Henry Bumstead (1915-2006)

Henry Bumstead is probably a man you never heard of. He’s wasn’t the big bucks actor or high profile director.

But if you love movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sting, Vertigo,Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, then you know his work.

A four-time Oscar nominee and two- time Oscar winner (for To Kill a Mockingbird and The Sting) Henry Bumstead, was a major behind the scene’s player, serving as set and production designer for over 100 films.

He collaborated with Clint Eastwood on 13 movies including Flags of Our Fathers, which is currently in post-production.

Eastwood told The Los Angeles Times, (He was) one of a kind. He seamlessly bridged the gap between what I saw on the page and what I saw through the camera lens. He is a legend in his field and a cherished friend. We will all miss him terribly.”


Maureen Stapleton (1925-2006)

Maureen Stapleton, a revered Broadway, television, and motion picture actress, died today a the age of 80. She created a “gallery of pugnacious but vulnerable heroines” and “put an indelible stamp on some of Tennessee Williams’s most memorable characters”. Despite her enormous success that included twoTony awards, an Oscar, and an Emmy, Despite a successful career, Stapleton battled inner demons. Below I have excerpted The New York Times obituary of this great actress.


“Maureen Stapleton’s story was the embodiment of the classic theatrical cliché. A small-town girl nurtured on long afternoons at the movies, she came to New York in 1943 with dreams of becoming a star in the theater. She worked at a variety of jobs — salesgirl, hotel clerk, artists’ model — while attending acting school. Then, not long after her theatrical baptism in summer stock and a few small roles on Broadway, fortune smiled and the doors opened wide.

“It was 1950. Tennessee Williams had written a play called The Rose Tattoo and he wanted the renowned Italian actress Anna Magnani to play the lead role, that of an earthy Sicilian-American widow looking for love. But Magnani declined, fearing that her English was inadequate for Broadway. Other actresses were auditioned, without success. Harold Clurman, who had directed Ms. Stapleton in Arthur Laurents’s “Bird Cage,” earlier that year, suggested to the producers that they give her an audition. After repeated callbacks, she was told she had the part of the widow, Serafina delle Rose. One of her friends from acting school, Eli Wallach, was cast opposite her as Alvaro Mangiacavallo, the simple but loving truck driver who revives the widow’s spirit in a tumultuous courtship.

The Rose Tattoo opened at the Martin Beck Theater in February 1951. Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, called Ms. Stapleton’s performance “triumphant” and praised her ability to convey not only the coarseness of the plainspoken Serafina, but also her moments of exaltation. The play ran for 300 performances and then toured for six months.

The Rose Tattoo fulfilled Ms. Stapleton’s childhood dream of becoming a star and also earned her a Tony Award.

“When word came that Williams was ready with a new play, Orpheus Descending, she was told once again that he wanted Magnani to play the heroine, a frustrated Italian-American storekeeper in a small Southern town whose world is torn apart by the arrival of a handsome newcomer. But Magnani declined again, and the role went to Ms. Stapleton.

“The play opened on Broadway in March 1957 and drew mixed reviews, but Ms. Stapleton won raves in the lead role of Lady Torrance, Williams’s gritty, sex-starved heroine. Writing in The Times, Brooks Atkinson hailed “a remarkable performance that has all the strength, the honesty and the power of her best work. […]

“The following year she kept audiences laughing in the S.N. Behrman comedy The Cold Wind and the Warm, in which she played a freewheeling matchmaker. She received her first Emmy nomination for her work in a television adaptation of All the Kings Men. Then Hollywood beckoned, and she was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress in her very first film, an adaptation of Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts (1959), in which she was cast as a deceitful man-eater. […]

“Once established on Broadway and in films and television, she was rarely idle. She appeared on Broadway with Jason Robards in Lillian Hellman’s Toys in the Attic in 1960 (Atkinson found her “comic, disarming, awkward and pathetic all at once”) and in the film version of Orpheus, retitled The Fugitive Kind. Tennessee Williams got his wish, however, and Anna Magnani played Lady Torrance on screen while Ms. Stapleton had to settle for a lesser role. Ms. Stapleton had an earlier disappointment when Magnani won an Academy Award for best actress as the earthy Serafina in the 1955 film version of The Rose Tattoo.

