Make Canoe my Homepage

Holiday classic ‘White Christmas’ shining bright at 60

- December 23rd, 2014

Hollywood singer, dancer, actor, comedian and social activist Danny Kaye passed away in 1987 at the age of 76. Yet his legacy lives on in such a vivid way that his daughter still feels her father’s presence each and every day.

“It feels as if he is still with us,” Dena Kaye says in a telephone interview from Paris, where she is visiting. “All of the works of my father are still available to people in many interesting ways.”

One of those works — and one of the best things Kaye ever did on film — is the holiday perennial White Christmas from 1954. I personally number it among my favourite movies to watch over the Christmas holidays. Kaye co-stars in the comic and romantic musical with singer-actor Bing Crosby, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney (who is George Clooney’s talented aunt). The movie was inspired by the famous Irving Berlin song, White Christmas, which was introduced a dozen years earlier in another Bing Crosby musical, Holiday Inn.

Dena Kaye was eight when White Christmas the movie was first released. “I have no memory of seeing it (then),” she confesses. But it did become part of family viewing in later years. So Dena Kaye is now proud that Paramount Home Media Distribution, in celebrating the movie’s 60th year, has just re-issued White Christmas as a Diamond Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download.

“What always strikes me about White Christmas is how versatile he is,” Dena Kaye enthuses about re-watching the movie, which is in glorious colour. It was the first movie shot by Paramount in its innovative widescreen VistaVision process, which allowed for a lovely restoration effort during the digital age.

In White Christmas, Kaye uses his natural dancing ability to partner up with Vera-Ellen. “My father didn’t have any ballet training, or dance training,” Dena Kaye says. “When you think that the film was originally designed for Fred Astaire, you have to ask yourself: ‘Danny Kaye?’ Then he does a wonderful number with Bing Crosby called Blue Skies — and then he does the Sisters number where they’re dressed up as sisters (and lip-synch to the song sung earlier in the movie by Clooney and Vera-Ellen).”

Dena Kaye was part of a centennial honour for her father in 2013 (although research that year suddenly showed that he was Brooklyn-born in 1911 and not 1913, as he commonly told people when he became a star). “We celebrated it and the fact that Paramount is putting so much effort behind the 60th anniversary of White Christmas is a bonus — a real bonus!”

In fact, there is a special bonus on the Blu-ray disc. It is an inspirational documentary Kaye made with UNICEF, a United Nations agency that provides humanitarian care to children and mothers in developing countries.

“My father was UNICEF’s first goodwill ambassador in 1954,” Dena Kaye says proudly. “He continues certainly to inspire me. His conviction was that — in any way you can because it is a personal choice — you participate in things other than your own life. You give back. You do what you can, and that is a philosophy that I grew up with, thanks to my father.”

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

David Cronenberg’s a Killer

- September 5th, 2013

David Cronenberg killed Noah Cowan’s mother. Or so the artistic director of the TIFF Bell Lightbox claimed on Thursday.

It was all in service of movie magic. Cowan’s mother is veteran Canadian actress Nuala Fitzgerald. She appeared in the role of Juliana Kelly in the Toronto filmmaker’s 1979 horror movie, The Brood. Sitting with Cronenberg and TIFF director Piers Handling while they all introduced The Cronenberg Project, Cowan tweaked the director for what he did on set to Fitzgerald when Cowan was still a wee lad.

“She came home one day telling tall tales of being bludgeoned to death by a midget ina snow suit.” Given that young Noah was “a fan of all things perverse,” he was intrigued and not appalled at all.

Cronenberg, however, remains concerned. “I’m really sorry about that,” he said, hiding his mischief with a mock-serious tone. “I killed his mother and I apologize!”

With a grin, Cowan added: “But it really did confirm that, in the movies, anything is possible — even resurrecting your mother!”

WOMEN WHO LOVE CONVICTS

- May 24th, 2012

CANNES — For her role in the new thriller The Paperboy, Lee Daniels talked a reluctant Nicole Kidman into sitting down with five women who claim they love men in prison, in some cases without ever meeting the man. Kidman said Thursday that this experience scared her and then proved useful.

“They told me stories that … wow! … and then I got scared,” Kidman told a Cannes Film Festival press conference. Part of that fear was professional. “I said to Lee: ‘I’m not going to be able to be real in this!’ ”

Kidman, an Australian beauty who dumbs down and trashes up for the film, plays a Florida women in love with a convicted killer on death row.  John Cusack plays the convict as a swamp-rat scumbag but Kidman’s character persists in loving him. The Paperboy, which is in competition at Cannes, is based on the Peter Dexter novel.

Kidman said she processed the insight she got from the five real women “and then it all just kind of happened and then I never had a hesitation about anything. I just went for it. That’s how it came together.”

In a startling revelation, Daniels said one of the women among the five was his sister, who “has written many men in prison” and plays Kidman’s best friend on-screen. Meanwhile, Daniels said he adopted and raised his own brother’s children, Clara and Liam, after that sibling was jailed for “many years” for murder. Just as haunting, Daniels’ father was an abusive man who ridiculed his son for being homosexual and then died in the line of service as a Philadelphia police officer. The film starts with the anatomy of a murder of an abusive, racist cop.

“Everybody, every character here, I know,” Daniels said of the world that Dexter conjured as fiction.

 

CUSACK: BRING ON THE NASTY

- May 24th, 2012

CANNES — John Cusack plays a Florida swamp-rat and scumbag in Lee Daniels’ new film, The Paperboy.
“I was thrilled!” Cusack said Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival, where The Paperboy is in competition. He called it a relief from other recent roles. “I felt I was let out of some cage somehow.”
When he first met Daniels (of Precious fame), the director insisted he could step up his game, telling Cusack: “I just think you’ve got more to give than you’ve been giving lately.” Cusack now calls that “music to an actor’s ears.”
Cusack has also just been cast as former U.S. president Richard Nixon in Daniels’ next film, The Butler. “I haven’t quite processed it yet,” Cusack said with a grin. Another Paperboy co-star, Matthew McConaughey, will appear as John F. Kennedy in the true story of a butler who serves a succession of presidents at the White House.

CRONENBERG THE YOUNGER

- May 18th, 2012

BSK ART BRANDON CRONENBERG

CANNES — So far at least, Brandon Cronenberg seems to be handling the pressures of being David Cronenberg’s son at the 65th Cannes Film Festival.

Both father and son have films in the official selection. David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis is in competition as Canada’s biggest name at Cannes 2012. Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral is in the parallel section, Un Certain Regard, where new talent is often showcased. Inevitably, media folks already are asking and will continue to ask the 32-year-old, Toronto-born Brandon about the connection, especially because his own film at least superficially recalls some of his famous father’s earlier work. And because both directors share actress Sarah Gadon in significant roles.
“It’s possible there are some legitimate comparisons to be made,” Brandon Cronenberg told Screen International in one of its Meet the Debutants stories. “But I’m really just doing what I find interesting, and if there is any thematic overlap with my father’s work, it’s to be expected, given that we share genes and he helped raise me.”
That is the kind of thoughtful answer — as opposed to a churlish or childish denial — that will take him a long way towards carving out his own cinematic niche. Cronenberg went on to say that “it’s beyond thrilling” to have his debut feature included at Cannes. Antiviral, which premieres on Saturday, is the story of a man who sells viruses from sick celebrities to their obsessed fans. But he gets infected himself and the game gets deadly.