The Farewell Party
High drama and lowbrow, morbid humor get stitched together in this successful tragicomedy about terminal patients and assisted suicide. Works better than expected.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
Contributor Susan Wloszczyna remembers her stepson and the role movies played in her relationship with him.
Will Michael Douglas take home a Best Actor prize from Cannes for his turn as Liberace in "Behind the Candelabra"?
We've been porting my old material over to our new website in construction, and sometimes I come across a blast from the past. Here's a story of a kind now rarely written, about a kind of event now rarely held. It was new ground for me; I'd been the paper's film critic for less than three months.
by Roger Ebert / June 25, 1967
"You don't, ah, know anything about a race where you balance beans on a knife, do you?"
Barry Lorie wanted to know. Columbia Pictures had flown him in from Denver to run the whole world premiere and now here he was without any picnic rules.
"You wouldn't get very far with round beans," said Tom Gorman, the public relations man from Balaban & Katz. "Navy beans, maybe . . ."
"What we gotta get is somebody who knows how to run a picnic," Lorie said. "You guys know anything about running a picnic?"
"We were thinking maybe we could get somebody from the Park District," Gorman said. "Or some disk jockeys."
"You know what I think?" said Lorie. "I think this whole country is a full generation away from an old-fashioned American picnic. We're going to go out there and bomb. The kids won't even know what a sack race is."
"We'll get somebody to run the races," Gorman said. "You leave that to us."
This was two weeks ago, right after Lorie got into town to run the world premiere of "Divorce American Style." World premieres used to be big deals, with proclamations from the mayor and crowds surging against the police lines, but in recent years Hollywood hasn't very often really exerted itself.
"But this is going to be a big one," Lorie promised. "This one will be an old-fashioned, all-American premiere. Know what we'll do?"
"No," we said.
"Well, Debbie Reynolds will be here, of course. So we thought, the movie is 'Divorce American Style.' So why not dream up something to dramatize LIVING American style? Maybe a typical American picnic in a typical Chicago suburb."
After they had thought of this, Lorie said, Balaban & Katz chartered a plane and he went flying over Chicago, searching from the air for the typical Chicago suburb. Finally, he found it: Winston Hills! Thirty-six minutes southwest of the Loop! Even from the air you could see how typical it was, he said. So the plan was for Debbie to spend last Monday evening at Winston Hills. She would meet a typical family and then attend the typical picnic.
Monday dawned with a clear sky and cooler weather. Lorie and Gorman were up early to drive out to O'Hare in rented limousines - the Lincoln Continental Executive Model for Debbie, a Cadillac for the back-up car.
At 5 p.m. sharp, Debbie and her hairdresser, Sidney Guilaroff, were to leave the Ambassador East for the picnic. But it wasn't until 5:30 that the limousines finally left.
Debbie and Sidney shared the Lincoln with this reporter, and Lorie had the Cadillac all to himself. Several photographers were originally scheduled to drive out in the Cadillac, but they decided to take their own cars.
The Continental threaded its way down Michigan Ave. and cut across to Lake Shore.
"I will never survive this picnic," Debbie said.
"I don't know why you do it, Debbie, honestly I don't," Guilaroff said. "Why you give so much of yourself?"
"I enjoy it, actually," she said.
The limousine arrived at the assembly point in Winston Hills at 6:34. Miss Reynolds was introduced to Joshua Muss, president of the Hills.
Muss got into the limousine and a police car, lights flashing and siren blowing, led the way to the home of Edward and Rosemary Dobson.
The Dobsons turned out to be a friendly, extroverted couple who invited Debbie into their living room for punch and cookies. "This is Richard, our son, and our own Debbie, our daughter," Mrs. Dobson said. "And here is Mayor Roberts, and the mayor's wife, in yellow. And I'd like you to meet Fr. Mathias Kucera of St. Joan of Arc.
Guilaroff took a cup of punch and went into the kitchen, where one of the Dobson children said, "Like you to meet our cat, and thrust a large cat into Guilaroff's arms.
Then Mrs. Dobson presented Debbie with a large white box. "A little present from the community," she said. Debbie opened it. "Oh, how nice," she said. "A poncho . . . no, a terrycloth . . . is it a beach robe? Yes. How nice. And it would make a great maternity top, too, right?"
