Liz Smith: The Shakespeare Conspiracy — Really?!

What's in a name? That which we call ... The Bard

And more from our Liz: Demi Moore — has Ashton driven her to anorexia? … Doris Day’s “My Heart” masterpiece … Michael Buble’s very merry “Christmas”

“EVEN WITH the best intentions, most historical dramas sacrifice history for drama, switching around events and creating composite characters. Real life lacks narrative tension: that’s why people go to the movies.”

That is Stephen Marche, writing in the Sunday New York Times magazine. Marche’s article is a brilliant deconstruction of Roland Emmerich’s conspiracy movie about “who” William Shakespeare really was.

In writing about the film the other day, I praised the performances, but referred to the movie as a “beautiful, murky, mess that plays fast and loose with historical facts.” But even then, I didn’t realize just how fast and loose Emmerich has been until I read Mr. Marche. (I did know that Shakespeare continued writing for ten years after the death of Anonymous — aka Edward, the Earl of Oxford. But director Emmerich explains that away, along with everything else.)

I know it’s “only” a movie, but movies have a powerful impact — look how many people believe every single frame of Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” for example. Stone blamed the CIA and LBJ, but the culprits seemed actually to be the New Orleans crime Mafia. Because of the fine performances in “Anonymous,” including the great Vanessa Redgrave as an aging, querulous Queen Elizabeth I, I suggest reading Mr. Marche before plunking down your ten dollars. Suitably armored, you can then go see “Anonymous” and recall again the famous phrase from the horror film, “Third House From The Left” — “Remember, it’s only a movie!”

Then, brush up your Shakespeare.

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DEMI MOORE’S physical appearance has always been the subject of comment and conjecture — her nose, her breasts, her flat tummy, her not-so-flat tummy, implants for the movie “Striptease.” (That’s the one that catapulted Demi to the top of the heap, as the highest paid woman in movies, fifteen years ago. Given the material, it was not seen as a great triumph for women in film.) Then there were rumors that she’d paid a small fortune to refurbish herself for her brief bikini-clad cameo appearance in “Charlie’s Angels.”

She has admitted to some of this, conceding an “extreme obsession,” about her looks. Through all of her procedures — which are probably far fewer than we assume — Moore has always looked lovely, natural and younger than her years.

Now Demi’s looks are under scrutiny again, not because she’s gone to the doctor or dermatologist again, for lifting, sculpting or plumping. No, she has been seen looking unusually thin, even described as “gaunt.” This is being attributed to heartbreak over troubles with hubby Ashton Kutcher.

Well, I don’t know. She can’t be very happy with Kutcher’s reported catting around, though they remain together, and even went on some kind of wilderness marriage counseling therapy weekend. I saw clips of Demi promoting her new indie, “Margin Call.” This is the event at which she was supposed to look wasted away. She was thin, but hardly ready for an IV infusion or forced feeding.

In fact, my one thought looking at her was that the time had come for her to cut her long, dark, parted in the center hair. Trim it five inches, restyle it, and maybe allow a few grays or at least a lighter shade of black. That and maybe five pounds would put her in prime form.

At forty-eight, Demi Moore is too young to pine away for anybody.

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SPOTTED AT Manhattan’s always celebrity-clogged Primola eatery: Shirlee Fonda (widow of Henry) and Rob Wolders (companion of Audrey Hepburn.) Mr. Wolders, who was once the beloved of Merle Oberon, stays in touch with Audrey’s children, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti. In fact he is flying to Italy to visit them. Sean, in the midst of divorcing wife number three, lives in Florence. Luca, a graphic designer is happily married, lives in Rome and is expecting a second child next month.

Also decorating Primola — Jimmy and Robert Nederlander (at separate tables) … fabled Nazi hunter Elie Wiesel and his wife Marion … and my very good friend Robert Osborne, the heart and soul of Turner Classic Movies.

Robert has been recovering from surgery. He looks healthy but thinner. He returns to his TCM duties on November 1st. I have been missing him. I am so glad he’ll be back at his post, as passionate and erudite about movies as ever. I consider Mr. O a national treasure.

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SPEAKING OF national treasures, if you love Doris Day (and if you don’t, please see a doctor,) you’ll adore her new album, “My Heart,” which has been a big hit in England.

It’s not exactly “new” — that is, some of the songs are from the vault, when her voice was still pristine, liquid velvet. Others were recorded more recently, though I don’t know how recently. On newer songs, such as “You Are So Beautiful,” “Disney Girls,” “Daydream,” “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” and “Heaven Tonight,” there is an exquisite maturity to her voice, a deepening tone and even more care taken to express the meaning of the lyrics. Her diction is, as ever, perfection.

Doris also speaks in a moving dedication to her late son, Terry Melcher, introducing his own singing on “Happy Endings.”

I think Doris was underrated as an actress and as a singer. She was the equal of Streisand and Garland and Billie. Her voice got into your ear, into your head — so intimate — and often so sensual! You feel she is singing for you and only you.

Go to Amazon and order “My Heart.” It’ll do your heart good.

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AND, THOUGH Halloween isn’t here quite yet, Christmas items are already appearing. One of the most delightful is Michael Buble’s holiday album, titled simply, “Christmas.” Michael covers all the classics — “Silent Night,” “White Christmas,” etc. and contributes his own composition “Cold December Night.” Naturally, Mr. Buble hopes this will become a classic, too, just the way Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas (Is You)” now competes every year with all the standards.

6 comments so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    Liz, quasi-historical docu-dramas are one of my peeves for exactly the reasons you cite here. So many people think these are factual accounts; granted, not everyone can be a historian, but everyone SHOULD have enough critical thinking skills to question the fictionalization and biases of these accounts. Yet – we don’t. We just swallow these stories hook, line, and sinker.

  2. avatar rick gould says:

    Robert Osborne and TCM, sigh. I currently don’t get TCM, which is probably good, or I would never get any school work done!

    Doris Day, another Hollywood class act–a bit of a rarity these days! Her life would make a great movie, though I’m sure that’s the last thing she would want…

    I am no Demi Moore fan, but she strikes me as strong person… I can’t imagine Demi being undone by the likes of Ashton Kutcher ;)

  3. avatar howard green says:

    Thanks for the kind words about Doris Day. So talented – singing, dancing, acting, comedy, but sadly underappreciated. And that smile … gorgeous!

  4. avatar D C says:

    “AND, THOUGH Halloween isn’t here quite yet, Christmas items are already appearing”

    Last night I was returning home after dark, and as I turned into my neighborhood, saw a home with bushes full of Christmas lights!~  I thought for a moment that maybe they had other things up and it was for Halloween, but then I looked back and, no… just red, green, yellow, blue, and purple lights throughout the landscaping near the front door and windows.  I just laughed out loud.  I know the woman across the street from me is going to be livid.  She’s always the first one out with Christmas decor on the lawn. 

  5. avatar Rho says:

    Doris Day deserves a special award.

    As for Michael Buble, I like him, but he will never be as good as the masters of those songs.

    Yes, I have seen Christmas decorations, Hanukah is the same week this year, where are those decorations?

  6. avatar Dan Patterson says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the Doris Day album. I’ll definitely order this. And yes, Doris Day deserves an Oscar. Also, it will be great to have Robert Osborne back on TCM. He IS a national treasure, and his deep love for movies is always apparent.