Category Archives: Film


By Bob Shuman

Director Simon Godwin’s structured, composed descent into the “defilement of a mind” in Macbeth is objective and clear, filmed unpoetically, yet sustained with uniformly standout performances.  The conception is Brechtian and modern, which allows for hard analysis (the adapter is Emily Burns). Shakespeare’s verbal descriptions, which often start scenes, can be envisioned as eventually forming a base point for the German playwright’s  well-known text above the proscenium.  The uncluttered setting by Frankie Bradshaw, made up of six steps to a platform (with side wings of stairs), uses photography of the audience at a live theatre performance, as well as their laughter and applause.  The story’s plot points register, which, in other versions can get lost, especially as the focus shifts away from the husband-and-wife murderers.  Between the Early Modern English and the supernatural elements, as well as its change from hearth to battlefield, Macbeth is an economic tour de force, but only if you can track it. Because of its precision, this interpretation can be especially helpful for students.

Ralph Fiennes (Tony and BAFTA Award-winner) made an impact  with his ancient Roman conqueror in Antony and Cleopatra (another play he helped disentangle) and, hopefully, that same sense of discovery will inform others who now come to the Scottish play.  The work is straight to the audience and physical:  he kneels at Lady Macbeth’s womb, takes a fetal position on the floor, and engages in heavy swordplay.  He is also an older actor playing the iconic role, which highlights a strange contradiction in the text and challenges anyone playing the part.  The issue is that Macbeth murders in order to become king, and spends a good amount of time preserving his title and succession.  However, the character has no heirs: for all his raging about wearing “a fruitless crown” and “holding a barren scepter,” there is no one to accept a legacy. The audience may be able to rationalize a younger Macbeth as someone who will still be able to start a family, but an older Macbeth, who is childless, has lower chances of becoming a father (he’s worried about succession, when there is none).  If Macbeth does not have a prince, it is a moot point whether Banquo “shalt get kings.”  Imagine also the kind of life Macbeth’s child (if there was one) would have, growing up among killers and the chilling distortions of their minds.

Indira Varma (Olivier Award-winner) makes a formidable Lady Macbeth:  She’s practical, realistic, and goading—and her diction and gestures are impeccable (look at her outstretched arms and hands—she’s unafraid of large physical description and pronouncement). Macbeth can trust her to make untenable choices, and she is bold in their implementation, at least until she, too, succumbs to the nightmare in her mind.  Each of the actors has created very specific, well-thought-out characterizations.  In a sea of impressive work, there really is no mediocre, unindividuated performance–from witches to soldiers to courtiers and advisors, even children.  Two further bright lights are:  Rebecca Scroggs, who takes on a pair of no-nonsense roles:  Lady Macduff, in a brown and yellow checkered housecoat, and Lady Macbeth’s doctor, with a Red Cross armband.  Ben Turner’s Macduff is also exemplary, fusing correct language presentation and valor—for those who appreciate the steadiness of a Shakespearean line expressed, this cast delivers laudably.  Think of how difficult it must be to bring together over twenty cast members, not to mention other theatre professionals, in a high-quality Shakespeare performance.  The sharp work presented here, from The Shakespeare Company, can help make up for the lack of Shakespeare in the Park, in New York City, this season, while the Delacorte Theater is being remodeled.  

A very palpable hit.


© by Bob Shuman

Ticketing information:



Cinema Release Date: Thursday, May 2, and Sunday, May 5

Cinema Website: 

Distributor: Trafalgar Releasing

Adapter: Emily Burns

Director: Simon Godwin

Set & Costume Designer: Frankie Bradshaw

Lighting Designer: Jai Morjaria 

Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt

Composer: Asaf Zohar

Sound System Design: Christopher Shutt & Sam Clarkson

Movement Director: Lucy Cullingford

Hair, Make Up and Prosthetics Designer: Susanna Peretz

Fight Director: Kate Waters

Casting Director: Amy Ball CDG

Children’s Casting Director: Ellie Collyer-Bristow CDG

Voice & Dialect Coach: Jeannette Nelson

Associate Director: Alice Wordsworth

Associate Set Designer: Ceci Calf

Associate Costume Designer: Olivia Ward

Associate Lighting Designer: Tom Turner

Casting Associate: Arthur Carrington


Ralph Fiennes , Indira Varma, Ben Allen, Ewan Black, Levi Brown, Jonathon Case, Danielle Fiamanya, Keith Fleming, Michael Hodgson, Lucy Mangan, Jake Neads, Richard Pepper, Steffan Rhodri, Rose Riley, Rebecca Scroggs, Lola Shalam, Ethan Thomas, Ben Turner 

