Liz Smith: And the Oscar for Best Comedy Goes To…

And more from our Liz: Tita Cahn on “J. Edgar” … Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in “Follies”? … Author Carolyn Farb brings the dogs home

“IT’S been like five times in a zillion years that a comedy has won Best Picture. It doesn’t seem like it’s screwing up ‘Schindler’s List’ for ‘The Hangover’ to have its own category,” said Judd Apatow, the writer-director advocating for a comedy Best Picture category at the Oscars.

Well, everything else in the world has changed from instantaneous communication to instant “friendship” via the Internet … to really funny award show hosts like Bob Hope to really vicious ones like Ricky Gervais … from five “best” pictures to ten! So maybe Mr. Apatow is correct.

Why not give comedy its own category and let it reap the whirlwind?

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The attractive woman who calls herself “The Widow Cahn” is one of La La Land’s famous hostesses and has been, ever since the heyday of Frank Sinatra and people like that.

Sinatra made a part of his fame out of singing the songs from the prolific and gifted late Sammy Cahn, a man who himself won so many Academy Awards that they are still clustered on his wife’s shelves.

So here is an e-mail from Tita Cahn:

  • Worst picture of the year — “J. Edgar”
  • Worst performance by an actor in a leading role — Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Worst line ever spoken between two men in a film — “Will you be my number two?”
  • Worst line ever spoken by a mother to a son in a film — “I’d rather have a dead son than a daffodil.”
  • Worst defamation of the dead – “I’ve been physical with Dorothy Lamour, and I think it may be time for a Mrs. Hoover.”
  • Best performance by an actor in a supporting role before a stroke — Armie Hammer
  • Best performance by an actor in a supporting role after a stroke — Armie Hammer

Well, that’s one opinion of a new movie. I haven’t yet seen “J. Edgar” but I found this verdict as interesting as any of the other things I’ve read from the professional critics.

* * *

LAST SUNDAY’S New York Times piece on Elaine Paige, who made such an impact as Carlotta in the current production of “Follies,” contained a bit of info I’d forgotten, even though I’d written about it many years ago.

Apparently, Stephen Sondheim had composed Carlotta’s “I’m Still Here” while musing on Joan Crawford. As per the lyrics: “First you’re another sloe-eyed vamp, then someone’s mother, then you’re camp/Then you career to career.”

Well, guess what? Joan Crawford was actually up for the role of Carlotta in a planned movie version of “Follies” in 1974! Yes! The movie was supposed to star Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, June Allyson, Joan Blondell and — Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. However, Crawford would not get to sing “I’m Still Here.” That number was going to Davis. Crawford was to have “Broadway Baby.”

The great press rep John Springer told me all about this a few years later, after I had my Daily News column. And, obviously after the project had fallen through. John said “Bette was thrilled, but had some misgivings about working with Crawford again.”

Ah, well, so it never happened. Producer Hal Prince withdrew because he felt MGM was reneging on promises and the project evaporated. (Several years later, he would at least get to work with Elizabeth Taylor. He directed her in the unfairly maligned screen version of “A Little Night Music.”)

I want to thank Shaun Considine for jogging my memory. Shaun is the author of the classic book, Bette and Joan — The Divine Feud and he always perks up at the mere mention of either lady. The Divine Feud, now out in a Kindle edition, available on Amazon.

P.S. I was also glad to be reminded of John Springer, a real gentleman of discretion who went to his grave with hundreds of intimate tales. He represented many of the most famous and dramatic stars, including Judy, Marilyn and Elizabeth and Richard. He never uttered an unkind or salacious word. Publishers begged for a “tell-all.” He told nothing.

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CAROLYN FARB is a native Texan who has become the foremost volunteer fundraiser in Houston. She is also an avid modern art collector. But who knew she also loved dogs and has written a book about one titled Lucas Comes to America.

This work of dogdom is unusual and shows Carolyn as a gifted children’s writer. “Lucas” is now on an iTunes app.

If you’d like to have this story of a dog brought from the UK to Texas, you can order at www.authorhouse.com

* * *

ENDQUOTE: “I always thought she was the most underrated actress I ever worked with. Hers was one of the biggest stardoms this town has ever seen, but she was exploited and under-appreciated.”

That’s L.A. press rep Dick Guttman commenting on our recent column (and the Q magazine article) on Doris Day.

5 comments so far.

  1. avatar rick gould says:

    The “Widow Cahn” sounds like she’d be fun to have a martini with!

    As for that end quote on Doris Day, you could say that about more than a few stars in Hollywood–which has always used and never appreciated their stars–then and now.

  2. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Wow.  I sure would have liked to see that version of “Follies”.  And imagine the behind-the-scenes tittletattle! ! !  Carolyn does indeed work very hard for her charities.  That is but one of the reasons a number of us call her Carolyn Farbulous.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Nothing, and no one, in life is free. Carolyn had a “pre-nup” when she became “Mrs. Farb” but for some reason, rumors still abound, “Mr. Farb” had a change of heart before they actually went to what was expected to be a very interesting trial. She kept the house and about $20 million. Her first book should have been titled “How to Marry Well and Divorce Better Even with a Pre-Nup.”  Carolyn is certainly an improvement, however, over the “Mrs. Farb” who followed her. Who dates her hairdresser. Carolyn parties with hers. But doesn’t date him.  All in all, she’s good people.  But, well, not free.  Just thought I’d add a touch of gossip – we had two great gossip columnists in Houston. Marge Crumbaker and Betsy Parish.  Betsy Parish  went where Marge wouldn’t.  Her blind items had phones ringing all day long with people denying it was them. Including occasionally the one it really was.  Those were the good old days when people ran for the paper each morning. Then Hearst decided to buy both newspapers. And closed the wrong one.

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        Ahh Baby, you have sparked memories for the Count.  The Count was a semi-regular Betsy Parish “sight’em” in the Lanier days.  And don’t forget Big City Beat by Maxine.  Loved Maxine.  Spent a fortune with her fey husband Emile on clothes at Tootsies.  Is Tootsies even open any more?  What about Tony’s?  It has been so very long since I visited Houston.

  3. avatar John Dillon says:

    A filming of Follies would be an extraordinary gift to today’s (and future) theater lovers, as long as Mr. Prince and Mr. Sondheim were given total control. I’ve been praying for a full blown, old fashioned mounting of this glorious musical since 1971. If I were casting it, Debbie Reynolds would still be a contender, for Carlotta’s role. I’m sure, in the hands of today’s brainless film execs, it would have to be done in 3D and show an actual explosion of the Weismann theater, maybe throw in a vampire and have Miley Cyrus do B’way Baby to get the tween audience.