WEIRDLAND: September 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Passion and Paradox: Marilyn & Jerry Lewis

Joshua Greene, whose father Milton Greene shot about 3,900 pictures of Marilyn Monroe between 1953 and 1957, has turned restoring and preserving those images into a career, with a new book set to hit shelves October 16 that he says will be the "last hurrah." Greene has a seemingly endless photo archive—Unfortunately, many photos deteriorated considerably. With The Essential Marilyn Monroe by Milton H. Greene: 50 Sessions, Joshua believes he has assembled a definitive collection that represents his father’s collaboration and friendship with the iconic star. The Essential Marilyn Monroe features images, ranging from candids and studio sessions to on-set photography while Monroe was filming 1956’s Bus Stop and 1957’s The Prince and the Showgirl. Of the book’s 284 images, 160 are never before seen.” Source: www.hollywoodreporter.com

Marilyn Monroe often wondered if she was “frigid” or “lesbian.” These issues bothered her even more as she became older and achieved success as the world’s great heterosexual sex queen, and yet was attracted to women. In the 1950s, federal and state governments passed laws identifying homosexuals and lesbians as dangerous perverts. Given such attitudes, Norma Jeane sometimes felt like an “anomaly” because she didn’t respond to men. At times she didn’t feel human; sometimes, she said, she wanted to die because of her same-sex desire. She described these feelings in My Story (written at the height of her fame for a series of magazine articles in the mid-50’s with the help of Ben Hecht). By Christmas 1941, Norma Jeane’s sex appeal became an issue, as the numbers of servicemen in Los Angeles soared with the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Her first husband, Jim Dougherty, relished the role of being her savior, of taking this sweet “love child” under his protection. He was not the last man to cast himself in the role of Norma Jeane’s protector—Jim honestly loved her for her loving spirit, her beauty, her kindness and grace. The wedding occurred on June 19, 1942, three weeks after Norma Jeane’s sixteenth birthday, when she attained the legal age of sexual consent. A traditional man, Jim didn’t want Marilyn to work outside the home.

Marilyn stated that she hadn’t liked their sexual routine: “The first effect marriage had on me was to increase my lack of interest in sex. My husband either didn’t mind this or wasn’t aware of it.” But, she continued, they were too young to discuss such an embarrassing topic. According to Elia Kazan, Marilyn told him that she hadn’t enjoyed sex with Jim, except when he had kissed her breasts. In 1953 Marilyn was earning $750 weekly salary at Twentieth Century Fox. On February 9, 1953, Marilyn arranged for her mother Gladys to be transferred to Rockhaven Sanitarium. The day before, on February 8, 1953, she had attended The Crystal Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel to receive the Photoplay’s award. Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky gripped Marilyn’s elbow, steering her inside. As she came through the door, Jerry Lewis, the master of ceremonies, spotted her from the stage and jumped on a table, shrieking “Whoooo!” That triggered the crowd. Laughter, whistles, cheers and jeers filled The Crystal Room.

Marilyn probably derived some of her free-love ideas from the photographers Andre de Dienes, Laszlo Willinger, and Bruno Bernard. Bernard wrote, “The artist’s fascination with the female figure is rooted not in simple allure but in the aesthetic satisfaction he gets during the quest for beauty.” She followed their free-love doctrines when she stated that sex was the key to life and that all aesthetic endeavors came from it—literature, art, music, poetry. Her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, gave her gifts all the time, including a full-length black mink coat at Christmas 1953, which she treasured. Marilyn always said that Joe was a wonderful lover. She called him her 'slugger' (“well hung”) and said that he could hit the ball out of the park. If sex was all there was to a marriage, she and Joe would be married forever. Her third husband, Arthur Miller, remembered Marilyn experiencing extreme manic-depressive cycles in her mood: “She meant to live at the peak always; in the permanent rush of a crescendo.” When the wave receded, she would turn against herself and then she couldn’t sleep.

However dominant, “Marilyn Monroe” was only one persona among many that emerged from and were created by the original Norma Jeane Baker before her name was changed. According to Shelley Winters, sometimes Marilyn took a Percodan for menstrual pain, washing it down with several shots of vodka. Percodan, an opiate, had been developed in the early 1950s. In addition to lessening pain, it can produce euphoria. It is also highly addictive. By 1947 some 1,500 variants of barbiturates had been developed: Nembutal, Seconal, and Amytal were among the best known. By 1952 Marilyn was using prescription drugs, especially the barbiturates Nembutal and Seconal for anxiety and insomnia, and amphetamines for energy. In December 1961 Marilyn's psychiatrist Dr. Greenson called her a 'borderline paranoid schizophrenic' in a letter to Anna Freud. Judging from his treatment Greenson had difficulty pinning Marilyn down under one category. On one occasion when he was trying to persuade her to give up drugs, Greenson told her that it was either “Mr. Nembutal or me.”

