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November 03, 1976 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-11-03

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Arts & Entertaiinm ent Wdedy November 3, 1 976 Page Five

I11rl l

Ken Parsigian
jE WERE 'SITTING around the, Club the other day dis-
cussing bridge, as we so often do. I polished off the*
rest of my Grand Marnier as I listened to Don extol the!
virtues of the finesse.
"None of your silly Vienna Coups for me," he said. "Why
a' simple Ace-Queen tenace over a King is worth six squeezes
in my book."j
"Squeezes!" I said brightly, those particular plays being:
my forte. "Why certain hands simply beg for a squeeze."
"I SHOULD SAY SO," said Bruce. "Why I held a hand
this ,afternoon that would be unmakable for most people. But
it was 'makeable for me, by pressure of a squeeze."



falls short



By CHRISTOPHER POTTER but The Front remains first and
foremost a comedy, which from
PLACKLISTING was never a the word 'go' triggers a philo-
fuhny subject. Although its sophical-stylistic schism which
absurd excesses often bordered director Ritt and screenwriter
on a quasi-Marx Brothersish Walter Bernstein (themselves
lunacy, its legacy of ruined ca- former purge victims) were ob-
reers and broken lives renders viously never able to reconcile.
a chilled, hollow ring to what- The Front's setting is New!
ever laughter might be culled York City in 1953, its central{
from this crazy chapter of character one Howard Prince
American history. (Woody Allen in his first
And that's the problem with straight role) - a cashier, part-I
Martin Ritt's The Front, the time bookie and totally apoliti-
first "serious" Hollywood at- cal nu-rd not unlike the usual.
tempt to probe the anti-Com- Allen losers - just minus the
munist witch hunts now two de- I normal slapstick. Approached
cades removed. The picture's one day by a blacklisted TV!
publicity men have made much writer friend, Howard agrees
play over the grim and weighty to become a "front" for his;
nature of its subject matter; out-of-work buddy - to submit

the writer's scripts under his
own name, in return for ten
per cent of the royalties. Prince
swiftly adds a couple of addi-,
tional author - victims to his
plagiarist patronage, and soon
becomes the overnight literary
sensation of the television world.
nouveau culture style but just
adroit enough to con his way
through it, Howard soon reaps
in the benefits of his pseudo-,
work: money, swanky clothes
and living quarters, a gorgeous
and brainy girl friend. He waltz-
es and waffles his way through
the world of The Beautiful Peo-
But Howard's conscience soon
starts getting pricked. A come-
dian acquaintance named Hec-
ky Brown (Zero Mostel) is driv-
en to suicide from desperation
over being banished from his
livelihood; Howard's girlfriend
quits her job at the TV network
in protest over the blacklisting,
and walks out on him when he

Called before The Committee have expected these men to script deserves. Andrea, Marco-


as an ostensibly "friendly" wit-
ness to name the names of his
ostracized writer friends. How-
ard balks at the idea of turn-,
ing informer. The Committee
persists, threatening him with
jail on charges stemming from
his bookmaking career. Howard;
sweats and frets, torn by con-
science and his natural instinct
to survive; finally, in a burst
of new-born nobility, he righte-
oalv denies The Comrihittee's
legitimacy, tells its members to
"go fuck yourselves," and
storms out of the hearing room.
At film's end we see Howard'
being led off to prison, smiling-
ly triumphant in his martyrdom,
secure in the knowledge that
his girl will be waiting for him
when he gets out.
THE FRONT is a nice, slick,
facile film, and all just a lit-
tle too easy considering its his-
torical perspective. To the pic-
ture's creators, blacklisting was
not a dim memory drily sum-
marized in a polyi:hl science'
book - it was a daily, living
cancer which engulfed many of
them at the time. One would

We urged him to tell us about it, and he required no
further prompting. Grabbing up a napkin, he wrote down
the following hand:

' :

