Tag Archives: Norman Jewison

Curious about Eppie? Just ask Ann Landers. And, the Who’s Who who cheered Barbra in the village

Ms LONELYHEARTS: After a memorable guest spot as a dying nurse on the first season of Edie Falco’s hit series Nurse Jackie, veteran stage and screen charmer Judith Ivey opens tonight at Manhattan’s Cherry Lane Theater in a one-woman play about legendary lovelorn advice columnist Ann Landers called The Lady With All the Answers.

IVEY: as Ann Landers

IVEY: as Ann Landers

The last time I remember seeing Chicago’s queen of hearts, as Eppie Lederer (her real name) was called, was at Chaz & Roger Ebert’s wedding. Eppie and Brian Linehan were hot-footing it on the dance floor when it started to get a tad too hot for Eppie. “Tame it down, tame it down!” she protested, and Linehan graciously acquiesced.

After dispensing sage advice to thousands of grateful readers, by the end of her career Eppie was most famous for failing to save her own marriage. Also, much to her chagrin, her daughter Margo Howard, who eventually took over her column, would marry four times. But then, when has a daughter ever really listened to her mother?

I was much better acquainted with Eppie’s twin sister Pauline, who was equally famous as the Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby. In the days when newspapers ruled, the sisters’ columns competed with each other in rival journals. Ann Landers was in the Toronto Star, so Dear Abby ran in The Toronto Telegram (and later the Toronto Sun.)

ABBY & ANN in their heyday (AP)

ABBY & ANN in their heyday (AP)

Eppie was a permanent fixture in Chicago. ‘Abby’ lived in California and enjoyed it. Like her sister, she was bright, vivacious and always good company. One day I walked into Norman Jewison’s beach house in Malibu and Norman, ‘Abby’ and Washington columnist Art Buchwald were all sitting in the living room, busy debating a burning issue of the day. As I approached them Abby looked up at me and beamed.

“We met in Toronto two weeks ago!” she proclaimed, struggling to remember my name. “I know you!”

“I don’t!” said Buchwald with a shrug, and returned to debating with Jewison.

CHANNING: "Absolutely not!"

CHANNING: "Absolutely not!"

Identical twins born 17 minutes apart, the sisters also got a kick out of teasing people when they were mistaken for each other. One night I bumped into Eppie in the bar at the Four Season in Hollywood and started talking about mutual friends in Chicago until I saw the twinkle in her eye.

“Yep,” she said, grinning – “I’m the other one!”

Manhattan gossip girl Liz Smith says that years ago Eppie’s good friend Carol Channing wanted her Hello, Dolly! composer Jerry Herman to make a musical for her to star as Eppie. “To which Eppie said, ‘Absolutely not!’ But now there is a two-time Tony winner channeling Ann Landers,” adds Liz – “and everybody just hopes Eppie approves.”

VILLAGE PEOPLE: Yes, Barbra Streisand really did return to the tiny Village Vanguard club in Manhattan to perform songs from her new album, Love

STREISAND: stage fright?

STREISAND: stage fright?

Is The Answer, with only a jazz quartet behind her. (Chalk it up to the influence of her album producer Diana Krall. Not that there would have been room for an orchestra, let alone a band. “It’s hard to have stage fright,” Streisand remarked, “when, like, there’s no stage!”) Her audience, comprised mainly of contest winners from around the world, were thrilled to find themselves squeezed against such devoted Barbra boosters as Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Donna Karan, Barry Diller, David Geffen and composers Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Streisand was reportedly in glorious voice, and in addition to tunes from her new CD, she also reprised a few of her classics, including Evergreen (which she dedicated to a misty-eyed Bill Clinton) and The Way We Were.

Apparently you had to be there to believe it. And don’t you wish you had been?

TOMORROW:

What Julie Stewart and Dan Aykroyd are up to in Toronto.

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Kiefer comes home, Kevin hosts the Inn crowd, Regis goes Rama & Bette’s Rose blooms again

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: When director Norman Jewison founded the Canadian Film Centre 20 years ago, who knew where it would lead?

