Thursday, March 15, 2018

a millennial "millionaire"

Jean Negulesco's irresistible comedy of 1953, "How to Marry a Millionaire," opens with an overture of sorts - Alfred Newman's "Street Scene," with the composer himself on screen conducting the vast Twentieth Century-Fox Orchestra - before it segues to the main titles and Lionel Newman-Ken Darby's "New York!," a song performed by a chorus with pile-driving intensity:

"New York, New York! You high and mighty, bright and shiny fabulous place, New York!
New York, New York! You busy, dizzy, razzle-dazzle, scandalous place, New York!
Guys with easy money tryin' to blow it! Dolls with hidden talent dyin' to show it!
Take off for Broadway by taxi, by subway! And land on the town! A merry-go-round!
New York, New York! Where millionaires and Cinderellas rendezvous at the Stork!
In Central Park, romantic babies and their fellas rendezvous in the dark!
Crazy city with its hat on the steeple!
Noisy city with its millions of people!
Doorway to glory and fortune and fame!
You'll never get your fill of it! Never forget the thrill of it!
Glorious, glamorous wonderland - New York!"

I took the liberty of printing all the lyrics in case you want to indulge in an at-home sing-a-along the next time Turner Classic Movies airs the film.

Which is often.

That said, its memorable opening, unusual for its time, was a conceit to introduce moviegoers to the wonders of Stereophonic Sound and the new CinemaScope process. "Millionaire" was planned as Fox's first presentation in a modern anamorphic format but its release was delayed. And so, "The Robe," a 1953 biblical epic considered the more important film by the studio, introduced CinemaScope. (The two titles were filmed concurrently.)

But "How to Marry a Millionaire" was perhaps hastily and prematurely dismissed as a playful trifle back in '53, given its narrative about three models sharing a luxury apartment as a ploy to ensnare super wealthy men. More than 60 years after its release, however, the film remains impressively modern and has grown in stature with time. It seems to get better every time I watch it on TCM.

Which is always.

To say that it's aged well is to seriously underestimate the film. It's effortlessly funny and incredibly watchable, thanks largely to the three-way chemistry and off-screen camaraderie of its leads - Betty Grable (a Fox veteran who receives top billing on screen), Marilyn Monroe (Fox's new darling who received top billing in the ads) and, in her first comedy, Lauren Bacall (who, of the three, provides the film with its titanic supporting structure and, despite its status as an ensemble piece, is the movie's actual star).

"Millionaire" was the first of  "three gals" pictures by director Negulesco (seen here with Marilyn, on her left) - followed by "Three Coins in a Fountain," "Women's World," "The Best of Everything" and "The Pleasure Seekers," all Fox releases.

And scenarist Nunnally Johnson (with Marilyn, on her right) - the author of "The World of Henry Orient" - based his fizzy script on two plays, "Loco" by Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert and "The Greeks Had a Word for It" by Zoë Akins.

All of this is in preamble to a conceit of my own - a little fantasy casting. While I don't necessarily endorse the idea of remakes, I do appreciate that a few have worked - and must confess that I toy with the idea of a remake of "How to Marry a Millionaire" every time I stop what I'm doing to sit down and watch it yet again - yes, again - on Turner Classic Movies.

I can't resist - either the film or my fantasy.

Even though the movie purist in me bristles at the thought of an actual remake of the film (and would accuse Hollywood of creative bankruptcy if it even dared to try), I continually indulge my own fantasy version.

I'm not singular here. Fantasy casting is something that movie geeks have practiced for ages. But I tend to take it to solipsistic extremes.

That said, my version could be an update but I kind of favor the '50s milieu of the original. I would definitely retain the wacky names of the three women who dominate it and also would populate my version with - now get this - a cast of mostly millennial talent. My unlikely, unorthodox choices might seem blasphemous and worthy of ridicule - and, by all means, feel free to disagree and share your own casting ideas.

But the bottom line is: I believe in my vision. It could work.

And so, throwing caution to the wind, here's my dream cast...

