Top of the Month
Very shortly we’ll hear the Dallas Symphony Orchestra tuning up for the first performances of its 75th Anniversary season. When Louis Lane steps on the podium and resolves the discord into music, it will be a gratifying moment. Particularly gratifying, since a year ago there seemed little chance that the discord into which the symphony and its management had fallen would ever resolve itself.
Despite a truncated and disappointing season last year, there is every reason to hope for a renaissance of the Dallas Symphony. Its Summertop pops season was a success – not only financially, but as David Ritz’s comments on some of the Summertop performances (seep.28) suggest, artistically as well. And the fact that the Symphony begins its season in cooperation with another Dallas arts organization, the Dallas Civic Ballet, suggests a determination of arts organizations in Dallas to stand together rather than to fall apart.
Funding for the arts remains a problem, however. The mood of people involved in the arts in Dallas – or anywhere, for that matter – is never likely to be optimistic. And when the governor recently vetoed the increased state appropriation for the arts, they were furious and discouraged.
There still exists a romantic notion that the arts thrive on hardship, that starving in a garret, staging productions in old warehouses with makeshift equipment, and generally making-do-with-what-you-can-get is somehow good for artists, stimulating then-creative enzymes. Occasionally some fine things emerge from companies working on scrape-by budgets, as Charles Matthews suggests in his review of the performances of the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas (see p.39).But more often than not, economic pressure forces artists into dissipating their talents by spending a lot of time on hack work, and forces companies to pass over fresh and innovative plays and ballets and operas in favor of crowd-pleasers. Thus for every new play by a new playwright (a Preston Jones, let’s say), there are ten productions of old Neil Simon comedies. For every appearance by an innovative dance company, there are ten Swan Lakes or Nutcrackers. And when has Dallas seen a new opera? (Or even one composed in the twentieth century?)
So it’s a pleasure to hear of the generosity of organizations like The 500, Inc., which recently distributed $95,000 to 13 local arts groups, including funds earmarked for contemporary American dance, choral music, art, theater, and film. It would be a greater pleasure if we could hear of dozens of other such organizations, aware that the arts need money, and that they need it for new works and young artists, and not just for superstars and crowd-pleasers.
Love and Death, at the UA Cine.
Here is why I love Woody Allen: He is the most modestly self-indulgent self-involved star we have. And, God Bless America, he is selling – and selling big. What a wonder!
Now there is a tremendous commotion over his last film, Love and Death – an Esquire cover, a new book devoted to analyzing Woody. He is tremendously hot; he was pictured in tennis shoes on front pages of newspapers across America escorting the First Lady to a chic dance recital. Yet, I wonder, how much analysis is needed? Very little, I think, to understand why Woody generally and Love and Death specifically are almost too entertaining to be believed.
Love and Death is, to my mind, by far his best film. In fact, you find yourself loving the film the way you love your pet cat or your teddy bear. It’s cute in the way Allen movies tend to be cute – lovable for the honesty of Woody’s personality, irresistible in the way Woody wins over your affections. Which, of course, is the key: Woody places himself in the dead center of anything he does. And he never – not for a moment – alters his persona, his film identity, which is not a bit different from his stand-up comic identity, from his New Yorker short story identity, from the only public identity he has ever peddled.
He is the N.Y.U. graduate (or perhaps drop-out) who majored in philosophy, who fought his way out of his father’s butcher shop or dress store in Brooklyn, dreaming sweeter middle class dreams. He’s in awe of, yet intimidated by, intellectuals. He is essentially middle-brow, with modest aspirations to be high-brow. He knows, though, he’ll never make it – and lets you know that he knows. His two greatest fears are sex and death. And of course he is shy – desperately shy. He is a buffoon who understands that he is a buffoon. He is always a little boy, an ugly, shy little Jewish boy, and one cannot help – I cannot help – but love him for exposing himself.
So if you buy the character, if you buy the essential Woody Allen, everything he touches becomes hysterically funny. Love and Death is nothing more than Woody recreating a shlock Hollywood War and Peace and placing himself – the neurotic Jewish kid from New York – in the middle of the action, with all his fears and doubts and big city hang-ups.
It’s important to realize that Love and Death is not a parody of Tolstoy. It’s a parody of Tolstoy as played by Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer and Henry Fonda. The Woody Allen in Love and Death – he calls himself Boris – bears no resemblance to anyone who ever appeared in a great Russian novel. It’s the same Woody we’ve known all along. And the plot, the characters, the incidents – they are all stock junk Hollywood fare. The Woody Allen character, the guy we met in Bananas or Sleeper, would have never read all of War and Peace or The Brothers Karamazov, but would have certainly seen the movies (or read the Cliff’s Notes).
If Love and Death is funnier than the other Allen stuff, it’s because the situation is more absurd. Woody in the czarist Russia of California directors, to my mind, is crazier than Woody in the future, or in a banana republic, or in an Antonioni movie.
The film moves like greased lightning. The sight gags are quick; the one-liners (sometimes sounding like Groucho, sometimes like Sid Caesar) are punchier than ever before; Diane Keaton is terrific, the perfect complement to Woody (as Imogene Coca was to Sid). And the movie is short, as it should be, saying little, saying it quickly, gaining great momentum while ripping your sides apart.
Love and Death is happy fun, easy to laugh at. Yet one does see a little boy – Woody actually has a child actor playing himself as a kid – who is frightened of death. The fear is joked about; philosophy is discussed, theories on the existence of God argued in the sophomoric way college kids debate in dorm rooms late into the night; there is a great naivete about “existence.” But funny or not, death pursues little Woody, little Boris, until the very end. The joke is no joke.
In Bergman’s dark and splendid film, The Seventh Seal, death is dressed in a cape of black, carrying a scythe. Woody, spoofing Ingmar, dresses Death in white and covers up Death’s face who is the invention of a child, the product of a kid’s nightmare.
Only at the end, as a man who is already “dead,” is Boris able to play with Mr. Death, as the character in the Seventh Seal held hands and blithely followed Mr. Death up the mountainside. The final scene – Woody poking Bergman in the ribs – is lovely: Boris and Death, chasing themselves playfully around the forest, as if in this life, in this film, in this parody, dying – and the fear of dying, the fear of the unknown – could ever be a laughing matter. And if a joke or two could ever chase away the boogie man, Woody Allen deserves credit for trying. Those of us who share those childhood fears, those of us who have never grown very far beyond those early insecurities and dreams and anxieties, are, I suspect, Woody’s biggest fans.
Bite the Bullet, in a multiple run.
For once, an uncomplicated Western. No neurotic protagonists, no kinky sex-and-vi-olence, no winning-the-west as a metaphor for Watergate. Just lots of comfortable stereotypes: Hooker with Heart of Gold; Kid Who Becomes a Man; and Ben Johnson doing his Sam the Lion turn once again.
I think what makes this film work is not the story, which is run-of-the-mill stuff about a long-distance horse-race, or the direction, which is workman-like stuff from Richard Brooks, who made such entertainments as Elmer Gantry and The Professionals. It’s the absolute lightness of its cast, and the fact that they look like they’re having fun. Ten years ago, this movie would have been made with such wooden Indians as Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Natalie Wood, with, oh, Fabian as the Kid. Instead, we have such attractively rough-edged types as Gene Hackman and James Coburn doing a buddy-buddy bit. (Did Newman and Redford turn this one down?) Candice Bergen, who becomes a more interesting screen personality with each appearance, swaggers through the hooker bit with a good deal of humor. Bergen’s lovely face has a permanent ironic smile on it which suggests a certain detachment from every role which she’s cast. As the tough, liberated woman, she’s very good.
Mind you, this is no great shakes as a movie. It has a few miscalculations. Brooks doesn’t know how to make his stereotypes stay on the right side of parody, there are some arty slow-motion sequences that tend to run beyond one’s interest in them, and the ending is flat and muddled. The metamorphosis of the Kid into the Man is totally unconvincing, largely because Jan-Michael Vincent is so energetically right as the swaggering punk that we rather miss him when he goes straight. But for all its flaws, it’s an agreeable summer diversion if you can stop thinking wistfully of what John Ford or Howard Hawks would have done with this.
Mountain View College may be the worst possible location, and 12:15 p.m. on September 18 the worst possible time, but if you can make it, try to see the showing of Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game. In 1962, an international poll of film critics voted it third place in a list of the greatest films of all time; critic Pauline Kael’s comment on the ranking is, “a numbered honor is an insult to the greatest living film artist.”
The Fortune, at NorthPark I and II
This farce is based on a rather disagreeable premise: two guys hustle an heiress into marrying one of them, but soon find she’s too much for them to handle, so they try to find ways of killing her. That makes a passable black humor situation if the characters are kept as flat as animated cartoon figures, so that you don’t get involved with them as “real” people. But The Fortune stars a fascinating newcomer, Stock-ard Channing, as the heiress, and she keeps popping out of the two-dimensional role into reality. It’s as if someone tried to make a cartoon with a real live coyote and road-runner.