For tickets and a full list of participating cinemas, please visit

NYC area theaters where Macbeth will be playing:

Barrymore Film Center: 153 Main Street, Fort Lee, N.J. 07024

Regal New Roc & IMAX: 33 LeCourt Place, New Rochelle, NY 10801

Regal UA Kaufman Astoria: 35-30 38th Street, Long Island City, NY 11101

Regal Times Square: 247 W. 42nd Street, NY., NY. 10036

Macbeth is presented by Trafalgar Releasing. To secure your tickets and witness this must-see event, visit

About Trafalgar Releasing

Trafalgar Releasing, the global leader in event cinema distribution, harnesses the power of cinema to bring fans together in more than 15,000 cinemas across 132 countries.  A subsidiary of Trafalgar Entertainment, Trafalgar Releasing’s operations include production, acquisition, marketing, and distribution of live or pre-recorded content to cinemas worldwide led by an international team based in the UK, US and Germany. Featuring live concerts, music documentaries, award-winning theatre, world-class opera and ballet, and more from leading names in entertainment such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, BTS, Coldplay, Billie Eilish, the Royal Opera House, Concord Originals, Hasbro and others, Trafalgar Releasing has repeatedly shattered event cinema box office records, most recently with international distribution for TAYLOR SWIFT | THE ERAS TOUR, the highest-grossing concert film of all time. Information about Trafalgar Releasing can be found at

(Photo credit:  © Marc Brenner; via John Singh)





A rare cinematic event is coming to New York theatres for only two days: Ralph Fiennes in Macbeth.

The Daily Telegraph calls the film, “full-voltage visceral,” while The Times of London raves it is, “Succession in a war zone.” Reflecting a contemporary resonance, the film intensifies the play’s exploration of ambition, manipulation, and the destructive allure of power.

Currently riveting audiences in Washington D.C., after a sold-out UK run, Macbeth is played by Tony and BAFTA Award-winner Fiennes (Antony & Cleopatra, Schindler’s List, Coriolanus) and Olivier Award-winner Indira Varma (Present Laughter, Obi Wan Kenobi, Luther). This production of the epic Shakespeare drama, designed for a custom-built space, brings, as  The I says, “Shakespeare’s tragedy pulsing into the present day.”

Directed by Simon Godwin (Antony & Cleopatra, Romeo & Juliet, Hansard­) with set and costume design by Frankie Bradshaw (Jerusalem, Blues for an Alabama Sky),  Macbeth is unmissable on the big screen. The sold-out Washington, D.C. production, staged by the Shakespeare Theatre Company, runs from April 9 to May 5. In London and following seasons in Liverpool and Edinburgh, Macbeth will have played to sell out audiences of over 100,000 people at 110 performances.

Given Godwin’s proven directorial skills and the undeniable talents of Fiennes and Varma, this limited release is an event not to be missed by serious theatre enthusiasts and Shakespeare aficionados alike.

