Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hollywood stars with their kitties; Goodbye to novelist Elmore Leonard & pianist Cedar Walton

Behold some of Hollywood's most beautiful people with their slinky, furry friends. With some of the ladies, it's a contest as to just who is more bewitching! Scroll down for the IDs.
Roll call: Audrey Hepburn, Anita Ekburg in La Dolce Vita, Ann-Margret, Lauren Bacall, Brando!, Carole Lombard, Elizabeth Taylor, Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, Gene Tierney in The Egyptian, Cary Grant, Jeannette McDonald with "Pussums", Kim Novak, Steve McQueen (who knew he could be such a pussycat!), Mia Farrow, Michael Wilding and Elizabeth Taylor, Stephen Fry, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Love to contemplate cats? You've come to the right place! Click here to browse our three pages of cat-related books. And if you have a particular feline friend, please share his or her name with us (especially if book-related)!
Reporting that crime novelist Elmore Leonard died yesterday, NPR offered his 10 Rules of Writing, which I couldn't love more.
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said."
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
Leonard was massively popular, writing almost 50 books—many of which were made into films. He is included in A New Omnibus of Crime, which looks to me like a fantastic read for mystery/crime fiction addicts.
Another highly creative person we will miss greatly is jazz pianist Cedar Walton, who died Tuesday.  Thankfully, like Leonard's, his work lives on. Don't miss his collaboration with singer Ian Shaw: In a New York Minute. Here is Walton at a festival with a beautifully lyrical take on Coltrane's "Naima."


  1. Gene Tierney had probably the most unhappy life that a wealthy, famous, and drop-dead gorgeous woman could have. She contracted rubella from a fan while pregnant, and gave birth to a disabled daughter. She was told exactly who likely transmitted the virus. That, Wiki tells me, became the motive for an Agatha Christie novel.
    Perhaps understandably, Ms. Tierney struggled with depression all her life.

    I thought it was a personal fault that I could never sit through long passages of room descriptions, but now Mr. Leonard backs me up.
    Gratuitous description is better served by a small sketch.
    I'll start reading Mr. Leonard's work forthwith!

    1. I just read a very good novel called An Evening of Long Goodbyes (by Paul Murray, 2003) whose wastrel hero – described as a combination of Bertie Wooster and Ignatius J. Reilly (!) – avoids work as much as possible, but wants to write a monograph about his obsession, Gene Tierney. The incidents from her life that he relates, credited to Tierney's 1980 autobiography Self-Portrait, are fascinating. Apparently she was discovered while on a studio tour when the director stopped filming Errol Flynn and Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and came over to tell her she should take a screen test.

      The novel says it was the fan herself, years later in Los Angeles, who admitted infecting her. At a party, the woman said she had met Tierney once before, during World War II, when her camp had been quarantined with German measles, but she was dying to see her idol, so she managed to sneak out of the barracks. Murray writes, "Anyone else would have screamed, or punched her, but Gene, who had been reared to be nice, merely smiled and turned away."

    2. I doubt she could have smiled, but what could she do? The horrible damage was done, and no amount of blame could alleviate a bit of it.
      What did your novel have to say about the electroshock therapy she underwent, and to which she attributed her memory loss?

    3. I used to feel guilty because I wanted to skip nature descriptions in novels, but no longer!

    4. Murray writes on page 343 that Tierney was given 32 ECT treatments – “at that time considered a breakthrough in the treatment of the mentally ill... Her life in the institution became one long gray anonymous blur, punctuated by the electric current. And in some ways it worked. She was pacified, docile; she knitted, made tables, scrubbed floors; she was happy of be relieved of the burden of her identity. But she remained in dread of the ECT sessions.”

      On the next page his narrator adds: “It struck me that it might not be such a great shift, from Hollywood actress to mental patient. The hospital, like the studio, exercised strict controls on every aspect of your image, your routine, how you thought and spoke and acted; the patients were like actors who had stumbled too far into the script and could not find their way back out.”

    5. "Pieces of my life just disappeared," she is quoted as saying. It was like being Eve, out of Adam's rib, "born without a history."
      It's hard to think of this as a cure. Thanks RPS!

  2. Dear Ms. Hepburn: I do hope that cat has a name!

  3. This link below is probably my all time favorite celebrity/cat photo ever!!!

    1. Me too ... for people too lazy to look, it is a young and impossibly attractive Marlon Brando smiling at white cat on his shoulder.

  4. 1) Audrey Hepburn would look stunning even holding a dead cat.
    2) Elmore Leonard obviously was a master, and his rules are terrific, but in reading almost 40 of his novels I never particularly found a main character I cared much about in the slghtest, with the exception of the title character in Mr. Majestyk and Ernest Stickley in Stick.
    3) Thank you for remembering Cedar Walton, whose great talent often was overshadowed by others (and now his death, too, will be eclipsed by Marian McPartland’s).

  5. Does this mean that "It was a dark and stormy night" is out?
    I'll have to start all over!