Channing is quite simply the best new comic actress in years, but another knockout comedy performance is given by Jack Nicholson, who is cast against type as a slow-witted klutz. Unfortunately, Warren Beatty’s comic talents are no match for the other two. Channing and Nicholson can overplay their roles because they are so loose and free, while Beatty seems never to unwind. There is always something tight and self-conscious about him.
Once again, Mike Nichols has made an amusing but flawed film. It is at least a step back in the right direction – away from the disastrous Catch-22 and Day of the Dolphin. Some of the brightest moments of the film recapture the screwball accuracy of old Nichols and May routines, such as the frowzy landlady’s maunderings about how incomprehensible it is that anyone would kill himself in a world that has such wonderful things in it as trees and flowers and . . . radio. But Nichols loses control of the farce in the last half hour and the film fizzles to a slow ambiguous conclusion that seems anticlimactic after the breakneck pace of some of the earlier scenes. And someone should have told him that gags involving rattlesnakes are never funny.
Jaws, at the Inwood.
It’s interesting that upon completion of the filming of Jaws, none of those involved were particularly thrilled with what they had. Some, including actor Richard Drey-fuss, were openly badmouthing it – “I haven’t seen it yet, but I didn’t like shooting the film.” There were various studio hassles and, all in all, the whole thing was apparently not much fun. Yet in its final form, Jaws is packing them in (gross box office receipts for the first week of nationwide run were a record high and many estimate it will become the biggest money maker of all time) and for good reason – it’s fun, great scary fun.
Somebody in the editing room must have worked some magic. First to go were the sex scenes – the love triangle of the novel was discarded completely (a PG rating is not exactly box office poison). A wonderfully spooky musical score was woven with perfection into the tensest sequences. But most importantly, any successful thriller chiller is dependent upon a few heart-startling moments (who can forget Alan Ar-kin’s dead man’s leap in Wait Until Dark?) and Jaws has them. Just when you know the big bad shark is going to strike, sure enough he doesn’t. And just when you release your grip on the arm of your seat….
Group fear is such a joy; you have your screamers, you have your nervous laughers, you have your petrified gapers. And, of course, you have your killjoys who refuse to be coerced by a silly movie and walk out muttering about exploitation films. Well, it is exploitation and it does have some silly moments, but in the end everybody cheers the hero – and isn’t that nice.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, at the Esquire.
An unexplained cultural phenomenon is that, according to somebody’s TV survey, Dallas is second only to New York City as the hottest Monty Python hotbed in the country. It may have something to do with pride of ownership, because KERA-Chan-nel 13 was the first station in America to buy the BBC’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Whatever the reason, it shows – Monty Python and the Holy Grail is playing to full houses of Python fanatics. And considering the sophistication (some will surely disagree) of the humor, it’s a surprisingly young house – mean age must be somewhere around 19.
It’s typical Python cynical, giddy, irreverent, unbridled humor and surprisingly well-sustained, though the middle third is decidedly weaker than the rest. Prior exposure to the group’s television efforts is definitely an aid to appreciating the movie, especially the more subtle nuances of each of the individual players; it is also an aid to just hearing the movie, since the rapid-fire, heavily accented dialogue is interspersed with constant chucklings from the audience.
If nothing else, the film reiterates a notion that seems to be at the group’s core – humor need have no boundaries of taste and no limits to absurdity. Indeed, that’s what they thrive on. As King Arthur continues his quest for the Holy Grail, he encounters a belligerent knight and proceeds to hack the hapless knight apart limb by limb. Undaunted by the loss of both arms and both legs, the gallant trunk challenges Arthur to continue to fight. “What are you going to do,” asks the incredulous Arthur, “bleed on me?” (Well, you had to be there.)
Nashville, at the NorthPark I and II
It’s time someone said some calm words about Nashville, which has been called a masterpiece by every critic I respect and most of the ones I don’t. The result is that a lot of people have been hyped into expecting the film to have them dancing in the aisles. At least, that’s what I sensed in the audience around me, many of whom plainly had no idea how to watch the film. About a fourth of them laughed manically at all the wrong moments, while the rest sat in a detached and unresponsive silence.
Nashville doesn’t tease or titillate its audience, and if you’re looking for a quick high or a swift catharsis, you’re better off at Return of the Pink Panther or Jaws. Director Robert Altman demands that the audience keep the activities of 24 major characters in mind at all times. That’s a pretty large order for audiences used to the say-it-three-times exposition of TV.
It is, I think, a marvelous film, perhaps a great one, if only because there is no other film like it. It is not, I think, as important as some reviewers have claimed – the ones who say (without explaining how) that it’s a film about America. Nor is it a flawless masterwork: there are four or five too many characters; the music is mediocre; the political candidate whose campaign draws the film together is too broadly drawn, as is the BBC interviewer played by Geraldine Chaplin.
Critics are highly verbal people usually under the pressure of a deadline. So they tend to go for the swift formulaic view of a movie: it’s about Success, or Apathy, or America on the Eve of the Bicentennial, they say. The problem is that Altman’s film is too complex for such reductive judgments. You can play lots of intellec-tual games with the film, to be sure. It has some nice symbolic parallels between music-industry manipulation and political manipulation. Its song lyrics comment ironically on the events which happen be-fore, during, and after the singing of them. Because the motivations and even the identities of some of the characters are withheld, you can spend some time puz-zling out why they did what they did. If these games interest you, by all means play them, but don’t go to Nashville for the message.For what makes Nashville a great film is Robert Altman’s warm, compassionate, ironic, but unideological view of human be-ings. Ronee Blakley’s frail, highstrung C&W star is heartbreaking. Lily Tomlin creates such a moving character that one almost regrets the previous waste of her talents on trivialities like Laugh-In. Even the heels in Nashville – the narcissistic stud played by Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy’s slick political advance man, and Allen Garfield as Blakley’s rapacious pro-moter-husband – are viewed with under-standing rather than bitterness.CM.Rollerball, at the Medallion.If after Jaws one feels he had fun, after Rollerball one only feels he’s been had. Us-ing the lure of the “near future,” Rollerballpromises to be many things that it’s not, such as frightening or enlightening or visionary. At best, it is somewhat entertaining and even then in a way that was likely not intended by director Norman Jewison.
The only scenes in which any curiosity is aroused are those of the sport of Rollerball itself – highly bizarre, yet not too farfetched. Elements of roller derby and motorcycle racing with traces of hockey and football combine to form this future world’s one and only ultra-violent ultra-sport. At one point, the world champion Houston team meets the Tokyo team who take to the rink in yellow (of course) uniforms and begin a comical form of kung fu roller skating. Suddenly you realize what this film should have been and almost is anyway, unintentionally – a satire on near-future-visionary-movies.
The trite notions of a corporate political state and a pleasure-satiated society are almost, but not quite, overworked enough to become satire. But when James Caan, as rollerball superstar Jonathan K., steps out of line and goes on a half-baked quest for some nebulous truth, he encounters the great, all-knowing computer, Zero, and its keeper, played by Ralph Richardson, who ends up performing a strange love-hate, fondling-slapping ritual with Zero. You don’t know whether it’s intended as humor or horror. At the end of the film, you’re still wondering. Too bad; it might have made a very funny movie.
The Wind and the Lion, at the Preston Royal
Three years from now, who’ll remember the title of this movie? Gone with the Lion? The Wind in Winter? Too bad, for it’s half a notch above the usual super-spectacle, largely because of the presence of Sean Connery and Candice Bergen in its leading roles. Connery does this sort of swashbuckling melodrama (a swashmeller, perhaps?) better than anyone since Erroll Flynn, for unlike the other major contenders for these roles, Yul Brynner and Omar Sharif, Connery can act. And Candice Bergen has developed some fire and self-confidence as she has matured; no longer content to hide behind her beautiful mask, she has begun to assert a vibrant, “liberated” persona.
Unfortunately, director John “Milius, who also wrote the screenplay, has no idea what his movie is about. Unlike most directors of spectacles, who muck up interesting history with phony romance, Milius has mucked up an interesting romance with some phony history. An American, Mrs. Pedicaris (Bergen), is abducted by a Berber chieftain (Connery). Immediately, Teddy Roosevelt (competently played by Brian Keith) starts waving the Big Stick at the Moroccan government. No matter that the real Pedicaris was a man and that the military encounter was all talk, Milius has to turn the film into a Statement about American Powerlust. Almost all the scenes involving Roosevelt and the American diplomats, politicians and military men are embarrassingly bad.
