Winning Performance as LuLu Baines
Her film was featured at the First Annual
Big Bear Lake International Film Festival - Bearfest 2000.
The screening took place at The Village Theater on September 16th, 2000.
It was a fabulous experience viewing this film for the first time on the big screen.
& I must say, even though I've known Shirley for many years now, it was almost
surreal having the honor of being able to sit with her during this presentation.
Those of you who have written to comment on how fortunate I am to run
her web site, you're so right and yes, I count my blessings"
Question and Answer session
with the audience after the screening
Q: "In the scene from the movie when you are being slapped around
by the blackmailer, what really happened?"
Here is Shirley's reply in a Real Audio Sound File.
For those who may have some trouble loading these files,
I have the response written below,
Along with all of the other interesting questions asked that afternoon.
Lu Lu gets slapping across the face with a rolled up newspaper.
Elmer comes to Lu Lu's rescue and then
tosses that brute down a flight of stairs!
Q: "In the scene in the movie when you were being
slapped around by the blackmailer,
what really happened"?
A: "He did hit me. The
first few slaps when you saw my face in the camera and
you saw his back to me, those were actually hits ........ and it hurt like hell.
Then the director (Brooks) said "cut" and he turned me around.
Then he did what they call a fake slap".
Q: "Where was the movie shot"?
A: "Mostly on the sound
stage. The location for the tent scenes
were shot near San Diego, California.
The tabernacle was built down on the ocean in Long Beach, California.
All of the people in the crowds were real, not actors and the fire scenes were too.
It became a dangerous situation, several times it got out of hand.
Brooks was such a maniac about realism that a few times they really had some problems".
The lady who was a stuntwoman for Shirley during filming was seated one row
behind us during the screening on September 16th. Her name is Johnston
(Lorene or Barbara? I'm sorry. I've lost my notes)
This is the best photo I could snap
in the darkened theater without a flash.
Q: "Was Burt
Landcaster nominated for the film"?
A: Burt won the Academy Award for Best Actor in Elmer Gantry that year.
The next question was "For what year did they win their awards?"
It was the Academy Award for 1960.
I did not want to disturb the Q. and A. session with flash photography.
That's about the best photo I got inside of the theater.
Director Richard Brooks really wanted
actress Piper Laury for the role of Lu Lu Bains.
Burt Lancaster was adamant that Shirley Jones was the best actress for the job.
Brooks agreed, however he gave Shirley a miserable time on her first day of filming.
Absolutely no direction for her introductory scene at the bordello!
It was an arduous time for Shirley who was sure that Brooks was simply
waiting for her to fall apart so he could fire her.
Showing the kind of strength and determination that makes Shirley one of the
most venerable artist ever, she shot all of that first day without any help.
Richard Brooks saw the footage the next day, called up Shirley to apologize,
and to tell her that she would win the Academy Award.
Q: "How was the movie received by the public at the time?"
A: "It did very well,
the reviews were very good."
(The movies controversial side is dealt with in a later question)
Q: "Was Richard Brooks nominated for best director?"
A: "He was
nominated but he didn't win. He was very angry.
Brooks was an ex-marine and he showed his feelings very easily.*
I believe he won for Best Screenplay, but he wanted the directorial"
* (Shirley is correct. He won Best Screenplay,
but lost Best Director to Billy Wilder for "The Apartment")
Elmer piously heads up the raid on the house of prostitution where LuLu works.
She is amused by the look of shock on Elmer's face when he sees her.
After all, he is the person most responsible for the ruination and decline.
Q: "You mentioned that
you were done making musicals, but didn't you do
"The Music Man" after Elmer Gantry?"
A: "Yes, afterwards.
Actually I picked up the Academy Award right in the middle of
filming "The Music Man", so that's right but that was really the last one".
Q: "Was that Burt Landcaster's real singing voice"? (He sings a few times in the movie)
A: "Yes it
was, he sang. Burt was a big fan of the Opera. He came from Eastern roots.
He was an acrobat in the circus, self educated, and he loved music.
One of the things we had in common is that he had a
great appreciation for music, and me as a singer.
Q: "What is your favorite of all your movies?"
A: This (Elmer
Gantry) would have to be up there, I have
I just appreciate the work itself so much. I loved Brooks. I loved the cast.
The musicals, that's a whole other type of film and of the musicals
I'd probably say "The Music Man".
"Oklahoma" was great because it was my first film. I have great memories of that.
(Shirley often speaks fondly of her musical "Carousel".
She has mentioned that it is her favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein score.)
Q: "Which scene did Richard Brooks watch that changed his mind about you?"
A: The very first scene you saw
of mine. The scene in the house of prostitution
with all the ladies where I've got the nylon stocking. I'm talking about Elmer Gantry.
That was the first scene that I shot which was probably the most difficult scene for me
in the whole movie. He gave me almost no direction for that. He wanted Piper Laury
for the role and wanted to fire me. But he didn't thank heavens!"
At the start of "Elmer
Gantry" there is a warning
to the viewer that the subject matter is adult.
"I found the warning at the beginning of the film quite interesting.
It makes you realize how controversial the film must have been 40 years ago."
response) "Oh, at that time?, Oh my dear.
It was and you know that line I said about ramming the fear of God into me, that line.....
you would hear a hush come over the audience. Several theaters.....
You know that expression, 'I was banned in Boston'."
Q: "If this picture did not win for Best Film, what beat it out?"
A: "You're taxing
my memory. That year it was nominated, but didn't win.
I can't remember what it was."
(The movie that won over Elmer Gantry was "The Apartment")
Q: "I may
be perhaps an ignorant member of my generation, but it seems like
people my age or younger kind of remember you for the TV show.
More so than for your considerable accomplishments before.
I'm wondering how you accept that? How does that make you feel"?
A: Well, it was another
time. I sort of re-educate them when they talk to me.
But it's very understandable. People of your generation know me as Mrs. Partridge.
We were in your living room every Friday night for five years (4yrs), so that's certainly
natural. It brings to light a story about Fred Zinnerman. He directed "Oklahoma!"
"The Nuns Story" and "From Here To Eternity" to name just a few of his
great motion pictures. Some people from your generation invited him into their
office to talk about the possibly of his directing a new motion picture for them.
A young producer: "Well Mr. Zinnerman could you
please tell us what you've done?"
Fred Zinnerman replied: "You first".
Shirley concluded the
question and answer session by saying:
"It was an emotional experience because the memories
are strong and vivid. It was a great time."
"I'm glad you all came today and I hope you enjoyed it.
I know I did. It's a great film and it will go on"
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