Guest Diary

LIZ SMITH: Barbra Conquers Jimmy Fallon ...

Miss Streisand. No, this photo has nothing to do with Barbra's appearance on "The Tonight Show." It's just ... fabulous.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
by Liz Smith

Barbra Conquers Jimmy Fallon ... Lesley Ann Warren's "Cinderella" on DVD ... and Movies, Movies, Movies!

“HE mentioned that, to his mind, America had evolved from an industrial economy to one based on entertainment and technology.” Writer-historian David Halberstam to Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. (Halberstam died in a car accident in 2007.)
LOOKING at the 20th Anniversary issue of one of my favorite magazines — Vanity Fair — with Robert Downey, Jr. on the cover, didn’t properly prepare me for what’s inside.

Page after page about “The New Establishment,” where if I recognized one person in ten, it was a triumph of my old age.

The Proust Questionnaire this month is Lena Dunham who also just got the “full disclosure” treatment in The New York Times last Sunday. Asked what is her greatest extravagance, the creator of HBO’s “Girls,” answers, “I’m quite frugal but my dog has a whole staff.”

And there are a few nostalgic pieces like “The Endless Holiday,” which examines how jet flying collaborated with the celebrity explosion. And “The Winter of Her Despair,” telling how Jackie Kennedy almost lost herself, following JFK’s assassination.
WHAT A smart decision Jimmy Fallon made, to place Barbra Streisand in his seat at the “The Tonight Show” desk, while he sat on the “guest” couch. Barbra looked quite comfortable and to be honest, I don’t think I would have liked seeing La Streisand on the couch. That’s for mere mortals.

Barbra was charming (told a few tales that all her devoted fans know, but she told them well), seemed relaxed, and sounded lovely, even during the funny duets, when Fallon kept appearing dressed up as one of her partners on her new CD, “Partners.” (Jimmy was clearly overcome by her presence, perhaps too much. He excitedly interrupted her several times, and it was distracting. But she seemed pleased by his attentions.) Barbra was so sweet, reasonable, warm, that one smart-aleck I know said, “And the Emmy goes to ...” Cynics!
Barbra Streisand in Jimmy Fallon's seat at the “The Tonight Show” desk.
Her voice is huskier now, but like the great artist she is, she knows where to breathe, how to hold back, when to let go. There is still something about that voice. When she first began to sing, one gasped a little. It remains pure, smooth — unmistakably the voice of countless albums and movies. I actually prefer these deeper tones — more human, more accessible.
Barbra 50 years ago on the "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.
Superficially, Barbra looked slender and remarkably fresh — if not quite as untouched by time as the cover photo of her album suggests. My one complaint? A bit of a trim on the hair and less spray. It was an immoveable object.

Eh, hair. So it’s not like buttah. Everything else remains rich, fattening in the best way, and apparently ageless. She is a true phenomenon.
Click above to watch Barbra and Jimmy's performance.
Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella.
AROUND TOWN — Next Tuesday, Sept. 23rd, Lesley Ann Warren will attend a performance of Broadway’s “Cinderella.” She will appear on stage with the entire cast at the end.

Why, you ask? Because Lesley Ann Warren is also in town to promote the DVD release of her famous 1965 TV special “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” Lesley is the Cinderella of many childhoods.

The night after she takes her bows, Lesley will head on over to Barnes & Noble on E. 86th Street, where she’ll perform and sign copies of her DVD.

I love Lesley, one of the sweetest girls in the biz. (No, she’s not a “girl” anymore, but she has that eternal quality. She’s a mix of Natalie Wood and Marilyn, vulnerable to the max.)
END THOUGHTS ON real movies: “I want you to go to AA.”

“Pftt! They’re just a bunch of bloody evangelists’ — Jews do not become alcoholics.”
“Maybe in the Bible they don’t.”

So it went, back and forth between Carol Burnett and Elizabeth Taylor in 1983’s HBO drama “Between Friends.” This is a fascinating little movie squeezed between Taylor’s stage appearances in “The Little Foxes” and “Private Lives.” What startles about “BF” is how much it draws on Taylor’s own life at the time and how prescient it is about her future (rehab, revitalization, a decade without a husband.)

Liz and Carol announce "Between Friends" 1983.
It is not out on DVD and VHS copies are rare. However, right now the entire film can be seen on YouTube. It’s worth checking out. (Burnett — cast against type — plays a cynical, promiscuous real-estate dealer, who is astonished by Taylor’s girlish dependency on romantic illusions.)

We received a few notes about our thoughts on “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” When I expressed myself surprised that anybody could have enjoyed it, my office-mate, Denis said: “It was supposed to be a satire, a take-off on the innocence of the 1920s. Unfortunately, Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore didn’t know from satire. Bea Lillie did but she was underused. Carol Channing had once known satire, but at that point, not so much. The movie was a big hit based on Julie’s name. After that, her box-office plummeted — ‘Star’, ‘Darling Lili. The musical vogue was over. ‘Millie’ helped kill it.”

Over the weekend, TCM showed two Bette Davis/Miriam Hopkins films, “The Old Maid” and “Old Acquaintance.” Both are highly entertaining. But the top kudos go to “The Old Maid,” which is an hand-wringing melodrama that packs in ruined weddings, unfulfilled love, sudden deaths, illegitimate children, revenge, misery by the bucketful and astonishing confrontation scenes on grand staircases. If the final twenty minutes don’t reduce you to a sobbing wreck, turn in your humanity card. Davis and Hopkins are evenly matched (This is one of Davis’ “noble” roles. Hopkins is a bitch, as per usual, but it works flawlessly.)

This one is available on DVD. Get it!
Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis in "The Old Maid," 1939.

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