Friday, December 30, 2016



Joan Collins: Oh, the abuse I get for having a fake Christmas tree

Also in her diary: the gloom of modern movies; the stars whose Hollywood tombs are already built

 Every year, from mid-November to mid-January, dozens of DVDs drop through my letterbox. These are most of the movie releases of the past year. It is with great anticipation that I tear open the yellow padded envelopes from Sony or Disney or The Weinstein Company, and even from companies I’ve never heard of; but invariably it’s with disappointment that I scan the hundreds of titles unknown to me, and I do read Screen Daily and the Hollywood Reporter. I’m amazed that the production companies manage to finance some of these films. I know from whence I speak. However, snuggled up on the sofa in the days before Christmas I dutifully watch all the films in preparation to vote in the Bafta and Academy Awards. It’s like training for a marathon. It takes discipline, alertness, focus and stamina. Sadly, too many of the films I’ve seen this month are deeply dark and depressing, featuring either angst-ridden fortyish women or angry teenagers and endless silent ‘establishing takes’ (those interminable ‘mood’ shots that new directors are so fond of but I think are simply… how is it our dear Foreign Secretary Boris put it? A man from Ankara?). Let’s have no more of these time-wasters. I can understand very quickly where the plot point of a shot is headed and have no desire to gaze for more than a few seconds upon the leafy autumn sunshine, or be reduced to counting the wrinkles on an anxious hero’s face. I’d much rather it ended after 90 minutes and I could think: ‘Well, that was fun.’
Oh, for the days of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire musicals, of marvellous dramas like Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve and of comedies like Some Like it Hot and The Apartment. Sadly Billy Wilder is no longer with us. He knew how to write a memorable ending right down to his epitaph: ‘He was a writer. But then again, nobody’s perfect.’

We put up our Christmas tree earlier that usual, inspired by all the decorations in the shop windows and their fantastical designs. Opting to save the planet, we recycled our old faux tree. (Yes, I do have a frugal side.) Besides, it gives Percy endless hours of fun trying to get the lights to work again. (Being Peruvian and Scottish, he is genetically predisposed to frugality.) I must admit it looked beautiful with the decorations, so I tweeted a picture with the caption ‘Have I peaked too early?’ Followers chided me indeed for having put Christmas in their heads before December had even arrived, but many, many more were horrified that I didn’t have a real pine. ‘Seriously?’ I thought. In these days of conservationism I should get abuse for being environmentally conscious?

In LA for a brief visit, I was honoured to receive the Spirit of Entertainment award from the John Wayne Cancer Foundation at the Beverly Hilton. Since cancer will strike one in three people, this was an event worthy of support. Although it’s been 15 months since my sister Jackie died I still mourn her every day. We went to visit her crypt at the Westwood Cemetery on Wilshire Boulevard. This is a beautifully tended, peaceful park and the final resting place for a veritable Who’s Who of the motion picture business. Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Natalie Wood, Lucille Ball and hundreds of other household names all have their places. Marilyn Monroe’s crypt has a sign that says the area is monitored 24 hours a day and there are always fresh roses in the vase, though no one seems to know who puts them there. The immaculate graves are so much in demand that many have already bought their places, some priced at over a million dollars, and installed their sarcophagi in advance of the grand finale, which is slightly unnerving when you see them at the next cocktail party.
The Archbishop of Canterbury caused a stir with his Christmas sermon, speaking of a world ‘awash with fear’. That is certainly true of people in the entertainment world in 2016. I cannot believe the number of entertainers, some good acquaintances and some close friends, whose deaths have taken us all by surprise this year. One of my first movies was The Good Die Young. Never has this phrase rang truer. From the great David Bowie and Alan Rickman in January to my great friend, the unparalleled genius A.A. Gill in November, it has been non-stop shock and sadness. And with the demise of George Michael and Carrie Fisher on contiguous days at Christmas it’s getting spooky, so I am counting down the days and hours left before the year ends with great trepidation

TRIBUTE : DEBBIE REYNOLDS .. 1932 -- 2016 .