Female “dumb-blonde” comics also influenced Marilyn. Anita Loos combined “Dumb Dora” with the blonde to create the classic “dumb blonde” in her 1925 novella Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Dark-haired and witty, Anita Loos participated in intellectual New York circles, but she also was friends with Broadway chorus girls. Loos was inspired to write the book after watching a sexy blonde turn intellectual H. L. Mencken into a lovestruck schoolboy. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Loos positioned her chorus girls—Lorelei Lee and Dorothy—in the guise of the traditional fool, a historical character to be found in Shakespeare’s plays, who was wise under a mask of stupidity. Loos also made fun of the myth that the chorus girls were “gold diggers” who fleeced men. Loos emphasized that those men deserved what they got.

Marie Wilson, best remembered as the title character in My Friend Irma (1949) with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, inspired partially Marilyn's onscreen persona. Mae West and the fast-talking dames dominated female style in films in the 1930s, but the dumb blonde still existed, represented especially by Marie Wilson. Wilson isn’t well known today, but she was very popular from the 1930s through the 1950s. She had a childlike look, a fey personality, and a zany intellectualism, as she quoted from books and got them mixed up. She was a hit as the dumb blonde in Ken Murray’s Blackouts, a variety revue, in the 1940s. Marilyn Monroe borrowed directly from Marie Wilson. The difference lies in three features. Wilson had a typical tinny “dumb-blonde voice—high-pitched, nasal, slightly harsh.”

Marilyn talked softly, with childlike inflections. When Marilyn turned herself into an outré dumb blonde, with hip-swinging walk, puckered mouth, half-lidded eyes, childlike voice, and skin-tight dresses, she parodied herself. None of Marilyn’s imitators—neither Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, nor Sheree North—matched the subtlety of her parody of sensuous femininity. Eve Arnold called her “a practitioner of camp.” Marilyn Monroe combined the “high arts” of photography, drama, and literature with the “low arts” of burlesque, striptease, and the pinup. She moved among them, dividing and uniting them to create varying looks, personas, and meanings. —"Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox" (2012) by Lois Banner

Stella Stevens was the 1960s’s sexy blond bombshell par excellence, a voluptuous young woman with an adorable air that heightened her allure. Jerry Lewis was absolutely bowled over by her. Three weeks into the production of The Nutty Professor, he stayed late at the office to write what could only be described as a love note to her. “I was completely inspired last night,” he assured her. “You are the reason men can’t live without the pride and thrill of direction. Perhaps one day you too will know the feeling.” Jerry must have realized how far overboard he’d fallen, admitting that his favorite Buddy Love moment was the cliff scene when he tells Stella Purdy "Here y'are, baby. Take this, wipe the lipstick off, slide over here next to me, and let's get started." Allegedly, Jerry had affairs with sizzling Stella Stevens, 'girl next door' Gloria DeHaven and bombshell Jeanne Carmen.

Patti Palmer (married October 3, 1944—divorced September 1980) was Jerry Lewis' first wife. Jerry had fallen in love previously with Lily Ann Carol in 1943 after meeting her at the Central Theatre in Passaic, but he was just a virginal kid to her. Jerry was still thinking of Lily Ann when he met Patti Palmer (born Esther Calonico) at the Downtown Theatre in Detroit in August 1944. Patti was a diminutive, dark-haired doll beauty. From the first glimpse of her ankle, he was hers. Jerry was a 60 dollars a week intermission act and Patti was Ted Fio Rito Orchestra's singer. When the engagement in Detroit came to an end Jerry had proposed to Patti and was pursuing her with letters and gifts. At eighteen, Jerry Lewis felt he had to marry each girl who smiled at him. Unlike Lily Ann, Patti fell in love with him. Patti quit the Jimmy Dorsey band and would never work again: “Jerry had to support me,” she explained, “because I believe in a one-career marriage.”

SanDee Pitnick (married February 13, 1983—until his death): Jerry had auditioned a hundred dancers to pull off a parody of Saturday Night Fever in a fantasy sequence of Hardly Working. Among the auditioners was Sandra (or SanDee) Pitnick, a divorced, twenty-nine-year-old dancer originally from North Carolina. Not only did SanDee get the part, but she got a dinner invitation from Jerry. “I didn’t know she was turning me on,” Jerry said later. “I just wanted someone to have dinner with. I fell in love with her pins (legs).” SanDee recalled: “One of the most precious things he ever gave me came within the first week, when I confronted him, ‘Wait a minute! What are your motives? What do you see in me?’ He said, ‘If I can just be your friend and give you self-confidence, I want to try to do that.’” Whether she was simply starstruck or he had really told her something truthful about herself, it worked. Jerry had danced in Living It Up like an amphetamine-riddled chimp with Sheree North. But in Hardly Working his reflexes and agility are gone. Jerry and SanDee dance very closely together—Jerry doesn’t even try to make a joke of the scene.

