Sunday, March 22, 2015

An ancient Vietnamese myth inspires play about contemporary HIV warrior




     As a playwright who was born in Vietnam, Don Nguyen saw dramatic possibilities in a New York Times story about an HIV positive woman in Haiphong, a large port city near Hanoi, who started the country’s first support group for infected women. He wasn’t sure, though, that he could turn it into a play. Not only was it a heavy subject, but having lived in this country since he was 3, he questioned his ability to capture the women’s reality.

     “I’m Vietnamese but I grew up in Nebraska,” he said.  “They felt very foreign to me.  I wasn’t sure how I could write their voices. It was a fascinating subject but seemed daunting to take on.”

     Like most writers, he had a number of ideas rumbling around in his head. One that had been nudged at the back was of an ancient Vietnamese legend of the Trung sisters who gave their lives in a fight against the Chinese army.  In a lightbulb moment, Nguyen saw a creative challenge in combining the factual story with the myth as both were about strong women fighting for liberation, from a disease and its stigma and from a threatening military.

    The play that resulted, Red Flamboyant, will have its world premiere at the Parish of Calvary-St. George, an Episcopal church in Manhattan, from April 24 through May 16, produced by Firebone Theatre, an Off, Off-Broadway company dedicated to producing plays “where the human meets the divine.”

     With casting set to begin, Nguyen, 42, and Firebone’s artistic director, Chris Cragin-Day, 37, took time out on a cold January afternoon to talk about the production in Cragin-Day’s office at The King’s College, a Christian college in New York’s financial district, where she is an assistant professor of English and theatre. 

     “I love the feminist aspects of this story,” Cragin-Day says.  “I love these women who are just so powerful, not in a social sense but in a soul sense.”

     The real-life inspiration for the main character, Mrs. Hue, is Pham Thi Hue, who was featured in the 2006 Times story Nguyen had read.  Although AIDS was widespread in the country, many of those who had it were shunned by their families and fired if their employers found out. Most of the infected women had received the virus from their husbands who were IV drug users.

  Hue called her shelter Haiphong Red Flamboyant after a Vietnamese flower. Not only did she receive no government funding, the article said, but she had to endure bricks being thrown through her windows and a constant struggle to find money for food and medicine.

     Nguyen hadn’t know HIV/AIDS was so prevalent in Vietnam.

     “It affected me, being Vietnamese, and that the country I was born in had such a huge problem.  The stigma around it was shocking to me and I wondered how I could get a germ of a play from that.”

     He began writing in 2008.  To create a naturalistic play about Hue and all those dying of AIDS would be “an overwhelming experience for the audience,” he said.  “I had to find a less realistic way.  The Trung sisters legend demanded more heightened reality. It dictated the voice of the play.”

     In short, the Trung sisters formed an army to seek revenge after the Chinese killed the husband of one of the sisters.  The Chinese fought back and demanded the Vietnamese give up the sisters. They sacrificed themselves by jumping into a ravine.

    Nguyen recognized a connection between Hue and the legendary sisters. 

    “She was a modern day warrior who could be juxtaposed with the ancient female of Vietnam to make a great story.”

     But by 2010 and his “20th draft,” he was frustrated.  “I felt like I was writing from a distance with these people.”

     He decided to go to Vietnam to get a feel for the country and possibly meet Hue.  Since he didn’t speak Vietnamese, he asked his parents to go with him and they readily agreed. 

     A cousin in the country found Hue for him and told her about the play he was writing.  She agreed to a meeting.  It was then that it hit him, suppose the real Hue was nothing like the character he had created?

     “It became really stressful.  All I had had was one article to base her off of.”

     His appointments with Hue kept getting canceled, meaning rescheduling flights a couple of times.  After three weeks, it seems ill-fated.  

     “I thought, ‘I’m not going to see her and that’s fine.  I got close.’”

     But when yet another meeting was scheduled, he went for it. 

    “It was really a good test of faith.”  

     And it paid off.  With his father as interpreter, he talked to Hue for an hour. When he mentioned he was incorporating the sisters’ legend, “her eyes lit up” and she told him it is the Vietnamese belief that “if you do something great, you are a sibling of the Trung sisters.”

     She told him to make it clear that she receives no government support.  In that strong insistence he recognized the character he had created was very much like the real Hue.