The women had a good laugh, and then everybody went back out and got into the cars again to go to the picnic. The picnic grounds were, at the 71st St. Park. When the limousines arrived, there were already 1,500 or 2,000 people at the park, half of them lined-up at the gate waiting for Debbie, the rest lined up for free fried chicken. The Continental was mobbed by youngsters with fried chicken in one hand and autograph books in the other, and Debbie, as she got out of the car, whispered, "I may never see you all again."
Joe Ragann, the Winston Hills chief of police, organized his force into a flying wedge to get Debbie to the bandstand. And there, on the bandstand, a portable microphone in his band and a battery pack over his shoulder and a red tag saying "Official" pinned to his knit shirt, was Tom Gorman.
"I finally figured I might as well run the games myself," he explained, "Who else knows what a sack race is?"
Debbie started to speak into the microphone, but hundreds of pieces of paper were thrust at her for her autograph. She turned to Lorie and said, "Maybe we'd better pass out the autographed pictures and save some time." Lorie's face paled. The autographed pictures. He could see them as clear as day - left behind in B&K's offices.
Guilaroff, who had been standing to one side on the grandstand, now came forward and took the mike.
Debbie said, "Why don't we all go over and start the races? Do you all want to win a prize?" The kids turned and descended on Gorman, whose amplified voice could be heard from somewhere in the middle of the mob.
"All right, here we go." Gorman said. "I need 10 volunteers." A hundred hands shot up. "OK, OK," he said. "Just 10 for this race, and then we'll have another."
The policemen were trying to get the picnickers to back up and clear an area for the race, but without much luck. Finally Chief Ragann had a brainstorm. "Everybody in front sit down!" he shouted. "What an inspiration," said a press agent, "The ones behind won't be able to climb over the prone bodies."
After the sack race, which Debbie won, there was a balloon-blowing contest and a three-legged race. The balloon-blowing contest wasn't much of a success, because half the kids thought the idea was to make your balloon burst first, and the rest thought you were supposed to produce the biggest unburst balloon. Gorman, ever a diplomat, ordered ribbons to be awarded to the winners of both categories.
Then it was time for Debbie and Sidney to have some chicken. Several slightly used drumsticks were offered up by the kids who had been carrying them around during the races, but Lorie fought through the crowd with a plate of white meat and Debbie posed while Sidney, out of the limelight for the moment, gnawed. "Haven't really eaten anything yet today, he explained.
And then, at last, it was 8:15 and the sun was going down. Signing autographs until the end, Debbie worked her way back to the Lincoln. A little boy with a Polaroid kept trying to edge past Chief Ragann and take her picture, and finally Debbie stopped and said, "No, you'll have to back up. You're too close to get a good picture." She turned and whispered to Guilaroff, "I don't know what he's trying to do. He keeps shooting my earlobe and my elbow and things."
The limousine was quiet after the chaos of the picnic. Debbie settled back, her feet propped up, and as the auto began to leave the park someone shouted, "Congratulations on your World Premiere!"
"Oh, dear," Debbie said, "that's not until tomorrow." Here is a link to my review of the film. I gave it 3 1/2 stars. It was better than the picnic.
Marie writes: club member Sandy Kahn has submitted the following and I salute her web skills for having found it. Namely, an upcoming auction of film memorabilia the likes of which you rarely if ever see...
Camille Paglia is known for being both brilliant and wacky (possibly wacko) -- often at the same time, which is probably when she's at her most inspired. A founding contributor at Salon.com (and co-star of "It's Pat: The Movie"), Paglia spoke on the phone to Salon editor Kerry Lauerman yesterday after the news of Elizabeth Taylor's death, and offered up an extraordinary tribute. I just wanted to share some of it with you. Lauerman begins by quoting something Paglia wrote about Taylor in Penthouse in 1992:
"She wields the sexual power that feminism cannot explain and has tried to destroy. Through stars like Taylor, we sense the world-disordering impact of legendary women like Delilah, Salome, and Helen of Troy. Feminism has tried to dismiss the femme fatale as a misogynist libel, a hoary cliche. But the femme fatale expresses women's ancient and eternal control of the sexual realm." Paglia takes it from there:
Exactly. At that time, you have to realize, Elizabeth Taylor was still being underestimated as an actress. No one took her seriously -- she would even make jokes about it in public. And when I wrote that piece, Meryl Streep was constantly being touted as the greatest actress who ever lived. I was in total revolt against that and launched this protest because I think that Elizabeth Taylor is actually a greater actress than Meryl Streep, despite Streep's command of a certain kind of technical skill. [...]