In 1982 Jerry and SanDee were openly living in a condominium at the Las Vegas Country Club. One week before The King of Comedy’s nationwide opening, Jerry and SanDee flew to the Sonesta Beach Hotel in Key Biscayne to be married. “There wasn’t another marriage in my life,” he said. “The first was so long ago. I felt like a young stud starting out all over again.” Indeed, the wedding in Key Biscayne rather echoed his secret elopement to Connecticut with Patti Palmer. His father Danny was gone, his mother Rae was sick at home in Las Vegas, and none of his six sons were present. Jerry had, in fact, failed to reconcile with most of the boys since the divorce and focused on his new family. The mention of his wife in interviews led him to lyrical speeches on love. In his last years, Jerry would credit SanDee and their adopted daughter Danielle with keeping him alive and happy.

The traditional Dean Martin character may have been a small-time conniver, a cad with the ladies, a singer, and an occasional tippler, but he didn’t do any of it with the headstrong purposefulness of Buddy Love. While Jerry Lewis opens and closes Dean & Me with heartfelt admiration, Dean Martin’s character suffers the death of a thousand condescensions. Even as Lewis starts by recalling their last performance together in 1956 at New York’s Copacabana, for example, he muses that while “truth was my greatest ally, Dean could lie if it would spare someone’s feelings. I had difficulty with that.” And from the beginning, it’s the older Martin (in a “big brother” role that Lewis conjures) introducing the kid to hard liquor and other women. Jerry eventually confesses they hooked up with MGM peaches-’n’-cream married actresses June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven in what is described as an extended Manhattan shack-up. In his review of Dean & Me Lawrence J Quirk writes: “the biggest question of all: Why on earth did Gloria DeHaven bother to sleep with Jerry Lewis when she was married to handsome hunk John Payne at the time?” Probably Lewis was a better lover than his clueless onscreen persona would suggest. Never a 'ladies man' as Martin or Sinatra, however Lewis had a very appealing style when not 'on character.' Martin’s consistent insensitivities and ingratitude ended up annoying Lewis. Martin played golf while Lewis dealt with rehearsals, and at one point was a no-show at a charity commitment. Lewis blew up and initiated the split.

On March 5, 1965, Jerry took time off from The Family Jewels to drive up to Burbank for a taping of “The Andy Williams Show.” Jerry came on stage and he slipped in a puddle of water, landing on the base of his skull. In terrific pain, he wrapped up his number—people must have taken it for just another Jerry Lewis pratfall. “I finished the last three minutes of that show unconscious,” he told Hedda Hopper. “I don’t remember anything for about forty minutes after the show, when I woke up in the hospital.” He had suffered a serious injury; radiologists at Mount Sinai Hospital detected a “fine linear skull fracture.” Jerry had another severe accident fifteen days later, on March 20, 1965, while taking a pratfall off a piano during his closing show at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. The pain was horrendous, almost paralyzing, and it wouldn’t stop. The doctors fitted him with a metal neck brace and prescribed codeine and Emprin to relieve his pain. It’s plausible that Jerry damaged his spinal column as well as his skull when he first fell in Burbank. He sought help from neurologists and orthopedists, but the prognosis was always pessimistic: A knot of fibrous tissue had developed along the nerves where his spinal column had cracked. Not even surgery could help him; he would have been luckier if he had broken his back. The pain was grueling and persistent, and to alleviate it, all the doctors could offer him was a regimen of heat, massage, rest, and medication. The codeine and Emprin were not enough to numb him and, in due time, he would become addicted to Percodan. —"King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis" (1997) by Shawn Levy

Women love a guy with a sense of humor. How much? So much it drives them over the edge. In a good way of course. And according to a new study published in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, it’s all about the laughs. The results? Well the results showed that “how often women experienced orgasm as a result of sexual intercourse was related to their partner’s income, self-confidence, and how attractive he was. Orgasm intensity was also related to how attracted they were to their partners.” “Those with partners who they rated as more attractive also tended to have more intense orgasms,” the study reads, suggesting the hotter you are, the better her orgasms will be. Apparently, the sexiest personality trait a man can have is a sense of humor, and how funny a dude is can predict a woman’s “propensity to initiate sex, how often they had sex, and it enhanced their orgasm frequency in comparison to other partners.” In fact, having a good sense of humor was rated sexier than physical appearances, which really says something. So it helps to be super good looking and rich, but ladies looking for the perfect orgasm should set their sights on funny dudes. Source: www.craveonline.co.uk

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Marilyn Monroe, Her True Image

Marilyn Monroe was bipolar and often disassociated from reality. People who saw “the gorgeous substrata of her life could not even imagine on what subsoil her roots were feeding.” Significant among my discoveries about Marilyn are her lesbian inclinations. She had affairs with many eminent men—baseball great Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, director Elia Kazan, actor Marlon Brando, singer Frank Sinatra, the Kennedy brothers—and she married DiMaggio and Miller. Yet she desired women, had affairs with them, and worried that she might be lesbian by nature. How could she be the world’s heterosexual sex goddess and desire women? Voluptuous and soft-voiced, the Marilyn we know exemplified 1950s femininity. Yet she mocked it with her wiggling walk, jiggling breasts, and puckered mouth. She had an ironic and sometimes ribald wit, engaging in puns and wordplay. She loved to play practical jokes. She sometimes was a party girl who did “crazy, naughty, sexy things,” including engaging in promiscuous sex, displaying what we now call “sex addiction.” In her paradoxical manner she covered untoward behavior with a mask of good intentions, justifying her promiscuity through advocating a free-love philosophy, which connected friendship to sex. That philosophy circulated sub rosa among the avant-garde throughout the twentieth century. 