Joan with Debbie at The Apollo Theatre London after Debbie's 1st night of her London show
It was very sad news earlier with the announcement that the Legendary Debbie Reynolds had passed on, just a day after her wonderful daughter Carrie died from a heart attack.. Debbie was the true definition of a Hollywood Star, an MGM legend and all round entertainer. Debbie played the role of movie star to the hilt and as well as a fine actress, she could sing and dance, whether it be on the silver screen, the small screen or on stage, she had done it all.. Her most remembered film will be 'Singin In The Rain', which is a true Hollywood classic and I enjoy revisiting it on occasion.. But other lesser known films which I enjoyed are the 1971 shocker 'What's The Matter With Helen' in which Debbie
starred alongside another legend, the formidable Shelley Winters.. Debbie played a dance teacher whose son along with Shelley's son, is jailed for murder.. The two ladies move to the city to open a dance studio away from the scandal.. Shelley of course plays the demented half of the partnership and soon the bodies pile up.. A great suspense film also starring Dennis Weaver and Agnes Moorehead.. In 2001 Debbie starred in the legend filled tv movie 'These Old Broads' written by Carrie and also featuring Joan alongside Shirley Maclaine and Elizabeth Taylor, with June Allyson making a cameo.. Debbie also guest starred alongside the hilarious Marilyn Michaels in one of my favourite episodes of 'The Love Boat', where the girls played bookers who were to bring a
Debbie with Gavin McLeod & Marilyn Michaels on The Love Boat
group of stars on to the ship for the Celebrity cruise, but when the stars get on the wrong ship, Debbie and Marilyn, to save face decide to revive an old nightclub act they once had, which featured them impersonating stars and they manage to almost fool the crew into thinking they are among others Dolly Parton, Eva & Zza Zza Gabor and Barbra Streisand among others.. Well worth seeking out..With Debbie's passing, at least we have all her wonderful performances to view for generations to come.. God bless you Debbie, you may have left us, but your spirit is Unsinkable!
Debbie with Joan & Shirley in These Old Broads..

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


‘These Old Broads’ Director Recalls Carrie Fisher’s ‘Love Letter’ to Debbie Reynolds

These Old Broads
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Carrie Fisher’s affection for her mother was never more prominently displayed than in “These Old Broads,” the 2001 ABC TV movie she wrote as a starring vehicle for Debbie Reynolds and her one-time stepmother, Elizabeth Taylor.
The movie was true to Fisher’s form as a writer who excelled in offering unvarnished looks at the downside of celebrity and the ephemeral nature of success in showbiz. “Broads,” which Fisher co-wrote with Elaine Pope, offers a biting take on how hard it is for actresses to maintain a career, let alone age gracefully on screen.
The pairing of Reynolds and Taylor ensured that the movie generated advance buzz from the get-go. The two had starring roles in the real-life scandal that erupted when Fisher was a toddler in the late 1950s after her father, singer Eddie Fisher, had an affair with Taylor that ended his marriage to Reynolds.
The heat from those “Eddie Dumps Debbie” headlines still had marketing sizzle for ABC, even a half-century later. Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins rounded out a stellar quartet. And just to make “Broads” that much more meta, MacLaine, of course, played a character loosely inspired by Reynolds in the 1990 film adaptation of Fisher’s novel “Postcards From the Edge.”
“Broads” centers around four actresses of a certain age, far removed from their glory days, who are reunite for a live musical TV special after a movie they made together in the early 1960s becomes a hit in re-release. Challenges, hijinks, and hilarity ensue as the foursome try to pull it together for the camera. Fisher herself makes a brief appearance as a hooker. (Fun fact: future “Lost” star Nestor Carbonell played the hit-hungry TV executive who dreams up the special.)
“These Old Broads” director Matthew Diamond said Fisher envisioned the movie as a tribute to her mother’s generation of Hollywood stars. But characteristically, there was nothing sappy about her material.
“She wrote it as a love letter to her mother, Elizabeth, Shirley, and Joan,” Diamond told Variety. “It worked for the audience as a piece of entertainment and also as a kind of inside joke that everybody in the world was in on. That it could exist on both of those levels at once was extraordinary and reflective of Carrie.”
The movie was filmed in 2000 on the Sony Pictures lot — the hallowed ground of MGM where Reynolds and Taylor, in particular, spent many hours working in their youth. All of the actresses shared old-Hollywood memories with Diamond during their downtime on the shoot.
“Debbie would talk about it a lot. At one point we were driving around the lot on a golf cart and she’d point out things she’d experienced and the place where she went to school,” Diamond said. “It was just so much fun to be there with them. They all had such a rich history.”
Reynolds also voiced her appreciation and pride for Fisher’s accomplishments, particularly as a writer, he added.
Despite old tensions, Reynolds, Taylor, MacLaine, and Collins were consummate pros and respectful to one another during the shoot.
“What was interesting was that the women all started out a little bit careful with each other. They were all such giants,” Diamond recalled. “By the end they were madly in love with one another and I could barely get them off the set. They wanted to play the scenes again and again. And that had to do with the spirit of the script.”
As a producer and screenwriter, Fisher was extremely articulate in her vision for the movie. But she was collaborative on the elements that Diamond suggested. The veteran director, whose recent credits include NBC’s “The Wiz Live” and CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” was recruited for “Broads” by producer Laurence Mark.
“It was a beautiful script from the start and tons of fun,” Diamond said.
Fisher came to the set a few times, but mostly gave Diamond the leeway to shoot “Broads” as he saw fit. At the time, Fisher was very focused on raising her young daughter, Billie, Diamond recalled, something he appreciated as the father of young kids himself.
“Broads” was a success for ABC in its premiere on Feb. 12, 2001. Sure, it skewed older in its demographic ratings, but 15.2 million total viewers was more than respectable. Fisher and Diamond felt it was mission accomplished.
“Carrie really did seem to make this movie an effort to embrace (the actresses) with her talent as a writer,” Diamond said. “Everybody had a grand time with it and that all sourced to Carrie.