Elizabeth Taylor, who was a great actress and a greater star, has died at age 79. Of few deaths can it be said that they end an era, but hers does. No other actress commanded more attention for longer, for her work, her beauty, her private life, and a series of health problems that brought her near death more than once.
View image De Niro in "Casino." Las Vegas is a Hollywood movie.
From my piece on Sin City in the Movies at MSN Movies: The world has other gambling meccas -- Monte Carlo, Atlantic City, Reno -- but none as storied or mythologized as Las Vegas, an American dream-zone strategically located in the arid wasteland between Hoover Dam and Hollywood. The neon oasis is a concrete mirage: The closer you get, the more real the place becomes, but when you reach out to grab it, it slips through your fingers anyway. A surreal amalgamation of landmarks historical and imagined (Egypt, New York, Camelot), it rises out of shimmering heat and dust, a dazzling C.B. DeMille monument to profligate waste and the proposition that anything can be purchased or accomplished for a price.
Vegas is a Hollywood movie made corporeal, a surreal experience built on sand, powered by electricity, riches and promises of desires fulfilled. The electricity comes from the dam, the money comes from the odds that always favor the house, the desires come from the human heart (as well as a bit lower and to the right). But how sinful can sin be in a place called Sin City, where everything sinful in the outside world is overtly or tacitly permitted?
Jerry Seinfeld has been known to enjoy the odd bungee jump, but dressing up like a bee and throwing himself off the roof of the Carlton Hotel in Cannes was new for him. This was last May. The studio attached a steel cable to the hotel, 130 feet in the air, and Jerry glided down to the photographers and bee-lovers below. It was a stunt to promote the new animated film, “Bee Movie,” which opens Friday.
Q. In your review of Jackie Chan's latest American release, "The Legend Of Drunken Master," you praised his athletic skills but wrote that computerized special effects have made them sort of obsolete: "When you see bodies whirling in air in 'The Matrix,' you don't think about computers, you simply accept them. But what Chan does, he is more or less, one way or another, actually doing."
Q. There are two movies this month about conspiracies in the White House. One is Clint Eastwood's "Absolute Power." The other one is "Shadow Conspiracy," starring Charlie Sheen. I noticed an add for "Shadow Conspiracy" that read: "Life. Liberty. And the Pursuit of Absolute Power." Do you think this was a coincidence, or an attempt by the Sheen movie to rip off the title and beat Eastwood to the finish line? (Casey Anderson, Schaumberg, IL)
TORONTO, Canada--Like scouts at a pre-season game, the North American movie industry is gathered here in Toronto, eyeing the developing autumn movie season. The Toronto Film Festival, now in its 21st year, is the major launching pad for many of the films that will be honored, applauded and damned during Oscar Season, which started, in case you missed it, on Labor Day.
"You name it, I played it," said Jerry Paris. "I was the co-pilot, the best friend, the roommate, the Army buddy. In three movies, I was second banana to Bonzo the monkey. Remember Bonzo? He was the number one monkey in Hollywood, bigger even than Cheetah the Chimp, until he was killed in a tragic fire. Let's see. I was in 'Bonzo Goes to College,' and in 'Monkey Business,' and another one. 'Monkey Business,' also had Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant, but as I recall Bonzo got equal billing.
LONDON - All was abustle in the abandoned conservatory of the Duke of Langley's late manorial seat. Two prop men were delicately arranging a chess game between skeletons while a third. high up against one wall, was pulling a hidden wire to make an enormous dragon sit up and look around.
"You don't, ah, know anything about a race where you balance beans on a knife, do you?"
On the sidewalk in front of the Ivanhoe Theatre, the watchers were watching the watchers watched. There were six television cameras and the lights and announcers to attend to them, a couple of dozen newspaper reporters, and a large quantity of adolescent girls and neighborhood ladies. There were no police lines to separate these people into the professionally and the merely curious, and so they seeped back and forth through each other like the tide, first the cameramen and then the neighborhood ladies being thrown up upon the curb.
Dick Van Dyke's new film is titled "Divorce American Style," and he can't get over it.