SUTHERLAND: new Chair

SUTHERLAND: new Chair

Now CFC alumni are everywhere, and 90 percent of them are working, so they must be doing something right. Its latest venture, the new Actors Conservatory, may be the CFC’s most ambitious undertaking to date. Funded by Canwest and The Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation, the new program is designed to provide collaborative, in-depth, professional on-screen training for Canadian actors. And it also provides a chairman who knows all about all of those things. Kiefer Sutherland, currently

MAJUMDER: 24 alumnus

MAJUMDER: 24 alumnus

shooting the eighth season of his hit series 24, flew in from LA earlier this month to officially accept his new role as chair of the Conservatory.

“I am honored to contribute to Norman Jewison’s legacy,” Kiefer told 2,000 guests at the annual CFC barbecue, “by offering my passion for storytelling, for Canada and for its talent.” CFC chief Slawko Klymkiw noted that the award-winning actor has consistently hired Canadian actors for key roles on 24 (e,g., Leslie Hope, Shaun Majumder, Elisha Cuthbert, Carlo Rota, Colm Feore.) “Kiefer’s experience,” he added, “will greatly enrich this program.” Michael Levine, executor of Brian Linehan’s estate, said Linehan would be delighted with Sutherland’s new role. “He loved Kiefer,” said Levine. “He thought he was a great actor, and a very generous and

BETTE: The Rose

BETTE: The Rose

intelligent young man.” The first eight actors chosen to participate in the inaugural five month session are Sarah Allen and Simon Baker of B.C., Sean Morrison, from Cape Breton; Jesse Aaron Dwyre, from Kingston; and Zoe Doyle, Michelle Giroux, Jean-Michel Le Gal and Abena Malika from Toronto.

Stay tuned.

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME: Remember Bette Midler’s dazzling Oscar-nominated screen debut in The Rose? Hmmm – you’re older than I thought. The Rose celebrates its 30th anniversary with a special Academy of Arts and Sciences screening tonight at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Hollywood.

 

FRANKISH: hosting tonight

FRANKISH: hosting tonight

OUR TOWN: Remember the Inn On The Park? After a significant restoration it’s now an events venue, and tonight Breakfast Television host Kevin Frankish hosts a celebration of its return at Grand Opening Soirée of Events On The Park. CFRB’s Bill Carroll will co-emcee during the night, with performances by Andy Kim, pianist Terence Gowan and The Anita Rossi Band. Executive Chef Ray Nolan is overseeing the cocktails and canapés … … set to sparkle next weekend at Casino Rama: Bill Cosby and Regis Philbin …  glory-voiced ex-Nylon Mark Cassius sings at Statler’s tonight accompanied by popular piano man Ken Lindsay. “What a talent!” confides Lindsay. “And what a privilege to play for him!” … and Daryn Jones and Johnny Guardhouse are among the laff-makers set to perform at the East End Comedy Revue next Friday at The Dominion on Queen.

 

SONDHEIM: T.O. hat trick

SONDHEIM: T.O. hat trick

SEPTEMBER SONGS: The first in a series of three ‘in-concert’ theatrical evenings premiered last week to raves from a near-capacity house, as some of this country’s greatest musical comedy talents dazzled in an evening devoted to Stephen Sondheim musicals.  On Monday they’ll perform the second evening, reprising classic tunes from Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd and more. All three evenings are staged at the audience-friendly Metropolitan Community Church and all proceeds benefit the Actors Fund of Canada. For more info, and to order tickets while you still can, just click here.

Have a great weekend!