Joan enjoying a round of Christmas parties and meeting up with old friends, joined these legendary ladies from 80's primetime, Michele Lee, Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills from classic nightime drama 'Knot's Landing'... A truly legendary lineup!


It was very sad news earlier, when it was announced that the most lovely Carrie Fisher had died in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack whilst on a flight back to LA from London.. This photo features Joan at a Hollywood event back in 2001 with Carrie, who wrote the screenplay for the popular tv movie 'These Old Broads' which Joan starred, along with Shirley Maclaine, Elizabeth Taylor and Carrie's mother, Debbie Reynolds.. Carrie who was a fine actress, witty author and a true icon.. She will be greatly missed..
Check out Carrie's latest bestseller 'The Princess Diaries'...

Monday, December 26, 2016


Joan gets into the Holiday spirit in this glamorous portrait by David Downton...

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Just to wish everyone a most wonderful Christmas & Holiday Season & all the very best for 2017 from The Joan Collins Archive!

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Joan has Christmas all wrapped up in this glamorous shot from Palm Springs Life in 1982 ..

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Thursday, December 22, 2016

LIZ SMITH: The Long, Long Road to "Dynasty"

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Joan Collins, Survivor — The Long, Long Road to "Dynasty"

“I NEVER chased fame!”

So said Joan Collins. Of course Joan said this when fame — real fame! — had finally caught up with her, during her spectacular reign on TV’s “Dynasty.” Once one is that world-famous, one can say anything convincingly.

London-born Joan never fails to remind people that she began her career as a student of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She asserts, “I came into this business to be a theater actress.” Yes, indeed. And if you have ever had the pleasure of seeing Joan onstage, she is as vivid and striking as her image on screens, large and small.
Joan Collins (right) in her stage debut in “A Doll’s House.”
Miss Collins made her 1946 stage debut in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” as ... a boy.  In 1954, she starred at The Queen’s Theater as Sabrina in Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth.” But between those significant appearances she had been signed by the British film studio, Rank.