     As Nguyen was leaving, Hue said something to him in Vietnamese.  He smiled and nodded.  In the taxi his father told him she had said, “Don’t forget about me.”

     And he hasn’t.  Ten percent of Red Flamboyant’s ticket sales will go to support the real-life women through the Vietnam Relief Organization, an American-based foundation. 

     The four female and one male characters will be played by Vietnamese actors if possible.  If not, definitely by Asians.  The actors will play instruments since the play incorporates live and recorded music. The play also will feature puppetry, possibly water puppets, which are immensely popular in Vietnamese culture.

     And some of the actors will have to fly, using single harness bungees for a more free-flowing choreography.  These ariel feats alone would be challenging for a small Off, Off-Broadway company like Firebone, but Cragin-Day sees advantages in its size.

     “We take risks.  Companies like ours don’t have much money at stake.”

     Still, the company bought extra insurance and hired Karen Fuhram of Grounded Ariel, an expect in the field, to do the choreography. 

   “It gives us the freedom to experiment with the human body in flight,” Cragin-Day says.

     She believes the play will speak to many people, especially women.

   “I feel like it’s not just about Vietnamese women,” she says.  “This play captures that spiritual strength that is the legacy of women and that’s beautiful.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Kristin Chenoweth: Back on Broadway in "On the Twentieth Century"


     I saw The Kristin Chenoweth Show at the American Airlines Theatre last night and was mesmerized by every movement, facial expression and note from the tiny star.   She’s better than ever, and that’s saying a great deal.

     Oh, wait a minute.  I got that wrong.  Actually, I saw the Broadway revival of On the Twentieth CenturyChenoweth is just so magnetic that even with the first-rate cast, shimmering costumes and art deco sets that fill the stage, she is the center of the universe in this madcap musical, directed by Scott Ellis for the Roundabout Theatre Company.

     It’s Chenoweth’s show all right, even though the main story is about another character, Oscar Jaffee (played with energy and great humor by Peter Gallagher), a down-on-his-luck producer looking for a hit to revive his career.  He believes he can be on top again by luring his former lover and protégée Lily Garland (Chenoweth’s character) back to Broadway from Hollywood where she has become a big star.  The action takes place on a Chicago to New York train, the Twentieth Century.

     Chenoweth’s timing is impeccable and she uses her 4’ 11” body in hilarious ways.  I loved seeing her lying like a board across the arms of her current lover, Bruce Granit (a hilarious Andy Karl), an young actor obsessed with his image — he slaps multiple copies of his headshot up on the walls of the train compartment — and his well-sculpted body.  Lily’s in -- on -- his arms for a reason — he lifts her up and down to do his bicep curls.  When he does his pushups, she sits on his back.  It’s a visual delight, precisely choreographed, as is the whole show, by Warren Carlyle. 

     Then, of course, there’s her singing.  The music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (both of whom also wrote the book) give her ample opportunity to exercise her operatic chops.  I’m so glad she’s been lured back to Broadway from Hollywood, where she’s made some really lame comedies, not at all worthy of her gifts.

     The songs are upbeat, although only the title song sticks with me.  David Rockwell’s sets, William Ivey Long’s costumes and Donald Holder’s lighting do stay with me.  They and everyone onstage have created a shiny gem of a show.  I wish I could go back.

     A shoutout also needs to go to Rick Faugno, Richard Riaz Yoder, Phillip Attmore and Drew King as the tap-dancing porters and Mary Louise Wilson as a batty old woman who offers to bankroll Oscar’s next show.

     On the Twentieth Century will only be in the station on Broadway through July 5.  Hop aboard it you can.  The ride is bliss.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Good Friday Blues: The Passion of Jesus Told in the Key of Blues


 Good Friday service reaches out with song, dance, narrative and meditation


  WHAT:   St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery stages its 14th Annual Good Friday Blues, the story of The Passion of Jesus Christ according to St. John. Rector Winnie Varghese presiding.

WHEN:   Friday, April 3, noon to 3 p.m.

WHERE:   St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, Second Avenue and 10th Street.

WHO:   Featuring the St. Mark’s Choir, Good Friday Blues Band and an all-star cast of actors, singers, dancers, writers and instrumentalists, Good Friday Blues tells the story of the betrayal and death of Jesus, as written in the Gospel of John. The Good Friday service represents the collaborative efforts between former Suffragan Bishop of New York The Right Reverend Catherine Roskam, St. Mark’s Director of Music Jeannine Otis and the church choir.

