Friday, February 22, 2008

Blake's Beauty

I was reading a thread on a chat board recently -- a theatrical themed chat board -- and the subject of the musical play VICTOR/VICTORIA came up. This was not particularly surprising, since Julie Andrews does tend to come up, occasionally, on this theatrically themed chat board; and why not, why not? She is, after all, Julie Andrews; and whether you are talking about her legacy onstage, on film, on recordings or on tv, she will always be spoken of in theatrical circles. This time, though, the conversation became a little nasty because the stage production of VICTOR/VICTORIA was considered so terribly bad. It got memorably bad reviews, no Tony nominations (save for the one for Julie for Best Actress, which she refused to accept) and, ultimately, is known to be the reason Julie Andrews can no longer sing (it's a long story which, I am sure, can be googled). So one of the chatterati, in this thread, made a remark about Blake Edwards riding his wife's coat tails. Well, thought I, that's just rude. It's not fair. It's just a pile of horse hockey. I'm not saying that they haven't benefitted from their marriage and their work collaborations but, golly gee damn, it isn't fair to say something like THAT. In fact, I mentioned it to Pat and he told me that he had once read a quote by Julie Andrews in which she claimed that whenever Blake began working on a new project, if there wasn't a part for her, she made him sleep on the sofa. It's a marriage and a partnership and I think it is fair for people who work in the same industry and who are in a relationship (of any kind) to want to work together. Why, only last month my closest of friends, LGG, had the pleasure of doing a play (a musical!) in which her daughter was played by her real life daughter! I think that is a wonderful experience to get to have. Some of my happiest artistic moments have been with Pat; sometimes we got to act together, we have certainly gotten to work together photographically. It is a true pleasure to share that part of your life with a loved one.

One of the chatters on the board mentioned something about Blake making Julie expose her breasts in the film SOB... I seem to remember reading an article at the time when Julie said she wanted to do it, to help dispel the good girl image. Who is to say what Blake did or did not make Julie Andrews do? Furthermore, I think Julie Andrews is enough of a professional, an artist, a woman, a professional to do something she DIDN'T want to do. And, by the way, if I were a woman in her forties with a rack like Julie Andrews, I would be A-OK with showing them off, myself. Speaking as a man in his forties who has worked hard to have a good body, I can guarantee you there are more nude photo shoots in MY future!

So here I was, reading this online afront to Blake Edwards, arguably one of the great film directors, and I got to thinking about the way the chatterati were dismissing the body of work he created. The Pink Panther movies alone demand respect -- but that doesn't even begin to consider THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES and (what is considered one of the all time great movies) BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS. I know that Blake Edwards could get a little slapschticky and tacky (I will never forget the glowing erection in SKIN DEEP) but even at that the movies are entertaining. SOB is wonderfully satirical; the fact that THAT'S LIFE was basically all improved astounds me (THAT is taking an artistic risk, as far as I'm concerned); the difference in directorial styles between the comedies (SWITCH is quite brilliant, IMHO) and the dramas (THE TAMARIND SEED is very suspensful and a bit of a departure for both he AND Julie, at the time); the fact that he broadened his range to television and the stage AND that he also wrote and/or produced much of what he created all speaks to his artistry. I am really appalled that people would make a comment about Blake Edwards riding his wife's wave of success.

Collaboration is such an important, such a special part of a marriage. When a husband who directs movies has a wife who acts in them, when that husband and wife find that they work well together, repeatedly, why not continue to find projects on which they can work, together? I am a fan of each of the Edwards family's films. Not always succesful, publically, the pictures have always moved me, in some way. I consider BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS and VICTOR/VICTORIA to be two of the greatest pictures of all time (Mickey Rooney's horribly racist performance in TIFFANYS not withstanding). I imagine that one day Mr and Mrs Edwards thought "wouldn't it be fun...." and, before you could say Cockroach!, a classic film had been turned into a bad stage play. I saw that play. No, it wasn't good; but I will always be able to say that I saw Julie Andrews live - and so will a lot of other people. Not every artistic venture is a success. The thing to remember is that at least they tried. It's more than a lot of us do with our lives, after all.


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