The Wind and the Lion is the sort of movie that cries out for the return of the double bill. Insubstantial and occasionally inept, it still has enough color and intrigue to make it a satisfactory diversion for a hot summer night, but not at current ticket prices. Teamed up with another popcorn movie, this sort of glossy entertainment might be tolerable. As is, it’s only a moderately entertaining escape from summer reruns.
UTD Film Society, Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Founders North Auditorium, University of Texas at Dallas, Campbell Rd in Richardson. 690-2281.August 20: The Red and the White (Hungary 1968). A Miklos Jansco film about the Russian Civil War of 1918.
August 27: The Ox-Bow Incident (USA 1943). Henry Fonda in William Wellman’s Adult Western.
September 3: The Ballad of Cable Hogue (USA 1970). A Sam Peckinpah western with Stella Stevens and Jason Robards.
September 17: Showboat (USA 1936). The Jerome Kern musical with Helen Morgan, Irene Dunne, and Paul Robeson.
UTD Student Government Film Series, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. in Founders North Auditorium, University of Texas at Dallas, Campbell Rd in Richardson. 690-2281.
August 15: The Caine Mutiny (1954). Humphrey Bogart plays Captain Queeg in the adaptation of a Herman Wouk novel.
August 22: The Frontiersman. William Boyd in a Hopalong Cassidy western.
August 29: The Philadelphia Story (1940). George Cukor’s classic sophisticated comedy with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. Also MASH (1969), Robert Altman’s first hit film with Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland.
September 5: Dirty Harry (1971). Clint Eastwood in Don Siegel’s cop film.
September 12: Brewster McCloud (1970). A screwball fantasy directed by Robert Altman with Bud Cort and Sally Kellerman.
September 19: The Conversation (1974). Francis Ford Coppola’s film about electronic surveillance, with Gene Hackman. September 26: Take the Money and Run (1969) The first film to be written and directed by and to star, Woody Allen.
Mountain View College Film Series, Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. in Room W-188.
September 11: Grand Illusion (France 1938). Jean Renoir’s classic war film with Erich vor Stroheim and Jean Gabin.
September 18: Rules of the Game (France 1939). One of the most highly-acclaimed films of all time, directed by Jean Renoir.
September 25: La Ronde (France 1950). A sophisticated comedy wth Jean-Louis Barrault. Danielle Darrieux, and Simone Signoret, directed by Max Ophuls.
NTSU Fine Arts Films, Sundays and Mondays, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the TUB snack bar, NTSU campus, Denton. 267-0651.
September 7 and 8: The Seventh Sea! (Sweden 1956). An Ingmar Berman film with Max von Sydow.
September 14 and 15: Blow-Up (Britain 1966). Antonioni’s look at swinging London with David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave.
September 21 and 22: Dr. Strangelove (USA 1964), Stanley Kubrick’s apocalyptic comedy with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott.
September 28 and 29: Cries and Whispers (Sweden 1972). Liv Ullmann, Harriet Andersson, and Ingrid Thulin in a film by Ingmar Bergman.
Classic Films series of the Dallas Public Library. Free.
August 30: The Thief of Bagdad (1924). A silent movie swashbuckler with Douglas Fairbanks, directed by Raoul Walsh. (3:30 p.m., Polk-Wisdom branch.)
September 13: King Kong (1933). Fay Wray and Bruce Cabot in the greatest monster movie of all. (2:30 p.m., Park Forest branch.)
September 22: Citizen Kane (1941). Orson Welles’ first and greatest film. (7 p.m., Polk-Wisdom branch.)
Saturday Afternoon at the Movies, 1:30 p.m. at the Fort Worth Museum, 1309 Montgomery. (817) 738-9215.
August 16: Beat the Devil (1954). A foreign-intrigue spoof with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Gina Lollobrigida and Jennifer Jones. Directed by John Huston with a script by Truman Capote.
August 30: Notorious (1946). A Hitchcock thriller with Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains.
Children’s Film Circus, sponsored by the USA Film Festival, will screen children’s! films selected by New York film critic Barbara Bryant, August 29 through 31. Showings are 7 to 10 p.m., in the Bob Hope Theater, on the SMU campus, with matinees from 2 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday. The matinees will be repeats of the previous evening’s shows. Tickets available from USA Film Festival/Box 3105/Dallas, TX 75275. 692-2979.
The Divinity of Sarah
I cringed when I read the news about Summertop. No, not more pops for the masses, not at the very moment when the city was crying for something classier!
Nonetheless, I went. And not only were the first three concerts excellent, two were fabulous. My apologies to the planners. I hope they can keep it up.
I suspect, though, the high quality of the first three concerts was due largely to the stars – Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson and Sarah Vaughan. Tony was better than I’ve heard him in years. His Italo-American Sinatraesque easy swinging style played just right in that space between the Magic Pan and J.C. Penney. It was an On Night.
Willie just sang and sang and sang, convincing me that he is among the best – the very best – country and western singers this cowboy nation has produced, counting the Snows and Cashes and Williamses. He’s so laid back, so casual, so sincere, so self-confident, it’s a pleasure to be living during his prime. And in both Tony and Willie’s case, the orchestra stayed out of the way.
But it was Sarah who walked off with the prize.
Before her concert, I was convinced that there, in the middle of NorthPark, in the middle of that perfectly middle American picture postcard, she would sing down to the suburban crowd. Instead, she dazzled us with the sort of scary stuff which enabled her to feel right at home in the Forties in Diz and Bird’s crazy Big Apple bop-land. She was nothing more and nothing less than a magnificent jazz musician.
A week later, the moment Saturday night became Sunday morning at Avery Fisher Hall, a week after a long, dismal and confused affair called the Newport Jazz Festival in New York, she brought down the house again, this time winning over a far hipper crowd which treated her with the admiration and love respectful subjects reserve for their queens.
Still, she was better in Dallas – more of a jazz singer, taking more chances, greater risks, being truer to herself.
The evening was hot. The audience looked like those casual throngs who attend Cowboy games in Irving. They might have been Roger Williams fans, for all I knew, more anxious to hear June Carter – the name by which Sarah jokingly introduced herself in Dallas and New York – than the Divine One. What would she do, I wondered, to play to the sensibilities of the summertime crowd?
Nothing. That was the surprise. For after Louis Lane and orchestra waltzed through a mindless medley of pop slush, Sarah took over. The evening was announced as a tribute to Gershwin, but that, too, made me skeptical as I remembered the disastrous Ella Fitzgerald concert that was to be a tribute to Ellington earlier in the year.
But Sarah remained true to Gershwin, singing more than a dozen of his finest songs. There was to be no compromising the sophistication of her jazz. When she sang ballads backed by the symphony, I was almost certain that they were playing those lush Hal Mooney arrangements from her Mercury album, Sarah Sings, Gershwin, one of my Bar Mitzvah gifts from 18 years ago, a haunting record which, night after night, had me staring at the ceiling, motionless, fixated, as she spun her way through “I’ve got a crush on you swceecccetie pie,” driving up the “sweetie pie” with her falsetto into the highest reaches of paradise.
That happened time after time at Sum-mertop. “Foggy Day” opened with “foggy foggy foggy foggy foggy foggy daaaaay,” with the sort of twists and turns and contortions which drive me crazy. Sarah is simply a great jazz player who, instead of playing tenor like Eddie Davis or trumpet like Harry Edison, happens to sing. And what a thrill it was to see – and to hear – Percy Heath and Jimmy Cobb and Carl Schroeder. Percy Heath: Is there a more discreet bassist alive? Jimmy Cobb: That most restrained, that most eloquent of drummers. And Schroeder, an accompanist in the tradition of Mal Waldron and Jimmy Rowles, a master of understatement. It was a trio of great lyrical subtlety.
“The Lamp is Low” cooked on a low flame; “But Not for Me” had some of the nicest scatting I’ve heard in years. Like a judge who has heard it and seen it and read it all, Sarah has grown more sagacious, more knowing, more cunning about the ways of the musical world. Hers is a rare instrument and nothing, not even the thought of performing in a circus tent in Texas, is keeping her from moving ahead, first destroying the cliche of the melody – as she did with “Someone to Watch Over Me” – and then rebuilding, recreating, reshaping the song according to her own smoky vision so that the tune is given an urgency, a sense of credibility it would otherwise lack. And the crowd, suburban or not, went nuts.
I became uncomfortable only when Sarah slipped into her operatic-like falsetto, culminating with that silly-sounding vibrato at the very top. That has always seemed a bit of technical self-indulgence which draws too much attention to itself, becoming a roadblock to Sarah’s smooth travels. (Cleo Laine is the most blatant example of this. To my mind, she’s an enormously overrated singer. Laine is all technique, as she displayed during her Newport debut this year, but to no avail. Her style is confused; she is lost somewhere in the never-never land of Broadway belting, blues singing and jazz novelty kibitzing. Her range is so staggering, her technique so complete, that she literally does not know what to do and spends the evening running up and down scales, pushing herself into higher and higher stratospheres. She’s like a bully at the playground who can’t keep from punching out little kids; her songs are her victims.)