WHY:   While the Good Friday service at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery also includes the adoration of the cross and distribution of the reserved sacrament, one does not need to be a Christian to appreciate the full feeling of community and fellowship of the day. People of all faiths are welcome.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Helen Mirren reigns in The Audience



It’s wonderful to see Helen Mirren once again assume the role of Queen Elizabeth II.  I just wish she was doing so in a vehicle with more depth than Peter Morgan’s entertaining but somewhat superficial play The Audience, now on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre through June 28.

     As she was in Morgan’s movie “The Queen,” Mirren is spot-on in depicting Britain’s long-serving monarch. She won an Oscar for that part and well could win a Tony for this one. Under the direction of Stephen Daltry, Mirren portrays Elizabeth from 1951 to the present, often decades apart from one scene to the next, under the guise of imagined meetings with each of her prime ministers — “the dirty dozen,” as she says.  They come to Buckingham Palace once a week to update her on matters of “cabinet, Parliament, and foreign affairs,” as Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews) explains in his first sessions with her as a young woman readying to assume the throne following her father’s death.

   Bob Crowley’s minimalist design is effective for focusing the attention of the conversations.  His costumes are impressive for the way they portray Elizabeth’s frumpy dignity, yet can be rapidly changed, often onstage, to present an Elizabeth decades earlier or later.

     Elizabeth is the thread that keeps the show together, although it can still feel more like a series of sketches strung together than an actual play.  I will say the scenes do blend well one into the other, rather like movie fade ins and fade outs.

     The elected officials often share elements of their pasts and Elizabeth reveals a dry wit in many of her responses, at times revealing her own feelings about her life’s role, which each time sounded contrived to me.  I can’t imagine the real queen opening up to her prime ministers, but I guess it’s necessary for dramatic purposes. Politics are discussed, but largely in a modern English history lite way.

     Elizabeth does display some spunk, especially in her first PM meeting, with Churchill.  When he proposes delaying her coronation by 16 months, she is quick to discern the reason — he hopes to stay in office longer.

     “I may be young and sheltered, but I am not a fool,” she says.  “Prime Minister, I feel you’re not taking me seriously.”

     Her anger is even stronger when John Major (Dylan Baker), prime minster from 1990 to 1997, suggests the Royal Family has an image problem and because the economy is so weak could bolster its standing with the public by paying income tax.  The queen is appalled.

     “That would make us like everyone else,” she says indignantly.  “We’re not like everyone else. … This family has given every minute of every day to the country.”

     She tells him her role as queen was “a consecration in God’s house.”

     She never forgets who she is, although years later she wonders about the importance of showing up for ribbon cuttings and being “a postage stamp with a pulse.”

     After meeting with Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan), who was prime minister from 2007 to 2010, she reflects on the down side of “sticking around” for so long and hearing “the same ideas and the same people coming around again and again, just wearing a different color tie.”      

     Most of what I liked was in the first act.  By the second, the show began to drag for me, especially in the scene with Margaret Thatcher (Judith Ivey, left in photo). The concept of conversations with rotating prime ministers had begun to wear thin and, at two hours and 20 minutes, the show was too long.

     One feature I did consistently like was the appearance of her younger self, played the night I was there by Sadie Sink, who presents the child Elizabeth’s feeling of confusion upon her father’s sudden assent to the throne and her dislike for Buckingham Place, which she likens to living in a museum with no neighbors.  At times she and the adult Elizabeth talk and I always liked that.


    The Audience comes to Broadway following a record-breaking run at London's Gielgud Theatre in 2013 for which Mirren won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Play.  Her performance here, and that of all of her cast members, is award-worthy.  The play may be a bit weak, but the production still provides a good evening of theatre. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dianne Wiest and Tonya Pinkins star in Rasheeda Speaking at Signature




No date is given in the program for the setting of Joel Drake Johnson’s play Rasheeda Speaking, which is having its New York premiere at The Pershing Square Signature Center, so it’s hard to tell what era is being portrayed. The overt racism of the four very different characters would suggest late 60s or the 70s, but Allen Moyer’s set of a surgeon’s reception room features computers, so I’d say we’re supposed to be in a contemporary world, which left me with an insurmountable credibility problem.