For tickets and a full list of participating cinemas, please visit

NYC area theaters where Macbeth will be playing:

Barrymore Film Center: 153 Main Street, Fort Lee, N.J. 07024

Regal New Roc & IMAX: 33 LeCourt Place, New Rochelle, NY 10801

Regal UA Kaufman Astoria: 35-30 38th Street, Long Island City, NY 11101

Regal Times Square: 247 W. 42nd Street, NY., NY. 10036

Macbeth is presented by Trafalgar Releasing. To secure your tickets and witness this must-see event, visit

About Trafalgar Releasing

Trafalgar Releasing, the global leader in event cinema distribution, harnesses the power of cinema to bring fans together in more than 15,000 cinemas across 132 countries.  A subsidiary of Trafalgar Entertainment, Trafalgar Releasing’s operations include production, acquisition, marketing, and distribution of live or pre-recorded content to cinemas worldwide led by an international team based in the UK, US and Germany. Featuring live concerts, music documentaries, award-winning theatre, world-class opera and ballet, and more from leading names in entertainment such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, BTS, Coldplay, Billie Eilish, the Royal Opera House, Concord Originals, Hasbro and others, Trafalgar Releasing has repeatedly shattered event cinema box office records, most recently with international distribution for TAYLOR SWIFT | THE ERAS TOUR, the highest-grossing concert film of all time. Information about Trafalgar Releasing can be found at

(Photo credit:  © Marc Brenner; via John Singh)


By Bob Shuman

The aesthetic issue being explored in Orson’s Shadow (Austin Pendleton’s own play now celebrating its 25th Anniversary) might best be expressed if I show you a picture of the Little Tramp (or the Little Fellow, as Charlie Chaplin and Laurence Olivier might call him). 

My question to you is the following:  Are you viewing a character from Hollywood’s golden age or are you looking at an actor from a Beckett play, 1949 (advertising shot)?  The one was invented during an artistic gold rush, in the early 1900s, and the second, after the devastations of a world war; the first possibility represents the popular entertainment establishment and the second existentialism, socialism or anti-authoritarianism.  The roles of the famous thespians, in Pendleton’s excellent comedy, now playing at Theater for the New City until March 31, are considering the Rorschach, too, with their own bankability at stake, just as the audience, likewise, notices incongruous elements, such as contemporary folding chairs in a play set in 1960, the breaking of the fourth wall, actors seen readying for their entrances, and the disregard of a culminating confrontation with the words: “don’t plead” (and no one is pleading).  Are these characters the same, as before theatre seemed to be changing beneath their feet, are their techniques any different than what they had been, and, if so, why do they feel so lost in the shadows of a theatre rehearsal room?  These are but a few examples.

Examining the film Citizen Kane, critic Pauline Kael noticed also the overlap between commercialism and modernism in her essay “Raising Kane,” from The Citizen Kane Book, and she took sides on the ironies regarding Welles’s film: “The formal elements themselves produce elation; we are kept aware of how marvelously worked out the ideas are.  It would be high-toned to call this method of keeping the audience aware “Brechtian . . . ” (it would also be too early in this review to tell you the point she then makes).

Orson’s Shadow is about the collaboration between Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, and Joan Plowright (and tangentially, Vivien Leigh), in which the great auteur, Welles, is recommended by one of his friends, the English critic Kenneth Tynan, to work with Olivier—a mega star of the ‘40s and beyond–at London’s Royal Court Theatre.  The idea is to have Welles, the pariah, hired as director, for a production of Ionesco’s Absurdist play Rhinoceros (which will also give him a chance to gain funding for a Shakespearean film Chimes at Midnight). Just like today, Ionesco is a hard sell, but his vision is a legitimate and historically critical artistic reaction to World War II (as is Beckett’s) and his empty and little characters illuminate the path to increasing societal conformity.  Ionesco’s revenge is that his insight was valid and, by the ’70s, the hit musical A Chorus Line emphasized the mainstream acceptance of the societal ideal of machine-like uniformity. Brecht, whose characters, for oppositional German theatre, included criminals, sex workers, and the guilty and unapologetic displayed productions that  incorporated machine apparatus, along with film ideas from silents and ‘30s movies: “in the talkies the heroes were to be the men who weren’t fooled, who were smart and learned their way around.”  That’s why Orson’s Shadow is ambiguous—because what appear to be Brechtian ideas are comparable to what was appearing on movie screens, in the early years of the medium. The subject matter of a behemothic Orson Welles and prima dona Laurence Olivier is out of old Broadway, Hollywood central casting, and maybe Warner Brothers cartoons (Brecht would show up there, too, before the House of UnAmerican Activities could decide to kick him out of the country).  Pendleton’s script is not consciously or unconsciously reflecting the captivity of defeated Europe, in either weirdness or depravity.  His characters are too busy and hopeful to be caged in barbed wire. Not gigantic modernism or proto-fragmenting post-modernism, the writing is witty, rat-a-tat-tat typewriter music, with literary repetitions and foreshadowing. Forget Beckett—at its heart this is Hecht and MacArthur, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, Ring Lardner, Moss Hart, Edna Ferber, and dozens of other smart, “wisecracking, fast-talking, cynical-sentimental” screenwriters and literati, to quote Kael, as well as Herman J. Mankiewicz, the man who wrote Citizen Kane, suggesting that Randolph Hearst’s mistress couldn’t sing and who made Welles, the genius, into a roving, homeless, Odysseus.

