"I see a woman can be made a fool, if she had not the spirit to resist!" declares literature's most recalcitrant and battling virgin, Shakespeare's Katharina in "The Taming of the Shrew." Notable actresses on stage and screen have interpreted the fiery Katharina, including Mary Pickford, who was attempting to change her image. Her swashbuckling hubby Douglas Fairbanks was Petruchio. More recently, Elizabeth Taylor, who was simply playing into her image, romped through Franco Zefferelli's version. Richard Burton was her sly, materialistic suitor.
But now we might see somebody else very famous, punching, kicking, spouting imprecations and eventually being somewhat (if not entirely) domesticated and resigned to her fate. I do mean screen queen Julia Roberts.
In the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, Julia and her pal, director Mike Nichols, reveal that he would very much like to do a production of "Taming" (or maybe "Much Ado About Nothing") in Central Park. Mike has directed Julia in two movies, "Closer" and "Charlie Wilson's War." Miss Roberts exclaims, "To have fun and be in the park! That would be a dream of mine. Seeing Shakespeare in the park, for me, it's just this side of feeling like you've witnessed some kind of magic. It's this spell you're under, to be a part of that."
Well, let's keep our fingers crossed that we can fall under Julia's spell, on a warm summer's night, announcing, as the supposedly tamed shrew -- "I am ashamed that women are so simple." (Like Miss Taylor, I think Julia would indicate that despite her soothing words, Petruchio was still in for a heck of time with her!)
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The cult of movie icon Kim Novak -- the Blonde Who Got Away, as I always refer to her -- grows with each passing year. Kim's hushed, hesitant style, often criticized during her heyday as one of Hollywood's biggest box office attractions, looks far more modern and accessible than the work of many of her contemporaries. And, despite her loathing of Harry Cohn, the despot of Columbia Pictures, and of Hollywood attitudes in general, Kim was given the leading lady treatment. She had varied roles, great leading men, and though considered "troublesome" -- because she asked questions, and wouldn't obey directors blindly -- she was better liked and better respected than Marilyn Monroe. But eventually, Kim removed herself from a still-thriving career and left Hollywood, returning sporadically, only when she felt like it.
On June 14 the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society will present Kim with its Cinematic Icon Award. Kim herself will appear at the grand Old Mint at Fifth and Mission streets there. Kim filmed two of her most famous movies in Frisco, a city she adores. These were "Pal Joey" and "Vertigo." Novak says: "What an honor it will be to receive this special award. It will be like coming home again."
Novak's films are seen more and more on Turner Classic Movies, including "Bell, Book and Candle," Paddy Chayefsky's grim drama "Middle of the Night" and her great 1960 melodrama with Kirk Douglas "Strangers When We Meet." She is fun to watch even in campier fare such as "Jeanne Eagels" and "The Legend of Lylah Clare." The latter film is famous for actress Coral Browne's "impersonation" of gossip columnist Radie Harris, who had a wooden leg. Watching Miss Novak and Miss Browne square off is perverse pleasure at its peak.