Right at the start we encounter the surgeon, Dr. Williams (Darren Goldstein), complaining to his mousey receptionist, Ileen (Dianne Wiest, seated in photo), about the other receptionist, Jaclyn (Tonya Pinkins, top in photo), who has been out for a week suffering from anxiety. Although he doesn’t say so outright, his objections seem to center solely around her being black, with lots of references to ideas like “they” don’t fit in, despite the fact that he was the one who hired her six months before. He asks Ileen to look for problems with Jaclyn’s work and document them so he can fire her. Ileen is uncomfortable with this at first, saying she likes Jaclyn and thinks she’s a good worker. But Williams strong arms her with lots of talk of them and us, making her aware she has no choice. This sets up right from the start one of the play’s main faults, its complete lack of subtly.

In the case of Rasheeda Speaking, the play truly is the thing — the thing that is wrong with the evening. The acting is strong by all four actors, who also include Patricia Conolly as Rose, a befuddled patient. Cynthia Nixon does a good job with her directing debut. They just all need a better play.

It’s easy to see why Williams would want to get rid of Jaclyn, although her skin color has nothing to do with why she would be offensive in a tiny three-person office. She is a complainer of the first rate, going on and on about having to breathe the toxins in the room, placing plants all around to try to counter the effect. Williams had said she is rude to the patients and we see this in her treatment of Rose. She also talks nonstop. I wouldn’t want to work with her.

So why does Williams seem to make an issue of Jaclyn’s race? He’s too young to have been brought up in a segregated world where “they” were thought to be different from “us,” and the play is set in Chicago, not the Deep South. And if he is truly a racist, why did he hire a black woman?

By the time the 95-minute play winds down, Ileen has evolved into a paranoid, gun-carrying racist, Rose reveals her son’s theory that black people act out with anger as their “revenge for slavery” and Jaclyn has displayed her own side of racism, against whites and her Mexican neighbors about whom she lists her litany of stereotypical comments to Ileen. If we are to conclude that everyone is racist, what is the point of the play? As I said, it could certainly do with some subtly. It’s definitely a play of black and white. Had the story been set decades before, and possibly in the South, it might have worked, or at least worked better.

The Rasheeda of the title turns out to be the name Jaclyn overhears several 20-something white professional men use to make fun of middle-aged black women on the bus. That was the most unbelievable element of the play for me. Those young men would have been riding integrated buses all their lives, as their parents would have as well, so they are generations away from noticing and commenting upon black middle-aged women. While pack racism still exists — in the news now with the white frat boys at the University of Oklahoma — putting it in the mouths of young professional in Chicago is too much of a stretch. They would have been too busy talking about work and girlfriends to notice Jaclyn.

A play about racism in 2015 would be welcome. Unfortunately, this one misses the mark.

 Rasheeda Speaking is produced by The New Group as part of its 20th anniversary season. It runs through March 22.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Edward Herrmann: Helping Others Right Up Until the End



Like so many people, I am deeply saddened by the death of Edward Herrmann. He was an incredibly kind and decent man who remained willing to help others right up until a month before his death on New Year’s Eve.

I had no idea my email exchanges with him in November would be my last. As I had so often over the years, I was writing to ask for a favor. Not knowing he was battling brain cancer, I asked if he would write a letter for The Salvation Army’s Gala souvenir journal because The Army, where I was working temporarily as an editor/writer, was honoring The Actors Fund and we wanted letters from actors congratulating The Fund on receiving the Pinnacle of Achievement Award.

On Nov. 11, I received the following:

Dear Retta, How good to hear from you!  You probably know that I was on the Board of Directors of the Actors Fund and also have been a staunch supporter of the Salvation Army for many years.  I will be happy to send a letter for the event.  Right now I am very busy but hope to be able to pull something together by the weekend.

Bless you,
Ed H.

When he said he was very busy, I assumed he was working on one of his many acting projects. Instead, he was receiving cancer treatments. To make it easy for him, I had sent a sample letter that he could have OK-ed, but Ed always gave his full measure so he took the time to write a personal letter, which I share:

To the Salvation Army/Actors Fund,

Both of these organizations have been dear to me over the years.  I served on the board of directors of the Actors Fund and remain a Life Member.  I only left the board because I felt I couldn't give enough quality time to their wonderful work.  As for the Salvation Army, my interest and admiration began with the experience of my brother in 1967.  During the terrible race riots in Detroit, my brother was in the National Guard and saw the action first hand.  There were a few trucks handing out coffee and doughnuts, but only for a price.  The soldiers had been without food for almost twenty-four hours.  These "mercy" groups were lucky to get out with their trucks in tact... the soldiers were angry.