George gets Oprah, Kim gets a sidewalk star and Toronto gets one heaping helping of Hollywood

STARS IN OUR EYES: What a weekend for celebrity-spotting in Our Town.  In addition to Penelope Cruz, Colin Farrell, Jeff Bridges, Jason Bateman, Hugh Hefner, Drew Barrymore, Ewan McGregor (who walked the red

McGREGOR: took flight

McGREGOR: took flight

carpet, then dashed to Pearson International to catch a flight) and too many more to mention here, Anne Murray hosted the stars receiving Walk Of Fame honours on Saturday night at the Four Seasons Centre. New sidewalk star owner Kim Cattrall, back in New York this morning shooting Sex And The City 2, also sparkled at George Christy’s 25th annual filmfest family reunion at the Four Seasons, as did Michael Caine, Rachel Ward & Bryan Brown, Norman Jewison, Michael Sheen, Rex Reed, novelists Ron Base & Shinan Govani, Seamus O’Regan, Chaz & Roger Ebert, Ben Mulroney and An Education scene-stealer Carey Mulligan, who flew to Manhattan yesterday to start shooting Wall Street 2 with Michael

CATTRALL: Back to Manhattan

CATTRALL: Back to Manhattan

Douglas. A few blocks away at Il Fornello TIFF co-founder Bill Marshall & Sari Ruda hosted their annual All-Star Lunch for directors Fred Schepisi, Patricia Rozema and Don Shebib, satirist Rick Miller, filmfest veteran Tony Watt, columnist Martin Knelman, ex-Toronto mayors David Crombie & Art Eggleton and many more. Veteran filmfest programmer Hannah Fisher and producers Pierre Sarrazin & Suzette Couture were among the guests soaking up the sun and snacks at Tonya Lee Williams’ lively networking reception at The Pilot for her ReelWorld Indie Lounge. And producer Laszlo

CLOONEY: with Oprah

CLOONEY: with Oprah

Barna and dozens of TIFF participants showed up to shmooze at the Canadian Film Centre soiree hosted by CFC chief Slawko Klymkiw at The Spoke Club.

Biggest crowd-pleasers of the weekend: George Clooney, who greeted cheering fans Friday night at the premiere of The Men Who Stare At Goats and then showed up with Oprah Winfrey on his arm for the Saturday screening of Jason Reitman’s crowd-pleasing Up In The Air. (My spies tell me Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking star Aaron Eckhart also was there. Who knew?) La Wnfrey herself drew thunderous applause last night at the premiere of Precious, as did Mariah Carey. But it was Michael Caine who earned the most affectionate TIFF standing ovations yesterday in his stellar Q&A session with Canada A.M. stalwart Seamus O’Regan.

TIFF TALK: TIFF visitor Tilda Swinton reportedly wants to star in a new screen version of Mame, more along the lines of stage & screen Mame Rosalind Russell than movie musical Mame Lucille Ball … popular music-makers Terri

SWINTON: new Mame?

SWINTON: new Mame?

Clark and Hawksley Workmen are among the entertainers appearing this week at the Hard Rock Café as part of the fifth annual TIFF-related Canadian Music Café …  Canuck luminaries ranging from Christopher Plummer, Norman Jewison and David Cronenberg to Margaret Atwood, Oscar Peterson and Louise Pitre are currently showcased in a new 30-year retrospective by photographer Edward Gajdel at the o born contemporary gallery on Yonge street … Bobby Del Rio is living the Actor’s Dream. He’s in every single scene of Mio Adilman’s short TIFF film Unlocked … and organizers of the Dubai International Film Festival pulled the plug on tonight’s planned Park Hyatt cocktail soiree. All in all, not Dubai’s best year for public relations. Maybe all the headline-grabbing fuss about the TIFF salute to Tel Aviv scared them off?

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A drama for Amanda, a film feast for Chris, a new musical for Catherine and a Toronto visit for Meryl!

