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March 15, 2008:

IT TOOK MORE THAN ONE MAN TO CHANGE MY NAME TO SHANGHAI LILY

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, it took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily. That was random, wasn’t it? That just came out of nowhere, like a gazelle with an accordion. In any case, I must write these here notes in a hurry because I have a nine o’clock rehearsal and I must be refreshed and sharp and ready to block four big scenes and two musical numbers in three hours. Speaking of three hours, yesterday was a very long, involved day, which began before dawn and ended at about five-thirty. I got up at six-thirty in the morning (it was still dark out), shaved and showered and was on my way to the studio where we were shooting, arriving right on time at eight o’clock. I got in my wardrobe and then went over what we’d be doing all day with friend and director, Mr. Wechter. I guess I can now say that I’m making a reappearance on the Penn and Teller show, Bullshit, reprising my first-season turn as Dr. Learly. So, we had about ten unsuspecting people who thought they were taking part in a testing of some new Eastern healing processes, which were, of course, not real. That’s all I can really say, other than we had a good time, the people who took part were very good sports, and that was that. I’m of two minds about doing these things and there’s an upside and a downside to using me, but knowing the downside in advance, we’re prepared for it and we work around it, the downside being that I cannot retain the information I’m supposed to be spouting. I have a clipboard with a cheat sheet, but they like me in glasses and since I’m far sighted I simply can’t read the cheat sheet well, so I’m taken to letting my glasses slip down so I can look over the top of them. Even though we did the bits many times, I still couldn’t retain anything (I didn’t even get the cheat sheets until late Wednesday), but we’ve been down the road before, so David, under the guise of being the director of the shoot, just throws me the info I need, and it all works well. But, the upside you get using me on things like this is that I’m really believable and the people were trying to fool totally think I’m doing my job – one of them said that the treatment we were doing seemed very silly but that they didn’t want to say that and hurt my feelings. I put them at their ease and I look like I’m taking my job seriously. Being on my feet all day in hard shoes is very tiring but it moved along pretty quickly, and the crew was great, as was the gal they got to be my assistant. After we wrapped, I had a craving for Michael’s Bar and Grill, where I ate last Friday, so I drove over there and treated myself to a plate of fried shrimps, catfish, and chicken strips, with red beans and rice and cheesy garlic bread, all yummilicious. After that, I finally came home, where I sat on my couch like so much exhausted fish.

Last night, I watched a motion picture I’d TIVOd three years ago, entitled Shanghai Express. Shanghai Express is one of my favorites of the Josef Von Sternberg/Marlene Dietrich films. I love everything about it, from its wonderful script by Jules Furthman, to its exotic sets and costumes, to its brilliant players, to its incredible direction by Mr. Von Sternberg. No one made movies like Mr. Von Sternberg. They are completely unique in every way – they don’t look like anyone else’s films, they don’t sound like anyone else’s films, and they don’t feel like anyone else’s films. They are all completely one-off, and Shanghai Express is one of the most one-off of them all. Miss Dietrich is stunning – the photography of her is so beautiful it’s almost as if her close-ups could be paintings. Clive Brook is all stiff upper lip as a British soldier who was in love with Dietrich once upon a time, and who loves her still. And, of course, Miss Dietrich does get to say one of her most iconic lines – the very line that opened these here notes – “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.” Also wonderful are Eugene Pallette, Warner Oland, and most especially, Anna May Wong. This film is still not on DVD in this country (I have all the other Von Sternberg/Dietrich films, from here and from other regions), but I’ve heard rumors it’s coming this year). I may now have to revisit all the others, especially my favorite, Blonde Venus, which I never tire of watching, and which contains perhaps my favorite musical number on film – Hot Voodoo.

Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because let’s face it, it took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.

Have I mentioned that it took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily? Just asking.

Today, I have a three-hour rehearsal in which I must block several long and involved scenes, and then the rest of the day is mine all mine.

Tomorrow, I have another early rehearsal, and will be blocking more scenes. Then Monday and Tuesday evenings will be devoted to music.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, rehearse, block scenes, do some errands, eat something fun, and then I must relax and perhaps watch a DVD or three. Today’s topic of discussion: What are your all-time favorite films of Miss Marlene Dietrich, truly one of the most unique screen actresses in the history of film? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, and do try to remember that it took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.

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