“She won an Emmy in 1967 for her television work in Among the Paths to Eden, an adaptation of a story by Truman Capote about a spinster and a widower. (When an interviewer asked her if she minded being regularly cast as an older woman — something that began early in her career — she merely shrugged and said, “I was born old.”) Then, in 1968, she was cast opposite George C. Scott in Neil Simon’s comedy, Plaza Suite, staged by Mike Nichols, in which she and Mr. Scott played three different warring couples to hilarious effect. Plaza Suite brought her another Tony nomination.

“The awards and nominations kept coming. She was nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actress for Airport (1970); she won a best-actress Tony that same year for her portrayal of an alcoholic down-and-out singer in Mr. Simon’s laughing-through-tears drama The Gingerbread Lady; she and her co-star, Charles Durning, received Emmy nominations for Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, in which they played a couple who warm to romance when they meet at a dance hall.

Another Oscar nomination, for supporting actress, followed her work in Woody Allen’s Interiors. In 1981, she was nominated for a Tony for The Little Foxes, in which she played opposite Elizabeth Taylor. In his review in The Times, Frank Rich called her “a wonder” and added, “such is this actress’s talent that she can conjure abject terror out of silence and thin air.” It turned out to be her last appearance on Broadway.

One of her most memorable film roles was as the dedicated anarchist Emma Goldman in Warren Beatty’s 1981 Reds. Her fiery performance won her the Oscar for best supporting actress. In all, she won two Tonys, an Emmy and an Oscar.


A stunning career. Not everyone is capable of winning an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy. And I recommend Reds for any person looking for a good romantic epic about Jack Reed, an American journalist, Communism in Russia, and his hope to bring that idealism to the United States.

Shelley Winters (1922-2006)

One of my personal favorites. I loved her in The Diary of Anne Frank, The Night of the Hunter, A Place in the Sun (especially this role). She was a brilliant actress and a two-time Academy Award winner, a difficult feat that only the greats have accomplished.

Shelley Winters, Tough-Talking Oscar Winner in ‘Anne Frank’ and ‘Patch of Blue,’ Dies
By Aljean Harmetz NY Times

Shelley Winters, who once described her life as a “rocky road out of the Brooklyn ghetto to one New York apartment, two Oscars, three California houses, four hit plays, five Impressionist paintings, six mink coats and 99 films,” died yesterday. She was 83, although some so
urces say she was 85.

Ms. Winters died of heart failure at the Rehabilitation Centre of Beverly Hills, her publicist, Dale Olson, said. She had been hospitalized in October after suffering a heart attack.

A major movie presence for more than five decades, Shelley Winters turned herself from a self-described “dumb blond bombshell” in B pictures to a widely respected actress who was nominated four times for Academy Awards.

Her first Oscar, for best supporting actress, was for her performance in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) as the middle-age Mrs. Van Daan, one of eight Dutch Jews hiding from the Nazis in an attic.

She won again for best supporting actress as the vicious mother of a blind girl in A Patch of Blue (1965).

After a series of bit parts, Ms. Winters received her first big break as the waitress who was strangled by Ronald Colman’s jealous actor in A Double Life in 1947.

Four years later, she dyed her hair brown, rubbed the polish off her fingernails, and convinced the director George Stevens that she could play the mousy factory girl who was made pregnant and then drowned by Montgomery Clift so that he could marry the rich Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun. She was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress for that performance.

Tough-talking and oozing sex appeal, Ms. Winters was blowzy, vulgar and often pathetically vulnerable in her early films. In movie after movie, she played working-class women who were violently discarded by men who had used them.

When her gullible waitress couldn’t lead the hymn-singing preacher to a cache of stolen money in The Night of the Hunter (1955), he slit her throat.

As a rich man’s poor mistress in The Great Gatsby (1949), she was casually run over by her lover’s wife.

In Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (1962), James Mason married her to get close to her young daughter; when she finds this out she blindly runs in front of a car and is killed.

Even when she became the dominating force in many of her later movies, Ms. Winters often played vulnerable monsters. As Ma Barker in the 1970 cult classic Bloody Mama – in which she is first seen giving her four grown sons their Saturday-night baths – she was murderously maternal while brandishing a tommy gun.

