Our Birthday Bashes put a nice spin on the whole gift-giving ritual. You walk in empty handed and leave with some of the greatest films on earth because, at our party, it's the honoree who's giving out the presents.
Actor-writer-director-producer-politico Warren Beatty is as famous for his off-camera exploits as he is for his body of work. He is the half-brother of transchanneling actress Shirley MacLaine. At one time, Beatty was Hollywood’s most famous lethario, gadding about with the likes of Natalie Wood, Leslie Caron, Joan Collins, Diane Keaton and even Madonna, before finally settling down with Annette Bening and siring three children with her. He is also infamous for his left-wing politics and, unlike many soapboxing celebrities, he is putting his money and might where is mouth is.
Beatty is also impeccably picky when it comes to roles, acting in a relatively small number of projects in his forty years in the business of show. In latter years, most of his starring roles are in films that he also wrote and produced, and often directed. Of the twenty-three films to his credit, the majority of them are highly-acclaimed films (The Parallax View, Reds) and the unfairly vilified (Heaven Can Wait, Ishtar). The following rank as our favorites:
Splendor in the Grass (1961)
Beatty’s career got a kickstart playing opposite the beautiful Natalie Wood in tattletale director Elia Kazan’s elegy for tortured adolescence and unrequited love. Beatty is Bud Stamper, the local football hero and son of the most powerful man in town. Wood is Wilma Dean Loomis, an earnest teenager who pines away for Bud. At his father’s urging, Bud spurns Deanie, and we all no what hell hath none of for a woman spurned.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
At its heart, Arthur Penn’s ultra-violent paean to the glorious and goriest escapades of bank robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker is a tragic love story. Beatty and Faye Dunaway are electric as the notorious couple whose crime spree and whirlwind romance ended in a bullet-riddled bloodbath.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Robert Altman’s satiric revisionist Western stars Beatty as naïve entrepreneur John Q. McCabe, who travels to a Pacific Northwest mining town to set up a whorehouse. The underrated Julie Christie plays Mrs. Miller, a professional madam who convinces McCabe to make her his partner. A wonderful energy between the two stars drives this forgotten gem, buoyed by a terrific supporting cast.
A dated yet still hilarious satire on 1970s’ sexual mores, Beatty plays George Roundy, a promiscuous hairdresser entangled with several of his clients, who are all linked in some way. Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn and Lee Grant are among the libidinous women who knock boots with our birthday boy in this Beatty-penned farce.
Barry Levinson’s biopic of gangster Bugsy Seigel, the New York gangster who dreamt of building Las Vegas. Beatty’s Bugsy is a train wreck, a violent, quick-tempered womanizer, but when he meets actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), his life turns around. Of course, Bening turned Beatty’s life around during the filming of this movie. They were making babies shortly thereafter.
Jay Billington Bulworth is a liberal politician, disillusioned by the system and disheartened by life in general. He contracts a hit on himself, and while he’s waiting to be killed, he decides this is an opportune time to tell the truth. By rapping. While another old white guy rapping in the oldest of old school cadences sounds extremely tired, writer/director/actor Beatty pulls it off by realizing the raps suck. In fact, Bulworth gets better as a rapper. And the rhymes he’s reciting keep it real. True that.
Believe it or not, the handsome leading man will be sixty-two this week and still going strong. Warren Beatty is the gift that keeps on giving.