"Dolly" at 90 is Still the Ultimate Trooper
Carol Channing -- The E-One DVD titled "Carol Channing, Larger Than Life" is less a biography than a series of love letters to the star who was at the time of filming 90 years of age. The framing device shows a still lively Carol reminiscing about past glories as she goes from place to place in Manhattan, barely able to walk without assistance, and accompanied by her adoring husband Harry.
There is even a scene in which she is rehearsing a dance number (!), more or less held up by some very careful young dancers. I know what she was trying to prove, but it did seem mostly unnecessary. You can’t, as they say, go home again.
Among the many notables who have fond recollections of Channing are Barbara Walters, Jerry Herman, Chita Rivera, Tommy Tune, Betty Garrett and Debbie Reynolds. Much emphasis is put upon her role in "Hello, Dolly"-- a bit too much for my taste -- and some of the footage of her in the grand entrance scene in some past revival does not show any great dance talent on her part.
But it is very hard to dislike Carol, whose nearly over-the-top "show biz" professionalism makes her the legend that she is. The extreme close-ups, however, do her no favors.
The bonus amounts to a series of 15 outtakes, the funniest one being about how Carol ruined Joan Crawford’s wedding in a way that I leave to my readers to find out by watching. Barbara
"She is a force of nature" is a cliché I could have done without. So was Yul Brynner, Marlon Brando and even Bette Davis. But love letters are seldom reasonable.
The running time of the feature is 89 minutes, the picture is in widescreen format, and there are easy to read subtitles.
Metamorphoses -- The title of Ovid’s most famous work, "Metamorphoses," means "changes of shapes." He tells the reader at the very beginning, "My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of different kinds." Using a new translation of the work by Ian Johnston, Naxos AudioBooks has issued a 14-CD complete reading that is quite frankly stunning. The reader is British actor David Horovitch, who is best known as the sour Inspector Slack in the older Miss Marple series with Joan Hickson.
It must be pointed out that Ovid was in deep trouble with Augustus, because many of Ovid’s books displeased his Emperor who declared a family values campaign in Rome. So Ovid, knowing that Roman emperors believed they would be turned into stars (Julius Caesar) or gods (Caligula declared himself divine while still alive), patterned his newest book in such a way that man-into-god transformations seemed perfectly natural.
To avoid monotony, Ovid is careful to vary the tone and length of one story after another. Characters in one story actually tell the story of another metamorphosis just before experiencing their own. He also treats his tales very dramatically, inventing dialogue so the myth reads like a drama. I was particularly impressed with the speech the God of the Sun, Phoebus, gives to his son Phaethon. Having promised him anything he wanted, Phoebus immediately regretted his unbreakable promise when Phaethon wanted to drive the Golden Chariot for a day.
Ovid tells one rattling good yarn after another. While following without a written text, the listener might lose his way as to what character is now playing the lead, so to speak; but Horovitch’s acting skills keep in synch with Ovid’s moods and pacing, and hearing this Naxos set is quite a riveting experience.
The total playing time is 17:32 hours. The tracking list must be downloaded from a website given on the back of the jewel case. Mine came to 11 pages.
Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.