RIP Angela Lansbury

There are some performers whose career is so indelible that we believe that they are immortal. The truth is that no one lives forever and we all go at some point.

The legendary actress Angela Lansbury passed away on Tuesday. This star of stage and screen (big and small) has been in our collective cultural lives for as long as many of us can remember.

Most notably, she played Jessica Fletcher in the iconic 1980s television show Murder, She Wrote and was the voice of Mrs. Potts in the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast. I remember watching both as a child and feeling as if she was just a natural who spoke to the audience, regardless of the role she played.

She was 96. May her memory be a blessing. Z”L

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It’s Not About The Clothes-It’s About Power And Perception

One of the myths of rape is that the victim was asking for it. She was probably wearing an outfit that was revealing and maybe she was also a little drunk.

Unfortunately, this disgusting myth has become ingrained in our overall culture. It’s an excuse that allows the rapists to get away with their crimes and blame the victims.

A woman could be wearing almost anything and be raped. She could be wearing anything from a nuns habit or a burka to the tiniest of bikinis and that wouldn’t mean damn thing to the rapist.

In short, it’s not about what she is wearing or not wearing-its about perception and power. The perception is that women are second class citizens and there to be a sex object for a man whenever he feels in the mood for sex. The power comes from the perception and his view that he is better than his victim.

Earlier in the year, as the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, designer Donna Karan defended Weinstein and blamed the victims. Respected actress Angela Lansbury made a similar statement the end of November. Both women have since rescinded their statements.

Make no mistake, there have been amazing strides in both the feminist movement and recognizing the true nature of rape and sexual assault. But for every step taken toward true equality, there are men and women (which gets my goat like few things can) who blame the victims instead of blaming the perpetrators and making it clear rape/sexual assault are wrong and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.



Thoughts On the 20th Anniversary of Anastasia

*Warning: this post contains spoilers read at your own risk.

On November 21st, 1997, the animated film Anastasia hit theaters.

Loosely based on the myth that Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia somehow survived the murder of her family in 1918, Anya (voiced by Meg Ryan) is an orphan who wants nothing more to find her family. Two con men, Dimitri (voiced by John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer) convince her that she is Anastasia. Unbeknownst to Anya, there is a reward for the safe return of the grand duchess to her grandmother, The Dowager Empress Marie (voiced by Angela Lansbury). Neither Dimitri or Vladimir had any plans of splitting the reward with Anya, if she is believed to be Anastasia.

While this is happening, Rasputin (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) has risen from the dead and is eager to finish what he started ten years ago.

I look at this film, as I do its 1956 predecessor starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman, as a what if version of history. Especially in regards to the fact that Anastasia and Dimitri lived happily ever after. Marriages between commoners and royalty did not happen in that period.

Granted, the remains of  all of the Romanovs were not found and made saints of the Russian Orthodox Church until after this film came out. This left wiggle room for the screenwriters to use the myth of the surviving Anastasia as the skeleton of the narrative.

As a narrative loosely based on a myth, it’s a reasonably good film. But to hold it up as historical fact requires a bit too much for me.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Angela Lansbury Sings Beauty and the Beast

This year, Beauty and The Beast turns 25.

To celebrate this remarkable film’s anniversary, Angela Lansbury sang the title song for a live audience.

I got chills watching the video.

There is something about this film, this narrative and the characters that inhabited this world that ingrained itself into my former child self a quarter of a century ago.

It does not matter how old I get or where I go in life, I adore this movie and I feel old knowing that this film is 25.

Perhaps this is a reason to pop in my DVD once more and re-inhabit, if only for a short time, my former child self?

Throwback Thursday-Actor Spotlight-Angela Lansbury-Murder She Wrote (1984-1996) & The Court Jester (1955)

At the age of 90, Angela Lansbury is one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Her career of 70 years has included a variety of roles.

In this Throwback Thursday/Actor Spotlight post, I am going to talk about two very different performances by Ms. Lansbury.

The first is Murder She Wrote (1984-1996).

One of the most popular television shows of its era, Murder She Wrote is based around Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), a retired teacher who has a second career as a crime novelist and amateur detective. By sheer happenstance (or the magic of television writing) crime and murder seem to follow Jessica wherever she goes. Using her wit and her intelligence, Jessica is able to solve crimes that no one else can.

Three decades earlier, Ms. Lansbury was part of an ensemble cast lead by Danny Kaye in the movie The Court Jester (1955).

In Medieval England, King Roderick (Cecil Parker) sits on the throne. The only issue that Roderick should not be on the throne. The rightful king is an infant boy with a purple pimpernel birthmark. Roderick needs to get rid of the boy before he can be found. But to get to Roderick, the key to the King’s secret tunnel must be found.

In the forest of England, The Black Fox is an outlaw who is working to ensure that Roderick is overthrown and the boy who should be king will be king. Among the Fox’s men is Hawkins (Danny Kaye), a man who prefers not to fight.  Maid Jean (Glynis Johns) is tasked with taking care of the boy and Hawkins. While traveling, Jean and Hawkins meet the King’s new jester.   Knocking the jester out, they come up with a plan for Hawkins to become the jester. Naming himself Giacomo, Jean and Hawkins plan to infiltrate the king’s inner circle and find the key.

It sounds too easy, right? Nope. Roderick falls for Jean and his daughter, the Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury), who is betrothed against her will, falls for Giacomo. Add in a witch, poison pellets and a random song that are supposed to be recognition codes and you have a very funny movie.

Even though it is 30 years old, Murder She Wrote still holds up. Jessica Fletcher is a smart, capable woman of a certain age. Then and now, a woman of a certain is most likely a grandmother who the audience only sees as the grandmother. She is not seen a standalone character outside of that role.

The Court Jester is my favorite Danny Kaye movie for several reasons. First of all, it is very funny. Decades after this movie was made, fans still went up to Danny Kaye and asked him to repeat “The Brew That Is True” speech. Secondly, the women in this movie are smarter than the men. Hawkins maybe the lead character, but Maid Jean is a badass female (as much as a female could have been badass in 1955). Gwendolyn may be the Princess, but is smart enough to go about getting what she wants, even if it means a little trickery on  her part.

Do I recommend them? Absolutely.

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