19 December 2019

Am all excited by the idea of "Oliver"

At one time Audrey Hepburn considered playing the role of Nancy in Oliver!, the film version of Lionel Bart's stage musical of the same name. Having enjoyed working with director George Cukor on My Fair Lady (1964), Audrey very much wanted to make another film with him. The project she had in mind for the two of them was Oliver! which enjoyed a successful run on Broadway from January 1963 until November 1964. Audrey went to see the show and wrote Cukor a letter on 6 January 1964, telling him what she thought of it.

Audrey Hepburn and George Cukor photographed on the set of My Fair Lady, 1963.

Transcribed below is part of Audrey's letter to Cukor, i.e. the part that deals with Oliver!. It's interesting that Audrey was even considering the role of Nancy, seeing that the part was not a leading role but a relatively small one. (Apparently Audrey's wish to do another film with Cukor was so strong that she was willing to settle for a supporting role.) In her letter Audrey makes a few suggestions on how to improve the role by making Nancy "more human" with "more spirit and much more humor". She also suggests that the film version should not be a musical but a story "where the music and songs are incidental". Having just finished My Fair Lady with her voice not deemed good enough (her songs were dubbed by Marni Nixon) Audrey understandably wasn't eager to do another full-blown musical. In the end, Audrey never played Nancy and never worked with Cukor again. The film version of Oliver! (a British production) was eventually released in 1968 with Shari Wallis in the role of Nancy. Directed by Carol Reed, the film became a big hit, winning six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.
Source: icollector.com


Dear dear George


Am all excited by the idea of ‘Oliver’ if you were to do it. As you know Harold asked me to see it explaining that the girl was no great shakes as a part but that it could be rewritten. I went to it to enjoy the show but with a skeptical view of doing it—as usually a part ‘isn't there’ for a good reason, there is none. Watching the show I found the performance in general stale, they all seemed to have done it too often, with the exception of ‘Fagan’ [sic] played by Clive Revill whom I thought was brilliant and highly entertaining. In all I felt much much more can be made of the piece. The girl I find could be more human, have far more warmth for and relationship with the Boys—and be more one of them, the ‘pickpocket with heart of gold’ so to speak. I think she could have more spirit and much more humor, the girl ‘yammered’ a bit too much for my liking. The Bumbles and Bill Sykes [sic] are badly cast—the first could be jollier less sinister and Sykes [sic] should be a brute but physically more attractive. You may wonder why I want to play the girl as the boy and Fagan [sic] are the whole cheese. But she could be fascinating if you see it too, if you and Mel [Ferrer] don’t then I am wrong about the possibilities. The movie should be Hogarthian, Dickensian, sepia, moody and real. The score is not superb … it should be a story, where the music and songs are incidental, not a MUSICAL as such… I know how frantically busy you are and I may kill myself if I have wasted your time. The prospect of doing another with you is what may have persuaded and coloured my reaction! We’ll see!


Above: Shari Wallis in Carol Reed's Oliver! was the perfect Nancy. Here she is pictured with Ron Moody (Fagin) and Oliver Reed (Bill Sikes) in a scene from the film.

12 December 2019

Judy Garland's love letter to Frank Sinatra

Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra were not only lifelong friends but they were also romantically involved - twice. The first time was in 1949 after Garland had been fired from the film Annie Get Your Gun (she was replaced by Betty Hutton) and was next admitted to a hospital suffering a nervous breakdown. Following her recovery, Garland (still married to director Vincente Minnelli) went on a secret, romantic rendezvous with Sinatra in the Hamptons. The second time was in 1955 when Garland was separated from her third husband, producer and tour manager Sidney Luft. She briefly resumed her romance with Sinatra, who at the time was also separated from his then-wife Ava Gardner.

Garland remained close friends with Sinatra until her untimely death in 1969. She was $4 million in debt when she died and it was Sinatra who reportedly paid for her funeral. 

The following (undated) letter from Judy Garland to Frank Sinatra was presumably written in 1949, after their romantic rendezvous in the Hamptons.

Source: icollector.com



My sudden departure is a complete surprise to me. And I’m deeply dissapointed [sic] to have to miss our Monday & Tuesday date. However its [sic] imperative that [I] reach Boston by Sunday. I shall be at the Ritz-Carlton either under Mrs. Vicente Minnelli or in care of Carlton Alsop. 

You said today that you’d been neglegent [sic]. But darling—that’s so unimportant compared to the great amount of happiness you’ve given me. I shant [sic] forget the hours weve [sic] spent together—ever! 

I’ll let you know how everything goes on this trip. In the meantime—

Take good care of yourself—be happy and have lots of fun and laughs. 

And for Gods [sic] sake—keep those wheels in your lil ole head down to the minimum. 

Drop me a line if you can because it will cheer me up a great deal. 

I hope to talk to you tommorow [sic] —but I wanted to write this in case we miss connections. Even if we do reach one another—I’ll send it anyway. Its [sic] getting late—so I’m gonna wash up, get my money, etc. 

Goodbye my darling—I hope we see each other soon. Please dont [sic] forget about me. Think about me because I shall be thinking of you.