In an interview from CBS Sunday Morning several years ago, Carol Channing was asked what she thought about the feature film version of Hello, Dolly!, the one that starred Barbara Streisand in the role Channing ate up on stage to the thrill of audiences around the world. It's been over forty years, and she's still bitter. Forty years!
Okay, so yeah, I'm bitter too, but I only got bitter in 1994 when I rented it after seeing Channing in the role. In another two, I'll be over it, I promise.
I don't know what is more sad, that big Broadway stars lose their big Broadway roles to less-talented folks on screen or that they hold onto that bitterness for so long.
I guess it's easy for me to say from such a safe distance, but I can't help but wish Broadway stars were more Gwen Verdon about it than Carol Channing. Verdon, you'll remember, was passed over for the film version of Sweet Charity and ended up assisting husband Bob Fosse in the role.
The tally of modern Broadway stars who have publicly poo-pooed getting cut out of film versions include Patti LuPone, Harvey Fierstein, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Jennifer Holliday. Yes, seeing Madonna take your role of a lifetime must be more difficult than most can imagine; however, it's the nature of the business.
So . . . A few tips in handling the unfortunate experience of seeing your role being performed by someone who has less talent than you (or is just plain not you).
1. When starting a role on Broadway, be mentally prepared to accept the fact that you will undoubtedly get passed over for the role on film. When it happens, cry, be devastated, curse out the producers in private, then put on your gracious face for the public.
2. Sharing a minor, snippy word in Entertainment Weekly or the New York Times may seem not so bad, but it looks bad.
3. Understand that in movies, age is an important thing. If you are no longer the right age to play the role in a movie, then don't waste time being upset about it. Smile and get on Dancing with the Stars instead. Sag happens. Why think about it?
4. Only criticize the movie if you've seen it. If you haven't, shut up. You hate it when critics publicly criticize your work; how would you feel if they did so without seeing it all?
5. Being bitter only affects yourself. Expressing bitterness only makes you look bad. Remember that.
6. When other people do express public bitterness about being left out of the film adaptation, be understanding. It may not look the best, but it's a pain most people can't relate to.
November 17, 2008