Shrieking, shrewish, slutty or silly, Ms. Winters always seemed larger than life on screen. The critic Pauline Kael called her lovelorn culture-vulture Charlotte Haze in Lolita a “triumphant caricature, so overdone it recalls Blake’s ‘You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.’ ”

Off screen Ms. Winters lived with an equal gusto, which she captured in her best-selling 1980 autobiography, Shelley, Also Known as Shirley, and in a second book, Shelley II. With a hearty appetite for food and men, she was not hesitant about naming the actors with whom she had shared a bed, including Sean Connery, Errol Flynn, Farley Granger, Sterling Hayden, William Holden and Burt Lancaster. Ms. Winters and Mr. Holden had a Same Time, Next Year relationship, meeting in his Paramount dressing room on Christmas Eve for five years. Her two- year relationship with Mr. Lancaster was more serious. She ended the affair when the actor’s wife became pregnant with his third child.

She was born Shirley Schrift in St. Louis on Aug. 18, 1922, according to many sources, though others give her birth year as 1920. Her stage name came from the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and from her mother, Rose Winter, an amateur soprano who had once won a Municipal Opera contest in St. Louis. Her father, like many immigrants in the early 20th century, came to the United States in steerage. Her mother, a first-generation American, was born in St. Louis. The Schrifts soon moved to Brooklyn, where Ms. Winters grew up.

When her father went to Sing Sing for arson (he was exonerated later), 9-year-old Shirley retreated into a fantasy world that, Ms. Winters wrote, “has been a powerful tool in my acting” but “used to play hell with my real life.” In junior high school she discovered she could sneak into Broadway theaters during Wednesday matinees; she never again went to school on Wednesday afternoons.

As a teenager, wearing high heels borrowed from her older sister, Blanche, and with six powder puffs stuffed into her bra, she auditioned during a nationwide search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. The director George Cukor was kind. Go to acting school, he told her, and become known on the New York stage. She took his advice. Less than a decade later, Cukor cast Ms. Winters as the sexy waitress who serves more than dinner in A Double Life.

A high school dropout, Ms. Winters modeled in the garment industry by day and attended the New Theater School at night, and spent two summers doing sketches on the borscht circuit in the Catskills. She got hired for the chorus of Broadway musicals because she was funny and could sing, but then she got fired because she couldn’t dance. She landed a part in the national company of Meet the People in 1941.

Soon afterward, Max Reinhardt was preparing Rosalinda, his English-language version of Die Fledermaus. Charmed by the brash Brooklyn girl who had no idea she was auditioning for an opera, the director gave her a small comic role, which he kept enlarging. When the president of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn, saw the show, he arranged for a screen test.

Hollywood was not immediately overwhelmed. As a Columbia contract player earning $100 a week, Ms. Winters made her 1943 film debut with one line in What a Woman! She took acting lessons at the studio and joined the Actor’s Lab to study real acting at night.

Ms. Winters played a harem girl in A Thousand and One Nights (1945), was lent to Samuel Goldwyn to play the heroine’s younger sister in the film version of Knickerbocker Holiday (1944) and was jettisoned by Columbia after a year for not being “movie material.”

Finally, A Double Life gave her a lift. “To this day I feel that getting A Double Life was a miracle,” she wrote in her autobiography. “So much of a successful career depends on standing on the right corner at the exact right moment.”

A seven-year contract with Universal Studios was the reward for her performance in A Double Life. Ms. Winters played gangsters’ girlfriends (Larceny, Johnny Stool Pigeon); a bad-girl cabaret singer whose piano player is Liberace (South Sea Sinner); the Marlene Dietrich role in a warmed-over-lightly version of Destry Rides Again (Frenchie); a better-quality nightclub singer who is the object of Frank Sinatra’s affections (Meet Danny Wilson); a waitress in the Old West married to bad guy (Untamed Frontier), and a number of other good/bad girls. As a dance-hall girl in Winchester ’73, her co-stars were James Stewart and a rifle.

For a while, Ms. Winters shared an apartment in Hollywood with a painfully insecure
Marilyn Monroe. At night Ms. Winters studied acting with Charles Laughton, who borrowed her from Universal while he directed The Night of the Hunter.

In 1955 Ms. Winters returned to New York. She formally joined the Actors Studio (she had sat in on classes a few years earlier) and starred on Broadway with Ben Gazzara and Anthony Franciosa in the Studio-created hit play A Hatful of Rain, about the taboo subject of drug abuse.