ANOTHER OPENING, ANOTHER SHOW: Sadly, most of the publicity surrounding the making of Chloe, the new Atom Egoyan drama set to premiere

SEYFRIED: at TIFF as Chloe

SEYFRIED: at TIFF as Chloe

Sunday night at TIFF, focused on leading man Liam Neeson when his actress wife Natasha Richardson died tragically during the shooting of the film. What no one seems to have noticed is that the title character in Egoyan’s film is played by Amanda Seyfried, so outstanding as Meryl Streep’s daughter in Mamma Mia.  In Chloe she plays a sultry young seductress hired by Julianne Moore to test her husband’s faithfulness. (Expect to hear a lot of tongue-wagging after this one!) … and tonight’s TIFF Galas should offer some genuine surprises. Already winning rave reviews, The Men Who Stare At Goats showcases a stellar 1ddcd8b24bd2e054_colin_firthcast led by George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges in a stranger-than-fiction true story. (Want a sample? Just click here.) And the new version of Dorian Gray, with Colin Firth and terminally handsome Ben Barnes directed by Oscar Wilde aficionado Oliver Parker, reportedly takes that famous portrait mythology to new heights (and depths.) This one sure doesn’t look like any of the Dorian Grays we’ve seen before. For a sneak preview, click here.

OUR TOWN: Hollywood columnist George Christy, Norman Jewison and Gina & Paul Godfrey were among the boldface who turned up for the Best Buddies tribute to Ann-Margaret this week at the Four Seasons. Glamourous

STREEP: Toronto-bound

STREEP: Toronto-bound

in a glittering cocktail dress, the award-winning actress beamed when someone asked her if she minds being called Ann-Margrock, her character name on The Flintstones. “No, I love it!” she exclaimed. “That’s why I voiced the part in the first place!”… delighted by its successful run at Niagara-On-The-Lake, Theatre Museum Canada has finally brought its much-lauded retrospective of stage designer Cameron Porteous to T.O. After a week of previews, Risking The Void: The Scenography of Cameron Porteous, opens tonight at the Design Exchange and runs through October 20 … and talk about a hot ticket: current box office queen Meryl Streep is set for a public sit-down session with Johanna Schneller at the ROM on Oct. 7. Bon appetit, ladies!

McKELLAR: Tiff Talent booster

McKELLAR: Tiff Talent booster

TIFF TALK: The aspiring filmmakers who made the final cut to attend TIFF’s annual Talent Lab are in good and remarkably famous hands this year. Governors overseeing the program are Danny Boyle, John Collee, Miranda July and Cooking With Stella star Don McKellar. Film folk who have agreed to be drop-in mentors include Tilda Swinton, Atom Egoyan, Gaspar Noe, Jane Campion, Bruce Beresford and Suzana Amaral … is anyone having a better year on film that Christopher Plummer? He’s a major voice in Up, one of the summer biggest box office hits, and one of the top-billed stars of the new animated film 9, which opened here this week; he’s nominated for a Gemini Award for his performance in the screen version of his Stratford hit

PLUMMER: as Dr. Parnassus

PLUMMER: as Dr. Parnassus

Caesar & Cleopatra; he plays the title role in Terry Gilliam’s much-anticipated Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus, premiering here at TIFF next week; and he and Helen Mirren play Leo Tolstoy and his missus in the new German-Russian-U.K. co-production The Last Station. Can’t wait to see that one … and the best and most significant comment I’ve seen on the current tiff over TIFF’s choice of Tel Aviv for its City To City program comes from Toronto film critic Peter Howell. Says Howell: “Film festivals are supposed to be about opening minds, not closing them.” To which we say, bravo. To read his thoughtful column in yesterday’s Toronto Star, click here.

DOUGLAS: playing Solitary

DOUGLAS: playing Solitary

STARS IN OUR EYES: New Manhattan-dwellers Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones won’t have a lot of time to unpack their California bags. He’s already started shooting Oliver Stone’s sequel to Wall Street, reprising his role as imprisoned corporate crook Gordon Gekko opposite TIFF scene-stealer Carey Mulligan (An Education.) Meanwhile Solitary Man, Douglas’ meaty new drama with Susan Sarandon, Mary-Louise Parker and his longtime pal Danny DeVito premieres at TIFF next week. Meanwhile the ravishing Zeta-Jones, who won her