A x x x
* K Q x x
.. A 10 x Eat
06x x

JustCno Diaz gives
lyric performance


A 10

X x

bring a certain passionate rage 1 vicci is fairly convincing as
to this long-overdue opportuni- Howard's idealistic girlfriend,
ty to spill their guts over the : but the rest of the cast proves
piously sanctioned indignities adequate at best and turgidly
which stigmatized them for one-dimensional at worst.
years. Yet time after time The IT'S NOT THAT The Front
Front pulls its punches, plays lacks good moments: Hecky
for the easy chuckle over the Brown's trip to perform at a'
sublime howl, simplifies both Badkn stCptskperort(a
backwoods Catskills resort (a
persecutors and victims into true incident from Mostel's own
stick-figure buffons. blacklist period) brutally illus-
Part of the, problem lies in I trates the groveling toadyism
the distracting presence of and humiliation purge victims
Woody Allen, who's virtue of were forced to endure in order
comic genius here proves his to scrape even a few pennies'
Sgreatest vice. Although he han- together There are moments of
dles his first heavy screen role genuine laughter as well.
with considerable dexterity, it's
difficult to take things too seri- But the essential sterility of
ously when it's Woody Allen, the Ritt-Bernstein stylistics re-
prime schlemiel, up there on suits from just such attempts
the big screen doing his farcical; at juxtaposing humor with the
thing. horror of the subject matter,
Zero Mostel fares consider- because the plodding straight-
ably better as the doomed Hec- arrow realism of its direction
ky Brown; his great clown's falls short of both humor, and
face can metamorphose from horror.
the inane to the somber with The Front may be trying to
incredible facility, and he in- transcend its subject, but ends
vests his role with an impas- up merely trivializing it - and
sioned dignity greater than his trivializing history as well.
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V x x Y J x x By NANCY GRASER to see why the role of "Mefis-
f J 10 9 8 f x x x DESPITE some signs of vo- to" has won him international
4 Q x x 4 K J x x x cal fatigue resulting from acclaim. The lyric voice sud-
South his rigorous concert schedule, denly turned dramatic and the
A K Q J 8 Justino Diaz of the Metropoli- aria came alive, filling the hall
r A K x x x tan Opera sang an inspired and with "Mefisto's" evil laugh. He
impressive recital at Hill Audi-: also performed two encores, a
f A x torium Monday night. His lyric fiery version of Larra's "Gra-
4'X X bass voice and charismatic nada" and the unfamiliar but
stage presence charmed the au- intriguing "Visione Veneziana"
"MY PARTNER, after a long and irrational bidding se- dience with -a program so wide- by Brogi.
quence, jumped my four no trump to six hearts, and I, hav- ly varied in genre that only an In an interview after the con-
ing mentioned them earlier, simply gaped as he put down artist of his caliber could per- cert, Mr. Diaz discussed how
the not inadequate dummy," Bruce said,, pausing to light a form it with such grace and his career got started and some
cigarette. technical ability. of his philosophies about sing-
Diaz opened the recital with, ing.
"West opened the Jack of diamonds, having read in Wat- the Handel cantata Dalla guerra After attending the New Eng-
son's book that the correct lead form Jack-Ten-fourth might amorosa, consisting of three re- land Conservatory for two and
as well be the Jack," he continued, "and I won my Ace, citatives and two arias. He dis- a half years, studying under
ast ellplayed the vocal facility essen- Fredrick Jegel and Boris Gol-
E tial to the successful perform- i dovsky, he decided to leave
"I had two spades, five hearts (providing they broke 3-2) ance of such an ornamented school and hire an agent. His
three diamonds, and one club - 11 tricks in all. The 12th work, especially in the first first audition was with the
could come from spades if that suit broke favorably, but that aria, "Non v'alleti un occio Metropolitan Opera Studio,
was unlikely," Bruce said as he ground out his butt and ous trills andruns.lcontainexibiler- whafterhe woaa te Mt N
quickly lit another. and lightness in the bass voice ditions and at age 23 started
"N," HE SIGHED, "there had to be a way to make the' are usually difficult to achieve, his career at the Met.
hand without a spade break. Stopping only a moment to sur- yet Diaz handled both aspects Diaz believes a singer most
hd tu - s .brk . pn . en to srwith ease. be totally honest with the com-

pragmatically protests her ac-'
tion. And finally, inexorably, the
evil eye of the House Un-Amer-
ican Activities Committee turns
on Howard himself.

