Baranski makes entrance for ‘Mia’

A look back at the career of Kim Novak

On Sunday the actress supreme, Christine Baranski, will depart the Longacre Theater after the matinee of “Boeing Boeing” and step onto Jeff Zucker’s GE helicopter. That will land her in Southampton in time for the gala Hamptons premiere of the movie musical “Mamma Mia!” Although the star of the film, Meryl Streep, won’t be attending, her co-star, the handsome Pierce Brosnan will join Ms. Baranski for this exclusive event honoring Evelyn Lauder and her Breast Cancer Foundation. Forget about the guest list; it’s stellar and how the small Southampton movie theater will accommodate all this high-power, I don’t know. But it’s happening: (Another Peggy Siegal P.R. production). Both Meryl and Christine are accomplished singers. Acting aside, Christine starred as the lead in a recent Washington production of “Mame” and Meryl had early ambitions for opera. She plays the violin and uses classical music to help her get into character for roles. She sang in the musicals “Happy End” and “Alice at the Palace” and also scored recording songs from the musical “Hair” and the Grammy-nominated “Philadelphia Chickens.” She played a professional singer in “A Prairie Home Companion” and has also sung in many of her films such as “Silkwood,” “Ironweed,” “Death Becomes Her,” “Dancing at Lughnasa.” She belted out Brecht in Central Park’s 2006’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.” She was tremendous singing in the film “Postcards from the Edge.”

The British press already called “Mamma Mia!” “the only feelgood factor in this summer of credit crunch blues.” They noted that even Queen Elizabeth II says: “I always try to dance when ‘Dancing Queen’ comes on because I am the Queen and I like to dance.”

* * *

For those of you who remember Kim Novak, or who might want an education of one of the big stars of the 1950s/early 60s, check out Turner Classic Movies on Aug. 12. All Kim, all day long. Film fans know her primarily from Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” but she had an interesting career. Her husky voice and rather hesitant underplaying, criticized in her day, seems more impressive now. Among the films TCM is serving up are two rarities — “Middle of The Night,” with Fredrich March in which Novak plays an insecure young woman who marries a much older man. And “Jeanne Eagels” — Kim portrays the tormented, drug-addict stage star of the 1920s. She is marvelous in “Middle” and out-of-sight campy in “Jeanne.” (In fact, her outrageous posturing in the latter film would serve as a sketch for a deliberately funny performance years later, in “The Mirror Crack’d.”) Novak is the blonde who got away. She was an even more sensitive type than Marilyn Monroe. Kim really couldn’t deal with Hollywood. She more or less began to withdraw in the mid-60s; she saw the handwriting on the wall. Times were changing, and she was tired of the grind. Her studio boss, Harry Cohn once told her, “Remember this, never forget it, you’re just a piece of meat. That’s all you are.” Novak, chilled to the soul, wondered if stardom was worth it. So, she was smart with her money and her career. There were no suicide attempts, substance abuse, mental breakdowns. She got out while the getting was good.

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