Mark Evanier has a spectacular article about the delicate balance between ageism in Hollywood and moving on with the times, not purely holding on to the past. You not only can read it here -- you should.
The article deals with a lot of issues and personalities, but at the heart of it are tales about Howard Morris (who came to fame on Sid Caesar's TV series, Your Show of Shows) and Sid Caesar himself, centering on a story about why Caesar was almost on the show Cheers, but wasn't.
Mark also discusses a famous story about the two-time Oscar winner Shelly Winters. Basically, in the tale, she went into a casting office and is asked what she's done. Supposedly, she reached into a big bag she was carrying, pulled out two Oscar statuettes, and slammed them down on the desk.
Like Mark, I have no idea if the story is true. Mark mentions in a subsequent post that someone wrote him to describe having seen Shelly Winters tell the story on a TV talk show, so it must me true. One thing I do know (as a former publicist) is that the fact that Shelly Winters (or any actor) tells a story on TV doesn’t make it true. People tell stories all the time to make themselves look better. For all we know, it never happened but she’d told it so often that she believes it. Or maybe it's true. The reason I’ve always questioned it being true, though, and doubt it is because of one thing I’ve never heard answered -- what in the world was Shelly Winters doing going around town with two Oscars in a big bag?? Is it possible that she did that day, sure. But I doubt it. I’d be more likely to believe that she carried them around every day. But even that, I find unlikely.
I actually worked with Shelly Winters once on a movie, back in my ne'er-do-well days when I was unit publicist. The movie was Jury Duty with Pauly Shore and also Tia Carrere (who I later worked with again on High School High), both perfectly pleasant, though the nicest guy on the film was Stanley Tucci. Anyway, I was only hired to be on the film for two weeks, so I didn’t get the full experience of Shelly Winters, and therefore can't say I knew her or knew what she was Really Like. What short experience I did have was very pleasant. Working with actors as a publicist was never my favorite part of being a publicist, but I had a good time dealing with her. Then, a few months after the film wrapped, I was talking with the PR guy from the agency that had hired me. It became his responsibility to cover the film with me gone. And he said it was hell, solely because of Shelly Winters. Pure, unadulterated hell. Shelly Winters, he said, was as horribly difficult and pure hellish as anyone he’d ever dealt with. I don’t know if I lucked out with timing -- a two-week doughnut hole of goodness, like the eye of a hurricane -- or if it was because I was “on the set” and therefore she saw me as part of company, or what. But I have always been thrilled that the timing worked out how it did. And glad that my experience working with a film legend was a good one.
But read Mark's article. It's so thoughtful, smart, fair-minded and good. And here/
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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