or on an inner-city street" and start shooting with the kind of semi-automatic weapon Republican legislators are trying to legalize once again. That's when the philosophizing about rights and freedom will stop and the finger-pointing will begin. Col. Dintino is in accord with the majority of New Jerseyans who believe Gov. Florio and the legislature did the right thing in 1990, when they banned the sale and possession of automatic weapons.
January 6, 1988 |
Even if its four stars had just shown up, smiled for the camera and talked about the weather for an hour and a half, "The Whales of August" would be a remarkable enterprise. Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Ann Sothern and Vincent Price have among them nearly 2 1/2 centuries of movie experience, in just about every genre Hollywood has to offer (Harry Carey Jr., in a small part, takes care of the western), and, judging by "Whales," their acting faculties are not impaired in the least.
October 16, 1987 |
. . . & THE DOG ATE HIS HOMEWORK Somebody drive a stake through this guy - please. Yes, Peter Holm has risen again - this time, he says, from the potty. Joan Collins' ex is begging an L.A. judge to take another look at his desire for $80,000 a month alimony, saying he didn't make a hearing on the matter last week because he'd come down with the flu at his place in the south of France, "having to stay on the toilet most of the evening. "On the morning of October 6 I was totally drained and exhausted," he writes.
February 17, 1986 |
Look to your local stations, not the networks, for the evening's best possibilities. EVENING HIGHLIGHTS YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (8 p.m., Ch. 17) - Of all the genre parodies by Mel Brooks, this 1974 black-and-white comedy is by far the best. The sight and sound of Peter Boyle, as "Fronkunsteen's" monster, singing "Puttin' on the Ritz" is a special moment of cinematic madness. Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman - they all perform with wicked abandon in a full-length, full-scale assault on the horror film.
May 20, 1988 |
One of the creepiest psychos in cinema history is the one Robert Mitchum plays - a twisted preacher who has the words love and hate tattooed on his knuckles - in Charles Laughton's sole film-directing endeavor, Night of the Hunter. The 1955 black-and-white film is charged with stark, shadowy tension, as the maniacal Mitchum chases two young girls, intent on recovering money stolen by their father. The kids find an ally in a kindly and wise old woman (Lillian Gish), and a menacing battle of good versus evil ensues.
December 28, 1993 |
It is perhaps fitting that the year should wind down with the president fighting to get clear of two scandals; one sexual, one financial. It was that kind of year: mean, quirky, filled with unpleasant details that you really didn't want to know. As Christmas breaks the horizon, rock's megastar stands accused as a child molester; a formerly respected member of the Senate and one of its chief advocates of women's rights is revealed as Jack the Groper; our most intellectual movie director has an affair with the equivalent of his stepdaughter; a cardinal of the Catholic Church is accused of breaking his vows of chastity, with a boy. Beavis and Butt-head are the cartoon heroes de jour, Rush and Howard are our literary lions, the bride of the year is Marla Maples and Heidi Fleiss is our queen of the May. Why shouldn't the president of the United States get caught up in the flood of trash?
May 5, 1988 |
There are no real blockbusters among this week's releases, but if you're a fan of Cheech Marin, Prince or Bette Davis, you're still in luck. BORN IN EAST L.A. (1987) (MCA) $89.95. 85 minutes. Cheech Marin, Daniel Stern, Paul Rodriguez, Kamala Lopez, Jan-Michael Vincent. With his roving eyes, push-broom mustache and unceasing eruption of ribald one-liners, Cheech Marin could be the reincarnation of Groucho Marx. This immigration Wheel of Misfortune, written and directed by Cheech in his first outing without erstwhile partner Tommy Chong, is slapdash slapstick about Chicano mechanic Rudy Robles, mistaken for an illegal alien and deported to Tijuana.
June 10, 1996 |
First, a word about the name. You hear "Gish Jen," glance at the author's photograph on the back cover of her latest book, Mona in the Promised Land, and assume that the name, like the woman, is Chinese. It's not like that at all. In fact, Gish Jen was born, some 40 years ago, as Lillian Jen, the sister of Robert, Joyce and Eugene Jen, daughter of Norman and Agnes. She changed her name the summer before her senior year of high school, in Scarsdale, N.Y. A classmate had taken to calling her "Gish" - for actress Lillian Gish.