During the 1960’s Ms. Winters found her métier as a character actress. In addition to her Oscar-winning roles, she played the mother of a murderer in
The Young Savages (1961); a middle-age woman who throws away a happy marriage for a handsome young man in The Chapman Report (1962); Michael Caine’s voracious bedmate in Alfie (1966), and an ex-movie star who has made a bad choice in husbands in Harper (1966).

Ms. Winters’s fourth and last Oscar nomination came in 1972, for her supporting role in The Poseidon Adventure. She played a former swimming champion who sacrifices her life to help save fellow passengers on a doomed ship, although reviewers found it hard to accept the stout Ms. Winters in the part. The publicity department at 20th Century Fox announced that the studio had told Ms. Winters to gain 30 pounds for her role in The Poseidon Adventure. But by the 1970’s she had simply lost her lifelong struggle to control her weight.

Ms. Winters never stopped working, dividing her time among movies, plays and television. In films she played the witch in Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971); the perfect Jewish mother in Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976); the mother of a fat boy in Heavy (1995); and Nicole Kidman’s selfish aunt in Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady (1996). In the sitcom Roseanne she played Roseanne’s grandmother.

An early marriage during World War II to an Army Air Force captain, Paul Mayer, lasted until the war ended. Ms. Winters married the Italian actor Vittorio Gassman in 1952. The couple divorced in 1954 after the birth of her daughter and only child, Vittoria, who is now a physician working in Connecticut. In 1957 Ms. Winters married Mr. Franciosa, her co-star in A Hatful of Rain. That marriage ended in 1960. Ms. Winters is survived by her companion of 19 years, Jerry DeFord; her daughter, Dr. Vittoria Gassman of Norwalk, Conn.; and two grandchildren.

If, during her last years, Ms. Winters fit more comfortably into a muumuu than a sheath, she never lost her sense of laughing delight in what the world had given a poor girl from Brooklyn. In 1996 she defined herself to an interviewer as “a senior-citizen sex bomb.” She added: “I get 1,000 letters a month. I send people a postcard of myself in short hair and a checkered blouse that was taken 50 years ago.”

The Lives They Lived

from The New York Times Magazine – Sunday Decmber 25

A look at the tragic life of Sandra Dee. A woman destined to be great things at an early age but her career ended after her divorce from Bobby Darin. Her real life miseries tarnished her innocent movie persona and she never really recovered. Not the most flattering tribute to an actress whom I throughly enjoyed in Gidget and Imitation of Life but her life shows how quickly life can knock you down especially when you have been placed on a pedestool.

Sandra Dee b. 1944
Gidget Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

At the height of her spectacularly short-lived fame, coverage of everything from her dietary habits to her taste in men was enormous, with approximately 15 magazine articles appearing every month. The thing is, it all happened so fast, was over practically before it began, that we can almost be forgiven for misconstruing her as a cultural simulacrum: a blip on the monitor, a media invention, an adorable incarnation of a feminine ideal of the reluctant or unwitting nymphet, rather than a flesh-and-blood creature with needs and wishes (not to mention raging demons) of her own. The lightning speed with which Sandra Dee was first heralded and then discarded may have been just another example of the “now you see her, now you don’t” phenomenon endemic to the fever-dream of Hollywood, but it also suggests the dark “Miss Lonelyhearts” side of the American manufacture of celebrity – the ruthlessness that drives it and the despair it feeds off. She went from being discovered in 1956, at 12, to winning a Golden Globe Award in 1958, to being hailed by The Motion Picture Herald in 1959 as the “Number One Star of Tomorrow,” based on her promising pigtailed debut in the sterling weepie “Until They Sail” as well as her performance in “The Reluctant Debutante.” Less than a decade later, her career all but ended when she was dropped by Universal, after her divorce, at age 22, from the crooner Bobby Darin. “Sometimes I feel like a has-been who never was,” Dee told The Newark Evening News in 1967.

In truth, she never entirely disappeared from the collective imagination, and therein lies one of many painful paradoxes (she was, for instance, among the last actors to be dropped as a contract player before the studio system expired) in what turns out to be a story too full of them. Her moment as “a junior Doris Day,” as she once put it, or “a Tinkertoy,” as an underwhelmed journalist once put it – although she early on demonstrated a far greater range of acting talent than she would later be remembered for – may have been vastly abbreviated, but there’s no forgetting that fluffy neon concoction of a name, or what it stood for. Even if you never caught her in her glory days as Gidget or Tammy, Dee’s legacy as an eclipsed and parodied icon, a cinematic reference that signifies everything blond and unviolated about the 50’s, was assured by her immortalization in a catchy song from “Grease.” Its broadly winking lyrics are declaimed by Rizzo, the designated high-school Bad Girl, at a pajama party and are aimed at converting the goody-two-shoes newcomer Sandy to a life of carnal sin: “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee/lousy with virginity/Won’t go to bed till I’m legally wed,/I can’t, I’m Sandra Dee.”

