Liz Smith: What Will You Find

main“STAR QUALITY. Whether you are born with it or catch it from a drinking fountain, she had it!”

That was a significant line from the 1954 Joe Mankiewicz movie “The Barefoot Contessa.” The remark referred to Ava Gardner, but I always think of it when a star comes along and has “it” — that little something extra that makes a star.

place beyondSo there is plenty of “it” in the new film, “The Place Beyond The Pines,” starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes. Directed by Derek Cianfrance, who also guided Gosling through the acclaimed “Blue Valentine,” the movie is ambitious. Perhaps it is too ambitious in its three-tiered, multi-generational, decades-spanning plot. But if you have patience and are fans of these actors, there is much pleasure to be found in this saga of crime, family dysfunction and horribly wrong choices.

Ryan Gosling defines the latest aspect of his star persona — intense, hot, mostly taciturn. (He wasn’t always like this, in fact he used to be kind of goofy. But intense, hot and taciturn made him a big star.) Bradley Cooper again demonstrates that he much more than that impossibly blue-eyed, good-looking guy in those “Hangover” movies. He is an actor of depth and variety. And Eva Mendes was a nice surprise here, appropriately earthy and anxious. Previously I was impressed more by her looks than her thesping. (Perhaps dating Mr. Gosling has had benefits other than the obvious.)

Oh, and Ray Liotta is on hand, doing what he does best onscreen — being utterly corrupt. Liotta knows his niche, and never disappoints. Now, that’s an actor.

And, there are brand new “its” in “Beyond The Pines.” The names are Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. Both are terrific, and DeHaan has what is likely the movie’s most emotional scene.

Again, be warned. It’s a long haul, through these prickly cinematic pines. But worth it, if you appreciate movies that make you think, pay attention and feel.

thatcherMARGARET Thatcher was one of the most compelling political figures of our recent times. But she was no feminist, approved of South African apartheid and disapproved of gay rights. She was the darling of British conservatives who eventually kicked her out of office.

Nevertheless, after seeing Meryl Streep play her in the movie, there was something irresistible in The Iron Lady, her own self-approved label.

I’ll never forget Margaret Thatcher at President Ronald Reagan’s funeral in Washington, she was the most impressive person among a clutch of U.S. presidents, First Ladies and dignitaries. She no longer spoke publicly and offered a filmed tribute instead. But coming down the aisle she was as great looking and impressive as ever.

And I’ll also never forget in the film of her life, she is shown defending the indefensible British War over the Falkland Islands. She sure told the Americans off cleverly when she reminded them that they had gone to war in WWII when their island, Pearl Harbor, was attacked.

AND IT would be remiss of me not to mention the death of another iconic woman — Annette Funicello. Out of the spotlight for a long time, suffering from multiple sclerosis, Annette was the face (and shape!) of Disney TV and movies for years. Later, when she began her career at Universal, doing all those beach movies, Walt Disney made her promise never to wear a bikini. She didn’t, but eventually snuck in a couple of modest two-piece numbers. I think the sight of the bodacious Annette in a bikini might have caused riots! She sang, she danced, she acted. She was one of America’s real sweethearts, and today Baby Boomers are truly mourning her passing. RIP, Annette.

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o-KIM-KARDASHIAN-PREGNANT-570-1LET ME “weigh in” on a subject that seems to obsess the media: maybe Kim Kardashian is just so proud of this pregnancy that she is wearing the kind of costumes that emphasize it!

Long gone are the days when modest men like my father used to say that obviously pregnant women should not appear in public because it might  — er, ah — remind people that sex has actually happened. (Of course, he was dead wrong and nobody paid any attention to him, rightly!)

But Kim is simply the antithesis of any old-fashioned way of thinking. She is advertising that she is expecting and in the most startling ways she can think of.

Maybe the critiques of her costumes are just missing her point. The tabloid press is obsessed with the “baby bumps” of the stars, forever pointing them out. But when somebody finally becomes really obviously pregnant, they want them to not call attention to it.

I find Kim Kardashian spectacularly funny.

I HAVE been saying a private farewell to the one and only movie critic left to us — Roger Ebert. A nicer and braver guy never lived. An d now we have to also say farewell to the type of top critic he was — fair-minded, important, influential, and listened to. With his death we reach the nadir of the influence of bylines in movie criticism.

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TO ALL THOSE who wondered why I didn’t review my friend, Elaine Stritch‘s farewell appearance at the Carlyle Hotel last week, there’s a reason. The crush for tickets was beyond the beyond and I wasn’t going to personally distract Elaine to get me one. But our 60-year friendship remains and as I have said, I will wait for her glorious return from Birmingham, Michigan. Meanwhile, you might look back to the Times last Sunday and read James Barron‘s wonderfully funny story about “Stritchie.” I am liberally quoted. Elaine always proves that excess is its own reward.

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PALM BEACH is in full mourning for Lilly Pulitzer. You can’t imagine the history of Palm Beach without Lilly’s dresses. The late Helen Gurley Brown must be welcoming her into a version of heaven because the famous editor adored all of Lilly’s simple little dresses.

How well I remember going to Palm Beach for the first time way back when Charlotte Curtis was covering “social goings on” for the New York Times.

Charlotte said to me, “Liz, you are the talk of Palm Beach because you are wearing Levis and blue jeans … you have to get with it and buy Lilly Pulitzer.” (I didn’t know a thing about resort wear.) Charlotte was a great reporter and mentor to me and she taught me a lot.

And Lilly Pulitzer taught Palm Beach how to be simple and sweet and get away with it.

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This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 4/10/13

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