~The Women~

Kristen Stewart as Schatze Page (the Lauren Bacall role) - Stewart is arguably the best actress of her generation and she's done varied, compelling work with fascinating filmmakers ever since she freed herself from the yolk of the "Twilight" series (a franchise that brought her fame, fortune and a lot of negative publicity). Stewart has the perfect slouch and cynical air that the character Schatze demands. And, much like Bacall back in the day, it's time for her to have some fun and do a comedy. And I'd give anything to hear Stewart snap out the line, "Nobody's mother lives in Atlantic City on a Saturday night!," something that I'm certain that she'd invoke with the hauteur of a Lauren Bacall.

Emma Stone as Loco Dempsey (the Betty Grable role) - Loco is the most unaffected and least manipulative of the three women - friendly, down-to-earth and accessible, the same qualities that Stone has conveyed so effortlessly on screen. But the character is no pushover and is actually a lot smarter than she looks. As one of the potential monied targets in the film learns, it's unwise to underestimate Loco. It can be humiliating.

Miley Cyrus as Pola Debevoise (the Marilyn Monroe role) - Pola is something of a cartoon character, oblivious to her good looks and self worth because she wears glasses. She literally bumps her way through life and sometimes has no idea who's in front of her. She mistakes a thief for a visitor, and her date for a waiter. And about that date, does he have a black eye? Or is the guy wearing a black patch? The ever-playful, mischievous Cyrus, who has potential to spare, could be a revelation channeling Monroe's creation in a wholly contemporary way.

~The Guys~

Justin Timberlake as Freddie Denmark (the David Wayne role) - With Miley in place as Polo, I'd cast Timberlake as the seemingly shady guy with whom she keeps having unexpected encounters and who commiserates with her about the advantage of wearing eyeglasses. Timberlake hasn't made many movies, let alone film comedy, but he's always been witty and game on SNL and has a lightness about him. And like Wayne (who is just about perfect in the original film), he would be an attractively sensible, regular-guy foil for sweet Polo.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Tom Brookman (the Cameron Mitchell role) - Tom is a genuine millionaire who is written off by Schatze largely because he doesn't look like a millionaire. He doesn't carry himself as one. She sizes him up as a "gas-pump jockey" who eats "horseburgers" (which she kind of likes herself). Gyllenhall could be terrific sparring with Stewart, alternately challenging her and flirting with her, and I can already see him showing up with a golf club in tow for the design-house sequence in which Schatze and others model the latest couture fashions for him.

Chris Evans as
Eban Salem (the Rory Calhous role) - Thanks to a weekend trip to his "lodge" with Waldo Brewster (see below), Loco meets Eban who she thinks is a rich land baron with a ga-zillion trees. But Eban is just a dedicated forest ranger who enjoys overseeing said trees. This is a relatively small role but Eban's laid-back personality is in line with Evans' easy-goingness.

But then there's the other Chris - Chris Pine as Eban. Pine would be more than perfect, too. Decisions, decisions.

Warren Beatty as J.D. Hanley (the William Powell role)  - J.D. is a patrician and represents Old Money which is catnip for Schatze. Beatty has just the right amount of reserve and mature good looks for the role.

But then there's the temptation to see George Clooney as J.D. He's a bit younger and less reserved and might be more credible opposite Stewart.

John C. Reilly as Waldo Brewster (the Fred Clark role) -  It's difficult to imagine anyone but Fred Clark as a patented Fred Clark/conservative character but it's easy to imagine Reilly trying to impress Loco by complaining ad nauseam about his wife and her family and bragging about how he disinherited his daughter because she ran off with a guy he pegs as "a gigolo."

Sasha Baron Cohen as J. Stewart Merrill (the Alex D'Arcy role) - Again, it's not much of a role - a bit part really - but I can't think of anyone more appropriate to play the faux exotic guy who dazzles Polo with endless wealth. Plus, Cohen would look appropriately suspect wearing that eye patch.

So much for my solipsistic fantasy. Now share yours...