Patrick Hamilton as Kenneth Tynan, Luke Hofmaier as Sean, the Stage Manager. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Pendleton can make you think he’s known you all of your life—you can feel immediately comfortable with him, even if he can enter a room without being noticed, which, oddly, is a descriptor also mentioned in his play. For many he is not a playwright (although two friends and I have loved and laughed with and over this play since 2008) but, of course, a consummate actor and director who acted, as only one example, in Billy Wilder’s 1974 version of  The Front Page, the 1928 newspaper comedy by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; Pendleton was praised by Pauline Kael for his performance.  In the New York theatre world, everyone will have their stories, but I have known about him since 1972 when my mother came home from teaching in central New Jersey to explain that she had taken her history class to see Nicholas and Alexandra, a movie about the Russian Revolution, at the Criterion Theatre in New York City, on its last day.  Instead, the film had changed and the movie What’s Up Doc? premiered, starring Pendleton—the class was exultant.  Today, at Theatre for the New City, he is sitting two rows in front of me, in a blue sweatshirt and hoodie and blue ski jacket, occasionally chewing an orange-handled toothbrush.  Many will be watching his directing, whether he is part of the casts or not.  From the outside, he seems to allow his companies, often made up of new and unknown talent, to develop their roles from their own insides, in memorable, inhabiting, and complete ways. This is true for Orson’s Shadow, where the roles are luscious, because of the characters we think we know and the aligning interpretations of them.  The actors are facsimiles of who they say they are, handling subtext and rhythms adroitly:  an Olivier who can’t help being prissy and over-balletic (Ryan Tramont); a sane Vivien Leigh holding on and counting before she spirals out of control–a Sondheim line that might apply for her: “Clutching a copy of Life Just to keep in touch” (Natalie Menna); a young, down-to-earth, and, regrettably overshadowed Joan Plowright (Kim Taff); a reticent, stuttering (a difficulty Pendleton knew from his own youth) in-person and bold in-prose Kenneth Tynan (Patrick Hamilton); a compliant stage manager, holding it in (Luke Hofmaier), and, of course, the brilliant, untrustworthy, hammy, eternally damned Welles himself (Brad Fryman). You’d want Hirschfeld to draw them. The mood of the room is cozy.

Austin Pendleton and cast of “Orson’s Shadow.” Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Shadows are, of course, the central images for the play, and the murky Lighting Design is by Alexander Bartenieff,  incorporating ghostlight, spotlight, footlight, and sidelight; the Costume Design is by Billy Little. Sound Design, using music from the soundtracks of Welles’s films, is by Nick Moore. David Schweitzer is co-director. Mark Karafin is Assistant Director and Company Manager. Jose Ruiz is the Stage Manager.

Oh, yes.  Pauline Kael wrote, by way of Walter Kerr, that in the ‘30s, “A play was held to be something of a machine. . . . It was a machine for surprising and delighting the audience, regularly, logically, insanely, but accountably.  A play was like a watch that laughed.”  That is this play.

She also wrote: It would be wrong to call such a play Brechtian because it comes out of a different tradition.

I leave you to ponder the photo of the little tramp in conjunction with considering Orson’s Shadow.  

© by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. (Written without AI.)

