Story of `Sunset Boulevard' might fly over youngsters' heads

CELEBRITY NEWS

August 22, 2007|By LIZ SMITH | LIZ SMITH,Tribune Media Services

DON'T CALL it a comeback! It's a `return.'"

That's what Gloria Swanson insisted, playing out the role of desperate, forgotten star Norma Desmond, in the great 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.

As you know, and as we just reported, the long aborning plan to put the London and Broadway musical version of Sunset on the big screen has heated up again. Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close are the top contenders. (Interestingly, all three were also in the running for the equally dragged-out proceedings surrounding another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical headed to the big screen, Evita. )

But will Sunset Boulevard the musical ever see the light of the kliegs?

I spoke with a top movie producer the other day, and he dismissed the latest round of interest in the movie. "Oh, please. Forget the musical. It's not going to happen. The musicals that have had some success recently, like Hairspray and Dreamgirls, are geared toward a younger audience. Nobody in 2007 can relate to the story of a silent screen star - they can't even relate to the idea of a black-and-white movie! What worked on stage will come off as camp onscreen. Especially if Barbra does it.

"I say update the Billy Wilder original. Make Norma a washed-up star from the disco era. Cast Halle Berry and Jake Gyllenhaal."

Hmmmm! When I mentioned that Miss Berry was only 41, and Norma was supposed to be 50, my producer friend said, "Shoot her harshly. Tell her to act. What's the problem?"

I love L.A. bigwigs. They are always so sure about ... everything.

The good ol' days

Just how radically have times changed for celebrities, in terms of what they can and can't get away with? Well, go to YouTube and find a mind-blowing 1977 interview between Dinah Shore and Elizabeth Taylor. There is Dinah, phoning La Liz from L.A. There is Liz, wife of Sen. John Warner, taking the call in Washington.

Taylor - overripe to the max - is bedecked in emeralds, wearing a perilously low-cut green Halston, petting her Siamese cat. She says she and John are "on our way to a party." On their way?! Miss Taylor appeared to have been already partied out. This clip is hilarious; a Jack Daniels-fueled train wreck.

But back in 1977, the press looked away, kindly. It was open season on Elizabeth's weight, but otherwise, the star of stars got a pass. She finally took the cure at Betty Ford in 1983. (And again in 1988. Second time was the charm.) Taylor always loved to complain about the intrusions of the media. She didn't realize she had it easy! Just ask Lindsay or Britney.

Dear Keith ...

Memo to the impressive Keith Olbermann whose nightly MSNBC show I admire. Stop already with the "funny" stories about Britney, Lindsay, Paris, et al., replete with info picked up from the unreliable weekly glossies. (They blithely contradict themselves every seven days.) Why bother? As the lone passionate liberal on cable TV, it is a waste of your valuable airtime.

How about an hour on how dangerous Karl Rove will be now that he's a "free agent." Chortling over gossip is not your forte. And it shouldn't be.

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