ZETA-JONES: back on the boards

ZETA-JONES: back on the boards

Oscar for her song-and-dance tour de force in Chicago, is starting rehearsals for her return to the musical stage in A Little Night Music, tackling the role played by Glynis Johns on Broadway, Judi Dench in London, Jean Simmons in Toronto and Elizabeth Taylor on screen. And speaking of Dame Elizabeth, who not so coincidentally happens to be the Founding International Chairman of AMFAR – will she jet here to attend our first-ever Cinema Against AIDS Toronto Gala on Tuesday at the Carlu? And will Global Fundraising champion Sharon Stone come with her? Kevin Sullivan & Trudy Grant are presenting sponsors of the lavish evening, which features a special dinner designed by Jamie Kennedy with Sarah McLachlan and Deborah Cox served up for dessert. For ticket information, click here.

Have a great TIFF weekend.

See you at the movies!

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Nurse Jackie gets a pick-up, Michel plays Irving, and T.O. theatre-goers get three decades of Doras

FALCO: she's the right Rx

FALCO: she's the right Rx

BEDSIDE MANNERS: American  television has clearly has taken a turn for the nurse. Fans of Sopranos scene-stealer Edie Falco, and they are legion, will be delighted to learn that her new almost three-week-old series Nurse Jackie has already been picked up for a second season …  and Jada Pinkett Smith is following in her mother’s footsteps, playing nurse Christina Hawthorne in HawthoRNe. (No, that’s not a typo. And yes, it really is a bit too cute. But then, here we are talking about it.) Ms. Pinkett Smith’s mom worked as a head nurse at a Baltimore women’s clinic, but in her new series, created by John Masius (St. Elsewhere) and produced by her hubbyWill Smith, Jada says her character is basically a woman with a God complex that’s really going to have to, like, get real. She’s going to have to learn to take care of herself as intensely as the patients.”

Sounds like a prescription for another hit show.

We’ll see.

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: He conquered Stratford, won our hearts on TV as Tommy Douglas, wowed us on stage in The Producers and even survived the musical version of Lord Of The Rings. Now Michel Therriault is

THERRIAULT: Call him Irving

THERRIAULT: Call him Irving

about to play U.S. legend Irving Berlin off-Broadway in a new what-if musical called The Tin Pan Alley Rag. Described as a ‘musical play,’ it’s the story of an imagined meeting of two of America’s greatest musicians, composer Scott Joplin (Michael Boatman) and songwriter Berlin and the stories of fame, love and loss beneath their syncopated, frequently hypnotic rhythms … speaking of Stratford, award-laden director Norman Jewison says Stratford’s current production of West Side Story is the best he’s seen since the show first opened on Broadway more than (gulp!) half a century ago … sad news for you if you meant to but didn’t get around to ordering tickets: Every performance of the Tarragon Theatre remount of one-woman whirlwind Judith Thompson’s Body & Soul has been sold out since the curtain went up last week … Ray Jessel returns to our town to cabaret at the Old Mill next Saturday June 27 during The Toronto Jazz Festival … and Rick Mercer Report producer Gerald Lunz got an extra show on Broadway this week when he caught all three

DeVITO: too bloody funny?

DeVITO: too bloody funny?

installments of the revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s Norman Conquests, performed in the round at the Circle in the Square. Danny DeVito, who was sitting across the stage from him, literally doubled over with laughter, bounced his face off the seat in front of him, and split his lip. Now that’s comedy!

FOOTLIGHTS: Risking The Void, a comprehensive retrospective of stage designer Cameron Porteous’ remarkable contribution to theatre in Canada, opens Saturday July 4 at The Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre at Niagara-on-the-Lake. The ambitious exhibit is a collaboration by Theatre Museum Canada, the University of Guelph’s L.W. Conolly Theatre Archives and the Shaw Festival … WatersEdge Productions, a new independent theatre

