IT’S NOT THE THREE TENORS

Just a random thought —

I was singing in the shower, as I am wont to do …. please remember this point as your first clue … and a thought occurred to me which has led me to ask the following riddle:

What does a relatively current action adventure hero, a tall gangly comedian and the eponymous lead of a 1979 TV sitcom have in common?

The late and gravely voiced Emmy winning Robert Guillaume, with a sterling list of 100 stage, TV and film accomplishments is probably best known for his stint as the butler, Benson, in the 1979 TV sitcom of the same name.

Michael Crawford launched his film career as the tall, gawky, limber-limbed, nasal-voice, love-smitten store clerk in Hello Dolly.

Gerard Butler’s tough Scottish brogue-personality has enlivened the entertainment factor of many an otherwise generic action adventure flick.

What on EARTH could they possibly all have in common? To my knowledge they were never in any project at the same time.

Crawford is British, very white bread, old enough to be Butler’s father, and originally wanted to be a pilot or soccer player.

Guillame, the most senior of the three, was a black Missourian, born about the same time as Crawford’s parents, raised by his grandmother after being abandoned by his alcoholic mother, and was an army veteran.

Butler, the youngest of the trio, grew up a fatherless youth in Scotland and became a  lawyer before launching into his acting career.

Guessed yet?

Here’s a hint:

“In the dark…” such as in a movie or stage theater or even in a den watching a movie with your family with the lamps off, “…it is easy to pretend that the truth is what it ought to be.”

Give up?

They are the three best known Phantoms – that scarred, masked, probably psychotic, mysterious denizen of the opera theatre catacombs from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Phantom of the Opera, who will kill to get his songbird protege on stage, and murder while belting out some of the most famous tunes in all of stage and screen. Crawford was first on stage in 1986, with Guillame taking over in 1990, in a controversial but proven brilliant move after Crawford moved on. Then Butler took that lead in the 2004 filmed version.

“Music of the Night”…”Phantom of the Opera”…”All I Ask of You”…”Angel of Music”. Any of these songs sung by any of these men will send chills down your spine, fire your imagination, and melt your heart.

There’s something about music that unites us more than almost anything else. Each of these very talented men come from completely different backgrounds, had vastly divergent career paths, and dramatically different personality and acting styles out of mask, yet —- and yet they all performed this heartbreakingly tragic, mesmerizing and deliciously vocalled character in a way that entranced audiences around the world.

Music and love – two of the only generators of real magic in the world.

So there you have it – A geeky Brit, an urbane sitcom star and a thuggish-looking action hero. Who’d’ve guessed it — three generations of actors who became – The Three Phantoms.

A NEW POST – A NEW LEAF

In both the reference to a movie of the same name, and as an analogy for the fact we are taking a break from the ongoing much longer blog about Back to the Future and fatherhood —–

We interrupt this multi-post on Back to the Future to bring you – as John Cleese might say – something completely different.

I would venture to say that most, if not all of you, have never heard of the movie A New Leaf. Penned, directed and starring Elaine May, co-starring the iconic Walter Matthau, this is a small budget film made in 1971 based upon the short story, The Green Heart, by Jack Ritchie. The protagonist, Henry Grahame, (Matthau) is a self-absorbed, self-indulgent aristocratic heir who runs through his family fortune until, in his late thirties finds himself without friends or fortune. There is only one person in the world who cares anything about him, Harold (the delightful singer and Shakespearean theatrical actor, George Rose), Henry’s valet, who sums up the basis for his loyalty to Henry in this one speech: “How many men these days require the services of a gentleman’s gentleman? How many men have your devotion to form, sir? You have managed, in your own lifetime Mr. Graham, to keep alive traditions that were dead before you were born.”

Of course, Harold tempers this with the warning that if Mr. Graham continues to be poor, he immediately tenders his two week notice.

Henry quickly realizes that, for him, there are only two options: suicide…………….or marrying rich. With Harold’s aide Henry embarks on a quest to find a rich widow or single heiress who would be tolerable to his refined tastes and isolated ways. He soon discovers that while there are MANY candidates, he can’t stand any of them…until he finds the least suitable one of all. An extremely wealthy but ugliest of ugly ducklings. Shy, socially awkward, clumsy, naive, gullible – she is everything Henry would NOT want in a mate, aside from the money. However, it suddenly occurs to him, she would be quite easy to —— murder.

So begins the courtship and honey-murder, I mean —moon of one of the most charming little comedies I have ever seen. It is ultimately a film about the power of love, redemption and poetic justice, but told in the singularly most UN-conventional and UN-sentimental way I have ever seen demonstrated.

I REALLY am not going to spoil this one for you. You have to see it……if you can. It is quite hard to find and after much searching I located a copy on VHS.

But if possible, I recommend this movie as one of my all time favorites. This movie would be appropriate, with parental supervision, for even younger teens. Henry is quite chaste. There is very little profanity and no sex. Henry’s SOLE vice is avarice. The only questionable moment is when one socialite attempts to seduce him and Henry, in a breathtaking moment of humor, literally runs screaming from her.

Walter Matthau is at his finest in a brilliant example of miscasting gone right. Aside from Hello Dolly, I can’t think of a less appropriate vehicle for Matthau. But – as in Hello Dolly – he is such an amazing actor that he pulls off the deliciously arrogant and thoroughly self-centered Henry while making him – somehow – adorable.

Elaine May is perfectly terrific as the totally INcapable Henrietta Lowell. Vulnerable, dependent, socially oblivious and educated to the point of being a blithering idiot in everything except her one field of interest – botony – May creates a child-like character who is both endearing and extremely annoying at the same time. You come to understand why Henry would consider killing her yet dread her disappearance. May is probably not familiar to too many. She made her biggest mark with Mike Nichols as half of an improvisational comedy duo and did a good deal of stage work. She was in only about a dozen films, including a teensy part in The Graduate, wrote only 10 screenplays and directed only four movies, the last mostly because of her tendency to go way over budget. As an aside, one of her directorial efforts was Ishtar, the biggest financial flop in history at that time.

But she did manage to produce A New Leaf – this beautiful blossom of a movie.