Archives for January 2010
Recently, Ma’ayan Ariel and her parents visited Israel. Offspring #2 and her husband both spent a full year as religious seminary students in Jerusalem, but this was Ma’ayan’s very first visit. They rented an apartment in Jerusalem, stayed with friends in Mo’din, visited with cousins in the Galilee, and spent a Shabbat in Efrat with Karen’s brother David and his wife Elana.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a meaningful and joyous Shabbat.
Yesterday delivered a remarkable study in contrasts.
Two leaders presented their, um, tablets, to a world audience.
Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, introduced the iPad, a sleek, multifunctional tablet.
Barack Hussein Obama introduced, well, Barack Hussein Obama.
Steve Jobs handed down his tablet to the world press as a revolutionary device that will, among other goodies, create a new business model for media.
Barack Hussein Obama’s tablet was BIGGER government.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created by Jobs.
Barack Hussein Obama has never created a single job in his entire life.
Steve Jobs has created wealth for millions of workers and stockholders—including yours truly who has been buying Apple stock since it was stuck at about $13.00 per share.
Barack Hussein Obama has never run a business, never had to meet a payroll, never created wealth for anybody.
Steve Jobs innovates.
Barack Hussein Obama supports a thuggish political status quo.
Steve Jobs created Apple computers, the iPod, the iPhone, phenomenally successful businesses. Hundreds if not thousands of spinoff businesses have been born from these products. Thus wealth is created.
Barack Hussein Obama does not believe in creating wealth, but in the redistribution of wealth.
Steve Jobs understands that he is the CEO, thus when Apple fails he takes responsibility and corrects his vision. It’s called personal responsibility.
Barack Hussein Obama blames President Bush for, well, everything. It’s called whining.
Steve Jobs believes in the genius of the free market.
Barack Hussein Obama believes in the genius of government—an oxymoron.
Steve Jobs believes in simple devices that are user friendly.
Barack Hussein Obama believes in armies of pencil pushers and complex layers of bureaucracy.
Steve Jobs leads by example.
Barack Hussein Obama leads by demagogic rhetoric.
I heard two great noises yesterday.
There was the great sucking sound of the Democrats going down the drain in November.
And there was the sound of Apple’s stock surging into the stratosphere.
Here’s the trailer for Procession, a gem of a short film written and directed by Beth Spitalny. This is a tenderly rendered portrait of love, loss and grief. The film relies on wonderfully observed details and a classic, restrained style. There are no explosions, no special effects, no sex or nudity. Ms. Spitany is a young woman, but she directs like a veteran.
Full disclosure. I served as creative and religious consultant.
Procession is the touching story of Shayna, beautifully played by Lisa Strauss—her face is so filled with conflicting emotions that she hardly needs words to convey the depths of her pain—an orthodox girl who is unable to properly grieve when her (secret) boyfriend suddenly passes away.
Procession was invited to be part of a Fun Film Series called Cinema Speakeasy. There’s a screening followed by a Q & A discussion and will take place Feb. 2nd in Echo park at 7:45pm. For more info go to: Cinema Speakeasy.
The film was also accepted by the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival. Festival Dates are March 26 – April 1st 2010 at the Laemmles Sunset 5 in Hollywood CA. Here’s their website. It is is still being updated with 2010 festival details.
For more information go to Procession. Highly recommended.
There are movie stars who who are movie stars because of the longevity of their careers, the high quality of their work, the charisma they project. I recognize the greatness of, say, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford without feeling any particular affection for these actresses. Their craft, their tenacity, and their ability to survive and thrive in Hollywood—a town of smiling cannibals—evokes my deepest admiration.
And then there are stars who have touched me in a way that is so profoundly personal that, when they pass away, I actually feel as if I have lost a central portion of myself.
I was just a child when I first saw Jean Simmons in David Lean’s superb Great Expectations, (1946). As Young Estella, Simmons is coolly cruel and lovingly destructive to the orphan Pip. Simmons perfectly embodied Miss Havisham’s monstrous creation. I loved and hated Estella/Simmons.
Simmons was just fifteen-years old when she appeared as Estella. As Pip observes, she is very proud, very pretty and very insulting.
After seeing Great Expectations, I made it my business to watch every movie in which Jean Simmons appeared. It was the beginning of my love affair with Hollywood stars. Or rather their shadows. As I soon learned as a screenwriter, Hollywood stars are just like you and me—only richer and crazier.
Angel Face (1952), paired a grown up Simmons with tough guy Robert Mitchum. Once again, Simmons plays a beautiful monster, a woman with serious daddy issues. It might be Simmons greatest performance. Even as she weaves her web of destruction, we glimpse a vulnerability that is heart-breaking. This was Simmons greatest asset, her ability to project warmth and yearning through that aloof mask of symmetrical beauty.
Here’s a clip from Angel Face. The entire film is posted on youtube. Watch and listen. Simmons has a beautiful speaking voice, crisp and clear as a diamond.
In The Actress (1953) Simmons portrays a small town girl who yearns to move to New York to be an actress. Simmons is in pigtails and pinafores, light years away from the calculating femme fatale of Angel Face, and she perfectly embodies a dreamy young girl who yearns to escape her dreary life. It’s a fresh and lively performance that was a mirror of my desire to escape Brooklyn and go to Hollywood.
In Elmer Gantry (1960) Simmons plays Sister Sharon Falconer, an evangelical preacher who travels through rural America. This is, perhaps, my favorite Simmons movie. Her religious convictions run deep and true, yet when she falls in love with the fast talking Elmer Gantry, Burt Lancaster, a charming huckster, her faith is sorely tested. Simmons is no saint, and she doesn’t play it as such. Instead she endows Sister Sharon with a steely innocence that, eventually, leads to Gantry’s moral awakening. It’s a subtle, restrained performance, a great performance that should have been nominated for an Oscar.
in this clip from Elmer Gantry, Jean Simmons makes her appearance at about the four minute mark.
As Varinia, the beautiful slave girl in Spartacus (1960), Simmons loves Kirk Douglas with such depth that in the end, when she holds up her infant child for the crucified Spartacus to behold, I actually fell apart in the movie theater. Thick tears rolled down my cheeks, and I understood, perhaps for the first time, the emotional power of movies.
Here’s the last scene from Spartacus. Watch and weep. The score, by the great Alex North, is one of the finest ever composed.
I’ve always thought of my wife Karen, as my very own Jean Simmons; the same regal bearing, penetrating eyes, ink black hair, tiny waist, and a cool, ferocious intelligence that masks a universe of deeply felt emotions.
Born in England, Simmons became an American citizen. She was married and divorced twice, to actor Stewart Granger (1950-1960) and director Richard Brooks (1960-1977). Both men were quite a bit older than Simmons and both were, ah, quite controlling. She had two daughters, one from each marriage. Simmons was an alcoholic and spent time in rehab.
In 1965, on the set of Life at the Top, Simmons was interviewed by photo journalist Eve Arnold. At age 36, Simmons was in a reflective mood, acutely aware that she was approaching that point in her career where starring roles dried up for aging beauties:
I cannot help but constantly think about that age thing. At thirty you start thinking about being forty, and pushing age. I hope to get over it soon, and then get on with it. I don’t know what it is, but in this country, it is as though it is a crime to grow old. As though everybody isn’t doing it. Or maybe it is just this business.
Jean Simmons passed away from lung cancer, age 80, on Friday January 22, in Santa Monica, surrounded by family.
Thank you for all your hard and beautiful work.
Rest in Peace.
For more articulate and touching Jean Simmons memorials please visit:
John Nolte at Big Hollywood.
Dan Callahan at Slant Magazine.