Notes in Passing: "How to Marry a Millionaire" was adapted into a TV series - by Johnson himself - in 1957 and ran for two seasons until 1959. In syndication. It reportedly has the distinction of being the first syndicated television show, although I would love to know why Fox didn't market it to one of the three major networks at the time. Anyway, it starred a young Barbara Eden (center) in one of her first roles as Loco Jones, the only character whose name was (partially) retrained from the movie. Merry Andrews (on Eden's left) played Mike McCall and Lori Nelson (on Eden's right) was Greta Hanson.

I'm a little surprised that the material hasn't been revived since, given that TV is into so much rebooting these days.

Also surprising is the fact that no one has thought to adapt it into a stage musical, given that Broadway has become so dependent on movies for (not-so-)fresh material. It's called ... creative bankruptcy.

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

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~images from "How to Marry a Millionaire"
 ~photography: Twentieth Century-Fox 1953©

Saturday, March 10, 2018

til death do us part...

America's lynch-mob mentality annually reaches insane heights during the post-Oscar weeks when internet nobodies, self-described as "film experts" and multiplying like crazy, indict the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with hysterical conspiracy theories about all of its alleged snubs.

I mean, the fans of "Lady Bird" seem more upset about its imagined slight than Greta Gerwig herself. Really? Wow. Inarguably, the worst of these movie malcontents - and the least informed - are those who make claims against the Academy's In Memoriam segment on behalf of the dead.

Case in poin: Something called Film - Blogging the Reel World chided the Academy for omitting "notable, deserving people" from this year's segment - such as Bill Paxton. True, Bill Paxton was missing from this year's tribute. But that's because the actor was honored last year, in 2017.

And most memorably at that.

Jennifer Aniston, seen in the above photo introducing the segment in 2017, singled out Paxton, who died the day before the broadcast. Her tribute to those who passed ended tenderly: "As was Bill Paxton, our beloved friend who left us yesterday, all were loved and all will be missed."

I found this fact - on the internet, of course - in less than five minutes. There's no excuse for people who work - and all but live - on the internet to routinely pass on misinformation. But they do and with much authority.

And, if you think about it, given that Paxton died in 2017, should he really have been honored on an Oscarcast devoted to the 2016 movie year?

But more about that later.

First, I feel compelled to defend the Academy (did I actually just say that?) and explain how it acknowledges movie-related deaths every year, given that its public-relations arm has been shamefully remiss in this area.

Aside from Paxton, other deceased film personalities who have supposedly been snubbed this year include John Gavin, Anne Jeffreys, Bradford Dillman, Miquel Ferrer, Powers Boothe, Dina Merrill, Tobe Hooper, Elsa Martinelli, Don Gordon, Anthony Harvey, Christine Kauffmann, Clifton James, Chuck Berry, Adam West and Jean Rochefort. But they weren't.

You see, every movie year, the Academy compiles two memoriam lists. One is a complete list that is posted on its site as a gallery of photographs, covering those who died the year before (as well as during the first couple months of the current year). Case in point: This year, there were 213 people listed. But for this year's broadcast, the number was whittled down to 51 names (including 19 actors and eight directors). The broadcast list is reduced every year due only to time constraints. The Academy's site for The 2017 Oscarcast listed 185 names; less than half made the broadcast.

While it would have been impractical for the Academy to flash 213 photos during the broadcast this year, it could have included more than 51 by eliminating the gratuitous "visit" that host Jimmy Kimmel and other celebs paid to average moviegoers at a screening in an adjoining theater. Filler.

That way, it could have included the wonderful Dorothy Malone, who was absent from the broadcast list even though she was an actual recipient of an Oscar (for 1956's "Written on the Wind"). But then should Malone have really been included this year, given that she died (at age 93) on January 19th of this year.

Which brings me to a point that the film experts overlook. The 90th Annual Oscars - aired this year, in 2018 - paid tribute strictly to films made in 2017. It did not include any titles released in January or February of 2018.

That wouldn't make any sense, right?

Again, strictly 2017 movies. So why isn't this standard applied to movie deaths? The fact is, Bradford Dillman, John Gavin and Malone did not die in 2017. They all passed during the first months of 2018 and, according to any reasonable logic, these actors would be honored next year during 2019's show. And Bill Paxton, who as noted died the day before 2017's broadcast, would have been acknowledged this year. In 2018.

