Liz Smith: Garbo, Dietrich

main“THERE’S a blush for won’t, and a blush for shan’t, And a blush for having done it: There’s a blush for thought and a blush for naught, And a blush for just begun it.”

This is John Keats in his poem “Sharing Eve’s Apple.”

DIRECTOR-writer-producer Linda Yellen does it again movie-wise! She is already well-known for having twice directed the genius actor Vanessa Redgrave in “Playing for Time” and “Second Serve.” (Further, she has directed the likes of Liv Ullman, Diane Keaton, Gena Rowlands, Jackie Bisset, Liza Minnelli, William Hurt, Dudley Moore, Harry Connick Jr., to name just a few. Yellen produced Dennis Hopper’s final movie, “The Last Film Festival” and also Elizabeth Taylor’s “Sweet Bird of Youth.” Wow.)

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Linda-TerraceLINDA  has signed a deal now to direct a feature about the complex controversial love triangle between Hollywood legends, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and playwright Mercedes de Acosta. I’ve read this screenplay, co-written with Adam Lederfarb, and it is a delight. So poignant, so revealing. Set in the 1930s, it is still relevant to what’s going on now, regarding same-sex love relationships.

(I can’t wait to see what A-list beauties can play these legends? I am thinking Charlize Theron for Garbo. But Madeleine Kahn as Dietrich has gone to her reward. Who else? Barden/Schnee Casting has its work cut out for them.)

Filming starts this August with Lagniappe Films (“Factory Girl” … “Bobby” …  “The Dallas Buyers Club.”)

Producers are Holly Wiersma, Logan Levy, Kerry Barden, Joe Newcomb and Tom Notargiacomo. The movie will be called “Blush” and unfolds the truth of these relationships, as Garbo and Dietrich alternated places as No. 1 and No. 2 while claiming, ironically, that they had never met. Strong-arm studio heads ran Hollywood and “deviation” was not the norm. Stars were black-listed, contracts cancelled if their “activities” became too public.

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THE story follows these women through their “blushing” youth, with Garbo, 20, a relative innocent all the way to her self-enforced seclusion 15 years later. (She retired at the height of her career.) Always nipping at her heels was Dietrich, a ball of energy, stunning looking, realistic, sexy and conquering all. Then there was the fiercely intelligent, idealistic Mercedes — whispered about as “the woman no wife need fear.”

World renowned photographer Edward Steichen used his imagination in 1934 to bring Garbo and Dietrich together. “Blush” indicates it was a lot more than imagination.

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stubbsYOU’VE seen Bill Stubbs of Houston on the PBS show “Moment of Luxury.” Now he is being given the “Stars of Design” lifetime achievement award in Houston come May 1. (This has been won in the past by Richard Meier, Paige Rense and Rose Tarlow.)

May 1 is really a popular date. My own Literacy Partners fundraiser happens that night at Cipriani 42 Street.

This is big as we have best-seller king Bill O’Reilly  … Pulitzer winners Jon Meacham and Elizabeth Stroud reading for us and we are honoring two dynamic women —
philanthropist Tatiana von Furstenberg and thriller writer Patricia Cornwell.

We try to teach millions of adults how to read and write at the 5th grade level and we hope this year to raise $1 million.

Contact Literacypartners.org if you can help us.

friedkinTHIS MEANS I will miss the Jeanne and Herb Siegel kickoff at 21 for Billy Friedkin’s new memoir, The Friedkin Connection.

Friedkin is a popular Hollywood character and talent, wed to the divine Sherry Lansing and he has written an uncharacteristically calm remembrance of how he came to direct two of the most famous films of all time — “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.” I love this temperamental guy but here he doesn’t bother to settle scores as anticipated. He just writes how a nobody gets to be a somebody in a murderous business.

Well, I can’t be everywhere at the same time. So I hope the terrific Siegels and Friedkins will forgive my absence on May 1st.

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THE T.J. Martell Foundation is giving me an award along with Marcie Allen, Joann Camuti, Margaret Cuomo and Lori Stokes. This happens at Riverpark in the Tom Colicchio restaurant on May 7. This way we’ll all become “Women of Influence” and Mother’s Day will get a nod, along with breast cancer research at Sloan Kettering and Mt. Sinai and the fight vs. AIDs.

This charity is a big deal in the music biz as it is named for T.J. Martell who died of leukemia. Remember, research is the only path to the cure.

I offered to sing at this event but they didn’t take me up on it. Grammy nominee Elle Varner will do the honors! Click here to purchase tickets.

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ONE performance only! The Peking Opera will offer the rarely seen Peking Opera classic “The Legend of the White Snake” for this Sunday only at 3 p.m. at NYU Skirball Center. Call for $38 tickets at 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111. Discounts for students.

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This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 4/25/13

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