WHERE AND WHEN: March 14 to 31, 2024; Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street) Presented by Theater for the New City in association with Oberon Theatre Ensemble and Strindberg Rep. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM. Wednesdays at 7:30: March 20 & 27. $25 general admission, $15 seniors & students. Pay what you can Thursdays. Box office (212) 254-1109, Runs two hours with intermission. Opens March 17.

Press: Jonathan Slaff


Read his amazing story . . .  

Recollections in His Own Words and by Those Who Knew Him Best

Nancy Nelson’s Evenings with Cary Grant, which uses the icon’s own words—and is enhanced with material from Grant’s personal papers—draws from the remembrances of Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Burt Reynolds, Sophia Loren, Quincy Jones, Deborah Kerr, and George Burns (over one hundred and fifty voices in all). Together these friends, colleagues, and loved ones provide a sublime, truthful, and candid portrait—as close to a memoir as Grant ever got.

Foreword by Barbara and Jennifer Grant.  Available now.  

“Forget the other Grant books, this is it.  Superb.”–Kirkus Reviews.

“It’s a lovely, funny book about Cary.”–Katharine Hepburn.  

View on Amazon



(Stefan Dege’s article appeared in DW, 8/26; Photo: Honored for promoting cultural exchange with Germany: Taiwanese dramaturge and theater festival curator Yi-Wei KengImage: Willie Schumann/Goethe Institut/DW)

Cultural workers from Georgia, Taiwan and Hungary are being awarded the Goethe Medal by Germany for their courage and commitment but not without controversy.

Georgian cinema professional Gaga Chkheidze will receive the official badge of honor from the German state this year, as will Taiwanese curator and dramaturg Yi-Wei Keng, and the OFF-Biennale curatorial collective from Hungary. The award ceremony will take place in Weimar on August 28, on the birthday of German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The president of the Goethe-InstitutCarola Lentz, will present the cultural-political award during a ceremony.

This year’s choice of prize-winners is likely to cause political trouble, especially in the former Eastern bloc country of Georgia. Gaga Chkheidze, until recently director of the internationally renowned Tbilisi Film Festival, has fallen out of favor with the ruling Georgian Dream Party. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he publicly criticized Georgia for not

Gaga Chkheidze: Cultural bridge-builder

That stance cost him his position as head of the Georgian National Film Center. In addition, he was expelled by the country’s national film funding organization, the Georgian Filmfund. The Tbilisi Film Festival’s office on the site of the old Soviet film studios was closed, film grants were cancelled, and the festival’s budget was cut.

Born in Georgia in 1957, Gaga Chkheidze has always been considered a friend of Germany and a “cultural bridge builder,” and not only between those two countries. From 1976 to 1980, he studied in Jena, in the central German state of Thüringen. In the 1980s, he worked as the director of the German school in Tbilisi and taught German literature at the Georgian capital’s Ilia State University. In 1988, he organized a Georgian film retrospective at the Arsenal cinema in Berlin, for which he smuggled films across the Soviet border in his car. In the 1990s, he was a translator and program coordinator for the International Forum of New Cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival, before launching the Tbilisi International Film Festival in Georgia in 2000.

Tbilisi Film Festival under pressure 

This coincided with the founding of a National Film Institute in Tbilisi, which gave Georgian films a new boost. The budget for film promotion was tripled, movie theaters sprung up, and more and more films made it to international festivals, from Berlin to Toronto. Georgian cinema drew attention from the European film market. “Gaga Chkheidze’s commitment to film is crucial to Georgia’s connection to European and international institutions and programs, film markets and festivals,” the Goethe Medal award jury said in their citation.

Indeed, Chkheidze’s festival concept appealed to both filmmakers and audiences alike. Soon the Tbilisi Film Festival became an international meeting place for filmmakers. As director of the Georgian National Film Center, Chkheidze promoted the digitization and restoration of Soviet-era Georgian films. The preservation of the Georgian cinema heritage is another of Gaga Chkheidze’s achievements. 