The problem is, the Academy caves to its viewers' inability to appreciate that a year spans from January to December. When someone dies a month before the show, the public, ill-advised by the aforementioned film experts, wants to know exactly why that person was ... snubbed.

The Academy could avert this annual "controversy" if, during this year's broadcast (as an example), it had made it clear that its In Memoriam segment was being devoted to those film personalities who died only during 2017. Specifically. Again, from January to December.

It it would also help if it advised its viewers that, due to time contraints, the list being aired is only partial and if it also used a scroll to direct them to the complete list on the Academy's site. A PR problem would be solved.

Note in Passing: And it's my opinion that actors from TV with limited film credits should not be among the honored at all. This year, that would include West, Rose Marie, Jim Nabors, Della Reese and David Ogden Stiers (even though the latter did a lot of off-screen voiceover work).
Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

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~Jennifer Aniston introducing the In Memoriam Segment during the 2017 Oscarcast, giving a shout out to Bill Paxton
 ~photography: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 2017©

~Dorothy Malone with her Oscar for "Written on the Wind"
~photography: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 1956©

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

cinema obscura: Bobby Roth's "Heartbreakers" (1984)

Five years before Steven Soderberg's "Sex, Lies and Videotape" took the movie industry by storm at the 1989 Sundance Film Festival, officially kicking off the New Wave in American filmmaking, there were two compelling "in-between" films from 1984 that fell through the cracks.

By "in-between," I'm referring to those identity-crisis movies that are neither studio titles nor strictly independent ventures. There's something "indie" about them and yet they really aren't exactly independent movies.

And they aren't exactly mainstream either.

One was Alan Rudolph's "Choose Me," which opens with Jan Kiesser's "swoony cinematography" (Pauline Kael's words) trailing Lesley Ann Warren's sensual movements as she sashays down a noir street. And then there's  "Heartbreakers," Bobby Roth's provocative piece about something that's been commonly evasive - namely, friendship between two men.

I'm less concerned with "Choose Me," because Rudolph went on to have something of a high-profile career, albeit in the shadow of his mentor, Robert Altman, and only briefly. His films are remembered. Well, sort of.

Roth, on the other hand, made a detour into TV and pretty much stayed there, his most impressive title being the HBO movie, "Baja Oklahoma" (1988), adapted by Dan Jenkins from his novel and starring Warren and Julia Roberts, excellent as mother and daughter. Peter Coyote, who co-starred, is also one of Roth's two male leads in his "Heartbreakers."

Coyote is Blue, a lanky, overgrown boy who ostensibly works as an artist but is not commercially successful at it. While he's the kind of guy who easily attracts multiple women, Blue is down to one woman, someone who finally could no longer take his rampant immaturity and left. Nick Mancuso is the more mature Eli, a driven, successful businessman (he's largely in the "son business") and an experienced womanizer, smooth and confident.

Women are drawn to him, too.

Their success with women aside, Blue and Eli are an odd pair to be friends, with little else in common. But this is one of those cases where one guy fills in the blanks of the other. Their friendship is tested when a new woman - France's Carol Laure (from Bertrand Blier's "Préparez vos mouchoirs"/"Get Out Your Handkerchiefs") - comes on the scene. Both men want her.

Roth economically conveys the competitiveness between the guys in an early gym scene as they stand in front of a locker room mirror, side-by-side and shirtless, furtively sizing up each other. He has a particularly astute, observing eye when it comes to men and their relationships, a subject that's popped up with regularity in his work, hitting a peak with his 2003 film, the tersely titled "Manhood," starring Nestor Carbonell as a reformed - you guessed it - womanizer.

Prior to "Heartbreakers," he made three small features, with one of them, 1978's "The Boss's Son," perhaps offering clues into Roth's personality. The movie stars Asher Brauner as a possibly autobiographical character named ... Bobby Rose. Not much is known about his personal life, but I'm willing to bet the rent money that Bobby Roth once worked for his father.

His supporting cast here includes Kathryn Harrold, Max Gail, George Morfogen and the invaluable Carol Wayne, who is excellent. The great Michael Ballhaus did the cinematography; Tangerine Dream the music.

