Wednesday, July 25, 2012

If You Haven't Got Anything Nice to Say...

In The Underworld, I generally try to keep things light, positive and fun. Let's face it, the (surface) world – if we dwell on it – can be a really stressful, difficult, even depressing place sometimes. Still, in real life, I enjoy being a remarkably sarcastic and snarky person. Call it a defense mechanism against all the bullshit that comes my way. So, today, we're going to celebrate the fiendish in people. We're going to highlight instances in which one celebrity had something quite mean to say about another. I deliberately avoided ones that I felt were extremely well-known, but some of these might already be familiar to you.  I was also struck by how often the situation was one of the pot calling the kettle black!  Okay now, let the bitchery begin!

Telegram from Gertrude Lawrence to playwright Noel Coward concerning her part in Private Lives: “Nothing wrong that can't be fixed.” His reply? “Nothing to be fixed except your performance.”
Pauline Kael on Sandy Dennis: “She has made an acting style out of post nasal drip.”
Director Joshua Logan (after Paint Your Wagon): “Not since Attila the Hun swept across Europe leaving 500 years of total blackness has there been a man like Lee Marvin.”
Johnny Carson: “Dorothy Kilgallen is the only woman I wouldn't mind my wife catching me with...I don't know why she took so much umbrage at my comments on birth control, she's such a living argument for it.
Louise Brooks on Shirley Temple: “A swaggering, tough little slut.”
Sophia Loren on Gina Lollobrigida: “Who? I never criticize my elders.” and Gina on Sophia: “I do not talk about Sophia. I do not wish to make for her publicity. She has a talent, but it is not such a big talent.”
Elke Sommer: “While I was very fond of Paul Newman and Peter Sellers, I'd have to say that I would rather kiss a tree trunk.”
Laurence Harvey to Capucine: “If you were more of a woman, I would be more of a man. Kissing you is like kissing the side of a beer bottle.”
Turnabout is fair play. Three actresses on Laurence Harvey. Jane Fonda: “Acting with Harvey is like acting with yourself, only worse.” Lee Remick: “The tales I can tell of working with him are too horrendous to repeat.” Hermione Baddeley: “I think I shall risk the halibut. It can't be too awful can it? After you've lived with Laurence Harvey, nothing in life is ever really too awful again.”
Don Rickles to Ernest Borgnine: “Oh my God, look at you. Anyone else hurt in the accident?”
Anthony Newley on his ex-wife: “Joan Collins is a commodity who would sell her own bowel movement.”
James Caan on Bette Midler: “She's not a bad person, but stupid in terms of gray matter. I mean, I like her, but I like my dog, too.”
Boy George: “Sleeping with George Michael would be like having sex with a groundhog.”
Boy George on Prince: “He looks like a dwarf who's been dipped in a bucket of pubic hair.”
Joan Rivers: “Boy George is all England needs—another queen who can't dress.”
Ann Sothern: “Kathleen Turner's okay in stills. When she talks and moves about she reminds me of someone who works in a supermarket.”
Katharine Hepburn on Sharon Stone: “It's a new low for actresses when you have to wonder what's between her ears instead of her legs.”
Truman Capote on Meryl Streep: “Oh God! She looks like a chicken!...Her nose: that red thin sharp snout—it reminds you of an anteater.”
John Cassavetes: “Ricardo Montalban is to improvisational acting what Mount Rushmore is to animation.”
Joan Rivers on Marie Osmond: “She is so pure, Moses couldn't even part her knees.”
Virginia Mayo: “I must say Jack Palance was a drag. The way he did his work was strange. He was a weird actor and I didn't like working with him at all.”
Julie Andrews on columnist Joyce Haber: “She needs open-heart surgery, and they should go in through her feet.”
Frank Sinatra on his unauthorized biographer Kitty Kelley: “I hope the next time she's crossing the street, four blind guys come along driving cars.”
Ken Wahl on Bette Midler: “In one scene, I have to hit her in the face and I thought we could save some money on sound effects here.”
Stewart Granger on Joan Collins: “She's common, she can't act—yet she's the hottest female property around these days. If that doesn't tell you something about the state of our industry today, what does?”
Mercedes McCambridge on Joan Crawford: “Poor old rotten egg Joan. I kept my mouth shut about her for nearly a quarter of a century, but she was a mean, tipsy, powerful, rotten-egg lady. I'm still not going to tell what she did to me. Other people have written some of it, but they don't know it all, and they never will because I am a very nice person and I don't like to talk about the dead even if they were rotten eggs.”
Zsa Zsa Gabor on Cary Grant: “They are trying to show he's a great lover, but they'll never prove it to me.”
Director John Boorman on Richard Burton: “He's like all these drunks. Impossible when he's drunk and only half there when he's sober. Wooden as a board with his body, relies on doing all his acting with his voice.”
One of the most blistering film and theatre critics ever to hit the press was Yugoslavian-born John Simon, who never made the slightest attempt to hold back his feelings about a production or its stars. Unlike many other critics, though, Simon went after the physical appearances of some performers, mercilessly flogging their features with his stinging words. Here are some of his zingers:

Maximilian Schell: “If a fetchingly cleft chin can be called a performance, Schell can be said to act.”
Liza Minnelli: “She has only two things going for her—a father and a mother.” and on another occasion: “That turnipy nose overhanging a forward-gaping mouth and hastily retreating chin, that bulbous cranium with eyes as big (and as inexpressive) as saucers...”
Doris Day: “The only real talent Miss Day possesses is that of being absolutely sanitary: her personality untouched by human emotions, her brow unclouded by human thought, her form unsmudged by the slightest evidence of femininity...until this sugar-spun zombie melts from our screen there is little chance of American film's coming of age.”
Barbra Streisand: “Miss Streisand looks like a cross between an aardvark and an albino rat surmounted by a platinum-coated horse bun.” and on another occasion: “a horse face centering on a nose that looks like Brancusi's Rooster cast in liverwurst.” and still again: “Miss Streisand's acting consists entirely of fishily thrusting out her lips, sounding like a cabby bellyaching at breakneck speed and throwing her weight around.”
Walter Matthau: “He looks like a half-melted rubber bulldog.”
Judy Garland: “Miss Garland's figure resembles the giant-economy-size tube of toothpaste in girls' bathrooms: Squeezed intemperately at all points, it acquires a shape that defies definition by the most resourceful geometrician.”
Darryl Hannah: “...looks like a linebacker in a Lorelei wig.”
Diana Rigg (who'd performed a nude scene in Abelard and Heloise): “ built like a brick mausoleum with insufficient flying buttresses.”
Angela Lansbury: “...her eyes go either bulgily whirling...or so narrowly slitty that you couldn't slip a calling card through their openings."
Roger Daltrey: “...performed with a face as long as a mule and a talent considerably shorter.”
Cybill Shepherd: “...comes across like one of those inanimate objects, say a cupboard or a grandfather clock, which is made in certain humorous shorts to act, through trick photography, like people.”
Glenda Jackson: “Quite aside from her age, Miss Jackson is not appealing in any part—face, body or limbs...yet all this could, perhaps, be overlooked if she were an artist. But nothing she says or does stems from genuine feeling, displays of an atom of spontaneity, leaves any room for the unexpected.”
Zoe Caldwell (in Colette): "Miss Caldwell is fat and unattractive in every area of her face, body and limbs although I have never examined her teeth. When she climactically reveals her sprawlingly uberous left breast, the sight was nearly enough to send the heterosexual third of the audience screaming into the camp of the majority. Colette had sex appeal. Miss Caldwell has sex repeal."
Ouch! As an adjudicator for local theatre, I critique three or four shows per season in an in-depth way (usually 7 to 10 pages worth per production!), but thankfully I make it a point to word everything I say, even the negative, in a far, far more considerate way than that! Simon has been declared homophobic by some folks, partly due to his seeming insistence upon savagely trashing the stars and projects that tend to appeal to gays. It might also just be that he is averse to those women who don't fall into the personal stratus he has for defining beauty and/or sexual desirability. These sorts of things can be fun to read about someone else, but we certainly wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of them...


NotFelixUnger said...

I love this post and I love bitchy. (I can take it and dish it too.)

There's a couple of stories I would love to add to the collection:

Sarah Douglas had just been hired to be on Falcon Crest. At the time, Joan Collins was on Dynasty and ruled the airwaves. However, the fact that both ladies mentioned were English and on prime-time soaps created a bit of buzz in the tabloids as it was rumored there would be rivalry. When cornered by one reporter Ms. Douglas (whom I ADORE) replied, "Well, we are both English but there IS a 20 year age difference." The gossip rags ran with that line. A short time later both ladies were at the same Hollywood party. Ms. Douglas feeling a bit embarrassed approached Ms. Collins and apologized for the gaffe and tried to assure her she meant no ill by the quote. Ms. Collins paused for a moment, looked her up and down and replied, "For your sake I hope so, my dear."

Alfred Hitchcock was being interviewed by a reporter during the filming of Lifeboat. The reporter asked about whether or not the complaints that Tallulah Bankhead's refusal to wear underwear were true. Apparently, it was rumored she was creating a problem for the men who were behind her on the ladder as they climbed up into the huge water tank where the filming took place.

Knowing full well the rumors were true he thought for a second before replying, "I really can't say. I suggest you speak to makeup, or perhaps, HAIRDRESSING."

Oscar Levant on Doris Day, "I can remember Doris Day from before she was a virgin."

Some bitchy moments need no words. From AMC blogs..

During the filming of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Ms. Joan Crawford, then on the board of the Pepsi Cola Company and widow of CEO Alfred Steele, had a cooler of Pepsi products installed on the set. Soon after, a Coke machine appeared. It's unclear whether or not Davis was behind the machine, but she was rumored to have toasted with Ms. de Havilland after Crawford's departure from the film. They toasted over a couple of frosty Cokes!

Ken Anderson said...

This was really enjoyable! I miss the days of erudite and witty insults. When the IMDB and internet generation disagree or express a criticism about the arts, they instantly resort to the most banal schoolyard-level insults (usually misspelled or grammatically challenged). Reading these quotes was a reminder that one can do more damage with a sharpened rapier than a heavy bludgeon. A very fun post!
(Also loved the many faces of Joan Rivers.)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post.
We need a Noël Coward special!
Or better yet a Joan Rivers special, but that would be a lot of work.

grandoldmovies said...

Oh, dish, dish! What a fun read - thanks for posting!

Unknown said...

I I own a book called Hollywood Babble On that has many of these quotes. Get a copy!