Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Stripper

A discussion with the very knowledgeable Daryl (who is also a good friend) over at IMDB on the plays of William Inge led me to watching 1963's THE STRIPPER again. This had a chequered history: it was originally titled A LOSS OF ROSES and is the play that gave Warren Beatty his start on Broadway. 20th Century Fox were going to film it as a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe, who would surely have been ideal as its bruised heroine, rather like her Roslyn Taber in THE MISFITS, in another moody black and white drama, though MM would have been perhaps too pretty for this down on her luck showgirl, who could also be seen as Cherie from BUS STOP ten years later?

Lila Green is an insecure and aging showgirl for Madame Olga's stage shows. When her boyfriend, Rick, runs off with the shows money, Madame Olga and Ronny let Lila go. Lila goes to stay with her old neighbours, Helen Bard and her teenage son, Kenny. Lila decides to go out and get a regular job and try and live a normal life. All seem well until, Lila and Kenny stop fighting their attraction for one another.

Joanne Woodward (who was it who titled her "the duchess of downbeat"?) inherited the project after Monroe's death, it was the last Jerry Wald production before he died, and it went through several title changes: A WOMAN OF SUMMER, and - as per the "Films & Filming" cover - A WOMAN IN JULY. They must have groaned when it was changed to THE STRIPPER - as if it were some Mamie Van Doren title ....

William Inge of course was one of America's leading dramatists, along with Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Williams and Carson McCullers (I reviewed her REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE recently, see below, Brando label) created that Deep South American Gothic world, whereas Inge was the playwright of the Midwest - his dramas set mainly in Kansas or Oklahoma included COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA (one to re-see), PICNIC, BUS STOP and THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, another must re-see soon. He scripted ALL FALL DOWN, a favourite of mine from 1962, and SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS - both with Beatty - and BUS RILEY IS BACK IN TOWN (review at Ann-Margret label) in 1965. He committed suicide in 1973. 

THE STRIPPER is an involving drama, with all the usual Inge ingredients: small town tedium, wistful dreamers, misunderstood young men, over-protective mothers, the local vamp, the good girl ... Woodward as ever captures the innocent essence of Lila and Richard Beymer, while no Beatty, is adequate (He was the young boy in De Sica's 1954 INDESCRETION, see Montgomery Clift label, and had starred in WEST SIDE STORY and HEMINGWAY'S ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN among others). Claire Trevor is again terrific as his mother - not the gorgon one would have imagined, and Carol Lynley is rather wasted. Interesting to see Gypsy Rose Lee (of GYPSY) - right, with Beymer - as Madame Olga, one of her few movie roles (she is also in SCREAMING MIMI, (Anita Ekberg label) that terrific '50s noir.  The neonlike black and white photography is terrific, theres a Jerry Goldsmith score, Franklin Schaffner directs from Meade Roberts script. It builts to the climax when the disillusioned Lila strips for the baying crowd while those balloons pop, while she sings (badly) "Somethings Gotta Give" (ironically the title of Monroe's uncompleted 1962 film), while Lila finally realises what she needs is to stop being emotionally immature. Robert Webber is good too as the sleazeball boyfriend.

Woodward was one of Fox's main contract players (starting out in the mid-'50s like contemporaries Lee Remick, Shirley McLaine and the grown-up Natalie Wood), in films like NO DOWN PAYMENT,. THE SOUND AND THE FURY (see Woodward label), and her Oscar-winning role in THE THREE FACES OF EVE which I have not seen as it was unobtainable here for a long time. We will be seeing it before too long though ... she and husband Paul Newman did several films together, I particuarly liked THE LONG HOT SUMMER, RALLY ROUND THE FLAG BOYS, PARIS BLUES and he directed her in several interesting films like RACHEL, RACHEL in 1968. She was touching too as Tom Hanks' mother in PHILADELPHIA. I really must also have another look at Tennessee's THE FUGITIVE KIND from 1960 with her, Brando and Magnani - a powerhouse trio or what!
Newman scored with HUD in '63, Joanne's THE STRIPPER is equally good. 

Some more information from Daryl:
"THE STRIPPER actually started shooting on the Fox lot while MM was shooting SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE. Joanne Woodward and Franklin Schaffner had decided on the platinum hair, and one day, she was walking across the lot when Woodward ran into Monroe. Woodward said she was embarrassed because she didn't want Marilyn to think that she was making fun of her. Marilyn did look at the hair, and asked Woodward what she was working on. Woodward said, oh, it's the William Inge piece. Marilyn then said, oh, i was supposed to do it, but i thought the part was too much like Cherie. Monroe then said, i'm sure you'll do a terrific job. And Woodward said she was relieved, because she didn't want Marilyn to think she was making fun of her."

More on the London 1976 production of BUS STOP, right, which I saw, at Lee Remick label - she was Cherie with Keir Dullea as the annoying cowboy, perfect casting then.


1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen this movie in years, but it used to play on late night TV here in the states a lot when i was young. I liked it and remember it as being one of the few films to feature that rotating showgirl billboard on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard that became the identifying icon of "Myra Breckinridge."
    Glad you gave this film some much-deserved attention. Now to see if it's available on DVD here...