And more from our Gossip Girl: “West Side Story,” fifty years later … Raquel Welch — then a glamazon, still a glamazon
“GOODNIGHT, John-Boy … goodnight Jason … goodnight Mary Ellen … goodnight mama …” Oh, you all know the famous drill. All the members of TV’s “The Waltons” turning out the lights and head for sleep at the end of each hour-long show.
The series ran for ten seasons, and spawned several “reunion” specials after it was finally canceled. The show is still missed by people who liked a little homespun morality in prime-time.
Well, “The Waltons” are reuniting again. Not for another look at the fictional characters, as interesting as that might be. The cast will get together on December 2nd in New Jersey, at the grand Loews Jersey Theater in Jersey City, for a special screening of “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.” This was the 1971 movie that begat the series. (“The Homecoming” starred Patricia Neal as Olivia Walton. But the great Oscar-winning actress did not want to commit herself to a series, so her role was taken over by Michael Learned, who made it very much her own.)
Scheduled to appear on the red carpet are Richard Thomas (John Boy) … Judy Norton (Mary Ellen) … Jon Walmsley (Jason) … Mary Elizabeth McDonough (Erin) … Eric Scott (Ben) … Kami Cotler (Elizabeth.) Also Michael Learned … Leslie Winston … Lynn Hamilton … Hal Williams and Ellen Geer (daughter of the late Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton.) Ralph Waite who played the family patriarch — often at odds with his sometimes strict and frosty wife — will not attend. (But he is still active in the business, a vital 83 years young.)
Tickets to this event are available here or at the theater the day of the screening and ceremony.
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SPEAKING OF anniversaries, 20th Century Fox will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the screen version of “West Side Story” on November 15th at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where it premiered. Three of the film’s surviving stars — Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris — are set to attend, and will fulfill a legendary bit of show biz ceremony. They will place their handprints and signatures in cement outside the theater. Wow — I didn’t even know they did that anymore! (Another big honor for Miss Moreno, who has won everything there is to win.)
How sad that the exquisite Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the smash hit movie, could not be a part of this event. Not that the film was altogether a pleasant experience for Natalie. She suffered criticism that a Caucasian actress was playing a Puerto Rican. Look, she was a huge star, offered a huge salary in a movie almost sure to be a hit — you don’t turn down such things, then or now. Also, like Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” Natalie was assured that her own voice was good enough to meet the challenging score. She rehearsed and recorded vigorously, but was devastated when her vocals were replaced by Marni Nixon, who dubbed for many another tone-challenged star. (Including Audrey, Deborah Kerr and Jeanne Crain.)
Oh, well. Maybe Marni will attend?
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P.S. And for those of you wondering how George Chakiris is doing? He’s just dandy. He received an Oscar for his role as Bernardo in “West Side Story” and worked in films, on TV and the stage well into the 1990’s. Now, his passion for the creative arts has led him to launch a jewelry line, The George Chakiris Collection. This was recently unveiled in Japan at Tokyo’s biggest department store, Mitsukoshi. His baubles, bangles, and beads are a big hit and also available online, just in case going to Japan for a bracelet seems a bit much.
Movie mavens recall catching glimpses of young George dancing around the likes of Rosemary Clooney in “White Christmas” and Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” He was so striking-looking he actually distracted from the ladies!
And Russ Tamblyn, who played Riff in “West Side Story” is still working, too. He had a role in Ryan Gosling’s “Drive” this year. And, but, of course, who could ever forget Russ being tempted by Mamie Van Doren in “High School Confidential?” (It was the peak of Miss Van Doren’s less-than-stellar career, but — she’s still here. Hey wait, what about Mamie for some future production of “Follies?!” No kidding. She could really sing, back in the day.)
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THE MOST recent issue of The Hollywood Reporter was very “business like.” Lots of stats and “inside” stories that didn’t entertain me as much as usual. But on the last page, the one that THR devotes to a bit of nostalgia, there was something pretty fabulous.
It was a full-page shot, circa 1981, of Raquel Welch and James Brolin at a Hollywood event. Raquel is wearing some kind of leopard print get-up (enormous shoulder pads!) with thigh-high boots. Mr. Brolin is super-handsome in a jacket and open-collared shirt.
Even back in 1981, people were bemoaning a lack of glamour. Well, from our irretrievably coarsened vantage point here in the 21st century, 1981 was “the good old days” and Miss Welch and Mr. Brolin the epitome of movie star glamour.
And truthfully, Miss Welch still is. She looks better now than she did thirtysomething years ago! (Vitamins and good genes, thank you very much.)
James Brolin, too, is a handsome survivor, happily married to that lady who sings and acts and directs. Give me a minute, I’ll think of her name.