Only the Salvation Army was there giving comfort, hot coffee and food free of charge.  And they gave to all, whether they were soldiers trying to keep the peace, police, firemen or any civilians begging for help to save their homes.  If people were in trouble, the Army was there for them.  My brother is not a particularly religious man, but on that terrible night, he saw what real Christian goodness could accomplish.  It changed him for the better.  And it certainly reinforced my commitment to my fellow men and women.  I feel privileged to be counted among the friends of the Salvation Army and urge others to join in their wonderful work.

Sincerely,
Edward Herrmann

Just a few weeks after writing that he would be in intensive care and now, so soon, he is gone.

I had met Ed briefly backstage at Lincoln Center in the late 1990s, but was blessed to get to know him in 2002 when we sat together for an hour or so as I interviewed him for my book Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors. He was quite open with me about his faith — he was a convert to Catholicism — and his personal life before his conversion.

“In the sixties and seventies when sex was free and there was no disease, we thought it was great,” he told me. “We could sleep with anyone and we did. It’s a lie. The fact that we did it didn’t make it true. It’s not enlightening and helpful. We didn’t look for connections, for relationships. It was a bogus rainbow hair life.”

Raised Unitarian, he found that practice lacked regularity, dependent on inspiration and enthusiasm, which can wax and wane. So he started a spiritual quest, studying Eastern religions where he was drawn to Buddhism and followed a guru for a time. But it was the rigors of Catholicism that hooked him, with the familiarity of set prayers and the transcendence of the Mass.

He told me he had created an icon-filled chapel on his property in Michigan where only he spent time, savoring the silence. He read daily from an 1880s version of The Following of Christ, a prayerbook written by the 15th century ascetic writer Thomas A Kempis. That book even went with him on acting jobs. He saw his two worlds — of faith and acting — as one. “If you’re lucky enough to have the arts as your work, you become part of the spiritual life,” he told me.

He combined those two for me by twice taking part in Broadway Blessing, the interfaith service of song, dance and story that I founded in 1997 and have been producing ever since. Just before he was to appear for the second time, to give the theatre reflection for our 10th anniversary celebration, his wife, Star, became sick. I certainly would have understood if he had canceled, but that wasn’t Ed. He drove the two hours in from Connecticut, apologized for not having had time to prepare original remarks, then went on to read the final act of Our Town, brilliantly taking on all the parts.

He told me often I could call on him any time and if he was free he would take part. It’s so hard to believe I will not be able to take him up on that offer anymore.

The last time we spoke on the phone, he told me Emma, his youngest child, was beginning acting studies. I thought that was great. I love watching next generations come along, most especially Meryl’s daughters who look, sound and gesture so much like her. I looked forward to seeing Emma develop her career and thought how wonderful it would be for her to appear with Ed. Sadly now, that will not happen.

I hope Emma will go on to achieve success in the profession her father loved so much. I will close with some of his thought in my chapter on Listening.

“What’s the point of the arts as a discipline? It’s absurd to pretend to be somebody else, a rabbit or Hamlet. It’s silly, but it isn’t. We don’t begin with reason, we begin with feeling and insight. All of life is 99 percent nonrational. Reason is nothing compared to God’s love. That’s what makes us who we are. Reason is the first thing that should be dropped when you start exploring the spirit. You can bring reason to bear on what you find, but truth simply doesn’t happen that way.”

Monday, December 29, 2014

Beware of Young Girls: Kate Dimbleby Sings the Dory Previn Story



Beware of Young Girls sounds as if it might be a sinister show, but don’t let the title fool you. The subtitle, Kate Dimbleby Sings the Dory Previn Story, lets you know you’re in for a biographical performance, one that just happens to be an engaging 80-minute, two-act journey into the life of a woman who triumphed over mental illness and being dumped by her famous husband for a younger woman, creating a successful career for herself as a songwriter and singer in the 1970s. You will find yourself liking Dory Previn and cheering her on as Dimbleby brings her to life onstage at 59E59 Theaters.

