Stockard Channing shines in 'Pal Joey'

YOU HAVE probably already read this on Page Six, about biggest Kerfuffle in Oscarland–subliminal and not-so-subliminal battle between the studio type producers and the interloping foreign favorite, “Slumdog Millionaire.” The big producers and studios (let’s call them The Regulars) haven’t given up on their own potential winners and they are fighting hard against pre-conceived wisdom that the Indian-made film will win best picture. No Hollywood/New York person is taking the “Slumdog” threat lying down. Votes are being fought for down to the wire. And the big “Regular” producers have a new derisive name for the favorites from India — “The Slummers.” Is this all-American fair play in the “let the best man win” category?

YOU HAVE the month of February to get to the revival of the Rodgers & Hart musical “Pal Joey” in the Studio 54 theater. It’s closing in March. And the reason you should join the throngs (it was SRO the night I saw it last week) is because of the lady onstage. I do mean the star actress Stockard Channing in the role of “Vera Simpson,” the rich Chicago dame who puts Joey in business while he’s giving her the business. This is a Tony-rich performance not to be missed and Ms. Channing — who often plays serious roles is a regular acting phenomenon. She comes off here as a kind of super sexy “pocket Venus.” She is petite and powerful onstage in her divine cleavage-revealing William Ivy Long designs. And she reminded me very much of the younger sexier Elizabeth Taylor in the good old days. She is even more appealing when she’s in bed with her boy-toy, moving about in a negligee half-singing, half-sighing her way through the classic “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” I may have seen every actress of note who has ever played this role and Stockard is the only one to analyze the Rodgers/Hart songs and bring them back to meaningful acting life. She was wonderful in her Tony-winning role in “Joe Egg” some years ago and she was appealing as the first lady in “The West Wing” but here, onstage, she is ruefully oversexed and delicious. Witty, too! Don’t miss her.

TURNER CLASSIC movies has picked Charlotte Chandler’s new work on Mae West, titled “She Always Knew How,” as their book of the month for March. Charlotte was the last person to interview Mae before she died in 1980, not long after her last film “Sexette.” Mae told the young Charlotte: “Some women know how to get what they want. Others don’t. I’ve always known how!” At the time, Mae expressed pity for Charlotte because she saw the writer had no jewelry. And when Charlotte first appeared Mae said, “They always send a man. You would have had to wait for me twice as long if you’d been a man because my makeup and hair take time.” Charlotte says she only got the interview because director George Cukor insisted Mae see her. Mae West told Charlotte that “Someday there’ll be a woman president…Ya know The Bill of Rights; well, what women need is a Bill of Wrongs!”

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