I paid even less attention to the Oscars this year than I usually do. The show was on the TV, but my nose was in a book. The only movies I watched in 2014 were from my dvd collection and old time movies on TV. There wasn’t even an actor that I could say I wanted to win on the basis of past works.
Frankly, I think I agree with George C. Scott who said acting should be viewed as an art and not a contest. There’s always more complaining about the results than there is about a foul call in the NBA.
I stopped reading though when I heard an exceptional voice singing songs from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. I had no idea who the woman was and I was floored when my wife told me it was Lady Gaga. I have not kept up with pop singers and music in years, and especially those that use gimmicks. I had no idea that Lady Gaga was so talented.
I kept watching. Next came clips from the movie, honored because it was 50 years since it’s release. Wow, 50 years!
I thought back to when my mother-in-law, my wife, our family at the time, just three of our sons, and I, saw it for the first time, even though it had been out for several years. We saw it in a ‘neighborhood’ movie theater in Mexico City. A ‘neighborhood’ movie theater that was as ornate and beautiful as any downtown, first-run movie theater in the Twin Cities. My mother-in-law said the theater was the norm, the people in Mexico City took their movies very seriously.
The movie was in English with Spanish subtitles. An unusual way for me to watch the movie, but a good way for me to brush up on my conversational Spanish.
It also brought back memories of taking a ‘field trip’ in grade school to see a performance of the Von Trapp family, Maria and the children, at the St. Paul Auditorium. They included St. Paul on their Christmas tour for several years.
When my mother asked me if I enjoyed it, I told her it was okay. They sang a lot of Christmas songs like you hear in church or on the radio. “But”, I added, “They didn’t even sing RUDOLPH.” That was the year Gene Autry’s RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER was released and was taking the country by storm. I often wondered if the Von Trapps added it to their repertoire.
The film clip ended and the audience rose to their feet as the great Julie Andrews, Dame Julie Andrews, walked onstage. I felt like rising with them. She ranks with the likes of Princess Grace and Ann Margaret as one of the finest women I have ever had the pleasure of working. So talented! So nice! So classy!
For instance, instead of giving the local crew a tee shirt as a thank you for our work at her concert, Miss Andrews gave us all an expensive white sweat shirt, with the words, ‘Julie Andrews in Concert’ embroidered in small letters on the right breast. Such class!
I had also worked Christopher Plummer for about six weeks when we were mounting the production of CYRANO, THE MUSICAL. It finally made it to Broadway for a short time on Broadway and Plummer won the Emmy for playing Cyrano. As far as Plummer is concerned, I defer to the old saying, ‘If you can’t say anything nice about a person…’
My favorite story about THE SOUND OF MUSIC comes from rehearsals of the first touring production of the show. The rehearsals were at the Orpheum in Minneapolis. It happened before I was in the business and was told to me by several old time stagehands and Big Betty, the daytime bartender at the Speak Easy, the bar across the alley from the Orpheum stage door.
The actress cast as Mother Superior had a drinking problem. Well, she had no problem drinking, the problem came from not drinking. She had drank herself off Broadway and was on probation as far as this production was concerned. She tried her best but finally the long hours and constant repetition took it’s toll. All she could think of was the back door of the Speak Easy just across the alley. She cracked.
During a break when the rest of the cast was having coffee and doughnuts, she walked into the bar. She was still in her nun’s costume.
The Easy was a neighborhood bar, but the neighborhood was not the kind where you wanted to be after dark. During the day, it was usually busy with the usual customers drinking whatever they could afford at the time. Some played pool. Some sat and told the same stories they told the day before. And some placed their head on the bar and took a nap.
But everything came to a halt when a nun walked in the door. She bellied up to the bar and surprised Big Betty when she ordered a shot of whiskey with a beer back, and then lit up a straight Camel cigarette. When she laid down money to pay for for the drink, Big Betty told her it was on the house. She belted the boilermaker down like the pro she was.
She must have impressed the bar clientele because there were a lot of sounds of approval. A customer at end of the bar hollered down her next drink was on him. The actress smiled and told Big Betty if that was the case make it a double. But before Betty could pour the drink, the back door burst open and a strange man stomped in, screaming and swearing.
He went right to the actress and began to call her names that were not appropriate to call a woman in a nun’s habit. Betty said she never would have believed some of those rummies could move as fast as they did. They surrounded the foul-mouthed stranger and threatened to teach him a lesson for disgracing a nun like that, especially a nun who could drink like she did.
Big Betty said she grabbed her Little League bat she kept behind the bar and began to slam it on the bar. The regulars knew from past experience it was best not to get Betty mad, and quickly went back to their original positions. One more loud slap and the man began to explain his actions.
He was the stage manager of the show across the alley. The nun wasn’t a nun. She was an actress in costume and she was nothing but trouble, a lush. When they went back to rehearsing, they couldn’t find her. He had an idea of where she might be and he was right.
He hollered at the actress and gave her shove toward the door. Told her that if he ever caught her drinking on the job, it would be the end of working the show, probably the end of her career.
Big Betty hollered, ‘Hey, Sister, you are officially 86ed out of this establishment – forever!’ Betty swears she saw the black habit sleeve sticking back in the door giving her the middle finger salute.
Usually there are complaints after the Oscars that it was too long, and this or that should have been cut. I never heard any complaints that the 50 year anniversary tribute to THE SOUND OF MUSIC should have been cut to shorten the show.