Friday, June 17, 2011
On dark summer mornings like this, I like to think of one of my favorite films of all time. One that I watched with my best friend John, over and over again.
Starring Lauren Becall, James Garner, that guy from "Terminator" and Maureen Stapleton.
There's another film called "The Fan", with Robert DeNiro. But that's a different film, about basketball or something. And this is about show people.
I found this excellent montage on YouTube that I included at the bottom here: a must see!
In it, Lauren Becall plays Sally Ross, this impossible star of stage and film. And the Terminator guy, what's his name? Michael Biehn! That was his name. He was the blond guy in "Aliens", too.
But in this film, he's..."The Fan". Da da da DUM!
You kind of know that Micheal Biehn's character is a little mental right off the bat, because he works in a record store and likes to take long breaks to argue with his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He's also vaguely gay, which - because it's 1981 and there's no such thing as a healthy, well-adjusted homo - manifests itself in his obsessive, unattainable love for Lauren Becall's campy doyenne. She's a raspy, chain-smoking Auntie Mame. He keeps gluing pictures of her from magazines all over his sad little apartment.
He also sends her creepy love notes which she ignores because she's SALLY ROSS after all: she gets BAGS of them! And this gets the Fan all upset. So he breaks into her apartment and murders her housekeeper.
This is very upsetting to Lauren Becall. She can barely order her brunch the next day.
But she MUST go on, because she's in the middle of rehearsing her big Broadway comeback: a musical review called "Never Say Never"! But she's also having trouble with James Garner, who plays her masculine, wooden boyfriend, Jake.
So she starts having a flirtation with her director, which the Fan doesn't like at all. So he stabs him in a public swimming pool. No one else in the crowded pool seems to notice his bloody floating corpse, either, until after the Fan has made his escape. This seems to be a statement about just how self-involved New Yorkers can be: a corpse is no big deal until the body fluids threaten to stain your swimsuit.
Next, the Fan sets his murderous sights on Maureen Stapleton, who plays Lauren Becall's sassy secretary.
He stalks her in the subway and slashes her face with a scalpel. Again, no one seems to be around in New York. Tumbleweeds practically roll thru the scene.
Well, Lauren Becall is just beside herself at this point. How can she go on? She takes a trip to her secluded beach house to think about things and drink a glass of Chardonnay.
The Fan has no idea where Sally went! So he decides to fake his own death to flush her out.
This leads to the gratuitous gay bar scene, where the Fan picks up some hapless, random, randy early-80s dude, lures him to the roof of his apartment building and then slits his throat while the poor guy's giving him a blow job. Uh, your welcome!
Then he sets the body aflame and checks into a Best Western.
The police find the charred carcass on the roof, break into the Fan's apartment and find his fake suicide note.
They call Sally Ross at her beach house. "It's over" they tell her. "The madness is finally over!"
Everyone is SO relieved, because Sally's big Broadway show (which, in spite of all this, had apparently still been in rehearsals, with a new director) is opening tonight! "Never Say Never" indeed!
Not only that, Maureen Stapleton has made a miraculous recovery from her attack and serves Sally breakfast in bed! All is right in the world. Or so they all think.
Suddenly it's opening night. The audience is all in elegant, glittering gowns and tuxedos. Everyones' there: James Garner, Maureen Stapleton, Hector Elizondo, the police detectives in charge of the murder investigation. It's very glamourous. At one point, Maureen Stapleton moves down the crowded aisle to take her seat as the lights dim and rather than saying "excuse me" she just makes this weird, "get out of my way" noise:
Suddenly the scene shifts to the Fan taking a shower and scrubbing his body really hard.
Then, the lights on the stage go up, and "Never Say Never" commences.
Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Choreography by Satan.
It's sort of hard to discern, from the selection of scenes, what the plot of "Never Say Never" might be. Lauren Becall is in this white sequined gown, and there's this chorus of nubile young men and women dressed in pin-striped zoot suit pajamas. They look like Prohibition gangsters at a slumber party. At one point, all the chorus girls are wearing lingerie and strutting by this lisping guy dressed as a chauffeur, who strokes the girls with a riding crop and sings:
"She gets no love in Paris
She gets no love in Paris...
SHE GETS NO LOVE!"
Cut to The Fan, staring in a mirror.
NEXT, cut to back-stage, where we see the Chauffeur put down his riding crop on the props table.
Da da da DUM!
Next, Lauren Becall is in pajamas, on a huge bed, where all the half-naked limbs of the chorus guys emerge. At one point, this guy shoves his bare foot in Lauren Becall's face and she waves at it.
Cut to the The Fan, putting on his tuxedo...
Finally, it's the end of the show. The audience is spellbound. Sally Ross sings her last number as the Fan arrives late to the theatre and walks down the aisle to take his seat: right next to the police detectives. Oh ,the irony! Of course, in a real theatre he would have been tackled by three house managers in the lobby. No late seating, asshole!
Sally's last number is called "Hearts, Not Diamonds", in which she compares her life to a game of cards.
She wanted Hearts, but all she was dealt were Diamonds.
She craved love, but only received empty, ugly fame. Then again: "at least with Diamonds something stays. With Hearts, you never know."
Hearts, she claims, were not her "strong suit". Neither was singing.
Have you ever heard Lauren Becall sing? God Bless Her!
"When all the noise dies down
And all the songs are sung
When the world has caught the last bus home
When the swing has swung..."
She smokes a cigarette thru the entire song, which is pretty remarkable.
Meanwhile, the chorus have put their pin-striped gangster pajamas back on and sing:
"I can't believe she gets no satisfaction.
Everything she wanted she got."
Sally counters with the lyric: "I wanted hearts"
Again, the chorus, insistent, crowding around her:
"I can't believe she offers no retraction...
blah blah blah blah blah-diddy blah."
Then they hoist Sally up on their shoulders, and her voice drops about 12 octaves due to the change in air pressure.
The audience all rises to their feet. Standing ovation. Magic. Even the Fan rises, though it's probably to adjust the huge knife in his coat pocket.
The show is a triumph! Sally is in her dressing room, surrounded by bouquets. It's like she just won the Kentucky Derby. James Garner is there, too, and kisses her. They're back together! Hooray!
Then, everyone goes off to the cast party. Sally says she'll "catch up with them a little later" and just like that, this HUGE theatre is completely empty. On opening night. No staff, no ushers, no techies. Just this old guy at the stage door named "Pops" that the Fan immediately murders.
What then ensues is a final showdown between The Fan and Sally in the deserted theatre.
But I don't want to give it ALL away...