This long-legged, gangly comic actress' career stretched from turn-of-the-century vaudeville to the splashy musical films of WWII and beyond. Charlotte Greenwood left school early and took to the stag...
Broadway star Audra Mcdonald made history at the Tony Awards on Sunday night (08Jun14) when she became the most decorated actress on the New York stage. McDonald picked up her sixth Tony for portraying jazz and blues legend Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, putting her ahead of five-time winners Angela Lansbury and the late Julie Harris for the most competitive wins by a Broadway star.
The Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play win also gave McDonald the first Tony Awards grand slam - she has previously won gold as a best featured actress in a play (A Raisin in the Sun and Master Class), a best lead actress in a musical (The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess) and a best featured actress in a musical (Ragtime and Carousel).
Meanwhile, Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston was at the beginning of his Tonys journey - he scored Sunday night's Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his New York stage debut as President Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way, which also picked up the Best Play Tony.
Former Tonys host Neil Patrick Harris was also a first-time winner - he walked away with the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his role as a gender-bending rocker in Hedwig & the Angry Inch.
Accepting his award, the gay star paid tribute to his partner David Burtka, stating, "I love you so much and I am so happy that we got to do this. Thank you for your sacrifices," and his kids Harper and Gideon, adding, "I'm so sorry that I haven't been able to spend as much time with you as I wish I could... I promise that as soon as this is done I'll be able to read books to you and put you to sleep."
The award marked a very special date in his family's history - Harris' parents were celebrating their wedding anniversary.
The actor's Broadway hit was the night's big winner, picking up a total of four awards. Hedwig also claimed the Best Revival of a Musical, Best Lighting and Lena Hall was honoured with the prize for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical.
A Raisin in the Sun and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder were triple winners.
A Raisin in the Sun claimed Best Revival of a Play, while Brit Sofie Okonedo and Kenny Leon claimed Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play and Best Direction titles, respectively, and Gentleman's Guide landed awards for Best Musical, Best Costume Design and Best Direction of a Musical (Darko Tresnjak).
The full list of 2014 Tony Awards winners is:
All the Way
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Best Revival of a Play
A Raisin in the Sun
Best Revival of a Musical
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Best Book of a Musical
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder - Robert L. Freedman
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
The Bridges of Madison County- Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Mark Rylance (Twelfth Night)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Best Costume Design of a Play
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Best Sound Design of a Play
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Best Sound Design of a Musical
Brian Ronan, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Best Direction of a Play
Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
Best Direction of a Musical
Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre - Jane Greenwood (casting designer)
Isabelle Stevenson Award for Humanitarian Efforts - Rosie O'Donnell
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre - Joseph P. Benincasa, Joan Marcus & Charlotte Wilcox
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
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With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Toured in vaudeville with Eunice Burnham late 1900s-early 1910s
Signed long-term contract with 20th Century-Fox
First film, "Jane"
First talking film, "So Long, Letty", an adaptation of her stage success
Final film, "The Opposite Sex"
Final Broadway appearance, "Out of This World"
Breakthrough stage role, "So Long, Letty"
Broadway debut, in chorus of "The White Cat"
This long-legged, gangly comic actress' career stretched from turn-of-the-century vaudeville to the splashy musical films of WWII and beyond. Charlotte Greenwood left school early and took to the stage, first as a chorus girl in "The White Cat" (1905), later in vaudeville with Eunice Burnham, billed as "Two Girls and a Piano". She became a star with the stage show "So Long, Letty" (1916), which established her character for all time: a rowdy, man-chasing gal with a good heart and a stork-like dancing skill ("Lady Longlegs" was Greenwood's nickname). With her long face and prominent chin, Greenwood was not pretty in a conventional sense, but she nonetheless starred in a series of "Lettys": "Linger Longer, Letty" (1919), "Letty Pepper" (1922), "Leaning on Letty" (1935). Greenwood appeared in a number of other shows, as well as two indifferent silent films, "Jane" (1915) and "Baby Mine" (1927).
It took the talkies to establish Greenwood's film career. With the success of her speaking debut, "So Long, Letty" (1930), Greenwood was starred in a series of slap-dash musicals and comedies in the early 1930s. Most were unbearable: "Parlor, Bedroom and Bath", "Flying High" (both 1931, with Buster Keaton and Bert Lahr, respectively), but Greenwood invariably got off a laugh or two with her robust high spirits. One of the high points was the sprightly Eddie Cantor vehicle "Palmy Days" (also 1931), with Greenwood leading a large group of chorines in an exercise song-and-dance routine to the song, "Bend Down, Sister". By this time married to Martin Broones, head of MGM's music department (an early marriage to actor Cyril Ring had ended in scandal), Greenwood returned to the stage in the mid-30s.
20th Century-Fox rediscovered the middle-aged actress in 1940, casting her as Shirley Temple's adoptive mother (and Jack Oakie's wife) in the musical "Young People". She was such a hit that Fox signed her to a long-term contract, supporting such stars as Betty Grable, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda in colorful musicals such as "Down Argentine Way" (1940), "Moon Over Miami" (1941), "Springtime in the Rockies" (1942) and "The Gang's All Here" (1943), among others. Playing the wise-cracking aunt or chaperone, Greenwood generally got the chance to show off her still-impressive dancing skills, her mile-high sideways kicks and comically eccentric coordination as amusing as ever.
Greenwood's career slowed in the 1950s, her later films including "Dangerous When Wet" (1953) and "Oklahoma" (1955), the latter in the role of Aunt Eller, which had been written for her but played onstage by Betty Garde. Her last film was the ill-advised musicalized remake of "The Women", "The Opposite Sex" (1956). Wealthy and happily married, Greenwood retired in Los Angeles, where she died at the age of 87 in 1978.
married from 1924 until hi death in the late 1970s
Revolutionary war hero
younger brother of vaudeville star Blanche Ring; married in 1915; divorced in 1920
On her comic acrobatics: "One day I happened to put my foot up and twist it round a little. Something in the way I did it made the audience laugh . . . as I found it amused people I began to do more and more weird stunts . . . I'm so identified with this kind of part that I'm afraid I'd have a lot of trouble if I tried to take up anything else. If I were playing in an Ibsen tragedy the audience would probably expect me to put one foot on the mantlepiece." --Charlotte Greenwood, quoted in unidentified 1916 newspaper
On her appearance: "The kind of wrapping you come in has nothing to do with it. As quickly as you realize that, contentment and peace come--from the heart. Happiness is within you." --Charlotte Greenwood, quoted in WHATEVER BECAME OF...? by Richard Lamparski