JEWISON: Stratford aficionado

JEWISON: Stratford aficionado

company, will debut in T.O, with the Canadian premiere of bare, a new rock musical that garnered a worldwide fan base since its award-winning run in L.A. and its sold-out five-week run off-Broadway. The show, in which an exuberant young cast of 19 actors tackles themes of teen sexuality, religious angst and unrelenting social and family pressure – yup, it’s a musical, I kid you not – opens July 17 at Hart House … shhhhh, it’s a secret, but my spies tell me the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts is polishing up a special award for superProducer Marlene Smith. To which we can only add, bravo!  … doesn’t seem possible that this is the 30th anniversary of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Imagine three decades of Doras! …  and soon you won’t have to. Theatre-goers attending the June 29 awards will receive an elegant bonus — a special book, The Doras: 30 Years of Theatre, Dance and Opera in Toronto. Edited by Angela Rebeiro, the new book will be distributed free of charge to all guests at the Award Show ceremony. It will go on sale at TheatreBooks after the show … and speaking of the Doras, have you cast your vote for the Audience Choice Award? If you haven’t, you’ve only got a few days left – polls close June 25. So just take a deep breath and click here.

A TOMLIN NEVER FORGETS: American treasure Lily Tomlin wants me to let you know that tomorrow is not just another Saturday.

TOMLIN: on a mission

TOMLIN: on a mission

“On Saturday, June 20, compassionate people around the world will unite to educate the public about the suffering of elephants in zoos, as part of the first-ever International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos,” says Lily. “Events are taking place in more than 30 cities in seven countries. I strongly urge you to attend an event, if there’s one in your area. Visit HelpElephants.com to see a list of locations.”

Lily’s using her wowOwow. com website to get her message out to as many people as possible.

“From some of the comments I’ve read in response to the issue of elephants in zoos, I’ve come to realize that people are just so used to seeing elephants in tiny displays that they accept that as being OK,” she says. “But it isn’t. While a zoo exhibit may appear big to us, to an elephant it’s miniscule. And don’t forget that elephants are forced to live their entire lives in that same spot, deprived of all that is natural to them: space, freedom, family and choice.”

For more on Lily’s plea for your help, click here.

And have a great weekend!

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Going green at the box office on ‘Earth’ day

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US:  Yes, it’s Earth Day. This special occasion, which becomes increasingly special each year, was launched almost four decades ago, when most of us were blissfully ignorant of the term “unrenewable resources.”

Good news is, we’re a lot smarter now. Better news is, we’re not alone. Millions of people around the world are taking it seriously. And yes, that includes major show business corporations.  

Disneynature is the first new Disney film label to be introduced by the Walt Disney empire in 60 (!!!) years. To celebrate its premiere film, Earth, being released nationally today, Disneynature will plant a tree in honour of every moviegoer who sees the film in its opening week.

So far, 500,000 trees will be planted. 

Now that’s a LOT of green!

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JAMES: weekly series

JAMES: weekly series

 

 

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: Boy, that Ryan Reynolds gets around.  The B.C.-born Hollywood heartthrob has two potential megahits about to hit North American movie screens — X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Hugh Jackman, and The Proposal, a quirky new romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock as the subject of his affection and Betty White, Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson also on board … good news for Ron James fans — your hero is now officially inked to headline his own weekly prime-time series on CBC Television this fall … and frequently unheralded screen legend Steve McQueen gets his own retrospective next month at Lincoln Center.  The retrospective, aptly titled Yesterday’s Loner, is set to run May 20-26 and will feature 12 of his finest performances, “all on the best prints available.”

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THOMPSON: body & soul

THOMPSON: body & soul

 

 

FOOTLIGHTS:  Still haven’t seen it, despite the rave reviews from everyone you know? Me neither. But let’s really try to get to Jersey Boys now that the transplanted Broadway musical has been extended ’til June 28 … speaking of rave reviews, has any revival won as much lavish praise as the current Mirvish incarnation of Sound Of Music? … bad news for Dr. Seuss fans: Dancap has canceled plans to mount How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical, as renovations on the Sony Centre are behind schedule and the theatre will not be ready in time … good news for Judith Thompson fans — her Dove-inspired creation body & soul, which played to sold out houses and standing ovations for its entire run at the Young Centre iast year, will be performed at the Tarragon extra space from June 4th-21.

