Monday, November 20, 2017 at 7:30pm
Robinson Devor and Michael Guccione's Angelyne + George Cukor's It Should Happen to You

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by Naomi Fry

It Should Happen to You, George Cukor, 1954, 16mm, 86 mins
Angelyne, Robinson Devor and Michael Guccione, 1995, digital projection, 25 mins

Near the beginning of Alfred Hayes’s brief, great 1958 novel of Hollywood and its attendant miseries, My Face for the World to See, the nameless narrator reflects on the hunger for fame that marks Los Angeles. “At this very moment,” he muses, “the town was full of people lying in bed thinking with an intense, an inexhaustible, an almost raging passion of becoming famous if they weren’t already famous, and even more famous if they were.” He is dismissive, contemptuous; this desire for celebrity, he thinks, is cheap and grasping and self-deluded—“finally ludicrous, finally unimpressive.” Later, though, a starlet he becomes involved with responds to his disdain, defending her dreams and the environment in which these dreams have emerged:

“‘Yes,’ she said, passionately, with a sincerity that at last silenced me, ‘It may be rotten,’ meaning the town, and the life in it, ‘but I like it and I wouldn’t have it any other way; it seems right to me that it should be rotten the way it is.’”

For all its stupidity, its compromises, its falsity, there is something true and steadfast about the pursuit of fame, Hayes’s narrator grasps; and it is just such a commitment—pure in its single-mindedness—that is evident in both George Cukor’s It Should Happen to You and in Robinson Devor and Michael Guccione’s Angelyne.

In Cukor’s satire, that earnestness is embodied by Judy Holliday’s Gladys Glover, a transplant to New York City who wants to “make a name for herself” before she gives it all up and goes back home to middle America, her dreams of standing out from the crowd unfulfilled. Sweet, with a fizz that conceals a sturdy subjectivity, Gladys decides to sink her savings into a billboard on Columbus Circle on which her name will be displayed. Her whirlwind celebrity, which arrives complete with the attentions of Peter Lawford’s hot but shady beau, allows for the movie’s animating conflict. Should one pursue empty fame and shallow thrills? Or should one remain faithful to long-standing and long-lasting loyalties? The fact that Gladys ends up choosing the latter, by taking up with Jack Lemon’s documentary filmmaker—who lectures her about the value of privacy and gemeinschaft connections over and against ephemeral celebrity and threatening metropolitan narcissism—doesn’t take away a whit from the steely determination of her own initial pursuit. Fame is a serious business; and perhaps, in its bootstrap-y resoluteness, the most American business of all.

Devor and Guccione’s documentary Angelyne is also about fame, but it is set squarely within that realm of threatening metropolitan narcissism that It Should Happen to You skirted. With its black-and-white, MTV-in-its-second-decade, coolly detached aesthetics, it perfectly reflects the bombshell-from-outer-space persona of its subject. An exaggerated quintessence of a sexy California girl—her hair platinum, her figure ridiculously voluptuous, her performative ditsiness tempered by the foreboding blankness of her dark sunglasses—Angelyne became known by (and for) purchasing billboards around Los Angeles and plastering them with her likeness. Her flagrant focus on making herself known just for being herself was, of course, an important precursor to today’s famous-for-being-famous reality TV celebrities. But the relatively limited purview in which her desire for fame could express itself made it all the more keen. The primitive graphic language of the billboard was a perfect encapsulation of the graphic language of Angelyne—a woman who was, and still is, to borrow a phrase of Hayes’s, always “perfectly true to [her] own rhinestone self.”

- NF

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.