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vey the hands, I quickly realized that if the person with the
long diamonds had the long spades too; then I was facing '
a baby simple squeeze. Rather proud 'of myself, I must ad-
mit, I led my King of spades, which West won with the Ace.
He returned a heart to Ihy Ace. I now led a small club to
dummy's Ace, then drew trumps, West showing out on the
third round. There was still the chance spades break, so I
led both my Queen and Jack. But East showed out on the
Jack, setting the stage for my squeeze. At this point the hands
*K Q x

A set of six Brahms songs
followed, offering .a stylistic
contrast to the more formal
Handel piece. Diaz seemed
more relaxed as he eased into
the lushness of Brahms' music,
illuminating the moods of the I
Lieder with a richness of tone
and impeccable German dic-
tion. Of the six songs, "Stand-
chen" and "O wusst' ich doch
den Weg zuruck" best show- .
ed his ability to interpret both
the plavfulness and broodiness,
of Brahms.}


*x xTHE LAST PIECE performed
West East before intermission was "Il la-
4 10 cerato spirito" from Verdi's jSi-
Y V mon Begranegra. It was clear
J 10 9 * x that he enjoyed singing in his
.x 4 K J x x nrimarv medium, but he also!
South seemed to be saving his best for
Souththe final aria of the program.
The second half of the pro-
Y X X -ram onened with three sonas
Sx vby Faire. He denicted two of
Sx these. "C'hanson d'amonr" and
"Mandoline" with esnecial ten-;
"On my penultimate heart, West shed a chb, as did dum- derness and sensitivity, and the
my and East. Now, I led my last little spade and spread? re0lt was exouisite.
my hand. West was fixed. If he tossed a spade, my 8 would The most unusual group of
be good, and if he threw .a diamond instead, dummy's King sones on the program consisted
and Queen would drop his Jack and 10 making dummy's of three Cuban songs by Mont-
small diamond good for my 12th trick," Bruce said, look- salvage entitled "Cuba dentro?
ng pleased with himself. .detn piano", "Canto negro,"
and "Cancion de cuna nara dor-
mir a un negrito." Diaz seem-
"AND THAT IS HOW you played the hand?" I asked. ed so comfortable with the Car-I
"Well, uh," he hedged, "not uh, exactly-" , ribbean musical idiom that he
"I rember now," cried Don, who has been trying to find even clapned along with the
a 12th trick via a finesse. "I was dummy, and you didn't rhythmic "Canto negro."
make the hand. Although I'm not quite sure why. Maybe if AFTER performing 'Al tuo
you'd tried a deep finesse-?" trono" from I Promesi Sposi,
"Nonsense," Bruce replied, "but you are right. I didn't he sang "Mephisto's Serenade"
"akentehnd,"Brhatploka,"butgdidaei.gheIedidnt from Gounod's Faust as his fin-
make the hand. That palooka, 'Greg did me in. When I led al programmed piece. It is easy
the King of spades, he ducked his Ace; and he ducked again
when I led the Queen. Now, I could no longer rectify the

poser and ultimately with him-
self, concerning his capabilities;
and limitations. He insists that
the process of becoming a sing-
er takes a long time because
every aspect of the voice, the
repertoire, and the lifestyle
must be assimilated.
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count, and had to' concede down one."
"A REMARKABLY BRILLIANT defense from our not so
brilliant friend' I replied. "Maybe we have misjudged him?"
"No, no, no," Bruce exclaimed, shaking his hands wildly.
"You don't understand. He didn't do it on purpose. He had
the Ace of spades mixed in with his clubs, and he didn't
realize it until the fourth trick, when I led clubs!"
Did I do that?" asked a surprised Greg, who had been
strangely quiettthe whole time. "Well, at least it didn't cost
the contract; that would have been unforgiveable."
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Grace, precision, sensational tumbling and juggling acts, thrilling feats
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