Dimbleby, who created the show with writer Amy Rosenthal, is a marvelous storyteller with a golden voice. A British singer, she had never heard of Dory Previn until several years ago when she discovered “Lady with the Braid” and was so taken with it she included it in a cabaret show, “I’m a Woman,” celebrating women singers. Her UK audiences loved it so much that Dimbleby and her pianist, Naadia Sheriff, began researching the woman who penned it and discovered a wealth of wonderful songs.

She also found a fascinating story of the woman who wrote those songs, a woman who battled schizophrenia and was severely jolted when a certain predatory young girl named Mia Farrow made a play for her husband and won him.

Directed by Cal McCrystal (One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway), the show also features Sheriff as accompanist on piano, as harmony vocalist and occasional storyteller. Sheriff has a gorgeous voice and playful personality and she and Dimbleby work perfectly together. Excerpts from Dory Previn’s autobiographies, Midnight Baby and Bog Trotter, are included in the show, which has been performed in England and is making its United States premiere at 59E59. A CD by the same name was released in 2012.

At the start of the show, Dimbleby asked how many people knew Dory Previn’s work. Fewer than half the audience members raised their hands. I was not one of them. While we might not have known her name, plenty of the top singers of yesteryear did. Stars such as Tony Bennet, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney and Doris Day included Previn’s songs in their repertoire.

 She also recorded her songs, with “Mythical Kings and Iguanas” being her most successful album. That title song is the first of more than 15 Dimbleby sings in the show. The song I was most familiar with, and have always loved, was “Valley of the Dolls,” which she wrote with Andre for the movie, and was a hit for Dionne Warwick.

As Dory, Dimbleby tells the up side of fame for the former Dorothy Langan, who was born in October 1925 to rigidly religious Irish Catholic parents. It was while under contract to MGM that she was assigned to collaborate with a young pianist/composer named Andre Previn.

In creative partnership with Andre, she began to find the success that had eluded her alone. Before they wed, she made a vague reference to having had a nervous breakdown, but when Andre seemed uninterested in the details, she said no more.

“Marriage to a well-known composer would open the high world to me. The tap dancer from New Jersey still had problems getting off the ground. But a peasant wife is able to squat in the shadow of her glorious lord. He spoke three languages. It was thrilling to be distantly related to those beautiful creatures who fly.”

 The couple became an established writing team, receiving several Oscar nominations. But their public and private lives were at odds, with “more crises euphemistically referred to as breakdowns.” Eventually, Dory’s illness was given a name — schizophrenia.

This experience with mental illness became the creative inspiration that propelled Andre and Dory’s writing of the soundtrack for “Valley of the Dolls.”

“Andre wrote a circular melody with a broken-up feeling that mirrors the artificially tranquilized state of mind,” Dimbleby tells us. “Dory complemented it with lyrics. Both gained wisdom through Dory’s illness and addiction to pills, but neither ever mentioned it.”

Dimbleby then sang the title song, conveying all the pain and emotion of the story behind it. The song brought Dory and Andre their dreamed-of million seller, but it was the last song they would write together. A certain young girl saw to that.

Enter Mia Farrow.

“She had come all the way across Hope and Alan Pakula’s patio just to meet us,” Dimbleby as Dory says. “The natural surroundings conspired to enhance the luminous youth. Her delicate hands clung to a square of tapestry. The skin was translucent, as though she were still wrapped in the gauze of her placenta. The voice had been gently buffed by good schools and privilege. She would never need to raise her tone to get something she wanted. She came of a film director father and a movie star mother. No pig-in-the-parlour, she. This was lace-curtain Hollywood. She was second generation MGM. And the newly famed waif wanted to be our friend.”

Of course, she went on the be more than friend to Andre. She became his wife, after becoming pregnant. Andre wrote to Dory asking for a divorce, but expressing his interest in continuing their writing collaboration. She said yes to the divorce but no to the creative partnership.

In what could be a Hollywood ending, she went on to have a successful career on her own and to find love. A friend of Andre’s whom she bumped into in a restaurant many years after her divorce introduced her to the man he was meeting, an artist and one-time Hollywood heartthrob called Joby Baker. The two married in 1984 and lived happily on a farm in New York’s Hudson Valley where she wrote the last volume of her autobiography and he illustrated it. She died on Valentine’s Day nearly three years ago and Baker continued to live at the farm.

I love stories of hardship overcome, triumphant women and happy endings. Beware of Young Girls has all of those. It continues at 59E59 Theaters through Sunday, Jan. 4.