Precisely because of the mythic stature we endowed her with, it’s hard to believe that the wisp of a girl who cavorted decorously on-screen with John Saxon and Troy Donahue, in a time before teenagers of either sex thought to have their tongues pierced, lacked the grace to fade out, had the temerity to live on – and so unfetchingly, her life marred by chronic anorexia, alcoholism and depression – after we were no longer paying her any mind. Dee’s death last February at age 60 (her official age was obscured from early childhood, when her mother added two years to it; many obituaries listed her age at the time of her death as 62), of complications from kidney disease, impels us to retrieve her from her vacuum-packed, nostalgia-inducing state as an idealized adolescent prototype. This in turn raises a possibility almost too disturbing to contemplate: how to envision Sandra Dee as middle-aged, as anything other than a bubbling and bikinied beach babe, the candied yin to Annette Funicello’s sultry yang, the sweet and genteelly chaperoned box-office ingénue whose popularity once rivaled Elizabeth Taylor’s and whose elopement at 16 with the scrappy Bronx-bred Darin, after a one-month courtship on the set of a forgettable movie (“Come September“), spoke to a girlishly starry-eyed fantasy of romance.

Then again, the “darling, pink world,” as she herself characterized it, that Sandra Dee was thought to inhabit by her fans had always been a grotesque mockery, plagued not by an overripened case of virginity but by childhood incest. The girl with brimming brown eyes and a fizzy lilt to her voice was born Alexandria Zuck in Bayonne, N.J.

Her parents divorced when she was 5; her father, a bus driver, disappeared from her life shortly thereafter, and her mother, Mary, married a much-older real-estate entrepreneur named Eugene Duvan within a few years. According to Dee’s own account, as relayed by her son, Dodd Darin, in his touching and unglamorized memoir of his parents, “Dream Lovers,” her lifelong battle with anorexia – which would lead to three hospitalizations in her midteens, cardiac distress and multiple miscarriages – began with Mary’s bizarre approach to her daughter’s meals: “My mother fed me with a spoon until I was 6 years old. She would make me a bowl of oatmeal. She’d crack an egg into it, raw, and. . .cold and lumps and streaks, I had to eat it all.” Worse yet, Dee’s devoted but manipulative mother turned a conveniently blind eye to the defiled sexual appetites of her new husband. Duvan, who liked to tease his wife that he married her “just to get Sandy,” started having sex with his beautiful stepdaughter when she was 8 and continued doing so almost until his death when she was 12.

After her divorce from Darin, Dee never remarried. The former teenage sweetheart who had once received more fan mail than Rock Hudson became an anxious recluse whose primary connections were with her mother and her son. A cover profile in People magazine in 1991 depicted her as a damaged and isolated survivor – Dee poignantly expressed a wish to do a TV series, “because I want a family. I can have that if I’m part of a show” – and her son’s portrait of her in his book only deepened the shadows. Dee had plans to write an autobiography and in 1996 did a brief stint as an infomercial spokeswoman for an anti-aging cream. Last year she was played by Kate Bosworth in Kevin Spacey’s movie about Bobby Darin, “Beyond the Sea.”

Sandra Dee’s dazzling wreck of a life – the implausibly meteoric ascent followed by the long fall – would, I suppose, make for a perfect Lifetime special. Or, better yet, a searing biopic all its own, underscoring the gap between the glossy image and the nightmarish reality. It would, that is, if the truth weren’t so unbearably sad, revealing a tale of ravaged innocence under cover of familial enmeshment leading to a wasteland of self-destruction. The problem with a story like this one, at least from a filmmaker’s point of view, is that it isn’t even a cathartic tear-jerker. There is no fortifying moral to be drawn from it, no redemptive “Oprah” ending hovering in the wings. Look at her, she’s Sandra Dee, lousy with debility. Tickets, anyone?