At Newport/New York, Sarah sang with the same tasteful Schroeder/Heath/Cobb trio for over two hours, bobbing and weaving her way through 29 songs. (I was counting.) And of the 12 Newport concerts I attended, it was among the two or three best. Still, her material was somewhat canned, too many songs like “I’ll Remember April” or “Tenderly,” overdone standards to which too many jazz singers have been drawn for too long.
In Dallas, though, the foreignness of the symphony orchestra and the concentration on Gershwin enabled her to move away from the routine and inspired her to take greater risks.
No matter, she was still a smash in New York. “I’ve Got It Bad” was sung at such an intriguing snail’s pace, so lethargic, so slurred, so thrilling, I could feel my heart thumping faster.
Sarah, in Dallas and at Lincoln Center, is back at the top of her form. After decades of fading in and fading out, years of almost desperately looking for a hit – “Broken Hearted Melody” and the like – years of the wrong production of the wrong materials, years of questionable taste in confused genres, she has returned to herself. Jazz singers are a sturdy lot, if only they hold on to what they know. That Helen Humes and Sylvia Syms, both wonderful at Newport, could come out of the woodwork after all this time and still turn our heads around as though they were spring chickens out of the Thirties, is phenomenal. Equally as phenomenal is Sarah Vaughan, in the tent in Dallas, at Avery Fisher Hall, mesmerizing the initiated and uninitiated alike, putting us under the spell that only a very, very few jazz artists still weave so well.
Is there a more charming and ingratiating superstar than Beverly Sills? She has created innumerable finely-etched operatic portraits, from the mad ladies of Donizetti and Bellini, to the vivacious Rosina of The Barber of Seville, to the flirtatious Manon, to the domineering Donna Anna of Don Giovanni. With the Dallas Symphony on September 26 and 27, she’ll be spinning out the trills and roulades of three bel canto composers, when she does arias by Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini. And you can bet that each will be informed by the emotional and intellectual commitment Sills brings to every role. The symphony will perform works by Verdi, Mendelssohn, and Respighi.
All the people I liked at Newport Jazz Festival in New York this summer were over 40. Does that tell you something? There were some exceptions – Art Blakey’s tenor player David Schnitter, Keith Jarrett – but very few. I find myself, more and more, swimming in the mainstream.
Miles Davis is a good example. (He’s over 40 but is fighting it.) It is time to publicly confess that Miles has lost me – or perhaps Miles has left me. Either way, I don’t know where he is. I checked out after Bitches Brew. His new album, Get Up with It (Columbia), is as baffling as was his appearance at Newport/New York. Certain pleasures can be gleaned – Miles is always threateningly elegant, a wonderfully mannered dresser, mysterious behind huge dark glasses, the quintessential jazz player, cool at any and all costs. So he appears on his new record; so he appeared in New York.
And both times I tried. Both times I failed. The electronic/rock group assault is deadening, gives us no relief, leaves us no space to breathe. Occasionally I hear traces of the brilliant old Miles-a decisive phrase, a single-minded pursual of a lyrical idea. But those moments are few and far between.
I wait for the record and for the concert to end. I want Miles – the real Miles – back, just as Rahsaan Roland Kirk on his new album, The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color (Atlantic) has hinted, by parodying Miles’ wonderful “Bye Bye Blackbird,” he wants the old Miles back. And if he can’t have him, crazy Kirk will do the next best thing: recreate Miles for us.
I have a soft spot in my heart for James Taylor and Carly Simon. Their new records – his is Gorilla (Warner Bros.), hers is Playing Possum (Elektra) – strike me as precisely the right sort of vocal fashion. They are our musical pets. Both have engaging, subtle voices; their writing is limited melodically; their lyrics are often embarrassingly facile, but so what? The couple has personality. And though one album may sound like another, the formula still turns a neat trick. Theirs is a genuine charm, though I suspect the real reason we buy the records is to bring their current lifestyles and personality poses (through the hip photographs on the covers) into our homes. (James is a bit straighter, shorter hair, white suit; Carly is happy and sexy as a kitten after her baby.) Syrupy or not, I like them both.
Within a single month no less than three we – can – sing – better – than – anyone – in – the – world albums were released: The O’Jays’ Survival (Philadelphia International) may be tedious after the third listening, but wonderful for the first two, especially “Give the People What The Want.”
Gamble-Huff produced the O’Jays. And they did even a better job producing Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, To Be True (Philadelphia International). The record’s incredibly and satisfyingly slick; here smart producers and front-line singers take to one another like Schnabel to Chopin. There’s not a bad cut, and the best are those you probably already know and love – “Where Are All My Friends” and “Bad Luck.”
The Persuasions and I Just Want to Sing with My Friends (A&M) is one of the great soul albums in recent world history. The a cappella selections are too sweet, too varied, too well-sung, too gloriously melodic to be believed: “Oh, What a Night,” “Touch the Hem of His Garment,” “A.B.C.’s of Love,” “All in the Game.”
Back to jazz and jazz-tinged items for a moment: Stan Getz was a lifesized bore at Newport/New York, almost falling asleep behind Mabel Mercer, going nowhere with his own group. His much celebrated record, Captain Marvel, is no better. Made several years ago and released only now, it’s easy going avant-garde, Stan noodling with Tony Williams, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke. I find the music flat, uninvuntive; Stan far too unadventurous, giving us nothing to cling to. Even “Lush Life,” which should bring out Getz’ most splendid side, seems ordinary.
There are two bummers which, in my opinion, are to be avoided. Both are on Atlantic, one white – Peggy Lee, Let’s Love – the other black – Roberta Flack, Feel Like Making Love. For both ladies, it’s all packaging. Peggy sounds barely alive, while Roberta (except for the lovely title tune) is more the product of her engineers than her inner voice.
The Manhattan Transfer is going on TV as a summer replacement. I worry. Their one album I have heard – The Manhattan Transfer (Atlantic) – achieves the highest fashion and lowest interest level of any new musical group of the season. They are oh-so-campy, oh-so-chic, sounding like a third-rate version of the Modernaires (who themselves were a crashing bore). It’s the Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties revisited, reminding us that much of the floo-floo music of those decades should be properly lost and forgotten.
Two final notes from the land of pasta: First, there’s no happier relationship between a film director and composer than the one involving Fellini and Rota. Close your eyes and listen to Nino Rota, The Films of Fellini (Cam), and you’ll see each Fellini movie dance inside your head. What strange and wonderful scoring!
For years, I have been wild about a singer who goes by the single name of Mina. In Italy, she is pure myth, as popular as a soccer hero. She is ugly, tasteful, subtle, vulgar, sensational, crude and refined – all in one. She is reminiscent of Piaf, Streisand, Garland. She is an extravagant Italian dish, and if you’re interested in indulging yourself I think that Frutta e verdura and Amanti di valore (PDU), of her recent albums, are by far the best.
These imports can be obtained through Rizzoli Bookstore, 712 5th Ave., NY, NY 10019.
Arkady Fomin, violin, accompanied by Simon Sargon on piano, in the first American recital of the Russian artist. Admission free. Sept 28 at 7:30 p.m., Temple Emanu-El/8500 Hill-crest/368-3613.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Festival ’75 opens the Symphony’s 1975-1976 season. Featured with the Symphony, conducted by Louis Lane, are Edward Villella and the Dallas Civic Ballet on September 11 and 13 at 3:15 p.m., pianist Van Clibum on September 18 at 8:15 p.m., 19 at 11 a.m., and 21 at 2:30 p.m.; and soprano Beverly Sills on September 26 at 8:15 p.m. and 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at Titche’s/748-9841. A Gala Pops Concert bene-fitting Theatre Three will feature conductor Arthur Fiedler on September 23, at 8:15 p.m. Tickets available from Theatre Three, 748-5191, and Titche’s. Music Hall, Fair Park/826-7000.
George Thalben-Ball, organist for the BBC, will give a recital at the Church of the Incarnation, 3966 McKinney, on September 17 at 8 p.m. He will perform on the church’s Aeolian-Skinner organ, and conduct a master class for organists at 9 a.m. on September 18. Free to the public.
Dallas Summer Musicals. The season concludes with Pearl Bailey in Hello, Dally!, running through August 24. Tues-Sun 8:15 p.m., matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets $2-$9. Available at Titche’s/748-9841. Music Hall, Fair Park.
Music Mill at Six Flags features a variety of performers. August 15, Neil Sedaka. August 22, The Marvelettes and the Coasters. August 23, Bo Diddley and the Shirelles. Call for times and ticket information. (817) 461-1200.