She was first seen onscreen in “Lady Godiva Rides Again.” British audiences were alert to her charms.  Miss Collins was even more alert.  She complained that Rank — and British cinema in general — didn’t build up its female players. “They concentrate on the men.” Remember, now she wasn’t chasing fame. She was just concerned about the British cinema.
Joan on set with with fellow starlet Madeleine Mona in “Lady Godiva Rides Again," 1951.
American film studios did build  female stars. One of the biggest — 20th Century Fox — got a look at Collins and snapped her up. Fox was most famous for its blonde stars — Shirley Temple, Alice Faye, Betty Grable, and the studio’s Ultimate Blonde, Marilyn Monroe.  However, Fox had also nurtured the career of the darkly luscious Linda Darnell.  By 1954, Darnell — not yet 30! — was considered over the hill, and Collins, fresh and in her twenties, was brought in.

But before Fox could try to mold her, Warner Bros put Joan into “Land of The Pharaohs.”  It was a typical sex and sand tale that was elevated by her outrageous posturing as the murderous, avaricious second wife of Pharaoh.  This was a fully-fleshed early peek at Joan’s later persona as “Dynasty’s” Alexis Carrington-Colby-Dexter-Whatever.
Joan’s character, Nellifer the Egyptian, was Too Much in every way — too much beauty, too much bitchery, too much evil (she kills a child!)  She flashes her enormous eyes, she flares her elegant nostrils, she inhales — a lot. It’s a performance for the ages, and Collins goes for broke, even garnering a soupcon of sympathy as she is sealed up alive in her late husband’s pyramid. (“I don’t want to die!  I don’t want to die!” she screams as others condemned to the same fate, look on scornfully.)
Fox plopped her opposite ornery Bette Davis in “The Virgin Queen.” This, by Joan’s account, was a terrifying experience!

She was then cast as Evelyn Nesbit in “The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing,” a film based on a real life turn-of-the-century sex-and murder scandal. The movie had been earmarked for Marilyn Monroe, but Monroe was off on strike, studying at the Actor’s Studio.  So Joan got to swing opposite Ray Milland and Farley Granger. She was fine, but not as convincing in her compromised role as a girl led astray as she had been as a vamp of antiquity.  She was at her best being brassy and bold. 
In a loan-out to MGM, Collins had the opportunity to be both, and gave another nod to her future career as an over-the-top villain, playing Crystal Allen in the semi-musical remake of “The Women,” re-named “The Opposite Sex.”

If Collins had a second’s hesitation about stepping into a role Joan Crawford had made famous, it didn’t show. She is outrageously enjoyable, bad to the bone, the best thing in the film.  Perhaps some of her co-stars knew it.  When June Allyson and Collins came to shoot the famous dressing room scene, originally a slow-simmer showdown between Crawford and Norma Shearer — the Collins version came with the added impact of a slap. “If you’re dressing for Steven, not that one, it’s too obvious,” says June in her husky, near-tearful croak.  Collins smirks and replies, “When Steven doesn’t like what I’m wearing, I take it off.”  Bam!  June Allyson gives Joan a slap that sends her earring flying!  It looks real.  It was! 
Back in the 20th Century Fox fold, they just didn’t know what to do with Joan.  She was wasted in “The Wayward Bus” (Jayne Mansfield’s wayward bust got all the press) ... disappeared among the fronds in “Island In The Sun” ... was a ravishing, improbable nun opposite Richard Burton in “The Sea Wife” ... an over-dressed airline receptionist in “Stopover Toyko” ... lost in “The Bravados” with Gregory Peck. The studio system was collapsing and Joan’s career along with it. (Her personal life, once free of her first husband, actor Maxwell Reed, was more enjoyable. Fun romances with Sydney Chaplin, Arthur Lowe, Jr. and — later — Warren Beatty — filled the columns.)
Joan’s prime Hollywood years were about to end, but not before she gave one of her most winning performances, in “Rally’ Round the Flag, Boys.”  The stars were Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward as a suburban couple, but it was Joan, as the wacky, witty, sex-crazed next-door neighbor who wiped them off the screen. Had studio heads been paying attention they’d have seen Joan was that rare commodity — a beautiful woman who is also very funny.  This role also showed off Joan’s remarkable physical energy — an attribute she enjoys to this day.
Collins had been screen-tested in 1959 for Fox’s “Cleopatra” when the film was a reasonably-budgeted potboiler, and Collins a reasonably salaried contract player.  But producer Walter Wagner wanted something bigger — he got it in the shape of box-office queen Elizabeth Taylor, who demanded an unprecedented million dollars to sail down the Nile.  She got that. When Taylor almost died of pneumonia, Joan, along with such improbable replacements as Kim Novak, Susan Hayward and Marilyn Monroe were put on notice.  Taylor recovered — as usual — and went on to shock the world with another adulterous scandal, capturing her married co-star Richard Burton.