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JONES: floral tribute

JONES: floral tribute

 

 

DISSED BY ‘THE DUKE:’  Some of the starry folk unable to attend last week’s Norman Jewison tribute in L.A. sent notes and posies instead. Jewison received extravagant floral offerings from Marisa Tomei and Quincy Jones, among others, and truly personal regrets from Goldie Hawn, David Foster, Martin Short (who came down with flu and decided not to share it) and Canadian Film Centre alumnus Vincenzo Natali (Cube,) who couldn’t attend for a reason that delighted Jewison: Natali was on location directing a new movie … and Bev Thomson coaxed some great stories out of liberal activist Jewison on her Canada A.M. exclusive earlier this week, including the fact that John Wayne dissed him as “that Canadian pinko.” To see her interview with the award-laden Jewison, click here.

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As Hollywood watches, Cher finally thanks her Moonstruck mentor Jewison for her Oscar (at last!)

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD:  When Nicholas Campbell, Angie Dickinson and Shawn Doyle are members of the audience, sitting a few rows ahead of Canadian uber-agent Michael Levine, Beverly Hills columnist George Christy and M.A.S.H. producer Burt Metcalfe, you know there’s something special happening on stage. And what is happening on stage at the L.A. County Museum of Art is very special indeed.

Assembled to tell tales, some tall, some small, are an illustrious clutch of Oscar winners: Classic beauty Eva Marie Saint, still-ravishing screen siren Faye Dunaway, artful cinematographer Haskell Wexler, brilliant songwriters Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Joining them is still-irrepressible funnyman Carl Reiner. Emceeing the evening is veteran film historian Leonard Maltin. And sitting between Maltin and Dunaway is the subject of all their stories, and the object of their bubbling affection: Screen director Norman Jewison.

Reiner and Saint, of course, led the all-star cast of Jewison’s classic comedy hit The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming;  even before that, Reiner had scripted Jewison’ s curious comedy about marketing immortality, The Art Of Love, with Ms. Dickinson  and Dick Van Dyke. Dunaway had co-starred with Steve McQueen in Jewison’s notorious romantic thriller, The Thomas Crown Affair.  Haskell Wexler owned the eyes behind the camera on such diverse Jewison films as In The Heat Of The Night and Other People’s Money.  And Marilyn & Alan Bergman wrote the original songs, now American standards, that graced such Jewison gems as Best Friends (How Do You Keep The Music Playing) and Thomas Crown Affair (Windmills Of Your Mind.) And all of them have some wonderful tales to tell. But the master story teller, naturally, is Jewison himself. 

When he tells us how Steve McQueen misbehaved on Thomas Crown Affair, going AWOL in a dune buggy while the cast and crew watched the light fade, Dunaway is clearly entranced. “I never knew that!” she exclaims. Thomas Crown was only her third film, she says; Warren Beattywas still locked in the editing room with Bonnie & Clyde,  and Jewison had hired her after seeing her off-Broadway in Hogan’s Goat. And when McQueen disappeared from the set, Jewison had told her to wait in her trailer until he called her. “And I did what I was told!” she adds, chuckling softly.

The  tribute to Jewison is originally slated to run 45-60 minutes, but the hush from the appreciative crowd inspires Maltin to let his all-star gabbers hold sway. Reiner, who played a leading man for the first time in his life in Jewison’s Russians Are Coming, reveals that the director had originally asked him to play the Russian sailor, a plum role that Alan Arkin eventually won. Reiner and Saint further regale the audience with tales of white-knuckle flights to Jewison locations;  Wexler reminds us of Jewison the activist and his deep commitment to U.S. civil rights; and the Bergmans praise him as one of only two directors they’ve worked with (the other, sadly, being his friend, the late Sydney Pollack) whose passion for music gives him a unique  understanding of  the potential of original music in screen storytelling.

