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LIZ SMITH

Angelina and Brad — They're Doing It For the Kids? Really?
Maggie Smith — Can She Leave "Downton Abbey" Without Riots Occurring?

by Liz Smith

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

" ... that fascinating observer, Nora Ephron."
“NEVER BEGIN anything with a quote!” is the advice given by that fascinating observer, Nora Ephron.

But we began the Liz column ages ago with an opening quote and consider it bad luck to start changing everything around now.

So I was heartened to see a big celebrity saying something astute in Time magazine. Here’s the Oscar-winning Kate Winslet on what she feels whenever she hears the omnipresent music of “My Heart Will Go On” from the James Cameron movie Titanic.

Kate: “I wish I could say, ‘Oh, listen, everybody! It’s the Celine Dion song! But I don’t. I just have to sit there, you know, kind of straight faced with a massive internal eye roll. I do feel like throwing up.”
TITANIC finally passed the $2 billion dollar mark in lifetime ticket sales over the weekend — the recent 3-D re-release edged it up. Thus, James Cameron is the only director to have two movies under his belt that have reached that milestone — Avatar was the other one.

Mr. Cameron does not feel like throwing up.
FIRST OFF, sincere congratulations to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on their upcoming wedding. They are nice people and good stars. That is, they are as glamorous as we’re going to get these days, so we might as well accept it and enjoy it. And they do good deeds in a naughty world.

But (sorry, but there’s always a “but”!) the announcement of this engagement is truly a surprise. Can everything we’re hearing be true — the French château, the lavish preparations, the big ring, etc? Really? A wedding like that seems to fly in the face of the manner in which this couple has lived their life together for seven years.

Credit: Daily Mail.
Credit: PEOPLE Magazine.
The explanation is that they are “doing it for the children” who have begun to ask questions as to why the pair are not married, because “people get married in the movies.” It was never my impression Brad and Angie’s kids were watching a lot of movies where people get married. Or watching a lot of movies, period.

And if the children’s angle is true, why go through all this fuss? How about a quick marriage with close friends, family and concerned kiddies attending? How about a secret wedlock, just sprung on us? No need for months of hysteria.

And yes, it can be done. Nobody should ever forget the great example set by John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette. The media wasn’t quite as pervasive as it is today, but it was plenty intrusive. Yet, John and Carolyn were literally on their honeymoon by the time the first photos of their intimate wedding were being released to a stunned world media.

I don’t question Angelina and Brad’s affection or sincerity, but I wonder about this uncharacteristically “movie star” moment. They generally save that sort of thing for public appearances at awards shows — Miss Jolie’s leg-pose at the Oscars is still a subject of hot debate.

And to be honest, I feel for Jennifer Aniston in all this. Oh, not because she harbors any lingering feelings for her ex. But this means an eternity of “poor tragic Jen” on the covers of the weekly glossies. She is hardly that, and such a perception makes her crazy.

I will only assume that if the Jolie-Pitt wedding culminates in the already expected extravaganza, proceeds from sale of photos, etc, will go to charity. That will be a positive thing.
IT DID my heart good to see the amount of space given to the hotly-debated rumor of Dame Maggie Smith’s possible departure from Downton Abbey after the third season airs. (It is filming now.)  This news topped a number of online gossip and movie sites.  It is a credit to the wild popularity of the show, but also to Dame Maggie’s legendary status as one of the most vivid, talented and long-lasting actresses of her time. Of any time! (Youngsters know her as Minerva McGonagall in the “Harry Potter” movies.)

Dame Maggie — who won the Oscar in 1969 for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie — apparently thinks three seasons on TV is enough, even if it is PBS.  She wants to get back on the big screen and stage.
Dame Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.
Dame Maggie’s Dowager Countess will be missed, if the star sticks to her guns.

It doesn’t get any better than in exchanges such as when an unwelcome guest at Downton Abbey says to the Countess, “I don’t think you’ll be seeing me again.”

“Do you promise?” says the Countess, wringing all that is scathing and dismissive out of three little words.
I’VE warned my theater readers several times already that the memoir of the late Shubert titan, Gerald Schoenfeld, is about to come out from Applause Books.’ Many a star, director, producer, etc. will be trembling in their boots.

Gerry and Pat Schoenfeld.
Almost everytime I go to Swifty’s nifty retaurant up on Lexington Avenue near 72nd street, I run into Gerry’s widow, the ubiquitous Patricia Schoenfeld, and she reminds me. I see this lady, too, at every opening night. She is the living memorial to Gerry.

These days, my long-lost relative, Mr. Phil Smith, is running the Shubert organization and things are much calmer if not quite as exciting for those of us who try to follow “theatah.”

So now if you want to get invited to the book party Pat is giving for her dear, departed, you have to e-mail rorys@shubertorg.com and explain why you are worthy to come celebrate the advent of “Mr. Broadway.”

I loved Gerry Schoenfeld, a man who dominated the theater world for many years, and I also had many contentious run-in’s with him over time. But I admired and got a great kick out of him. He had a wonderful sense of humor. His memoir should be a blast and I’ll tell you all about it once I read his book and if I can get into his party April 30th at 6 p.m.

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