But Joan’s screen-test survives.  She would have been an amusingly dishy Queen of the Nile.
By 1962 Joan was appearing opposite Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in a tired finale to their great series of comedies, “The Road to Hong Kong.”  It was the road to no-where for Joan.

The following year, Collins married composer, actor Anthony Newley. He was not an easy person, but very talented.  They did have two children, Tara and Sasha, and Joan slowed down a bit to parent.
But, as Joan would say years later, “I never met a man who could look after me.  I don’t need a husband, I need a wife!” And so she worked ... ”La Congiuntura” ... ”Hard Times for a Princess” ... ”Warning Shot” ... Subterfuge” ... Three In the Cellar” ... ”The Executioner” ... ”Fear In the Night” ... ”Quest for Love” ... ”Terror From Under the Stairs” ... ”Tales from The Crypt” ... ”Tales that Witness Madness” ... ”The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones” ... and the most infamous in this string of unworthy projects, “Empire of the Ants.”  Yes, Joan Collins — still a beauty, still vital and charismatic, but not even a blip on Hollywood’s radar — gets eaten by a giant ant.  (This was a long way from plush red velvet swings or slugging it out with June Allyson!)
During this fallow period, Joan and Anthony Newley divorced, and she married yet again, to Ronald Kass, with whom she had another child, Katyana. (Joan won her spurs as a devoted mother; all her children adore her.)

Careerwise, Joan had a bit of an upswing appearing in campy film versions of novels written by her prolific novelist sister, Jackie — “The Bitch” and “The Stud.” The movies were not much of anything except exploitive, but Joan, moving toward her late forties, looked terrif.  The films made money in Europe, but in the USA, the titles provoked her old 1950’s audience to wonder, “Is Joan Collins doing porn?!”
In 1979 Joan did appear in a major American film, “Sunburn.” This was supposed to be the launching pad for Farrah Fawcett’s big-screen career.  It was not.  However, Joan’s appearance as a daffy, sexy, mad lady-of-leisure was splendid.  The performance recalled her “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys” days, with an extra edge. Despite a dreadful series of films, Joan Collins had honed her gifts.  She was better than ever.
With Charles Grodin in the 1979 film "Sunburn."
Finally, in 1981, Joan was offered a role (one season only) in the struggling prime time soap “Dynasty.”  She would play Alexis Carrington, pathologically vengeful ex-wife of Denver tycoon Blake Carrington — now married to the saintly Krystal.  Joan, in an overpowering hat, a veil and a witness stand scene that went through the roof , put “Dynasty” on the map.

Collins was an instant sensation.    Joan put an extraordinary investment in both the dramatic and highly comedic elements of Alexis.  Her intensity was startling.  With her heavy maquillage and black tresses, you couldn’t miss Joan Collins.    Soon the writers developed a fantastic motif for Joan/Alexis. She had her hip-waggling, swaggering exits and entrances, constant nibbling on dainty bits of food, and sudden surges of emotion; in an instant she could go from bitchy repartee to a towering rage, and back again.
At the age of 49, “Dynasty” made Joan the great star she should have been at 25.  She was an iconic symbol of sex-appeal ripening with maturity, and all-round female empowerment. And, thanks to Nolan Miller’s surreal fashions, a stunning example of  personality trumping shoulder pads. (The other women of “Dynasty” seemed devoured by their clothes; Joan was the picture of comfort and relaxed √©lan, no matter what they threw on her.)