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine also had an impact on Georgia. The Tbilisi festival came under increasing pressure, as demonstrated by the firing of its director. “Unfortunately, here in Georgia we are on the front line between democracy and autocracy,” Chkheidze said in a recent interview with Deutschlandradio. There are many signs that political development in the country is heading in the wrong direction,” he said. “It’s moving more toward authoritarianism — I don’t want to say to dictatorship, but totalitarianism, we’ve already had that during the Soviet era. No one in Georgia wants that anymore.” But the danger is real, he said.

Analysts say Georgia is indeed teetering between Moscow and Brussels. 15 years after its war with Russia, the country officially has aspirations of joining the European Union, which is offering the prospect of membership but still denying the country candidate status. “Society is completely divided,” the dpa news agency quotes Tbilisi sociologist Iago Kachkachishvili as saying. “The majority wants to join the EU, but many hardly understand that the road is long.” The ruling Georgian Dream Party claims to be Russia-friendly. Its chairman, Irakli Kobachidze, emphasizes the high tourism revenue from Russians, the equivalent of about €900 million ($972 million). It is true that Georgia’s government always appears pro-European to the outside world, says Kachkachishvili. “But it’s doing nothing to set itself on a course to EU membership; rather it’s becoming more and more pro-Russian.”

Two years ago, the documentary film “Taming the Garden” painted a picture of the situation in Georgian society. In it, Georgian director Salome Jashi tells the story of centuries-old trees that an influential man collects for his private park. 

The man — presumably Georgia’s ex-prime minister and party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his billion-dollar fortune in the finance and commodities business — remains unnamed in the film. Jashi’s theme is rather the uprooting of people, in both real and metaphorical terms. “Taming the Garden” caused a sensation at film festivals around the world, including the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival. To this day, the film is not allowed to be screened in Georgian cinemas.

The Goethe Medal for Gaga Chkheidze arrives in the midst of this political tangle, Georgia’s struggle for its course between Russia and the West. For the pro-Russian camp, the prestigious cultural-political award could be seen as an affront. To pro-Western factions, the award will be a sign of encouragement. In any case, the Goethe Medal is likely to cause a stir in Tbilisi.

Medals for Taiwan and Budapest as well

Another Goethe Medal goes to Taiwan this year, with curator, dramaturg and translator Yi-Wei Keng being honored. He has brought important impulses to the Taiwanese theater scene, says the Goethe-Institut, including in the areas of experimental theater, children’s theater and theater for people with disabilities. Under his direction, the Taipei Arts Festival has developed into the most important festival for performing arts in Taiwan. Guest performances and co-productions with Europe, the United States and Japan are cited. Yi-Wei Keng has also brought German theater productions to Taiwan, such as those by the Deutsches Theater Berlin, the group Rimini Protokoll and Raumlabor Berlin. Yi-Wei Keng, born in 1969 in Taiwan, first studied philosophy. In Prague, he worked with non-verbal theater. Back in Taiwan, he began working in theater and as an author. Since 2012, he has been artistic director of the Taipei Arts Festival.

(Read more)



(Carmel Dagan’s article appeared in Variety, 2/15; via Pam Green; Photo: Corbis via Getty Images.)

Raquel Welch, the actor who became an icon and sex symbol thanks to films like “One Million Years B.C.” and “Three Musketeers,” died Wednesday in Los Angeles after a brief illness, her manager confirmed to Variety. She was 82.

She came onto the movie scene in 1966 with the sci-fi film “Fantastic Voyage” and the prehistoric adventure “One Million Years B.C.,” the latter of which established Welch as a sex symbol. The actor went on to appear in the controversial adaptation of Gore Vidal’s “Myra Beckrinridge,” “Kansas City Bomber” and Richard Lester’s delightful romps “The Three Musketeers” (1973), for which she won a Golden Globe, and “The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge” (1974). She was one of the first women to play the lead role — not the romantic interest — in a Western, 1971 revenge tale “Hannie Caulder” — an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” (2003), according to the director.

(Earlier, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford toplined 1952’s “Rancho Notorious” and 1954’s “Johnny Guitar,” respectively, but these were Western roles in which each actor held court, in effect; they didn’t ride the lonesome trail — like Clint Eastwood or Welch — bent on righting wrongs.)