In another guise she was a trickster who assumed aliases, wore disguises, and lived her life as though it was a spy story, with secret friends and a secret apartment in New York. “I’m so many people,” she told British journalist W. J. Weatherby, “I used to think I was going crazy, until I discovered some people I admired were like that, too.” However dominant, “Marilyn Monroe” was only one persona among many that emerged from and were created by the original Norma Jeane Baker before her name was changed. That happened when Norma Jeane signed a contract with Twentieth Century–Fox in August 1946 and began her ascent to stardom. Marilyn would become a great actress, arguably more effective in her private life than on the screen. She told people what they wanted to hear, sensed the person they wanted her to be and became that person. Given her manic-depressive tendencies and the anger she had brought to the surface of herself, Marilyn wasn’t easy to live with. “She could say things that put a hook in my belly. Cruel, vicious insights,” Arthur Miller wrote. 

On February 8, 1953, at a ceremony in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel that evening, Marilyn received Photoplay’s award as the year’s best newcomer. She borrowed a dress from the Fox wardrobe department to wear to the ceremony. It was made of gold lamé with a deep V-neck; Billy Travilla had designed it for a scene in Gentlemen that was cut from the movie. Travilla didn’t want her to wear it, because it was too small for her.  Giving herself enemas, she lost ten pounds in two days. (Film actresses used colonic cleansing to lose weight in a hurry.) Even after the weight loss, the dress was still so tight that it hugged her body, accentuating her hipswaying walk and the absence of underwear under the dress. She was sewn into it because it hadn’t been finished and had no zipper. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were masters of ceremony at the event. As Marilyn walked with mincing steps to the podium to receive her award, Jerry leaped on the table and hooted like a chimpanzee, while Dean broke into a hip-swinging dance. The audience howled with laughter.

Cecil Beaton described Marilyn in his book The Face of the World as a “hypnotized nymphomaniac,” “as spectacular as the silvery shower of a Vesuvius fountain” and “an undulating basilisk. Her performance is pure charade, a little girl’s caricature of Mae West. She is quintessentially American. She is a composite of Alice in Wonderland, Trilby, and a Minsky [burlesque] artist.” In real life, Marilyn usually chose tall, dark, and powerful men as partners—all father figures. But in her films from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on, she was often cast against small, unprepossessing men, whose confidence she shores up by praising their gentleness as central to real masculinity. Such redemptive women were everywhere in 1950s films, according to Brandon French in her classic study. In The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn describes the Black Lagoon creature in the film she saw with Tom Ewell as only needing “a sense of being loved and needed and wanted” to end his destructive behavior. She tells Tom Ewell’s character that “women prefer gentle men, not great big hulks who strut around like a tiger—giving you that ‘I’m so handsome, you can’t resist me’ look.”

“I didn’t like the world around me much because it was kind of grim,” Marilyn would tell Richard Meryman in the summer of 1962. Despite the tremendous challenges in her life, Norma Jeane was an average student. She earned good grades in bookkeeping, journalism, office practice, and physical education, and C’s in social living and science. Her essay on Abraham Lincoln was rated best in the class. “A little thing, perhaps,” she would recall, “but it encouraged me. I didn’t feel so dumb anymore.” Norma Jeane also escaped the negative aspects of her life through the cinema during 1939. Perhaps the film to resonate most with Norma Jeane in 1939 was MGM’s musical adaptation of Frank C. Baum’s beloved children’s book, The Wizard of Oz.

Norma Jeane frequently contributed to a column in the school paper, The Emersonian, and once wrote a piece about gentlemen preferring blondes. For the article, Norma Jeane and other classmates tabulated the responses of 500 student questionnaires regarding the qualities of a “dream girl.” Norma Jeane’s column prophetically described an idealized blonde female image into which she would eventually evolve: “According to the general consensus of opinion, the perfect girl would be a honey blonde with deep blue eyes, well molded figure, classic features, a swell personality, intelligent, athletic ability (but still feminine), and she would be a loyal friend.”

Sidney Skolsky publicized Marilyn’s performance in Love Nest in his column, referencing a scene in which she undresses and takes a shower. On the day she filmed the sequences, the set was crowded and quiet with silent and gawking studio employees assigned to other productions. The electric energy she emitted was palpable. Notorious for sometimes faltering on her lines, having an audience boosted Marilyn’s confidence and ability to find her performance. June Haver observed Marilyn warming up with a few takes in front of the gathered crew and undergoing a complete metamorphosis.

