Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Robert Ellis: Vincent Gardenia & MOONSTRUCK

Robert Ellis

Last week a friend posted a tribute to the memory of Jackie Gleason. Gleason, of course, was an entertainment powerhouse who also played Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners and Minnesota Fats in The Hustler. His obvious range as an actor and a comedian, his grace and talent, was so vast it defied measurement.

Jackie Gleason in The Hustler
I'd like to throw another name into the ring. A character actor I fell for the moment I first saw him on the screen. Vincent Gardenia. The two men had completely different careers and I would never compare them except to say that like Gleason, Gardenia could play anyone from any walk of life, and do it in a unique and memorable way.

Vincent Gardenia in Moonstruck

A few nights ago I saw the movie Moonstruck for the first time in a long time. I may deal in detective stories and thrillers, but I love New York romantic comedies -- the sophistication, the intelligence, the laughs that the writers, directors, and actors work for instead of taking the easy way out. I worry that with the dumbing down of the population, the trend toward cheap, cornball humor -- the kind you see every night on American network TV in prime time and weekend late night -- will sweep everything of quality away. That the New York romantic comedy will end because no one will know how to make them anymore.

Director Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally
A tradition that seemed to begin with Billy Wilder and films like The Apartment, continued with Woody Allen in Play It Again Sam and Annie Hall, went radioactive with Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally, and Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle, and then Norman Jewison's gem of a movie in Moonstruck. Imagine this cast ... Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis, John Mahoney, and Danny Aiello all hitting a high note at the same time and in the same film. That's Moonstruck. I'm really glad I watched it, and I can't wait to see it again.

Sleep loose,


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