The near-capacity crowd is clearly enthralled. Close to the front LACMA honcho Ian Birney, another transplanted Canadian, is grinning happily. Beside him sit the co-hosts of the event, Film Independent’s Dawn Hudson and Canadian Film Centre chief  Slawko Klymkiw, beaming like proud parents. Klymkiw, aided and abetted by Birney and Hudson, has initiated this event (among others) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Toronto film centre Jewison founded two decades earlier, and celebrated alumni Christina Jennings and Clement Virgo, among others, are sitting in the theatre with the rest of his fans.

Leonard Maltin is admittedly fascinated by the fact that in addition to international megahits as Jesus Christ Superstar and Fiddler On The Roof, this Canadian director, in his opinion, has  also produced some of the most quintessentially American films ever to come out of Hollywood. And the on-stage showbiz love-in is well into its second hour when Maltin raises the subject of another polished Jewison diamond, Moonstruck, which will be screened immediately following the tribute. And then he utters the magic phrase that so many of us have been hoping to hear.

“Let’s invite Cher up here,” says Leonard Maltin.

A gasp from the audience, a truly all-ages group from 9 to 99, as a woman seated near the front of the house makes her way to the stairs leading up to the stage,  her long black hair a perfect contrast to her stylish white designer duds and funky white fedora. Cher is on stage kissing Reiner, shaking hands with Saint, embracing Dunaway — the audience is standing now, and cheering — and greets Jewison with an enormous bear hug. Cher is in the house, and an already excited crowd is now deliriously beside themselves.

The fun is just beginning. When she confesses she was a “bad kid” on Moonstruck, Jewison smiles in tacit agreement. “But,” he interjects,” you’re a good girl tonight.” Yes, she agrees, she’s a good girl tonight. And she proves it, by telling wonderful anecdotes, revealing and occasionally touching, about the fact that Jewison had to cajole, trick and at times even threaten her to enable her to do the best screen work of her career. 

She tells tales out of school, too, stories that make Jewison laugh out loud. About how he finally got Nicolas Cage to loosen up for a scene by relentlessly goading him until Cage picked up a chair and threw it across the room. “And we were all shocked,” she recalls, “and we all looked at Norman, waiting for him to say something, anything! …  and Norman said, ‘Action!’  And he got the scene he wanted.”

When she and Jewison weren’t at odds with other — a creative tension she now suspects he manufactured, to enhance her performance — they were a formidable tag team. For one thing, they both wanted Cage for her leading man. Cher had seen him in Peggy Sue Got Married, “and I thought he was terrific.”

And Jewison remembers thinking that the young actor, at that time, was clearly “the most tortured soul in Hollywood.”

“So of course Norman and I thought he’d be perfect for the role!” adds Cher, grinning.

When MGM balked at casting Cage, she huddled with Norman and then told her manager to tell the studio she would walk out on the picture if they didn’t hire Cage. “Which, of course, I had no intention of doing!” she add with a guilty grin.

But hey, she and Norman got the leading man they wanted. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Movie history, that is. Which brings me to another piece of movie history.  When Cher won her Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck, she facetiously thanked her hairdresser and her make-up artist, but neglected to acknowledge the guardian angel of her performance.

On Friday night she makes up for that 20-year-old gaffe.  After a brief intermission she returns to the stage to introduce Moonstruck, and gives the speech she should have given 20 years ago at the Academy Awards. It is short, sweet and unmistakably sincere — a luscious cherry to top a spectacularly rich evening.

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BEV ON THE BEACH: Who was the alabaster blonde walking on the sand with Norman Jewison yesterday? None other than CTV  charmer Beverly Thomson, who got up Friday at 3 a.m., co-hosted the morning edition of Canada A.M., and then hit the airport. An understandably bleary-eyed Thompson made it to Los Angeles in time to attend the tribute at LACMA and yesterday hit the beach to tape an exclusive interview with Jewison in Malibu. And you can see it too, tomorrow morning on CTV.