Casa Manana, Fort Worth. The season concludes with All New ’75 Burlesque, featuring Pinky Lee and Ann Corio, Aug 18-Sept 6. Mon-Sat 8:15; Saturday matinee, 2:30. Tickets $4.50-$6.75. 3101 West Lancaster, Fort Worth/ (817) 332-6221.
Fort Worth Art Museum concerts include performances by Master Cylinder, a progressive jazz band from Denton, on September 3 at 8 p.m.; Voices of Change, contemporary music by Texas composers, Sept 7 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and classical guitarist James Eddy, Sept 21 at 2 p.m. For ticket information call (817) 738-9215.
Dallas Girls’ Chorus. Auditions for new members will be held September 6 at St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Mesquite. Girls 8-14 are eligible. For information call Mrs. Ronald Devies/328-8066.
The Century Room, at the Adolphus Hotel.
We all know that downtown Dallas on Saturday night resembles a scene from On the Beach. So it seemed like a good idea when the Adolphus decided to re-do and reopen the old Century Room. I figured that something was better than nothing.
I figured wrong.
The club looks all right. The mirrored ceiling is a kick, and the decor is almost – almost, but not quite – successful in looking like a movie nightclub from the Hollywood Forties, the kind frequented by Robert Taylor or Joan Crawford.
But Lord have mercy on the opening show; I cannot.
It was miserable, ludicrous and finally pathetic – not even self-conscious enough to be campy.
“This is Hawaii” was a flop, a crash, a silly bore. It featured a singer who couldn’t sing, backed by dancers who couldn’t dance, romping along to music which was ridiculous. The official launching of the Century Room was – without question – one of the city’s worst disasters.
Now on stage is a new revue called “The Tahitians.” I couldn’t catch the act before press time, but despite the unfortunate similarity in title and flavor to its predecessor, I understand the show may be worth attending. The dancers, who are from Tahiti, are reputed to be quite expert.
One of the brightest, or at least biggest, new additions to the Dallas nightlife scene is the Electric Ballroom. They call this renovated warehouse a “concert hall club” – concert style musical presentations over a fine sound system, but complete with club style bar and dance floor. Run by the same people who operate the successful Travis Street Electric Co., the Ballroom features only big name performers and is open only on Fri, Sat, and Sun. The place holds about 1200 people, cover charge varying with the performers but never more than $3.50 advance/$4 at the door. Musical fare will be on a rotating basis between C&W, progressive country, and hard rock. Aug 16, Steppenwolf. Aug 23, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Aug 29, Jimmy Buffet. (1011 S. Industrial at Cadiz/ 747-7877.
Downstairs at the Registry. From Aug 18, Originals International (Las Vegas showband). Shows at 9 & 11 p.m. By membership, $5 (includes two drinks on night of purchase). (4015 Lemmon/528-3842/6 p.m.-2 a.m. seven days a week)
Fannie Ann’s. Aug 14, David Allen Coe; Aug 15 & 16, Alvin Crow; Aug 19-23 and Aug 26-30, Summerfield. Pore, Cooke & Neal play every Sun & Mon night. 50￠ cover on weekdays, $l-$1.50 weekends. (4714 Greenville/368-9003/ Mon-Sat 4 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun 8 p.m.-2 a.m.)
Longhorn Ballroom. Aug 15, Asleep at the Wheel and Wayne Kemp; Aug 16, Wayne Kemp and Tompall Glaser. No cover on Tues; Wed and Thurs $4 cover – all the beer you can drink; otherwise cover varies. (216 Corinth at Industrial/428-3128/ Wed & Thurs 8:30-12, Fri / Sat 9-2, closed Sun)
Mother Blues. Aug 18-20, B. W. Stevenson; Aug 25-27, Lonnie Liston Smith; Sept 8-10, Kinky Friedman; Sept 15-17, Willis Alan Ramsey; Sept 22-24, Dave Bromberg. Cover varies $2-$4. No cover on weeknights with local bands. (4015 Lemmon/ 528-3842/ 6 p.m.-2 a.m. seven days a week)
Sneaky Pete’s. Aug 11-17, Lynx; Aug 18-23, Danielle; Aug 25-30, Texas Rose; Sept 1-7, Lightning; Sept 8-21, Danielle; Sept 22-28, Heaven and Earth; Sept 29-Oct 4, Texas Rose. Cover $1 weekdays, $2 weekends, unescorted ladies always free. (714 Medallion Ctr/11 a.m.-2 a.m., seven days a week, Lunch 11-2, Dinner 5-11/MC)
Venetian Room. Aug 18-30, Julie Budd; Sept 22-Oct 4, Lily Tomlin. Two shows nightly; weekdays 8:30 and 11, weekends 9 & 11:30. Cover varies, $8-$15. Reservations. Fairmont Hotel, Ross and Akard/748-5454/MC, BA, AE, DC)
Wintergarden Ballroom. Aug 15 & 16, Al Pier-son & his orchestra; Aug 30, Jack Melnick, his piano & his orchestra; Aug 19, Myron Floren. $4 admission, BYOB. (1616 John West Rd/ /327-6265/8 p.m.-1 a.m., Wed, Fri, & Sat)
The Power of Primitive Art
Primitive Art Master-works, at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.
The DMFA this summer ought to have been a great turn-on for the generation that reads Carlos Castaneda’s fantasias on the Yaqui Indian Don Juan’s concept of Power, especially in the last couple of weeks in June, when the held-over Norbert Schimmel Collection of Antiquities, the Primitive Art Masterworks show, and the newly-mounted Stillman and Schindler collections of African art held much of the museum’s space. The art in these collections is enormously vital, hauntingly beautiful, and in a variety of ways unsettling to a western sensibility.
Power is what “primitive” art is all about. (There’s no avoiding that word “primitive” – despite the fact that its connotations belie the sophistication and the skill of the artists, and the importance of these works.) It’s an art designed to intimidate or inspire, to placate or implore forces both human and beyond the human. That’s one reason why western eyes have often viewed it with indifference or distaste. In the array of exhibitions listed above, only the Greek and Roman art in the Schimmel collection – art which no one, presumably, would call “primitive” in any sense – had a comfortable feeling to it; our conceptions of the representation of the human figure are of course derived from the art of these civilizations. The distortions of African, Oceanian, or Pre-Columbian art reflect those civilizations’ concepts of the centers of power – head, breast, belly, genitals. They challenge the centuries-old western concepts of order, restraint, nothing-in-excess.
But the time has come for primitive art. Not only did the great generation of twentieth century artists, Picasso in particular, make use of its radically transforming view of the human body, they and their successors have educated our eyes to the rhythms, the forms, and the power of non-western art. There’s a delightful Mel-anesian tapestry in the Masterworks show that looks like a Paul Klee. And almost any sculptor would be pleased to have captured the rhythms of the Bamana antelope headdress in the Schindler collection, whose great arc leads to an upward spring of horns. The headdress creates that paradoxical sense of motion in stasis that vivifies all great sculpture – of whatever culture.
I have only a few quarrels with what the museum has done with these exhibitions. None at all, in fact, with the mounting of the Schimmel collection show, which was a handsome and uncluttered presentation. Perhaps it was the holdover of this show that forced the museum to crowd the Mas-terworks show, so that in some instances artifacts with fine and intricate detail were hung so far from the viewer that they couldn’t receive the scrutiny they deserved. But even less successful is the mounting of the permanent displays of the Stillman and Schindler collections. The attempt at a dramatic effect, which caused the art in these collections to be placed in darkened rooms illuminated only by baby spots, was a failure. In some cases, the spots have shifted, or burned out, or the viewer’s shadow falls across the very work he’s trying to see.
One last word on the uncanny relevance of primitive art to the modern scene. After admiring one of the DMFA’s Pre-Columbian ritual vestments – bright orange feathers encrusted with beads and shells – I turned, to behold a conventioneering Lions’ Clubber in a day-glo vest encrusted with medals and buttons. Ritual garments apparently don’t change much.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. The American Heritage in Art, American paintings from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, will be featured from September 16 through November 30. Projects II, Bruce Cunningham’s 80-foot mural of drawings, will be on exhibit August 27 through September 28. The Era of Exploration: The Rise of Landscape Photography in the American West, 1860-1885 closes August 31. Tues-Sat, 10-5, Sunday 1-5. Fair Park/421-4187.
Owen Arts Center, SMU. Contemporary Spanish Painting will be on display from September 14, in the University Gallery. Weekdays 10-5, Sunday 1-5. 692-2516.
What’s the most famous American painting? Well… maybe it’s Whistler’s Mother, but a likely contender would have to be Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington, which, along with 99 other famous American paintings from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, will be on display at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts starting September 17. There’ll be paintings by Audubon, Copley, West, Homer, Eakins, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Whistler (but not the one of his Mother, she’s in the Louvre).