“Dynasty” became a national — an international! — obsession — and it continued as such until 1989.  During those years Joan herself was often confused with the character she played. Indeed, she was witty and could be exceptionally sharp-tongued.  And, once opportunity knocked, Joan — like Alexis — made a financial killing.  Collins worked every possible angle — including holding out for more money from “Dynasty” producer Aaron Spelling — to ensure her security. She deserved every cent.
But Joan was a vulnerable woman, under the paint and wigs. She allowed herself to be conned by a slick playboy and minor pop singer, Peter Holm.  Collins and Holm married in 1985 — Joan and Ronald Kass had divorced in ’83, as her stardom zoomed. The pair were battling in court by 1987.  Holm made a spectacle of himself, sued Collins for a fortune but made off only with the pre-nup sum of $1 million.  Joan came out of it breezily.
Eventually, not even Joan could save a show that required her to say, relentlessly, “I hate you Blake, I hate you.  And I’ll destroy you if it’s the last thing I do!”  By the time “Dynasty” was put out of its misery, Joan had made a fortune with plush TV movies, fragrances, fashions, and lord knows what else.  Between 1978 and 2007, Joan also collected millions writing sixteen — count ‘em — sixteen books!  Memoirs, bodice-ripping fiction, health and beauty tomes.  You name it, Joan Collins has tried it. (And when Random House tried to renege on an advance, saying Joan’s prose was sub-standard she fought and won, with a dramatic display on the witness stand that would have done Alexis proud.)
In 1991, she appeared on Broadway in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” ... gave a fabulous performance in the 1995 movie “In the Bleak Midwinter” ... guest starred on dozens of series and sitcoms and, basically, retained the image and stardom she achieved late in life, loving every bit of it. 

In 2002, Joan married the adorable Percy Gibson, actor and stage manager.  There are a few years difference in their ages, but having seen the two of them together, I’d say ... she’s younger. (She is a grandmother three times over, but I won’t tell if you won’t.)  She radiates good heath, and moves like a teenager.
I have two true-life tales of Joan, both of which reveal the woman beneath the image. In 2000, Joan appeared in the TV movie “These Old Broads,” with Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine and (in what was little more than a cameo) Elizabeth Taylor.  I’d heard, from what I considered a good source, that Joan had made unkind remarks about Elizabeth, who was in declining health, and that Elizabeth had countered back with her own wisecracks. Imagine my surprise on the day the item appeared — Joan herself called my office, weeping, sobbing ... “Liz, I would never say such things about Elizabeth! ... etc.”  More stunning was a call from Elizabeth! She said, darkly, “Liz, Joan and I are old friends. I know she’d never say those things, and I know for sure I’d never respond, even if she did.” Needless to say, I retracted. (This was a gentle chiding from La Liz, but still enough to freeze my blood!)
The other Joan story I cherish is from the same period.  I’d attended a special screening of “These Old Broads.” Joan was there.  In the film (it was an awful thing, despite Carrie Fisher’s script), Joan’s character, an actress looking to make a comeback, performs a full split. Athletic and impressive. At the cocktail reception after, Joan arrived, wearing  a Chanel skirt, silk blouse and a little fur shrug. She looked divine. I said, “Joan, you were so funny in this thing, but who did that split for you?”
Peering at me through eyelashes thick as a toothbrush, Joan said, “Nobody did it for me.  I did that myself.”

“Oh, come on, honey, it’s just us. That’s not possible!”

Never challenge a woman who has had to live down being eaten by a giant ant.  Joan tossed away her sleek evening bag, shrugged off her shrug, and went into a full split right there!  Better yet, in one graceful movement she was back on her feet.
Before I could utter a word, Joan had gathered herself together, and was at the buffet table, picking through olives in her best don’t mess-with-me Alexis mode. 

Joan once said, “I have always tried to live with enthusiasm and pleasure.”  Although an iron will and the discipline of a Marine were also required, those are the defining qualities of Joan as I know her — enthusiastic for life and experience, pleasured with what her talent and vitality has brought her, vividly intelligent. (There’s not an ounce of false modesty in her, which is quite refreshing!) 

She had to wait a long time to get what she deserved.  But nobody has appreciated fame more than Joan Collins.