New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players presented H.M.S. Pinafore, libretto by Sir William S. Gilbert, music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. What a treasure this company is! They are celebrating 40 years of bringing the works of Gilbert & Sullivan to New York. They always give a marvelous performance. The two romantic leads, Daniel Greenwood (Ralph Rackstraw) and Kate Bass (Josephine) sang beautifully, well supported by James Mills, David Auxier and a magnificent ensemble. The words and music never sounded better, under the direction of Albert Bergeret. May they entertain New York audiences for another 40 years!
Probably the most elegant night of the year took place at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. I always attend this beautiful event. 46 lovely debutantes were presented to society at the 60th International Debutante Ball. One of the Honorary Chairmen was my dear friend Anne Eisenhower, whom I have known for years. She has the secret to the Fountain of Youth as she never changes. Among the gorgeous debutantes was Miss Leah Lane, the daughter of the famous Broadway producer Stewart F. Lane and his equally famous wife the Broadway producer Bonnie Comley. Leah's proud grandparents Mr and Mrs Jim Comley were also present for the glorious occasion.
Film Society Lincoln Center is presenting Let There Be Light: The Films of John Houston, December 19-January11, 2015. The African Queen, USA/UK, 1951, is a marvelous adventure story about a mismatched couple (Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn) who sail in a small boat down a dangerous river in the middle of Africa and manage to sink a German gunboat at the beginning of World War I. Bogart won his only Oscar and Hepburn received a nomination, as did director Huston. They were well deserved. Besides being a beautiful technicolor production (superb photography by Jack Cardiff), the two leads give splendid performances, and their eventual love affair seems natural and true. The dialogue is intelligent, humorous, and a delight to the ear. They do not make better movies than this one. It is a joy from beginning to end.
The Night of the Iguana, USA, 1964, is based on the play by Tennessee Williams. Filmed in black and white by the great Mexican cinematographer Gilberto Figueroa on location in Puerto Vallarta, it made the sleepy seaside resort a popular tourist destination. Starring Richard Burton as a Protestant minister reduced to being a tourist guide after sexual and alcoholic misconduct, it also features Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon. All four are excellent. Kerr's diction is crisp and clear, a pleasure to hear. She plays a frustrated spinster. Gardner is always a joy to watch as the owner of a sleazy hotel. and Lyon is a neurotic, oversexed teenager. It is a splendid film.
The Roots of Heaven, USA, 1958, is a wonderful film about a man in Africa (Trevor Howard), obsessed with trying to save the elephants, who are becoming decimated by poachers for their ivory tusks. It features an all star cast, including Juliette Greco, Errol Flynn, Eddie Albert and Orson Welles. Huston could not have a better cast. It is an intelligent film, with memorable dialogue, and the photography is superb. Upon leaving the film, you have the sensation of having spent two hours in Equatorial Africa, and have acquired a new respect for endangered animals.
MoMA is presenting 50 programs by Robert Altman December 3-January 17, 2015. Aria, Great Britain, 1987, is a film with ten scenes by ten different directors inspired by operatic selections. Robert Altman was one of the directors. Some of the scenes are interesting. Some are ridiculous, for example, the one by Jean-Luc Godard has two pretty girls completely naked wandering around a gym where male bodybuilders are lifting weights paying no attention to the ladies. Opera lovers will enjoy listening to the music of Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, and others, sung by singers in their prime, like Enrico Caruso, Carlo Bergonzi, Jussi Bjorling and Leontyne Price. Actors like John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Buck Henry and Beverly D'Angelo appear in various sequences, but do not contribute much to the film.
Beyond Therapy, USA, 1987, is based on the play by Christopher Durang with the same title on Broadway and revived Off-Broadway. I enjoyed the play. It was quite funny. The film version, written mainly by Altman and perhaps a little by Durang, is ridiculous. Although it featured marvelous actors, they all look silly. Two single people (Jeff Goldblum and Julie Hagerty) are seeking lovers by placing ads in magazines. Both are being treated by psychiatrists (Tom Conti and Glenda Jackson), who could use professional help themselves. What takes place are stupid scenes mainly in a French restaurant, embarassing for all of them.
MoMA is presenting Acteurism:Joan Bennett to January 30. Careless Lady, by Kenneth MacKenna, USA, 1932, is a silly film, with more holes in the plot than Swiss cheese. A young innocent young lady (Joan Bennett) pretends to be a married woman on a trip to Paris, so that men will think she is experienced. The man (John Boles), whose name she took, shows up in Paris, and tries to exert his marital rights, and falls in love with her. It ends happily ever after. I got to know Joan in her later years and photographed her many times. In this film, she was never lovelier or more enchanting.