In a memorable scene, Roberta sunbathes in the back yard of the building in a polka-dot bikini bathing suit with ruffles as she sips Coca-Cola out of a bottle. The swimsuit is modest by modern standards, even covering her navel, but considered racy in its day. “Marilyn became so uninhibited in her movements, the way she sat in that chair—so gracefully, naturally graceful—and seductive at the same time,” Haver would tell Carl Rollyson. “Suddenly, she seemed to shine like the sun.”

The Coca-Cola Company would later use the scene in a 1953 Coke soda commercial, and Marilyn would pose in the bikini—showing off her washboard abdominal muscles. Designer Renie Conley (1901-1992) designed several elegant outfits for Marilyn aside from the fetching bikini. Over the course of her career, Conley would be nominated for a total of four Oscars.

“She was a difficult person because she wasn’t sure of herself,” director Joseph Newman would recall of Marilyn at age twenty-five. “I don’t think she ever got to be sure of herself. That was her major difficulty. She had exceptional ability and this childish charm coupled with great sexual attraction. She had a great natural talent, but I don’t think she ever realized it. She was always insecure. Instead of just being satisfied with her native talent, she tried to develop into a great dramatic actress. When I worked with her, though, she was basically a nice, naïve girl.” —"Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe - Volume 1: 1926 to 1956" (2014) by Gary Vitacco-Ro


“Fragments” dates the recipe to 1955 or 1956, when Marilyn lived in an apartment at 2 Sutton Place. We conjured up images of her prowling the aisles at D’Agostino’s on First Avenue in a crepe dress and heels (this is the era of “The Seven Year Itch”), and followed along as she purchased a loaf of bread, the ground round and all those jars of dried herbs. Our only true departure — to blend sage, marjoram, ground ginger and nutmeg in place of the commercial poultry seasoning she used — was informed by what typically goes into such products.


Marilyn Monroe’s Daily Diet: The revelation of an elaborate stuffing recipe in the icon's own hand has led to speculation that perhaps Marilyn was, in fact, a domestic goddess.


Clearly, she liked to eat proper meals. Even her weight-loss plan was not insubstantial. All we can know for certain is that 1950s dieters ate well: and the sight of that menu today would send any contemporary Hollywood star to sprint from the room shrieking in horror.

In the 1950s women wore heavy makeup—a result of the return to femininity after World War Two and the power of advertising to create a demand for cosmetics. Marilyn led the trend. To make her lips larger and more lustrous, she applied four layers of lipstick and drew her lip line outside its natural shape. She put Vaseline on her lips to make them look wet. It was part of what Billy Travilla called her “fuck-me” look, especially when she held her lips in an O. She darkened the mole on the right side of her face near her lips to draw attention to them. She used eyebrow pencil to darken her eyebrows and make them heavy and straight, although she sometimes plucked them into a peak. She often wore false eyelashes. Whitey Snyder said that she knew makeup techniques that she kept secret even from him; one was to put white makeup on her eyelids to make her eyes seem larger.

Makeup artist in Phoenix: The Skin and Makeup Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the top beauty schools in America, offering the most complete programs for their students to learn how to become professional makeup artists and estheticians. Students must complete over 600 hours of training and education and pass state board exams before they are licensed.

Medical weight loss in Phoenix: Marilyn Monroe battled her weight oscillations throughout her whole career in Hollywood. My True Image offers medical weight loss through their 3 clinics, located throughout the Phoenix AZ area. They provide weight loss programs, weight loss nutrition plans, vitamin b12 shots, Lipo Plex treatments, etc.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Creative Personalities, Jerry Lewis (Enfant Terrible!), Women's Mental Reactions

Jerry Lewis plays The Nutty Professor as a lovable loser who gets so lost in his own head that he drones on obliviously. Some of the funniest scenes don’t involve Kelp croaking and yelping, but him rambling on about modern music, or about why he failed to put his glasses in his locker. (“I would’ve put them there myself if I’d known there was a restriction. Some people use them for a façade, I use them for eyes.”) With alter-ego Buddy Love, mostly Lewis is spoofing the kind of macho man sold by the advertising industry, exposing the thin line between arousing the opposite sex and becoming a total creep. There was no love lost between Jerry Lewis and the Rat Pack. It is in the scene at the prom the real Jerry Lewis most clearly emerges—he must step out of character and speak directly to his audience. No matter how that audience reacts, it is Jerry Lewis the man to whom they are directly reacting. And when we see that Buddy Love is a lonely, pitiful man who feels trapped by his audience, by his act, we see how Jerry Lewis sees himself. The Nutty Professor isn’t the only film in which Lewis delves into the schisms within his own psyche, but it was his personal favorite. Source: brightlightsfilm.com

People With Creative Personalities Really Do See the World Differently—What is it about a creative work that elicits our awe and admiration? Is it the thrill of being shown something new, something different, something the artist saw that we did not? The idea that some people see more possibilities than others is central to the concept of creativity. Psychologists often measure creativity using divergent thinking tasks. The aspect of our personality that appears to drive our creativity is called openness to experience. Among the five major personality traits, it is openness that best predicts performance on divergent thinking tasks. Openness also predicts real-world creative achievements, as well as engagement in everyday creative pursuits.

As Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire explain in their book Wired to Create, the creativity of open people stems from a ‘drive for cognitive exploration of one’s inner and outer worlds’. This curiosity to examine things from all angles may lead people high in openness to see more than the average person, or as another research team put it, to discover ‘complex possibilities laying dormant in so-called “familiar environments”. Another well-known perceptual phenomenon is called “inattentional blindness.” People experience this when they are so focused on one thing that they completely fail to see something else right before their eyes. In our research, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, we found that open people don’t just bring a different perspective to things, they genuinely see things differently to the average individual. Source: www.psychreg.org

The Stooge (1951) is in many ways a mirror of Dean & Jerry's own rise to fame and also a precursor of the demise of their partnership in 1956. Ted Rogers (Jerry Lewis) is no professional clown. He's funny because he's a dimwit, but also because of a natural ability and, most importantly, because he has a pure heart. Like his character in The Patsy (1964), Ted magically ad-libs a polished routine complete with costumes and props. Also great are Lewis's scenes with a wide-eyed admirer, freckle-faced Genevieve Tait, played with great charm by Marion Marshall. By acting like a little boy in 1952, Jerry was exactly in tune with the Baby Boom generation, and his audience identified with him as a peer. But Jerry could only accept legitimacy in the terms of an earlier culture, one in which such values as “sadness and gracious humility” still  held currency. 

That in his private life he tried as much as possible to comport himself like an up-to-date adult only further revealed the split he felt between himself and the world around him. Even though he was adored, highly compensated and kowtowed, he felt as if the only time in which he wanted to be loved—his childhood—had passed him by. Jerry Lewis was no street urchin, but he had lacked many of the little luxuries most of the kids in his working-class neighborhood had—a rocking horse, a bike, new school clothes each fall. His parents Danny and Rae had moved into a hotel in Times Square, further proof that they saw themselves more as show people than parents and never owned their own home; they rented apartments until Jerry bought them a house in the late 1940s. Jerry couldn’t hide his pain when recalling his family’s modest financial condition: “They were poor and couldn’t help leaving me alone. But I’m supersensitive, and it killed me.” This was a couple, it seems, that just did not care for children; and they had little apparent concern for his comfort, happiness, or security. 

When he was old enough to choose a path for himself, he turned to show business as a way of creating a family for himself. Though Jerry wasn’t an orphan, he was often made to feel like one, and in his on-again-off-again relationship with his parents can be found the origins of his thin skin, his eager manner, and his quickness to tears or anger. Many people have survived worse childhoods with less obvious scars, but Jerry came out of his with all these. Her bizarre early relationships with women would also take its toll on his already messy demeanor. He had lost his virginity at age 12 to a stripper named Trudine who lured him into her dressing-room. “She was a piece of work. She danced with a snake,” he remembered. During his Christmas vacation of 1938–39, he met one of his biggest crushes at the Arthur Hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey, a resort forty miles south of Newark. Charlie and Lillian Brown worked as managers in the resort and included Jerry as another member of their family. In later life Jerry remained exceedingly loyal to the Browns, always referring to them as Aunt and Uncle, playing engagements at Arthur Hotel when he could have commanded much more lucrative work. 

One of the definitive ruptures between him and Dean Martin, in fact, would be instigated by his loyalty to the Brown family. A large part of Jerry’s affection for the Browns was devoted to their daughter, Lonnie. Like her parents, she sensed the despair that plagued Jerry. A shy, bookish girl, she took Jerry under her wing. He had a crush on her, and he followed her around the hotel and the town of Lakewood like a puppy dog. Lonnie saw how Jerry behaved around his parents, and she was sensitive to the pain her younger friend was suffering. She began to let him into her private world, an entrée that would soon have a monumental impact on his life. There was a clear dychotomy between Trudine and Lonnie, total opposites of female conduct, which would inevitable wreak havoc in his mind and would warrant the genuine awkwardness of his interacions with women onscreen.

Research recurrently demonstrates that females perform better on various mindreading tasks such as mindreading accuracy, mental state inference, facial expression processing, or emotion labeling. Although this account is not uncontroversial, Simon Baron-Cohen (author of The extreme male brain") proposes that the “typical female” brain would engage more strongly in understanding mental states of social agents, whereas the “typical male brain” tends to analyze non-agentic systems.  In the present study, published recently (August 2017) in Frontiers in Psychology, women outperformed men particularly when asked to read female targets, whereas no such own-gender bias was found in men. (...) The reverse pattern occurred in male participants." Women were better able than men to infer other women’s mental states. This result specifies the understanding of gender effects which have been reported by previous research showing that women hold an advantage over men across various components of mindreading. The current study, apart from the obvious "women understand women better than men", also claims that "men actually understand men worse than women," and that's more surprising. Source: digest.bps.org.uk

