How good was this Oscar legend? Well, try as he might, even Roger Ebert couldn’t catch him acting

“All the real motion picture people have always made family pictures. But the downbeats and the so-called intelligentsia got in when the government stupidly split up the production companies and the theaters. The old giants — Mayer,

WAYNE: with his Oscar presenter Barbra Streisand

WAYNE: with his Oscar presenter Barbra Streisand

Thalberg, even Harry Cohn, despite the fact that personally I couldn’t stand him — were good for this industry. Now the goddamned stock manipulators have taken over. They don’t know a goddamned thing about making movies. They make something dirty, and it makes money, and they say, ‘Jesus, let’s make one a little dirtier, maybe it’ll make more money.’ And now even the bankers are getting their noses into it.”

The speaker? John Wayne, vintage ’76, in Roger Ebert’s wonderful appreciation of the American screen legend commemorating the 30th (!!!) anniversary of his death last week.

“He wasn’t a drunk,” Ebert writes, “but he didn’t shy clear of the stuff.”

“Tequila,” Wayne told Ebert, “makes your head hurt. Not from your hangover. From falling over and hitting your head.”

EBERT: appreciation

EBERT: appreciation

“What people didn’t understand,” Ebert notes, “is that he could be very funny.”

But then, perhaps Ebert’s powers of perception have never been so acute and, accordingly, so astute, as they are now.

“Why did he become, and remain, not only a star but an icon?” he muses. “He was uncommonly attractive in face and presence. He was utterly without affectation. He was at home. He could talk to anyone. You couldn’t catch him acting. He was lucky to start early, in the mid-1920s, and become at ease on camera even before his first speaking role. He sounded how he looked. He was a small-town Iowa boy, a college football player. He worked with great directors. He listened to them. He wasn’t a sex symbol. He didn’t perform, he embodied.”

For more of Ebert’s remarkable tribute to Duke Wayne, as well as the responses of his unusually well-versed reader-contributors, click here.

SMITH & FRIEND: Has she seen his new website?

SMITH & FRIEND: renovated website

QUOTABLE QUOTES: “If you want to hire a great salesman, look for an ugly guy with a beautiful wife.”

The speaker? Enignmatic lady-killer Red Green (a.k.a. brilliant comic actor and saga-spinner Steve Smith,) celebrating his debut as a tweeter on Twitter.

P.S.: Did you know that construction has been completed on the redgreen.com website?”Check it out,” says Steve — “but you might want to keep your hardhat on and watch out for damp areas.”

FELICITATIONS, L’OREAL! Bilingual beauty Jane Fonda was in Paris last week filming commercials for L’Oreal Paris in French and English. L’Oreal is celebrating its 100th birthday – hey, they must be doing something right — “and this is my 5th year as brand ambassador for women over 65,” she says proudly.

FONDA: L'Oreal  birthday girl

FONDA: L'Oreal birthday girl

La Fonda admits that although she’s addicted to L’Oreal’s Age Perfect Pro-Calcium creams, she was actually filming commercials for a new line of skin cream that will be launched in 2010. “I understand that the company doesn’t like to brag about itself.” she adds, “but I want people to know that #1 they don’t do animal testing, #2 they are investing in the development of reconstituted (synthetic) skin for use in testing, and #3 they just won an environmental award for their corporate ethics (reduced water use and waste dumping and reduced use of plastics).”

FISHER: bumper sticker

FISHER: bumper sticker

At times she imagines her old acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, looking down and saying, “So Jane, it’s come to this!” But, she says, there’s a certain discipline to acting in a commercial. “You must leave behind all questions of motivation and just do what they ask. Little minute details take on huge importance–how I hold the match to light the candle; the way I set the pot of cream down on the table.

“I wish right now I had Carrie Fisher’s gift for le bon mot. She’d have such a hilarious way of describing commercial-style acting. She just wrote me and said she’d written a bumper sticker: ‘Celebrity is just obscurity biding its time.’

“For me it becomes possible,” she says, “because I really believe in the product.”

SUTHERLAND: epic thriller

SUTHERLAND: epic thriller

COMING NEXT YEAR TO A TV MOVIE NETWORK NEAR YOU: Lots of good stuff, I’m happy to report. Highlights for me include Bloodletting, an eight-part drama series based on Vincent Lam’s best-seller Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, which starts production at the end if the month in Toronto and Hamilton; The Pillars of the Earth, an eight-part limited drama series based on Ken Follett’s bestselling epic novel, with a stellar international cast headed by Donald Sutherland and Ian (Deadwood) McShaneLiving In Your Car, a new half-hour comedy series from This Is Wonderland creators George F. Walker, Dani Romain and Joseph Kay, set to begin filming in September with director David Steinberg at the helm; and Fakers, a TV movie about three apparently ordinary teenagers from one of Canada’s most elite schools who created a major counterfeiting operation under the noses of their teachers and parents.

Also intriguing: A four-hour mini-series “re-imagining” of the intriguing comic strip hero Phantom with an equally intriguing cast which includes the always intriguing Isabella Rossellini.

Sounds promising.

-/-

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