"Heartbreakers" can be troubling - it dares you to avert your eyes - but what's more troubling is that this singular film remains virtually unknown.

Note in Passing: Roth's "Heartbreakers" is not to be confused with David Mirkin's 2001 comedy, "Heartbreakers," starring Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee and Gene Hackman. 

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

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~Poster art for "Heartbreakers"

~Peter Coyote as Blue, the lanky, not-exactly-sensitive artist in "Heartbreakers"
~photography: Orion 1984©

~Nick Mancuso as Eli, the killer-businessman, utterly driven
~photography: Orion 1984©

Saturday, March 03, 2018


The late - and sometimes great - George Carlin is somewhere right now with a big smile on his face. Those "seven words that you can't say on TV" (his signature comedy routine) liberally litter The Independent Spirit Awards telecasts every year and, frankly, they're no longer shocking.

And they aren't very funny either. At least, not within the context of The Independent Spirit Awards, which tries oh-so-hard to be cool but comes off as embarrassingly immature instead. It's amusing that an awards show that purports to celebrate edgy artistry in cinema is actually closer to Johnny Knoxville's "Jackass" movies in spirit (pun definitely intended).

Somehow, I managed to survive this year's telecast, in spite of the hosts, an annoying Nick Kroll and a very boring John Mulaney, both of whom tossed around all seven of Carlin's words with the abandon of 15-year-old boys who mistakenly think they sound "cool" (there's that word again). They were immediately toxic, spending the show's first 15 minutes or so sucking up to the #MeToo movement and trashing the usual suspects.

One particularly lame (and also inaccurate) joke was reserved for Woody Allen: One host quipped, "What about his last 20 not-watchable movies?”

Excuse me, but I've a hunch that 20 or 30 years from now, people will know who Woody Allen is and will still be watching his old movies, while Kroll and Mulaney will be just two more forgotten Hollywood footnotes. I mean, has either one of them ever created anything of any consequence?

One of the more dubious bits of the night involved the usually reliable Kristen Wiig, who showed up in disguise as a dithering, bleached blond 110-year-old movie veteran who produced, wrote and directed her own films back in the day. Kroll and Mulaney introduced her as "film legend" Fay Fontaine. It was a cruel spoof and, what's more, in direct opposition to the "year of the woman" that Hollywood is allegedly celebrating.


As for the awards themselves, how are they any different from every other movie award? The Independent Spirits like to think that they are indeed “independent” but the same damn names were announced tonight – Francis McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney. Where's the independent thinking? It was the same herd mentality. Only Timothée Chalamet was a new addition – for best actor – but that’s largely because neither Gary Oldman nor Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated. (Their films, although seriously arty, aren’t considered genuine indies, see?)

Redeeming the show was McDormand - as usual. "What I know about today," she proclaimed, "I get to swear. Do you know how hard it's been not to swear over the last couple of months? Because this awards convention goes on for-fucking-ever." Then she added: "Martin McDonagh knows a well-placed 'fuck' makes a sentence sing like nothing else,"

Great line.

In spite of all the self-conscious cursing, the funniest moments of the night were the shots of certain audience members eagerly waiting to hear their names invoked in acceptance speeches - as if it's some kind of validation to be singled out by an award winner. Their anticipation is almost palpable.

BTW, the boy hosts' closing words were "Holy shit!"

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

play → film: "Send Me No Flowers" (1964)

~directed by Norman Jewison from a screenplay by Julius Epstein, based on a play by Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore~
Even almost 60 years later, Doris Day and Rock Hudson remain the definitive dream team for film comedy, as well as top star attractions at New York's one-time premiere movie palace, Radio City Music Hall.

Ah, yes, Radio City Music Hall. When it closed for renovations in 1979, eliminating regular movie showings, it was truly the end of an era.

Anyway, "Pillow Talk" (1959) and "Lover Come Back" (1961) - the first two films to team Day and Hudson (and third banana Tony Randall) - were monster hits. But it's their third and final film - "Send Me No Flowers" (1964) - that remains their most original and wittiest collaboration.

