Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gatsby Times Five

I reported on the HBO adaptation of the classic Mildred Pierce a couple of weeks ago and here we go again as plans for a remake (this will make the fifth) of the F. Scott Fitzgerald book The Great Gatsby have been in the works for sometime now. Director Baz Lurhmann of Australia, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge! fame will direct and apparently has chosen Carey Mulligan as his Daisy to star opposite Leo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. Tobey MacGuire will play the role of best friend/narrator Nick Carraway.

Rumors have been swirling for months (first I heard musical and then 3-D) and as of yesterday, the project appears to be stalled in preproduction while Lurhmann mulls its direction. Fox Studios in Australia will double as the gilded gold coast of Long Island. I traveled to Sydney to cover Australia  several years ago and it will be interesting to see how they translate this to film. My guess is the director's talented wife, Academy Award winning designer Catherine Martin will no doubt be the costume and production designer.

Leo DiCaprio

Carey Mulligan

Perhaps the best known of the Gatsby's was the Redford-Farrow Paramount vehicle in l974. While the film did well at the box office, critics were not as kind. Redford appeared to be very ill at ease and out of his element but fit the mystique and style of Jay Gatsby perfectly. Many actresses were up for the role of Daisy (Candice Bergen, Lois Chiles, Katherine Ross, Natalie Wood and Faye Dunaway) and Mia Farrow brought an ethereal quality to the role. Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Steve McQueen were considered for the part of Gatsby. Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay after Truman Capote was replaced as screenwriter.

And an interesting backstory --Ali MacGraw was promised the role by her husband at the time (Robert Evans) who purchased the film rights. She first filmed The Getaway with Steve McQueen, fell in love with her co-star and the rest was history -- along with her part as Daisy.

Mia Farrow

The film won the late Theoni Aldredge an Oscar for her costumes along with a BAFTA for Best Art Direction (John Box who did Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia was the production designer).

The star crossed lovers

Robert Redford
Alan Ladd  and Betty Field played the ill fated lovers in the l949 version (fans of Days of Our Lives will no doubt recognize MacDonald Carey in the role of Nick Carraway). The film was originally slated to star Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney.

Alan Ladd and Betty Field

Great Gatsby 1949
Warner Baxter and Lois Wilson starred in the the original 1926 version. There was also a Broadway play that ran that year and directed by George Cukor.

Lois Wilson and Warner Baxter

Perhaps one of the more visual remakes was the A&E television version starring Mira Sorvino, Toby Stephens and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway. (Stephens is a British actor who appeared in Jane Eyre).

Mira Sorvino

Toby Stephens

And in a timely twist of fate, the stately mansion Lands End that was supposedly the inspiration for the l974 film, is set for demolition. The 1902 property is located on 13 acres in Sands Point, Long Island and costs are estimated at $4500 a day for upkeep. Valued at 30 million dollars, plans are to build five homes on the property. Sadly there are no takers in this economy -- perhaps Lurhmann might purchase?  Stay tuned.

Lands End
As always, you can't beat the original. Read the book!

Photo credits: Paramount Pictures, New York Post

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Backstage in the Green Room

I just received these behind-the-scenes images from Baker, Knapp and Tubbs who supplied many of the furnishings for Architectural Digest's Green Room. For the uninitiated, the Green Room is where nervous presenters, hopeful nominees and ecstatic winners hang out during the awards show. And while the Oscar hoopla is over, I thought they would be of interest to those of us who were not walking around with a statue in our hands a couple of Sunday nights ago.

Interior designer Michael  Smith designed the luxe looks with a nod to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Furnishings from Baker, wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries, and fabrics from Cowtan and Tout were used to create a forties library look. Smith, a native Californian,  is no stranger to high level prestigious projects, having been named by President Obama to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.

Lion's Head Pull Up Chair #5205

Michael Smith's Voltaire Server #9832

Regency Side Chair 5159 from the Stately Homes Collection

Hibiscus Wall Scones flank the sofa inset

The Green Room's popular watering hole

For more on these items see the Baker, Knapp and Tubbs website or my favorite salesperson Melissa Knott in the Atlanta showroom.

Photo Credit:  Baker, Knapp and Tubbs

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Tale of Two Mildreds

Hollywood just can't resist doing a remake when often the old adage of "some things are better left alone" will do. Perhaps this won't be the case when HBO takes a turn at the remake of the classic Mildred Pierce. From the initial look, the stellar cast and director Todd Haynes, the five part mini-series is a must-see.

The original was pure film noir with Joan Crawford at her best. The shoulder padded screen icon plays a divorcee with a spoiled and selfish daughter who goes back to work as a waitress to make ends meet during the depression days of the thirties. Eventually she opens her own restaurant, remarries an heir to a real estate fortune and soon the film turns into a murder mystery.

Daughter Dearest: Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth

Directed by Casablanca's Michael Curtiz, the film is filled with shades of expressionism -- lots of dark menacing shadows contrasted with the bright California sunlight. Production designer Anton Grot and set decorator George Hopkins designed some memorable interiors such as Mildred's Spanish style bungalow and the Bergaron beach house in Malibu's Latigo Beach (which was owned by Curtiz and eventually fell into the ocean during a storm in 1983).

Ann Blyth  plays the dreadful daughter Veda along with  Zachary Scott as the second husband, Monty Bergaron. Crawford won an Oscar for her performance and was almost replaced by Barbara Stanwyck after shooting began as her off screen antics can best be described as Diva-esque. Imagine that.

Sets for Mildred's Bungalow above and below

The film also delivered one of the best movie lines in years by her bff Ida (played by Eve Arden below) "Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young."

The remake stars Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet with Evan Rachel Wood as her daughter Veda. Guy Pearce as the dashing yet somewhat seedy Bergaron, Mare Winningham and recent Oscar winner Melissa Leo are also in the cast. The mini-series will follow the original novel by James M. Cain instead of the l945 film. Cain also wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity.

Kate Winslett

Evan Rachel Wood

Director Todd Haynes gave us the highly stylized Far From Heaven which was greatly influenced by the films of Douglas Sirk and is a master at recreating this genre of melodrama. The sets were designed by Mark Friedberg (who also worked on Heaven) who had the task of creating a thirties Los Angeles in New York's Westchester County (right down to importing palm and orange trees from Florida). They found an area in Long Island called The Gables which has the perfect Spanish architecture needed for Mildred's world. Award winning costume designer  Ann Roth designed the costumes for up to 2000 plus extras which meant alot of girdles and seamed stockings.

Ann Roth's Costume Design

Winslet and Wood

Guy Pearce

The Gables

Set your Tivo for Sunday, March 27th. And be sure to see the original...better still, read the book!

Photo Credits: Warner Brothers, HBO