Haggerty Art Center, University of Dallas. Three Printmakers, an exhibition by Diane Marks, Mike Dillon, and Nancy Chambers, opens Sept 7 and runs through Sept 22. An exhibition of the photography of Copren, a student of Stieglitz, will open Sept 7 and run through Sept 15. Weekdays and Sundays, 9-5; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. University of Dallas campus, Irving/438-1123.
Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth. Photographs of the Big Bend will be on display throughout August and September. Tues-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5:30. 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd/(817) 738-1933.
Fort Worth Art Museum. Larry Bell: Recent Work will be on display from Sept 27. Exchange / DFW / SFO, a cooperative exhibition with the San Francisco Museum of Art featuring works in the performing and visual arts, ends September 7. Tues-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5. 1309 Montgomery/(817) 738-9215.
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. A Van Gogh and two Vuillards have recently been added to the Museum’s permanent collection. The last show in the Summer Film Series, Kenneth Clark’s Romantic vs. Classic Art films, will be Sept 7 at 2 p.m. Tues-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5. 1101 Will Rogers Rd/ (817) 332-8451.
Afterimage. Photographs by Shedrich Williames, on display through August 30. Mon-Sat 10-5:30, Thurs till 8:30. Quadrangle/748-2521.
Art Collection Gallery. Lithographs and intaglios by Kim Mosley, through the end of August. Tues-Sat 10-5. In the Craft Compound /6617 Snider Plaza/369-7442.
Atelier Champman Kelley. Paintings by Leon Berkowitz, through September. Mon-Sat 10:30-5, Sun 1-5.2526 Fairmount/747-9971.
Contemporary Gallery. Paintings by Skynear, a Salt Lake City artist, on exhibit from September 7. A show of graphics by Miro, Dali, Picasso, Chagall, and Vasarely will be on display through the end of August. Mon-Sat 10:30-5, Thurs till 8:30. Quadrangle/747-0141.
Cushing Gallery. Closed in August. A show by students of Ann Cushing Gantz will run Sept 7-12. Oils by Andres Escartin and egg temperas by Forrest Harrisberger will be on display September 13-26. Mon-Sat 10:30-4:30. 2723 Fairmount/747-1346.
Delahunty Gallery. Works by Vernon Fisher and Lee Baxter Davis will be featured in September. Tues-Sat 10-6 and by appointment. 2611 Cedar Springs/744-1346.
The Front Room. Ceramics by Jeff Barton will be displayed Aug 23-Sept 6. Ceramics by Bruce Mayo will be featured through Aug 22. Mon-Sat 10-5. In the Craft Compound/6617 Snider Plaza/369-8338.
Lee Ethel Gallery. Primitive western paintings by Judge Fred “Red” Harris and pencil drawings by Herb Strasser will be featured in September. Mon-Sat 12-6.3115 Routh/742-4091.
Poster Gallery. Posters for the Bicentennial will be featured in September. Mon-Sat 10-5. 6610 Snider Plaza/363-8223.
Poster Place. New and limited edition works by Karl Gerstner, Milton Greene, Hundertwasser and Trova will be featured in September. Mon-Sat 10-5:30, Thurs till 9. Olla Podrida/12215 Coit/661-3383.
Stewart Gallery. Works by Roger Gentry and Robert Nidy on display through August 20. Western bronzes by Dick Sloviaczek are featured August 15-September 18. Tues-Sun 12-7 and by appointment. 12610 Coit/661-0213.
Woolcraft and Clay. Works in fibers by June McKinley and Andrew Wood, ceramics by Gary Hatcher are featured in August. Weaving by Lou Lyons on display in September. Tues-Sat 10-5.2722 Routh/827-3345.
at Fair Park
Hamlet and The Merry Wives of Windsor, at the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas.
How nice to go to an arts event in Dallas and see people actually having tun: fami-lies with their kids, casually-dressed people with picnic baskets. The Shakespeare Festival of Dallas has a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s free. For another, it’s the only theatrical fare of substance during the dog days. When the alternative is Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan, even imperfect Shakespeare has a lot to recommend it.
Imperfect it is, but it still scores a significant victory over some pretty serious inadequacies – its budget, its facilities, and some of its actors. Most of all, it’s a credit to the commitment of the company and its backers, and particularly to the skill of its two directors, Jack Clay and Ed DeLatte.
Even though there’s something seriously wrong with a production of Hamlet in which the outstanding performances are given by the actor who plays the ghost and the actor who doubles as the player Lucia-nus and the gravedigger, the Festival’s Hamlet was a creditable one. Jack Clay’s tight directorial rein made it work, for Clay’s attention to detail is impressive. His training in dance and mime shows: he knows how to make actors move. Far too many Shakespeare directors are content if the actors speak the speech trippingly on the tongue. Clay gives them grace and energy.
But what’s Hamlet without a Hamlet? Jake Dengel made a nice try, but he doesn’t have the voice for the part. He has an interpretation of the role – or at least part of one: his Hamlet is a witty, waggish intellectual, modeled, I would guess, on Richard Burton’s. Better that than the mopey melancholy Dane, I guess, and Dengel was rather good when matching wits with Claudius or deflating Polonius, Rosen-crantz and Guildenstern, and Osric. But the soliloquies had no depth; they were rushed through as if they were rather embarrassing interruptions in the drama. (With the exception of that purplest of all purple passages, “To be or not to be,” which was staged as if it were an aria: all stage lights down except for a spot on Hamlet. I feared for a burst of applause and shouts of bravo at the end, but none came.)
Neither William Jaeger as Claudius nor Martha Gaylord as Gertrude made much impression. The royal couple was so excessively bland that their moments of poetry and self-revelation, Gertrude’s account of Ophelia’s death and Claudius’ guilt soliloquy, seemed unaccountable flights of rhetoric. George Russell’s Polonius was a mere bumbler, who gave no hint of the shrewd courtier trusted by Claudius or the kind father so loved by Laertes and Ophelia. And Carolyn Jeffords let her Ophelia get shrill and whiny and nattering much too soon, so that she had nowhere to go when she reached the mad scene.
The problem with all of these roles is that they’ve been so mythologized, so smothered with pedantry and pretentiousness, scholarly niggling and sentimental smarm, that we can no longer see the royal family of Denmark as real people. Only great actors can revivify them for us. That’s one reason why the secondary roles in Hamlet are usually more excitingly performed. In this case, it was Lanny Flaherty, who hit just the right note as the ghost, who could bully any reluctant son into action. And Gary Bodiford, who turned the player’s “Rugged Pyrrhus” speech, a parody of the ranting drama of Shakespeare’s time, into a grand tour de force of overstated acting. He also drolly underplayed the gravedigger, wisely choosing to play him with an Aggie accent rather than the Cockney that Americans usually do so badly.
Falstaff is another role that has been over-mythologized, but the Falstaff of The Merry Wives of Windsor is a mere caricature of the great comic figure of the Henry IV plays. David Healy’s performance as the fat knight was probably the Festival’s single best job of acting. Healy blustered and posed and carried his fake paunch convincingly. Once or twice he lapsed into Great Gildersleeve whinnies or W. C. Fields-ian mutterings, but he remained at all times the center of the torrent of action that was the play. And at the end, when he tenderly carried a sleeping child from the stage, I was moved to wish to see him again – which is the way one should always feelabout Falstaff.
About the best thing one can say about the play itself, is that it inspired Verdi’s masterpiece, Falstaff. And sure enough, at familiar turns of the plot I found myself humming snatches of Verdi. I think Shakespeare, the old Master-Borrower, would agree, and that he’d also prefer Rodgers and Hart’s Boys from Syracuse and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate to his own Comedy of Errors and Taming of the Shrew. For Shakespeare’s farces are only pleasant messes (Ben Jonson did that sort of thing much better), redeemable only if played as broadly as possible. Merry Wives was so played, and director Ed DeLatte kept things moving at a swift clip, Giva Mc-Bride’s costumes were handsome, and the music, lighting, and set decoration were splendid.
This year’s festival, the fourth annual, had a pretty impressive attendance record – 20,400 in nine performances. Bob Glenn,the full-time director of the festival, is already at work on next year’s program. He’sthinking about staging an American playto observe the Bicentennial . . . ho, hum.Maybe he can be talked out of it. We needShakespeare, and we need the ShakespeareFestival.
In the Wings
Dallas Theater Center. Count Dracula opens September 5, and runs on Fridays and Saturdays only throughout September. Shows 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tickets $2.50. 3636 Turtle Creek/526-0107.
