I HATE biopics, even ones about folks I like, such as Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, and Tina Turner. Basically I feel that the "work" should be left to speak for itself. And so, even though I won't go to see it if and when it's released, it appears as though the heavily turned-around story of Dusty Springfield is about to get a serious green light from Universal, starring Kristin Chenoweth.
Not since the various aborted attempts to turn the life of Dorothy Dandridge into a film became a veritable cottage industry in Hollywood have so many Life of a performer been announced as Springfield. The Dandridge film eventually turned up, not on the big screen, however, but on cable as an undistinguished biomeller starring Halle Berry. Not a lot was contained in it about the Dorothy Dandridge who as a very young woman lit a match to herself and locked the dressing room door when a song was taken away from her in the 1941 Duke Ellington show, Jump for Joy. Or the rather shocking rumored real reason her child with dancer Harold Nicholas was born retarded. Neither incident was even remotely sympathetic enough to fit the necessary bio-mold.
But one of several announced Springfield projects that I recall being flogged around this here crazy town was being done so under the auspices of that budding Thalberg, Esther the Artist Formerly Known as Madonna.
It should be obvious that for the immediate future, thanks to the major success of the biopic Ray, a cycle of such films about real musical people, places and things will be making it all the way from development deal to the drive-ins (are there any more of those?). Get ready any minute now, for example, for the announcement of a Janis Joplin film bio starring Rene Z.
Apparently, the Springfield film will have as its defining moment the recording of her legendary 1969 opus, Dusty in Memphis. But there's no question that they'll get it all wrong. For it seems that while the album was indeed begun in that cradle of Southern soul, Dusty's vocals for it were actually cut in Nyawk. It's a longgggg story . . .. But there's no way the filmmakers can make that the highlight of the film without tweaking it into a total fictional canard.
Aside from Springfield's inarguable greatness as an artist, it would seem to me that a film about her might also deal with the fact that of all the major stars who crashed and burned, starting in the 1920s with the great Broadway star Marilyn Miller (drugs), right on up through another major Marilyn in the 1960s, and onward and upward, or rather downward with the likes of Garland and Presley, Dusty Springfield was the only one to actually fully conquer the several major demons, including closeted gayness, that plagued her both privately and professionally.
At one point, Dusty, who had a major run of luck in the music business for almost ten years starting in the early 1960s, by the 1980s was reduced to near bagladyhood, living in single room occupancy hotels in downtown Hollywood just a shriek away from rape at high noon. Those were apparently the circumstances that obtained even around the time of a rather smashing concert by Dusty at L.A.'s Greek Theater, one that I reviewed for the olddddd L.A. Her-Ex .
But she got it all together and by the time she died an untimely death a few years back, had been knighted by the Queen and was said to have possessed an estate worth multiple millions. Several hundred thousand of which were left for the care and maintenance of her beloved cat, Nicholas. Of course the ultimate cosmic joke---one proving once and for that there is no god. . .as if any further proof were needed---was that at just the moment in time where Springfield had pounded the final nail in the coffin of her various madnesses, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and died a rather valiant but nonetheless painful death. The End.
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