"Send Me No Flowers" somewhat disengaged itself from the team's two previous films and their
proven narrative(s) in which Hudson plays a womanizer and Day is his coy prey. Here, they are a married (but childless) couple, and Hudson isn't a preening, virile stud but a whining, needy suburban husband suffering from a severe bout of hypochondria.

The "dual" opening sequence is one of the most alert in screen comedy. It's morning but Hudson's George Kimball is still asleep in bed, dreaming about all the commercials for medications that can cure his imagined medical problems: Nipsarin for pulsating headaches, Nauseadrine for clogged nasal passages and the "wonder-working" Garbagine for those unpleasant stomach problems.

Veteran scenarist Julius Epstein ("Casablanca," "No Time for Comedy," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Fanny," "Tall Story" and too many more to mention), who adapted the play on which the film is based, was downright prescient, somehow anticipating the current ubiquity of drug commercials.

And the voices in the hilarious commercials that he invented for the film are highly recognizable. Character actor Herb Vigran (uncredited) describes the results of using Nipsarin and Nauseadrine; Garbagine, meanwhile, is hawked by no less than Herschel Bernardi (also uncredited).

Garbagine - what an apt name for an indigestion drug. Brilliant.

The second opening is even more brilliant. Day - as George's wife, Judy - is up and awake and as spry as only Doris Day can be. She's in her nightgown and bathrobe when she comes out of the house to collect the morning newspaper and the day's deliveries - "milk, yogurt, carrot juice, cottage cheese, organic honey (non-fat) and eggs (fertile)" - from the gossipy milkman (Dave Willock). Trying to balance all of this in her arms, Judy reaches to open the door but it closes and locks - on her robe. She's trapped. As she tries to get out of her bathrobe, each item drops one by one - the milk, carrot juice and the eggs, on which she promptly steps. In her fluffy slippers.

Director Norman Jewison stages this sequence as if it were vintage '50s animation. Day is a Looney Tunes character here - Bugs Bunny, if you will. At one point, she even tries to hide behind a porch post, à la Bugs. And composer (Frank) DeVol underlines the cartoonishness of the sequence with some playful music, orchestrated with "bo-ings!," "pops" and "crackles" by the great Joseph Gershenson (with a bow to Warner Bros.).

Tony Randall plays the Kimballs' neighbor and George's best friend, Arthur, who spends most of the film in a drunken stupor as he tries to write a eulogy when George becomes convinced that he is dying...
  • "When they made George Kimball, they threw away the mold." 
  • "They needed a good sport in heaven, so they sent for George Kimball - yes, George Pommerton Kimball."
...and then hilariously downgrading it in scene after scene, scratching out "unfailing good humor" and "faithful and devoted husband," as George morphs into the terminal patient's version of a bridezilla.

Randall is indispensable as always, but the star supporting player here is Edward Andrews who plays George's physician, Dr. Morrissey, who has an on-going, envy-based rant, a veritable comedy routine, about what other doctors, entitled specialists, are charging patients:
  • "Those lucky allergists. They keep hours just like a banker and make the same kind of money, too. I know one of them - built a $100,000 house on ragweed alone. When the pollen count goes up, it's just like the stock market!"
  • "A friend of mine, a gastroenterologist. He'd look at anything but gall bladders. He is absolutely cleaning up!"
  • "Dr. Peterson. Busy man. Biggest cardiologist in the city. Got a regular goldmine there!"
  • "I'm not a psychiatrist but, boy, they make a fortune!"
The aforementioned opening scenes of "Send Me No Flowers" were the work of Julius Epstein, but most of the film's clever dialogue, such as Dr. Morrissey's, comes directly from the 1960 play by Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore. One memorable one-liner follows another:

When George tells Arthur that he has some bad news, meaning his impending demise, Arthur asks, "It's nothing that's going to affect property values, is it?" The second half of the film has George intent on finding a second husband for Judy, although he rejects - and resents - the obvious choice, Judy's college sweetheart, Bert (Clint Walker). "Are you mad?," George says to Arthur, "Judy marry that cornball. Why I'd live first!"

