Link to article in Irish Independent here

The awkward lull between Christmas and New Year, when you don’t know your name or what day it is, poses a perfect opportunity to gorge yourself on food and movies. What can be better than ‘Ben Hur’ or ‘Doctor Zhivago’ at 10am accompanied by some piquant olives and a selection box.

Despite the fact that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is 80 years old, it’s just much better than contemporary entertainment. I know, I sound like an old relic sitting on a park bench talking about the past, but the old adage of ‘throw cash at it if you wish, it’s still crap’ rings true. Think old ‘Star Wars’ versus new ‘Star Wars’.

Back then, the world had stars. Real ones. When I watch ‘The African Queen’ or ‘Some Like it Hot’, I yearn for the way they used to ‘make em.’

In an article in ‘Vanity Fair’ many moons ago, writer and erstwhile producer Dominick Dunne told of being invited to a party by Humphrey Bogart. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Frank Sinatra sang, Judy Garland sang. Lana Turner lived next door. Spencer Tracy was there, so was David Niven. We all ended up in the pool – the ladies with their long dresses.”

Poignantly, he added, “I never went to a party as good as that again.”

Such parties are the stuff of lore in a city that now endorses wokeness over whimsy, and puritanism over rebelliousness. Rather than entertain us, modern stars lecture us.

Jane Fonda about climate change, Ashley Judd about women’s rights, Meryl Streep about Donald Trump, Sean Penn about everything. There’s nothing wrong with being politically engaged but, unfortunately, no one cares what you think, Robert De Niro.

When I watch celebs on Graham Norton sharing their rehearsed anecdotes, I wish for Katherine Hepburn or Bette Davis.

“I am just too much,” Davis said in an enthralling interview in the 1970s. “I have been uncompromising, peppery, intractable, monomaniacal, tactless, volatile, and oftentimes disagreeable… I suppose I’m larger than life.”

What happened? I asked this of someone living in Hollywood recently.

“Personality means too much risk. Big studio bosses and lawyers don’t want to invest in a talent, or nurture it, they don’t want surprises. There’s too much money involved.”

The advent of the internet, social media, Instagram influencers and reality TV means the public have been fed an idea that you don’t have to be brilliant at something to be a star. Joan Collins, who watched ‘Casablanca’ 50 times and ‘Singing in the Rain’ 40 times, wrote in the ‘Spectator’ in 2018 that Oscar hopefuls are “boring”. “I pulled off some high-quality naps watching some of these boring bombs. I am not alone in my opinion that many of them are dull, pretentious and preachy.” And Ms Collins knows a little about pizazz and old-school glamour.

Even in Ireland, the last stronghold for those with a bit of personality, it’s more trendy to be in the gym than cracking jokes in a pub. “You’re mad” is an insult, when it used to be a compliment.

No Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, John Hurt or Brendan Behan being entertained in the Guinness Estate in Luggala by Garech de BrĂșn. He passed away in 2018, and his honeypot of hedonism is sold, killing a little of mystical Ireland with it.

In a documentary about his father, Dominick Dunne’s son spoke of black-tie events in his parental home on Tuesday evenings “with orchestras and soloists”. Now, you get escorted off someone’s property if you light a fag, let alone fall into a pool with it.

Hollywood’s pockets are full, but its soul is empty. The Porsche 365s that once graced Sunset Boulevard are in a glass cage. Their drivers are no more and with them, decent movies have died too.

 

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