Welch also showed some grit in the 1972 roller derby movie “Kansas City Bomber.” Variety said the film “provides a gutsy, sensitive and comprehensive look at the barbaric world of the roller derby. Rugged, brawling action will more than satisfy those who enjoy that type of commercial carnage, while the script explores deftly the cynical manipulation of players and audiences. Raquel Welch, who did a lot of her own skating, is most credible as the beauteous but tough star for whom team owner Kevin McCarthy has big plans. At the same time, Welch is torn between her professional life and her two fatherless children.”

Also in 1972, Welch appeared as a female cop who serves as a decoy in the hunt for a rapist in the police farce “Fuzz,” starring Burt Reynolds. The New York Times said: “The straightest performance is given by Raquel Welch, who isn’t around much of the time. When she is, she looks as irritated, but as resolutely patient, as Gloria Steinem defending women’s rights on a TV talk show.”

In 1973 she was part of the all-star ensemble for “The Last of Sheila,” a Herbert Ross-directed mystery movie famous for having been scripted by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins. Welch appeared along with Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Coburn, Joan Hackett, James Mason and Ian McShane.

(Read more)


(Benjamin Lee’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/1/23; via the Drudge Report; Photo: Franco Zeffirelli directing Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet. Photograph: REX Shutterstock.)

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting accuse studio of sexual exploitation in nude scene in Franco Zeffirelli adaptation

The two leads from the 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet are suing Paramount for child abuse over a nude scene in the film.

According to Variety, Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, who were teenagers when making the Oscar-winning film, filed a lawsuit on 30 December accusing the studio of sexual exploitation.

In the suit, the pair claim that the director, Franco Zeffirelli, told them there would be no nudity and flesh-coloured items would be worn in the bedroom scene but he then later insisted they performed nude “or the picture would fail”. Zeffirelli died in 2019.

“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” said Tony Marinozzi, a business manager for the two actors. “They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had. Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo.”

Hussey was 15 and Whiting 16 at the time of production. The complaint alleges the pair have suffered “mental anguish and emotional distress” in the years since and have lost out on job opportunities. Damages are being sought “believed to be in excess of $500m”.

“These were very young naive children in the 60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them,” said Solomon Gresen, a lawyer for the pair. “All of a sudden they were famous at a level they never expected, and in addition they were violated in a way they didn’t know how to deal with.”

(Read more)



In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Orson Welles’ film, released in 1941, which is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films yet made. Welles plays the lead role of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper magnate, and Welles directed, produced and co-wrote this story of loneliness at the heart of a megalomaniac. The plot was partly inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst, who then used the power of his own newspapers to try to suppress the film’s release. It was to take some years before Citizen Kane reached a fuller audience and, from that point, become so celebrated.

The image above is of Kane addressing a public meeting while running for Governor.


Stella Bruzzi
Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London

Ian Christie
Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of London


John David Rhodes
Professor of Film Studies and Visual Culture at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson


(Adam Sweeting’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/27;  Photo: Irene Cara as Coco Hernandez in Fame, 1980, directed by Alan Parker. She also sang the title song, which topped the British singles chart. Photograph: MGM/Allstar.)

American actor and singer best known for her role in the film Fame and co-writing the 1983 hit Flashdance … What a Feeling

Although her catalogue of recordings was not large, there were two songs that guaranteed Irene Cara a permanent place in the pop music hall of fame. In 1980 Cara, who has died unexpectedly aged 63, announced herself by topping the British singles chart with Fame, which also went to No 4 in the US.

It was the title song of Alan Parker’s eponymous film, documenting the struggles of students at New York’s High School of Performing Arts. Cara’s character, Coco Hernandez, was originally a dancer, but

The song’s pumping, anthemic tune and ecstatic lyric made it the perfect embodiment of every wannabe star’s ambitions – “I’m gonna live forever, I’m gonna learn how to fly … I’m gonna make it to heaven, Light up the sky like a flame.” Its aspirational influence reached down the years through a string of talent shows such as American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. Cara also became an inspiration for other Latin artists. The actor John Leguizamo tweeted: “She made me believe that if you were Latin you could make it! She fuelled my community.”

