Friday, February 05, 2010

Mae West: Son of a Surgeon

In 1970 MAE WEST faced many difficulties while filming "Myra Breckinridge" under director Michael Sarne. The studio also grew impatient with his mishandling of the production, his problems with the cast, his peculiar delay tactics, and (most of all) his being way over budget; they eventually pulled the plug. But the doomed screen version of Gore Vidal's bestseller was on life support, it seems, even before it opened.
• • The narrative begins as Myron Breckinridge [Rex Reed] is waiting for his sex-change operation while a stoned surgeon stumbles into the operating room — — veteran character actor John Carradine — — and advises him not to have the procedure. Myron persists. The audience within the film cheers as the moviehouse audience begins to be lost in wonderment and regret.
• • You might as well have cautioned Sarne not to film this screenplay, which was such an abortion that Vidal disowned it. According to Stanley Musgrove, Edith Head hinted at her monumental Myra misery when she told him, "God, I'm glad I drink!"
• • Native New Yorker John Carradine was born in the month of February — — on 5 February 1906 — — as Richmond Reed Carradine. He was the son of an artist-reporter and a surgeon.
• • Raised in Poughkeepsie, New York, he attended art school and tried his hand at sculpture and portraiture. After making his stage debut in 1925, the six-foot-one beanpole moved on to cinema. Typecast in his later years as a durable low-budget horror lead, it's hard to imagine him playing to the balcony in great Shakespearean dramas, as he once did. Makes you wonder how his agent got the grizzled 64-year-old pinned to the part.
• • On 27 November 1988, John Carradine died in Milan, Italy.

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