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Peter Bart: Hollywood Studio Protectors Of Old Would Still Have Plenty To Do These Days

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He spoke in a raspy monotone that was at once commanding, yet menacing. Howard Strickling officially was the public relations boss of MGM during its heyday, but his real responsibility, he would explain, was protection more than publicity.

Strickling’s mission was to nurture the roster of stars under studio contract. If he were around today he might even have a few things to say to Brad Pitt or George Clooney.

He’d likely be wary, for example, about Pitt’s decision to play silent star John Gilbert in the forthcoming period movie Babylon. Gilbert’s career ended abruptly in the 1920s due to his stormy personal relationships with other stars, so Strickling would counsel Pitt to avoid references to his litigation with ex-wife Angelina Jolie.

Gilbert experienced well-publicized conflicts with his volatile co-star and fiancée Greta Garbo. Louis B. Mayer opposed the wedding and, in one lethal moment, Gilbert shoved the MGM czar against a wall, causing him to lose his glasses and shout, “I’ll destroy you.”

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Strickling therefore would likely be warning reporters to avoid personal questions to Pitt who, unlike Gilbert, is normally tactful and congenial in his media encounters. He also has a strong speaking voice in contrast to Gilbert’s falsetto, which hurt his career in the brave new world of talkies.

John Gilbert, ca. early 1930s

Strickling had the studio muscle to change casting decisions and re-invent the histories of actors like Tab Hunter or Guy Madison (Gilbert originally was named Cecil Pringle.)

Damien Chazelle, Babylon’s director (he also shot La La Land) carefully studied that moment of the 1920s when star careers were disrupted by the introduction of sound. He believes Hollywood faces a similarly transformative moment today as streamers supplant theatrical exhibition, depriving stars of their red-carpet openings and festival exposure.

Clooney, a student of Hollywood history, has smartly moved between streamers, like The Midnight Sky, and theatrical films, such as Ticket to Paradise. His new movie is performing well worldwide (approaching $100 million) and defying critics’ dire forecasts by winning over U.S. ticket buyers.

Still, Strickling might have proposed a platform release for Ticket to Paradise, and urged its director to provide a more visually romantic and protective setting for his Ticket stars. Clooney, at 61, and Julia Roberts 57, seem to blanch in the harsh sunlight of Bali.

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By contrast, Cary Grant, at age 61, was cast opposite Audrey Hepburn in the sophisticated, elegantly lit suspense comedy titled Charade in 1963. Its setting was Paris – no glare from the sun.

Still, the Clooney-Roberts team won affectionate praise from older audiences as well as from the media. The New York Times suggested that “Clooney and Roberts have quietly become the Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn of our time.”

Tracy was 67 and Hepburn 60 when they last appeared together in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967, and by that time both were ailing and their exchanges were barbed. Both also detested the media – reporters were barred from the set.

I got to know Strickling in his later years (he died in 1982) and enjoying coaxing gossip from him, which wasn’t easy. He worked with a thuggish ex-bouncer named Eddie Mannix in shielding the bad behavior of heavy-drinking stars who also dallied in opium and “morphine,” as it was then called.

There are no studio enforcers like Strickling in today’s Hollywood, but stars like Will Smith or Johnny Depp would likely have coveted their support. Strickling could make police reports disappear and magically alter the content of column items.

He would have greatly admired stars like Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio who have demonstrated a talent for sustaining their long careers during a time of change.

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In return, those stars would have appreciated Strickling’s talents. “Stars didn’t like me but they needed me,” Strickling once confided to me. “It was more important to me to be needed.”



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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