What happens when Sunset Boulevard intersects with 42nd Street? Well, aside from a horrifically bad traffic jam, we get news of movie stars doing plays or film versions of plays or players. Oddly, it all sort of links together like a chain.
Getting my attention for its sexiness quotient is the news that major cutie and Son of a CHiP Chris Pine will be playing the role of Brick and Scarlett Johansson will be playing Maggie in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, on Broadway in the upcoming season.
These two roles have been played by some acting heavyweights, as well as some actors underestimated for their talents. Broadway legends Ben Gazarra and Barbara Bel Geddes originated these parts in 1955. Gazarra had a stellar career that turned into character acting, and Bel Geddes became a stage fixture in other hit plays like Mary, Mary, The Moon is Blue and Luv, but became most famous, of course, for playing Miss Ellie in Dallas on TV.
The first Broadway revival was in 1974, with Keir Dullea putting HAL in the past and Brick in his present, playing opposite a natural Southerner, Elizabeth Ashley who made her mark in this role. Tennessee Williams made changes to the play for this production, beefing up the gay themes that he was not able to better explore in the 1950s.
I couldn't get a picture of Dullea and Ashley in a one-shot from the play, but I found this much more provocative shot from the film Paperback Hero, which they made the previous year. It just reeks of that 1970s movies-from-geniuses-with-beards type of production, doesn't it?
In 1976, America's Bicentennial saw a TV production of the play, starring the marvelous Natalie Wood and....um...well, her husband Robert Wagner.
I am sure Wood was terrific and Wagner was....Wow, look at that scenery! Nice scenery.
TV saw yet a another production of the play, this time on PBS and starring the venerable talents of Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones, who make a great pair for any project.
The two Oscar winners received good reviews for the production, and Lange went on to play Blanche Dubois in a Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Alec Baldwin, who wanted her to do a nude scene with him, but she would not oblige. Thanks for knocking us out of the chance to catch Baldwin naked on stage (in his prime, no less), Jess!
It wouldn't be until 1990 that Broadway saw a new production of Cat, and it would star Kathleen Turner who was nominated for a Tony and set in motion a serious stage career. She was given veto power over her leading man, and chose--get this--Daniel Hugh Kelly.
Kelly was the cute half of Hardcastle & McCormick, and Brian Keith was the formerly cute half. The show was so lightweight that it would be impossible to gauge just how good an actor Kelly was/is. Clearly he had something that Turner liked, though he did not seem to get the reviews that she garnered.
In 2003, an Ashley returned to the part of Maggie, but this time it was Ashley Judd, and her Brick was played by Lost Boy Jason Patric. Sorry, Jason, but Lost Boys remained your defining moment for general audiences, and baring your ass in After Dark, My Sweet became your touchstone for gay men. Opportunities. Wasted.
Judd and Patric quite famously spatted throughout the run of the production, and Big Daddy Ned Beatty destroyed his chances of a Tony nom by dissing them both. Only the remarkable Margo Martindale as Big Momma came out of the whole mess unscathed.
In 2008, producers got creative and did an all African American cast of the play. James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad (whose career is having a remarkable second act) played Bid Daddy and Big Momma, respectively, but as for Brick and Maggie, it was a battle between the gorgeous, when Hustle & Flow's Terrence Howard took the Stage with Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose.
Yes, I know. This board caters to gay men, so why am I posting a pic that will get the blood of straight men rushing? Well, isn't that a beautiful four poster bed? Now THAT makes me horny!
Is is just me, or does that hooded robe and bandaged hand make him look more like he's in a production of Requiem for a Heavyweight?
Now I know what you're saying, especially if your name is bert: "Derek, you've left out the quintessential Brick and Maggie!"
Not to worry, my pets. Naturally I would give a place in the sun to those remarkable talents, because somebody up there likes me (groan all you like, but bert loved it!)
If you don't know who these last two are, then you had better high tail it to Hulu, Itunes, Netflix or whoever your source for movies is, and rent the film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It is a master class in acting, sex appeal and film charisma.
I've voiced my opinion many times that I don't think Cat is a good play. It is poorly constructed and has terribly didactic exposition. However, it gives actors parts to chew on, and seeing Chris Pine on stage would have to be worth something!
Just a couple of years ago, Scarlett Johansson won a Tony for her role in Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, and all the while she was married to Ryan Reynolds, so we know that she can act (make of that what you will).
Something to look forward to in the 2012-13 season.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 of this post...