Judy, Judy, Judy…and Renee.

 

JudlyMovie1200

I'm a fan of Old Hollywood. And the fact that Judy Garland's rendition of Over the Rainbow makes me cry every time I hear it was reason enough for me to see Judy, the feature film bio-pic starring Renee Zellweger.

I'm also a VERY big fan of Renee's. As Roxie Hart in the musical movie, Chicago, I thought she knocked it out of the park: she was THE triple threat: singing, dancing, acting.

And it's because of Bridget Jones's Diary that I write humorous women's fiction. (By that I mean the novel, by Helen Fielding, albeit the movie version reinforced my love of romcoms.)

I was NOT disappointed. If you go to see it, I don't think you will be, either.

Can she sing like Judy?

I'll answer that with a question: Can anyone?

What you'll appreciate about Zellweger's performance is that she captures all the gestures, the vocal inflections (Judy's resonance and vocal depth was incomparable), the timing, and the pathos of one of the greatest performers to grace the silver screen, or for that matter a live stage.

I'll be shocked if she doesn't wind the Best Actress Oscar for it.

Below is a trailer of the movie.

Garland once famously said, “If I'm a legend, then why I so lonely?” This is aptly illustrated in the movie. One of the most touching scenes in the movie is how Judy asks two fans to grab a bite to eat with her for just this very reason: with celebrity comes awe, which creates a crevice between the famous and those leading normal lives.

I saw this first hand,  when interviewing celebrities for feature articles.

Debbie Reynolds came to San Francisco, to make the movie, Mother, written, directed, and co-starring Albert Brooks. At that point, and that time in her life, movie roles had essentially dried up for her. She realized it was a great break, perhaps even a comeback role. In fact, it garnered her a Golden Globe nomination.

At the beginning of our interview, she was nervous enough that her hand was shaking as she sipped her coffee.

When she heard that, as a little boy, my son insisted on watching Singing in the Rain over and over again, she kindly replied, “Did you bring a cassette tape? I'd sign it for you.”

Silly me, I didn't even think of doing so.

By the end of the interview, she hinted that she'd like company for a meal. Again, I was so stupidly awestruck that I didn't say, “Sure, let's grab a bite.”

I've always regretted it.

If you get that opportunity, take it.

Here's to those bright lights that entertain us.

—Josie

 

John Singer Sargent painting: “Zuleika”. The farce — and artifice — of beauty.

Sargent_John_Singer_Zuleika

Gorgeous, wouldn't you say? It was painted by the 19th Century famous portraitist,  John Singer Sargent. His abstracts were always of friends– usually other artists, such as himself. I wonder if that was because he felt his clients demanded something more meticulous, whereas perhaps these were painted on the fly? His version of toting a camera was to relax with easel, canvas and paints, be it oils or watercolors.

This one is entitled "Zuleika," was completed in 1907, and hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. The name is a genus of moth. It is also Persian in origin, meaning "fair, brilliant, lovely." 

She certainly looks that way, here.

Who was she? The wife of a friend, perhaps? There are a series of poems based on a character by that name. Turns out Sargent was friends with humorist Max Beerbohm, who was working on a contemporary novel by that title, about a woman by that name whose beauty was so great that her merely stepping off a train to visit her grandfather in Oxford caused men to obsess over her — to the point of committing mass suicide.

This Sargent painting and Beerbohm's novel might have been the very first product cross-promotion — multi-platforming in its earliest form. 

More than likely, it was Sargent's way of jibing Beerbohm — payback for the latter's caricutures of the revered painter.

Notice the subject's eyebrows are  just one wave of black paint. Sargent's downward point-of-view is filled with realistic shadowing. The grass is a riot of green, blue and yellow hues which play tricks on the mind: we envision individual blades of grass, and dappled sunlight.

I love that he caught her reading. Is  Proust? Dickens? Baudliere? Possibly The Works of Max Beerbohm.

 Art is fun, and can be funny, too,

— Josie

 


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Vacation to Die For

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An excerpt, not my own: the poetic prose of Proust.

JSS 1
These passage, about the power of fiction, comes from Swann's Way, the first volume of French novelist Marcel Proust's epic masterwork, In Search of Lost Time. It is voiced by his narrator, a young Marcel, while sitting in a garden at his parents country estate, outside the small French town of Combray.