George then records a farewell message: "My dearest Judy, by the time your hear this tape, I will be dead. Yes, my hypochondria has finally paid off..."  And when Judy suspects his strange behavior may have something to do with infidelity, George reassures her: "Judy, my time is up. That's right. Time for another pill.  I'm serious. I'm dying. The old ticker. Isn't that better than having another woman?" Hudson's deadpan delivery is perfect throughout.

The play "Send Me No Flowers" opened in New York on December 5th, 1960 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, starring David Wayne and Nancy Olson as George and Judy Kimball. Frank Merlin played Dr. Morrissey, Peter Turgeon had the role of Arnold and Richard McMuarry played Bert. James Dyas directed. The reviews were mixed and the show had a short run, very short - 40 performances in all, closing on January 7th, 1961.

But executives at Universal liked what they saw and thought it had greater potential as a film. Epstein expanded the play - which took place entirely on one set, in the Kimballs' living room during a holiday weekend - and Jewison, a young Canadian filmmaker who directed Day (and Edward Andrews) with great success in "The Thrill of It All" a year earlier, in 1963, reunited with her for this occasion.

Jewison worked largely in television prior to becoming a Universal house director, making his debut in 1962 with Tony Curtis' comedy, "40 Pounds of Trouble." Next came the two Day films and then "The Art of Love," with James Garner and Dick Van Dyke, in 1965. He broke loose - and broke out - later that year with Steve McQueen's "The Cincinnati Kid," followed by "The Russians Are Coming!, The Russians Are Coming!," In the Heat of the Night," "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Gaily, Gaily," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Jesus Christ, Superstar."

Click on photo to enlarge:
"Send Me No Flowers" premiered in New York at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, November 12th, 1964. Turner Classic Movies will screen it @ 2 p.m. (est) on Sunday, March 4th, with Alicia Malone, host of FilmStruck, Turner's streaming service, providing pre- and post-screening commentary. Malone, who has recently been added as a full-time TCM host, refers to "Send Me No Flowers" as her favorite Doris Day-Rock Hudson pairing.

Notes in Passing: The very small uncredited role of Arthur's wife - seen briefly in a kitchen scene with Doris Day - is played by Patricia Crowley who, at the time, was about to start production on the TV version of "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," in the role that Day played in the 1960 film.

The fantasy dance sequence with Day and Clive Clerk was choreographed by David Winters who played A-Rab, a member of the Jets, in both the stage and film versions of "West Side Story."

And Hal March, who appears here as the neighborhood cad who sets his sight on Day, played the lead in Neil Simon's "Come Blow Your Horn" during the same 1960 Broadway season as "Send Me No Flowers." The Simon play made March, long a character actor in movies, a star. But Frank Sinatra inherited his role in the 1963 film version  of "Come Blow Your Horn." So "Send Me No Flowers" marked March's return to films.

At one time, there were rumors that Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, best known for the 1998 Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle, "Can't Hardly Wait," were talking with Universal about a possible remake. Never happened. But Universal might want to consider a new version with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in the Day-Hudson roles.  With Nancy Meyers directing?

Could work.

And, finally, the title song for "Send Me No Flowers," sung over the main titles by Day, was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Curiously, the play also had a title song, penned by George Weiss and Will Lorin.

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

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~Rock Hudson in the first opening scene of "Send Me No Flowers"
 ~photography: Universal 1964©

~Poster art for the 1964 film of "Send Me No Flowers"

~Hudson in "Send Me No Flowers"
~photography: Universal 1964©

~Doris Day in the second opening scene of "Send Me No Flowers"
~photography: Universal 1964©

~Edward Arnold as Dr. Morrissey in "Send Me No Flowers"
~photography: Universal 1964©

~Day and Hudson as Judy and George Kimball in "Send Me No Flowers"
~photography: Universal 1964©

~Playbill and poster art for the 1960 play of "Send Me No Flowers"

~The Radio City Music Hall Program for "Send Me No Flowers"

~TCM host Alicia Malone
-photography: Turner Classic Movies 2017©

~Day and Clive Clerk dancing in "Send Me No Flowers"
~photography: Universal 1964©

~Day as Judy Kimball in "Send Me No Flowers"
~photography: Universal 1964©