Theatre Three. The Gingerbread Lady, by Neil Simon, runs through the end of August. Wed-Sat 8:30, Sun 7 p.m. and 2:30 matinee on alternate Sundays. Tickets $3-$5.50 with student and group discounts. Quadrangle/ 748-5191.
Dallas Minority Repertory Theater. Gentle Fire, by Irma Hall, will be presented through the first of September, when it will begin touring the Dallas area. Slow Dance on the Killing Ground is scheduled for a late September opening. Call for times and ticket prices. Bethany Springs Presbyterian Church/4523 Cedar Springs/ 528-4084.
NTSU, Denton. Bus Stop, by William Inge, will be presented September 11-13, in the University Theater. Call for times and ticket prices. 267-0651.
Irving Community Theater. Barefoot in the Park, by Neil Simon, will be performed Sept 12-14,19-21, and 26-28. Performances ar 8 p.m., matinee Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets $l-$3. 2nd and.Lucille, Irving/ 255-4233 or 253-032.)
Country Dinner Playhouse. My Three Angels, with Cesar Romero, runs through August 24. 1776 opens August 26 for a five-week run. Tues-Sun dinner 6:45, show 8 p.m. Tickets $6.9549.75; group rates for 24 or more. 11829 Abrams at LBJ/ 231-9457.
Granny’s Dinner Playhouse. All the Girls Came out to Play, with Dennis Cole, runs through August 31. Jane Russell appears in Catch Me If You Can beginning September 7. Tues-Sat dinner 7, show 8:15 p.m. Tickets $6.85-$10.25.12205 Coit Rd/ 239-0153.
The Great American Melodrama Theatre. Saved at the Sawmill runs through September 14. Call for times, ticket prices and reservations. 316 Hillside Village/ 821-3540.
Junior Players’ Guild. Open auditions for the Junior Players’ Guild Bicentennial celebration, America in Song and Verse, which will be trouping DISD schools beginning in late October, will be held in four locations: Bryan Adams High School, Sept 2, 6:30-10 p.m.; W. T. White High School, Sept 3, 6:30-10 p.m.; downtown branch, Dallas Public Library, Sept 4, 5:30-9 p.m.; and Walnut Hill Lutheran Church, Sept. 5, 6:30-10 p.m. Singers, dancers, and actors, ages 13-18, are needed. For further information, call Jane Hook, 363-4278, or 351-4962.
Kathy Burks Marionettes. The Magic Jungle Diamond is performed throughout August, Jack and the Beanstalk throughout September. Wed, Thurs and Sat at 11:30 a.m, 1,3, and 4 p.m., and Thurs at 7:30 p.m. Tickets 75￠. Olla Podrida/12215 Coit Rd/387-0807.
Looking-Glass Playhouse. A new theater in a converted warehouse. Performances are Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets $1.75. 11171 Harry Hines, Suite 120/337-7462.
Promoting Pele; Stifling Soccer?
Pele at Texas Stadium.
A year ago, if you had walked the streets of Dallas and popped the question ’’Who is Pele?” to the man-on-the-street, it is unlikely that more than one person in twenty could have answered correctly. Yet on the night of July 27, hundreds of young soccer-lings knelt prostrate on the sweaty Tartan Turf of Texas Stadium, arms outstretched in adoration, as if Allah himself were making an historic public appearance in Irving, while Pele trotted around the field to the standing cheers of 26,127 “fans.”
Pele is a $7 million PR gamble, the North American Soccer League wagering against the North American sports fan. After several weeks of Pele-promo, it’s difficult to say whether the investment will pay off as planned. On the one hand, attendance records have been set in every city Pele has visited thus far; on the other, attendance in non-Pele games has shown no increase at all. There was the overriding feeling in the Dallas exhibition that most of the 26,127 were there more just to see Pele than to see Pele play soccer; the highlight of the evening was Pele’s “victory lap” before the game, not the Dallas Tornado beating the N.Y. Cosmos 3-2 in a tie breaker at the end of sudden death overtime.
In a distressing way, the Pele-PR-hype detracted from the game itself. The Scoreboard was constantly distracting the eye with Pele statistics and Pele history, not to mention the bombardment of electronic advertising. After heralding Pele’s arrival on the field in the style of a carnival barker introducing the latest addition to his freak show, the PA announcer proceeded to make such perceptive commentary during the game as “Pele moving into position” or “Pele searching for the ball.” (To his credit the PA man did occasionally offer basic rules-of-the-game instruction to the obviously novice crowd.) But all in all, it was an overblown spectacle.
It left an unfortunate aftertaste. Unfor-tunate because soccer in itself is a wonderful game, as attested to by its utter dominance as the most popular sport in the world (it is estimated that as many as a billion people followed the 1970 World Cup in Mexico City on radio and TV). Does a sport with such overwhelming international appeal really need the Pele traveling circus to convince America that it’s missing something?
No, not really. Soccer will make it in America anyway – for two primary reasons. One, it is an ideal spectator sport. Like baseball, soccer is highly visible – play is uncluttered and rarely frantic, allowing most of the action to be easily absorbed by the watchful eye; like basketball, it is a game of beautiful physical finesse – positioning, passing, playmaking, ball handling; like ice hockey, it has the inherent drama of few actual scores with the prevailing spectator tension of knowing that a score can occur at any moment with shocking suddenness; like no other sport, soccer is constant action – there are no timeouts, few penalty delays, no resting between plays, no waiting to be done by the fan in the stands.
A second reason insuring soccer’s success in this country is that the game is finally being realized as highly suitable for children. Soccer has none of the physical limitations of size and strength of American football and is less prone to serious injury; the fundamentals of the game are easily learned; the goal-to-goal running provides intensive stamina building exercise; and the game is equally suited to both boys and girls. All of which explains why there are over 50,000 youngsters in the Dallas area now involved with soccer and why the Irving Jets and the Irving Tors of the under-eight-year-old league were able to put on a most creditable display of soccer during halftime of the Pele exhibition.
This is to take nothing away from Pele himself. As the undisputed master of the game, he can make valuable contribution to both of those growth factors. Even to untrained eyes, and even with a heavily bandaged thigh injury which limited him mainly to midfield maneuvers, Pele proved himself a spectator’s delight. At one point in the first half, he was advancing the ball casually and cautiously toward the goal when suddenly he raised his magical foot over the ball and flicked it behind him, a perfect pass to a wide-open but flatfooted teammate who watched the ball skitter harmlessly past him simply because he never expected such a thing. The Black Pearl’s style is very much reminiscent of that of a similar namesake, basketball’s Earl “The Pearl” Monroe as he moves nonchalantly downcourt, then, in a flash, breaks for the basket or rifles a behind-the-back pass in a dazzling and seemingly effortless display of ball handling. Pele can certainly hasten the American sports fan’s recognition of the beauty and precision of soccer at its finest. He can also serve soccer’s youth surge in the role of idol/hero, a powerful incentive in the mind of the child athlete.
But wouldn’t it be nice if it all happened of its own accord. Soccer could be a refreshing and exciting injection to the money-infected American sports scene. It’s aggravating to see the world’s most revered sport served up on a PR platter and forcefed to the American public so that a few promoters can cash in quick. Hopefully, the Irving Jets will survive untainted.
Texas Rangers, Arlington Stadium. Games at 8 p.m. except where noted otherwise. Box seats, $4.50 & $5. Reserved seats, $4. Bleacher seats (general admission), $2 for adults / $1.50 for children under 13. 265-3331.
Aug 21,22,23,24 vs. Baltimore Orioles
Aug 25,26,27 vs. Detroit Tigers
Aug 29,30,31 vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Sept 1,2 vs. Minnesota Twins
Sept 12,13 vs. Chicago White Sox
Sept 14 vs. Chicago at 2:05
Sept 15,16 vs. Oakland A’s
Sept 17,18 vs. California Angels
Sept 26,27 vs. Kansas City Royals
Sept 28 vs. Kansas City at 2:05
American Amateur Baseball Congress regional tournament, Aug 22-25 at Reverchon Park, 3400 Maple. Spend a day at the park watching high caliber amateur baseball in an 11-game double-elimination tournament. Competing will be teams from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona, and Kansas; many of the players are college standouts and pro prospects. Games begin shortly after noon on Aug 22 & 23 and at 6 p.m. on Aug 24 & 25. Adults $1 / children free. For further information call 661-9742.
Dallas County Cricket Club holds matches every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at Glen-coe Park, Martel Ave at North Central Expwy (Exits 7 or 8). Spectators welcome, free. For further information, call Patrick McCarthy, 252-3549.
Dallas Cowboys, Texas Stadium. Tickets $6
(general admission), $10 (reserved). 369-3211. Pre-season games:
Aug 23 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 8 p.m.
Sept 5 vs. Oakland Raiders, 8 p.m.
Sept 13 vs. Pittsburgh, 8 p.m.