During the shoot of My Friend Irma Goes West (1950), Corinne Calvet recalled in her autobiography: “I found Dean friendly, a man of the world, self-assured and quiet. Lewis was exactly the opposite, nervous and trying to override his shyness by flattering and entertaining everyone around him. He seemed to be afraid of silence, to feel compelled to fill the empty spaces. I was sensitive to his great anxiety, his wanting to be liked by everyone.” In the film’s finale, Yvonne Yvonne (Calvet) fell for Seymour (Lewis) and ended up in a romantic clinch with him. In January 1961, Jerry panicked when he learned he stood to be named in a divorce suit being filed by a Southern California restaurateur against his starlet wife, who wanted to collect on her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s estate. Jerry, according to Judith Campbell, who was working for him at the time, “ranted and raved. He would be ruined, his wife Patti would divorce him, his audience would desert him, his friends would hold him in contempt.” Judith Campbell, mistress to both Sam Giancana and John Kennedy, wasn’t at all impressed with Jerry and she found him perfectly resistible: “He quickly goes overboard,” she said. “You expect him to start speaking French. Although he is very serious about his flirting, from a woman’s viewpoint it is funnier than his pratfalls.”

In the early 1950s Martin and Lewis had been a moneymaking machine, it turned out, for everyone except Martin and Lewis. “Plenty of pockets were getting filled,” Jerry remembered, “but there was a big mysterious hole in our own.” Outwardly it looked swell, but it was a dicey existence. “There I was,” Jerry recalled, “driving around in a Cadillac, living in a movie star’s home, and sometimes I didn’t have enough money to pay the grocery bills.” After leaving  his home studio, Paramount,  most of his solo films tanked or were poorly distributed. American critics—most of whom hadn’t liked his early films—were merciless toward his later ones. (The dim, imperious Bosley Crowther, the longtime chief critic of the New York Times, was reliably harsh.) He was buoyed by the French adoration, but instead of taking that as a reflection of Lewis’s genius, most Americans took that as a sign that the French were nuts.

Jerry Lewis was convinced that too many modern comedians aped previous artists but his opinion was that “imitators never get anywhere,” and “at heart I really belong to the old school which believed that screen comedy is essentially a combination of situation, sadness, and gracious humility.” Murray Pomerance, in his essay Enfant Terrible!: Jerry Lewis in American Film (2002) wrote: "What we really laughted at in Jerry Lewis' films was not the otherness of the suffering but the sameness to our own." “I like good entertainment, nothin’ sordid,” Lewis told Peter Bogdanovich. Asked by Bogdanovich what advice he’d give to young people, Lewis said, “Reach for the child within. The child has never died within you, you’ve just abandoned him, that’s all. Dig him out. Give him some wings and some air and you’ll fly with him.” —"King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis" (1997) by Shawn Levy

Monday, September 18, 2017

Suburbicon, Fantasy Femmes, Jerry Lewis

Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich laced with too many prescription drugs, Suburbicon (2017) might look, sound, and perhaps even taste a little like a Joel and Ethan Coen picture because, in a sense, it is. The Minnesota brothers penned the script for this acerbically funny 1960s suburban nightmare years ago before being picked up and brought to life by George Clooney. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore play characters who appear on the surface to be regular 1950s archetypes—the dependable breadwinner and the sweet-as-pie homemaker—before being exposed as amoral schemers when their bad decisions unravel. Everything from the Corn Flakes boxes that line the shelves of the local convenience store to the whoosh of Julianne Moore’s pristine hair feels tactile and carefully considered. Greed, sex, power, and consumerism are the driving forces of the white inhabitants of Suburbicon and these forces are enough, it would seem, to justify tearing each other apart and thinking little of it. Needless to say, parables will be drawn to our current state of affairs. Source: thefilmstage.com

“Over the past five decades, Middle America has been stagnant in terms of its economic growth,” said Mark Rank, a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1973, the inflation-adjusted median income of men working full time was $54,030. In 2016, it was $51,640 — roughly $2,400 lower. As in an Agatha Christie mystery, the potential culprits behind the long-term trends are many — global competition, technological advances, trade imbalances, a mismatch of skills, the tax system, housing prices, factory shutdowns, excessive regulation, Wall Street pressure, the erosion of labor unions and more. In 2011, the median income for 25-year-old men was less than $25,000 — pretty much the same as it was in 1959. The result is that, since the 1950s, three-quarters of working Americans have seen no change in lifetime income. Source: www.nytimes.com

Joan O'Brien is most remembered for her popular 1950s drive-in films where she could be counted on to look fabulous and give a pleasant performance. In It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) she plays a prim nurse romantically pursued by pilot Elvis Presley amid the excitement of the Seattle World's Fair. When The Bob Crosby Show was cancelled in 1958 due to slipping ratings, Joan was urged by her MCA agents to give acting a try. They presented her to all the major studios as a beauty who could not only sing and dance but act as well. MGM signed her to a multiple picture deal. "This was the ideal arrangement to have," says Joan. "It meant that MGM had to use me in three films within a certain period of time. But I also had loanout rights to work at any other major Hollywood studio if  I so chose to."  


