Okay, so I was on my soap box just a bit in my prior movie moment post, decrying the truly sorry state of our present medical system and all that. However, it’s true that, under any system, there’s something about being a doctor that’s a little dangerous. For one thing, there’s the little matter of ego. Saving lives can be a heady experience and some folks get a bit, er, overwhelmed by the experience.
And, let’s face it, some doctors from other countries have even worse moral failings.
An important chunk of entertainment history left us yesterday with the death of Larry Gelbart at 81. Gelbart was gifted both working alone and as a collaborator with other writers. It probably helped that relatively early in his career he labored alongside Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Neil Simon on comedian Sid Caesar’s classic early variety shows. In the sixties he graduated to Broadway and the movies. With Burt Shevelove, he cowrote the book for the Broadway musical/Zero Mostel vehicle, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (later filmed by Richard Lester) and the hard to find all-star cult British comedy, “The Wrong Box.” A Chicago-born graduate of L.A.’s Fairfax High (right across the street from Cantor’s Deli), he lived in England for a time, working with another nice Jewish boy named Marty Feldman at the height of his English television fame.
He became much better known in the seventies as the primary writer during the early, funnier and more politically pointed days on the television version of “M*A*S*H.” I get to write about him because he made a mark in movies that’s too important to ignore, writing several good ones, and some not so good. He’ll probably be most commonly remembered for his work on “Oh, God” with George Burns in the title role, and what is probably Dustin Hoffman’s best performance in “Tootsie,” which is something of a comedy classic. He also co-wrote with Sheldon Keller the vastly underrated and all but impossible to see spoof of early Hollywood (specifically Warner Brothers) films, “Movie, Movie,” directed by Stanley Donen and starring George C. Scott, Eli Wallach, Trish van Devere, and Barry Bostwick. (A likely model for “Grindhouse,” in that it was also a double-feature complete with fake trailers.) It more than made up for the regrettable but profitable “Blame it On Rio,” written by Gelbart and also directed by Donen, which starred Michael Caine, Joseph Bologna and an extremely young Demi Moore.
In the nineties, he divided his time between Broadway plays like “City of Angels,” a musical spoof of classic hard-boiled detective novels, and pointed TV movies like “Barbarians at the Gate” — a tongue in cheek version of a nonfiction book about the buyout of Nabisco — and 1992’s “Mastergate,” an unbelievably witty parody of the hearings that invariably follow major Washington scandals.
Mr. Gelbart never stopped writing until almost the end, and was easily one of the most respected and beloved writers in all of show business. 81 isn’t exactly young, but we could’ve used a few more years of his presence. It’s a sad weekend for the world of funny.
If you watched the premiere of CBS’s new murder-mystery series, “Harper’s Island,” either last night at 10 PM, where it won its timeslot against the stiff competition of NBC’s “Southland,” or online, where it was CBS.com’s biggest online premiere ever, then you already know who the show claimed as its first victim. But in case the episode is currently sitting on your DVR, waiting for an hour to free up on your busy schedule, we wouldn’t want to spoil their identity for you, so we’ll wait ’til after the jump to do any namedropping. We will, however, offer up a bit of an in-joke for those of you who are in the know:
This person may not be “sixteen, clumsy, and shy” at this point in their career, but the Smiths song in which those words are featured says a great deal about how their character was left at the end of the first episode of “Harper’s Island.”
Although Campbell Scott is one of those actors who’s been happily flying under Hollywood’s radar for the past several years (he estimates the time frame as somewhere between eight and ten), his appearance within the ensemble of the buzz-heavy indie flick, “Phoebe in Wonderland,” may change that. And if it doesn’t…well, as he reveals in his interview with Bullz-Eye.com, it’s not like he doesn’t enjoy being able to ride the subway in relative anonymity.
Campbell Scott on “Singles”:
“I’m 47, I have gray hair, and yet people still come up to me on the street who are in their twenties, who weren’t even born when ‘Singles’ was made…well, they were pretty tiny, anyway…and they say, ‘Oh, I love that movie.’ And I always say, ‘How OLD are you?”
Campbell Scott on “Phoebe in Wonderland”:
“When you go and watch it, even if you’re thinking about being a parent or if you have a little sister, anything like that, it becomes this little journey. And people either go for it or not. It ain’t ‘Die Hard,’ let’s face it! But it’s very, very provocative, I think.”
Campbell Scott on “The Spanish Prisoner”:
“Steve (Martin) is fascinating. I really like that guy. He’s really smart. You know, the thing I always think about Steve is that, like most really, really brilliant comedians, he’s a very serious dude. People who are funny in a profound way, when you meet them, they are totally serious. I don’t mean they’re severe or boring or unfunny to be with – they’re hysterical – but they are definitive in their work habits.”
Check out the entire interview by clicking right here…or, of course, you could always just click on this big ol’ image below:
This entry in Sony’s amusingly vague new “Martini Movies” imprint stars George C. Scott (“Patton”) at the height of his early seventies fame as Kilvinski, a humane cop nearing retirement who bonds with his new partner, a would-be lawyer rookie partner (Stacy Keach) going through some big changes of his own. Adapted from a bestselling novel by ex-policeman Joseph Wambaugh, “The New Centurions” often foreshadows later cop dramas, particularly eighties TV groundbreaker “Hill Street Blues” — right down to earthy pre-patrol briefings and actor James B. Sikking sporting what appears to be the very same pipe he parlayed to semi-fame as the affected, egomaniacal Lt. Howard Hunter. Still, while familiar faces from lighter fare show up (Isabel Sanford of “The Jeffersons,” Erik “CHiPs” Estrada, and the eventually dickless William Atherton of “Ghostbusters”), 1972 was a year when grim was in and even the most mainstream of Hollywood films were often deliberately under-structured. Taking place over what appears to be several years, there is no particular “case” and this is not really a story about crime fighting; it’s an investigation into the effects of police work on vulnerable human beings. Written by Stirling Silliphant and directed by Richard Fleischer (“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Soylent Green,” and “Mandingo”), “The New Centurions” is slowed by overly novelistic/episodic pacing and a few too many contemporary mannerisms (including a wah-wah heavy score by Quincy Jones) but it works more often than it doesn’t because of its two first-rate lead actors and a great deal of sincerity. The film’s benevolent view of the quasi-militarist seventies LAPD may be iffy, but its depiction of the bigger truth here feels true enough: policemen are nothing more than human beings doing a job that can be as seductively destructive as heroin.