Regular season games:
Sept 21 vs. Los Angeles Rams, 3 p.m.
Sept 28 vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1 p.m.
“The world’s greatest athlete,” Life magazine once called him. A former college wrestler, Edward D RECOMMENDS Villella has strength, agility, speed, control, and grace. Villella’s sport, of course, is dancing. He performs September 11, 12, 13, and 14, with the Dallas Civic Ballet, backed up by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He’ll be seen in the second scene from Daphnis and Chloe, and in the Swan Lake and Le Corsair pas de deux with partner Anna Aregno.
Tournament Players Championship, Aug 21-24, Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth. The top 144 players in the TPC point system will compete for $250,000 in prize money, including the $50,000 first prize. All of the biggest names in golf will be there – Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson. Schedule (with daily gate admission prices): Aug 18 & 19, Practice Rounds ($5); Aug 20, Celebrity Pro-Am ($10); Aug 21 & 22, First and Second Rounds ($10); Aug 23 & 24, Third and Final Rounds ($15). A weeklong pass is available for $25. For tickets and further information, call (817) 926-4671.
Dallas Civitan Open, Sept 3-7, Brookhaven Country Club. One of the most prestigious events of the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. Some 90 of the world’s finest women golfers will compete for $42,500 in prize money, including such top stars as Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Palmer, Carol Mann, Sandra Haynie, Judy Rankin and Laura Baugh. Schedule (with gate admission prices): Sept 3, Pro-Am tournament ($3); Sept 5, First Round ($4); Sept 6, Second Round ($5); Sept 7, Championship Round ($5). A season pass for admission all four days is $10. For tickets, sponsorship packages, and further information, call 638-6512.
Willow Bend Polo and Hunt Club, FM Rd. 544, 1 1/2 miles west of Preston Rd. 248-6235. Matches every Sat & Sun, weather permitting, beginning about 4 p.m. Spectators welcome. $1.50 for non-members.
QUARTER HORSE RACING
Ross Downs, Hwy 121, 4 miles southwest of Grapevine, 481-1071. From 9-19 races every Sunday, year ’round, beginning at 1 p.m. Adults $2 / children $1.
Mesquite Championship Rodeo. Professional rodeo stars compete every Fri & Sat night Apr thru Sept beginning at 8 p.m. The arena is located off LBJ Frwy at Military Pkwy exit. Box seats $3.50, Grandstands $2.50 / $1 for children under 12. For tickets and further information call 285-8777.
ATP Celebrity Pro-Am, Sept 8, Bent Tree Country Club. The first annual Association of Tennis Professionals Awards Banquet on the night of Sept 8 will be preceded by a doubles tournament featuring top tennis pros such as Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith and entertainment celebrities including Alan King, Dan Rowan, Kyle Rote and Kyle Rote, Jr., Charl-ton Heston, Lloyd Bridges, James Franciscus, possibly Bill Cosby and perhaps others. Play will begin at noon and continue till 5 p.m. Tickets, all general admission, are $5, available at the gate. Children under 12 admitted free. All proceeds go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. For advance tickets, call 637-6545 or 233-3600.
Dallas Civic Ballet. Edward Villella appears with the company, backed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, in performances of Firebird, Bolero, Le Corsair, Daphnis and Chloe, and La Peri. Sept 11, 12, 13 and 14, at the Music Hall, Fair Park. Tickets available from Titche’s, 748-9841, or call the Civic Ballet office, 526-1370.
Fort Worth Art Museum. Twyla Tharp appears in a three-day residency co-sponsored by the museum and the TCU dance department, Sept 12, 13, and 14. Performances at the museum on the 13th and 14th, master classes at TCU on the 12th. For further information call (817) 738-9215.
Houston Ballet Company. An appearance co-sponsored by the Fort Worth Ballet Association and the TCU dance department, Sept 25, 26, and 27 at the Tarrant County Convention center. For information call (817) 926-2461.
SMU Dance Department. Dance preparatory classes, for ages ranging from 4-year-olds to adults, will begin September 4. Courses in creative dance for pre-schoolers, ballet, modern dance, tap, and jazz will be available. Tuition ranges from $45 to $125. For information call 692-3119.
Community Service Courses at Dallas County Community Colleges cover a wide variety of topics. At Eastfield College, 3737 Motley Dr, Mesquite, courses range from “Initiating Change through Local Government,” to “Handicapping Horses,” to health foods, to parent-child relationships. El Centra College, Main and Lamar, offers courses in guitar, karate, woodcarving, and other subjects, and features a series of courses, “New Directions for Women,” for women who want to re-enter the work force, change their jobs or improve their potential in their current jobs. Richland College, 12800 Abrams, offers courses ranging from Mexican cooking to films. Brochures and information available by calling East-field/746-3113, El Centro/746-2311, and Rich-land/746-4444.
Richland College Planetarium. Child of the Universe, featuring the Planetarium’s new quadraphonic sound system, starts September 7. What’s Your Sagittarius? runs through August 24. Shows at 2, 3, and 4 p.m. Sundays and 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Tickets $1/50 for children under 12 (under 6 not admitted). 12800 Abrams/746-4582.
Temple Emanu-El presents a major exhibit of Jewish history in America, We Have the World to Begin Again: Aspects of Colonial American Jewish Life 1654-1794, beginning September 1. 8500 Hillcrest Rd/368-3613.
Dallas Civic Garden Center. Courses in gardening include Horticulture for the Home, an eight-class session, and A Plant for Every Purpose, a six-class session. Call for information and registration. Dallas Civic Garden Center/Fair Park/428-47446.
Women For Change Center. The Second Annual Women’s Festival, inaugurating Women’s Equality Week, will be held August 23, 12 noon to 9 p.m., at the YWCA, 4621 Ross. Work by local women artists, musicians, and performers, arts and crafts, sports exhibits, and other events are planned. For information call 522-3560.
Photographic Society of America Convention. The 1975 international convention of the PSA will include photography events and exhibitions open to the general public, August 19-23. Convention headquarters are at the Statler Hilton, 1994 Commerce. For further information, call J. Allen Gannaway/ 352-1907.
Explore, a self-evaluation course for women, is offered in several Dallas locations beginning in late September. Fee for the eight-week course is $30. Call 241-9640 for registration information.
The Olla Podrida. Special events include a display of marionettes from the collection of Kathy Burks, August 20 through Sept 3, and photographs by Sam Banks, Sept 16-30. 12215 Coit/239-8541.
Chinese Acrobats from Taiwan will perform at NTSU, Denton, on Sept 24 at 8 p.m. Tickets $3.50/ $2.50 for NTSU students. NTSU Coliseum, Denton/ 267-0651.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra Benefits. Titche’s 11th Annual Arete Awards luncheon and fashion show, September 5, will honor Dallas women for outstanding community service. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will perform, and fashions by leading designers will be modeled. Tickets are $25 and $15; they may be obtained from Mrs. George Shutt, 5310 Park Lane. The Diamond Ball, September 27, will be held at the Sheraton, following the Symphony’s performance with Beverly Sills at 7:30 p.m. Peggy Lee and Mal Fitch’s orchestra will perform at the ball. Tickets, which include both the Symphony concert and the ball, are $150 and $100. They may be obtained from Mrs. Ralph T. Dosher, Jr., 7127 Lakehurst.
Art About Town Auction. Benefiting the Dallas Society for Crippled Children, the auction will be held on September 20 at the Music Hall, Fair Park. Three or four hundred works will be auctioned, and dinner will be served. For further information call Jane Pierce, 352-6908; Kathy Riggs, 358-5972 or 358-1528; or Mary Emily Witt, 358-5261.
Muscular Dystrophy Association. A Las Vegas Party benefit will be held Thursday, August 28, 8 p.m. to midnight, at the Registry Hotel, 1241 W Mockingbird Ln at Stemmons. Tickets are $10.
Brandeis Book Sale Donations. Books and records of all kinds are being requested for the October sale. If you wish to donate, call 528-1432.
Dallas Health and Science Museum. The Museum Preschool program offers children three to five years old a varied program of activities. Children attend classes in anatomy, botany, animal life and art. This year’s program, in celebration of the Bicentennial, will also include early American crafts such as soap-making, corn-shuck art, and making bread. Fall classes begin September 8. Three year olds attend one day a week, while four and five year olds may attend either one or two days. Tuition is $90 per year or $445 per semester for one day, $180 per year or $90 per semester for two days, with a 15% discount to Museum Members. For information call the museum, 428-8351.
Rootabaga Bookery. September activities include a story-book totem pole, to be created in front of the Bookery on September 20, 2-3 p.m. Trade and Swap Day is September 6, 2-3 p.m. Art by local elementary school children is on display through the month. 6715 Snider Plaza / 361-8581.
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