Both Fame and another single from the film soundtrack, Out Here on My Own (a Top 20 US hit), were nominated for Oscars, and since both were sung by Cara she achieved the rare feat of singing more than one song at an Academy Awards ceremony. Fame took the best original song statuette on the night. But her best was yet to come. Oscar night, 1984, found Cara back in the spotlight, basking in the glow of her huge success with Flashdance … What a Feeling.

It was the title song from Adrian Lyne’s film Flashdance, and it occupied the No 1 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for six weeks while topping numerous other charts around the world. This time Cara was one of the songwriters, along with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey, and shared in the triumph when it won the Oscar for best original song.

It also picked up a Golden Globe and two Grammys. The film was the story of an ambitious dancer trying to win a place at an elite dance conservatory, and Cara wanted the lyric to show how the character is “in control of her body when she dances and how she can be in control of her life”. She added: “I did sense that I had something special with this song.”

(Read more)


(Vanessa Friedman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/25; via Pam Green; Photo: Emma Stone in “Cruella.” The costume designer for the film was Jenny Beavan, who is nominated for an Oscar this year for her work.Laurie Sparham/Disney, via Associated Press.)

. . . there’s another Oscar-related clothes issue currently getting Hollywood all worked up: the fight for equal pay being waged by the members of the Costume Designers Guild.
(Bear with me: This newsletter is going to be a bit longer than usual, but it’s important.)


I mean, just think of the fashion trends started by streaming TV shows and movies over the last few years. Think of this year’s nominees for Best Costume Design, like “Cruella,” “Dune” and “West Side Story.”
Then, think of how important clothes are, not only to character (the ruby slippers! Superman’s cape! the “Flashdance” sweatshirt!), but also to the financial health of a film (merch).


And then consider that costume designers, who are 83 percent female, are paid 30 percent less than production designers (their organizational-chart peers), who are 80 percent male, according to research from the U.S.C. Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the Annenberg Foundation.
Also consider that because costume designers are paid a flat weekly fee rather than by the hour, despite routinely working 80- to 100-hour weeks, and because pensions and health and welfare benefits are tied to an hourly wage, they “often make less than the wardrobe supervisors we hire, who are paid an hourly wage,” according to Arianne Phillips, a member of the guild’s pay equity committee. “We can’t afford to retire.”


Also, they no longer own the rights to their own designs, the way costume designers like Edith Head once did, so they don’t make any money from film extensions like Halloween costumes or limited-edition collaborations like Halston x Netflix.
No wonder they have finally decided to do something about it.


“It’s a direct result of the age of awareness in our industry tied to #TimesUp and the drive for inclusivity,” Ms. Phillips said. “And also watching Megan Rapinoe and the women’s soccer team and their fight for equal pay. We just want to even the playing field for the next generation coming after us. We believe this is an archaic system based on the presumption that costumes are women’s work and thus somehow less valuable.”
Well, you know, set construction = manly. Clothes = frivolous.


The guild members are hoping that when it comes time for their next negotiation sessions with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union and producers, they will reach an agreement to set their base pay on par with that of production designers.
Ahead of that, the guild, which has 1,200 members, has embarked on an awareness campaign, starting with actors and directors, who apparently were as surprised as you may be (as I was) about the devaluing of the costume designer. Now 100 of said boldface names, including Elle Fanning, Michael Douglas, Olivia Wilde and Barry Jenkins, are part of a social media campaign called #nakedwithoutus. It’s worth a listen.


Meantime, I wanted to thank all of you for the responses to my “What to do with old ties?” missive. Your photos and inventiveness were inspiring, though what struck me most was the deep emotional connections and memories we attach to garments. Those ties contained multitudes, and history, and I loved hearing what they meant to you.
Finally, for some non-Oscar-related reading, meet Campbell Addy, a young photographer changing the definition of beauty; catch up on the last shows, including Ralph Lauren and Willy Chavarria; and consider the symbolism of Volodymyr Zelensky’s olive green tee.