This long passage comes in the form of a single paragraph. The punctuation is all Proust's work. He was given to paragraphs that could run up to five pages and sentences,
at times, of up to a thousand words. My husband, Martin, put reading Proust on his must-do list.

"At sixty-one,  I've already outlived Proust by ten years so I thought it was time to get started," he explained to me.

Already Martin has move on to his second volume, Within a Budding Grove.

He recommends that you read this passage more than once. "I've read it a half dozen times, and I think I've absorbed Proust's meaning…mostly."

See if you feel the same way.

Enjoy,

–Josie

 "Next to this central
belief which, while I was reading, would be constantly reaching out from my
inner self to the outer world, towards the discovery of truth, came the
emotions aroused in me by the action in which I was taking part, for these
afternoons were crammed with more dramatic events than occur, often, in a whole
lifetime. These were the events taking place in the book I was reading. It is
true that the people concerned in them were not what Françoise would have
called 'real people.' But none
JSS2of the feelings which the joys or misfortunes of
a real person arouse in us can be awakened except through a mental picture of
those joys or misfortunes; and the ingenuity of the first novelist lay in his
understanding that, as the image was the one essential element in the
complicated structure of our emotions, so that simplification of it which
consisted in the suppression, pure and simple, of real people would be a
decided improvement. A real person, profoundly as we may sympathize with him,
is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say,
remains opaque, presents a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the
strength to lift. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small
section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any
emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of the complete idea he has of
himself that he is capable of feeling any emotion either. The novelist's happy
discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable
to the human soul, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is,
which one's soul can assimilate. After which it matters not that the actions,
the feeling of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth,
since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are
happening, that they are holding in thrall, as we feverishly turn over the
pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist
has brought us to this state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every
emotion is multiplied ten fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as
might a dream, but a dream more lucid and more abiding than those which come to
us in sleep, why then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the
joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which only we should have to spend
years of our actual life in getting to know, and the most intense of which
would never be revealed to us because the slow course of their development
prevents us from perceiving them. It is the same in life; the heart changes,
and it is our worst sorrow; but we know it only through reading, through our
imagination: in reality its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena,
is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of
its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change."

 

Both of these paintings were created by John Singer Sargent. The first is called Rose-Marie Ormond Reading in a Cashmere Shawl, and the second is, simply, Man Reading.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Joplin memory…

  JanisJoplin+Porsche

The trails around Marin County California's Mount Tam take you on wonderous journeys through vast groves of redwood trees, climbing higher and higher until panoramic views of San Francisco, its bay, and the turbulent Pacific Ocean beyond the Marin Headlands come into view.

One of these trails starts in Larkspur's Baltimore Canyon, on the estate where, in 1970, legendary rocker Janis Joplin lived before dying of a drug overdose at the age of twenty-seven, in some nondescript Los Angeles hotel room.

The wood nymphs cried that day.

Had she been at home instead, maybe they could have saved her.

A couple of years, ago, the subsequent owner of Joplin's creekside home sold off the half-acre portion that included an already-established trail head. Now hikers enjoy the trek up to Blithedale Ridge without tresspassing.

It is appreciated by all. Once again, Janis gives joy to the world.

Mike Lessin was just ten when he moved into the house after Joplin passed away. He remembers the walls at deep purple, and "trippy."

But of course.

He'd lived elsewhere on the street before his dad purchased the home, so he also remembers the parties that were held there, attended by  and Joplin's infamous psychdelically painted Porche.

Lessin remembers hearing about sightings of Doors' lead singer Jim Morrison, and rocker Kris Kristofferson, who wrote Joplin's posthumus hit "Me and Bobby McGee".

Kristofferson  has a home on the Hawaiian island of Maui, near Hana.

Some of Joplin's decor still exists in the house. Who would have the nerve to lose the redwood burl bar, or its custom woodwork? If you've visited Horizons Restaurant (formerly the Trident, back in that era) on the Sausalito waterfront, you'll recognize the style, since it was the same carpenter worked on both.

The later owners also held onto Joplin's pool table, and kept the sunken bath and shower, below a skylight that allows one to look up at the redwood trees doing a lazy wave overhead.

Good to see that her legacy lives on in yet another way.

*Photo: Janis and her psychedelic Porsche,
at one of my fave hangs: San Franciso's Palace of Fine Arts.

 

— Josie

   

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The Housewife Asassin's Handbook

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