Joan tried her hand at physical comedy opposite the wild and woolly Jerry Lewis in one of his funniest films, It's Only Money (1962) directed by Frank Tashlin. The film is full of live action cartoon elements from start to finish, and most of the supporting turns would seem perfectly at home in any given Looney Tunes feature. Lewis plays a bungling would-be detective searching for Mae Questal's long-lost nephew and heir to her fortune. Joan is delightful as Questal's nurse, who also suspects that Jerry may be the nephew and tries to help him. 

Describing the experience of working with the comic genius, Joan says, "Jerry Lewis was totally off the wall and we had a lot of fun working on this film. He had me laughing so hard and so long during some scenes we had to stop and start over. He was such a practical joker and had all of us including Frank Tashlin, in stitches. But Jerry could be serious also. He was very generous and gave me a book that I still have called You're Better Than You Think. Inside he inscribed, 'And you really are, Joannie.' I was going through a period of time with a bad marriage and feeling down and depressed. Jerry really set my head straight. He said, 'Do you want to see some people who really have problems? Then come with me to visit my kids with Muscular Dystrophy who are wired up. Yours are nothing in comparison.' He also gave me some insight on how to appreciate myself a lot more as an individual."

Francine York arrived in Hollywood via beauty pageants (with the Miss San Francisco title) and modeling after an unsuccessful stint as a secretary for Northwest Airlines. Her first feature film role was a conniving magazine editor who pays a sleazy ex-detective (Robert Clarke) to set up show business people in compromising situations to help sell her scandal sheet (a la Confidential Magazine) in Secret File: Hollywood (1962). Casting director Eddie Morse took note of York and thought she would be a perfect foil for Jerry Lewis. Francine was late to her appointment to meet Lewis because she lost her wristwatch.  She was pleasantly surprised by Jerry's reaction. "I told Jerry that I lost the watch and that it was a graduation present," recalls Francine.

"He said, 'Just a minute!' He called his secretary and told her to order me a new watch to be delivered to my home. I said to him, 'Gee, I never had anyone do something that nice for me here in Hollywood.' Up to that point he was probably the biggest star I ever met. He tried to alleviate my fears and said, 'Just remember that the person behind the desk is probably insecure too. And my giving you that watch is really selfish. By doing it, it makes me feel good.' I've always remembered that. I thought that was quite a statement. A lot of people don't really know Jerry. He likes to do things for people. He thought I was perfect for this part in It's Only Money." York went on to appear in five other Lewis films, including The Nutty Professor (1963), The Disorderly Orderly (1964) and Cracking Up (1982). —"Fantasy Femmes of 60's Cinema" (2001) by Tom Lisanti

In Who’s Minding the Store and The Disorderly Orderly, the Lewis character’s masculinity is threatened by matriarchy. At heart, The Ladies Man is no sex comedy. Its “ladies” constitute the optical and emotional world of the film. The three dozen of young actresses Lewis had hired to populate his giant double stage were lavished with gifts like pearl bracelets and perfumes. By showing Herbert’s clueless masculinity, Jerry Lewis the filmmaker continued to work out more generalised portraits of individual alienation from cultural context; he points to, and diagnoses, a spectacular failure of fit endemic to modernity. Lewis, whose favourite films include The Sting, Dr. Zhivago, and Oklahoma! was not a fan of modern cinema, remarking to The Telegraph in September 2016: “There are things I see in the picture business today that upset me. But if it’s making money they will tell you you’re nuts for not liking it. That’s OK, I’ll stay nuts.”

Buddy Love represents, among other things, Jerry Lewis’ own dark side. Love is also a commentary on the nice guy’s perpetual complaint that the bad boys are the ones who undeservedly get all the pretty girls. What remains pure Lewis in The Nutty Professor is the manic-depressive mood swings between Kelp and Love. But unavoidably, I see Buddy Love as a comment on the Dean Martin part of “Martin & Lewis” – a simultaneous recreation and rejection of it. Of course, Lewis would deny that Buddy Love had something to do with Martin. But as D.H. Lawrence used to say, “Never trust the artist, trust the tale.” Jerry Lewis clearly favors the qualities of kindness and intelligence of Kelp (Lewis) against the apathy and arrogance of Love (Martin).

What is traditionally condemned as sentimental self-indulgence is Jerry Lewis’ compulsive need to “be himself.” In confiding to his female puppet-friend, Morty the clod becomes Morty the sensitive. In forcing such a deliberate shift in tone from slapstick comedy to out-of-character sentiment, Jerry Lewis reveals his need to step out of character, confronting the power of his Hollywood image to eat him alive; his need to play neither the star nor the clumsy idiot, but rather to be directly honest; to play no roles; to be the original, untainted, ordinary and therefore honest and sensitive real self. That is, Jerry Lewis without Hollywood. First surfacing in the discordant last part of The Errand Boy, this compulsion makes for cataclysmic ruptures of tone in The Nutty Professor and The Patsy, and surreal fragmentations of character in The Family Jewels. Source: brightlightsfilm.com