Gary Beach, Tony-Winning Star of Broadway’s ‘The Producers,’ Dies at 70

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Gary Beach, who earned a Tony Award in 2001 for Mel Brooks’ Broadway musical “The Producers,” died Monday in Palm Springs, Calif., his agent Steven Unger confirmed. No cause of death was given.

Beach also earned Tony nominations for playing Lumiere in Disney’s 1994 Broadway adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” and the drag star Albin in the 2004 revival of Jerry Herman’s “La Cage aux Folles.”

But he is best remembered for his turn as the flamboyantly gay director Roger de Bris who tries to stage the musical-within-a-musical “Springtime for Hitler” in Brooks’ musical comedy “The Producers.”

He won wide acclaim — and one of the show’s record-breaking 12 Tony Awards — for the role, first played by Christopher Hewett in Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name. “I am the happiest boy in the fifth grade,” he said on accepting the award on the stage of Radio City Music Hall.

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Beach’s other Broadway credits include Thenardier in the 2006 revival of “Les Miserables” as well as “Annie,” “Doonesbury,” “The Moony Shapiro Songbook” and “1776.”

The Baruch Frankel Routh Viertel Group, the producers of “The Producers,” said in a statement, “Gary Beach, an actor of consummate skill and artistry, was a glorious human being; a gifted, generous and incredibly funny actor whose presence in a rehearsal room or on the stage lifted everyone’s spirit and inspired them to be the best they could be  His joyous, Tony Award winning performance as Roger DeBris will remain forever in our minds and hearts as the personification of the joyous spirit of Mel Brooks’ ‘The Producers.’”

He is survived by his husband, Jeffrey Barnett.

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Fire and Fuhrer: Why Hollywood Is So Focused on Adolf Hitler These Days (Guest Blog)

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It may be too flippant to say Adolf Hitler is having yet another moment. But there is ample evidence, at least in the cultural world. Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are making the satire “Jojo Rabbit,”  in which writer-director-star Taika Waititi takes on the Fuhrer’s persona. At the same time, devoted fans of “The Man in the High Castle,” Amazon’s original series that imagines what America would have been like had the Allied powers lost World War II and Hitler became a true world leader, are anxiously awaiting the official release date of the third season.

“Hitler’s Hollywood,” a new documentary, from filmmaker Rudiger Suchsland, is drawing a lot of attention (“One can’t watch…and not think of the world today,” wrote critic Godfrey Cheshire in his review of the film. “Mein Kampf,” a play by George Tabori that opened earlier this spring in the German town of Konstanz and deals with Hitler’s youth, set off a media firestorm when it offered audience members free admission on opening night if they agreed to wear swastikas. Fortunately, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that not one theatergoer did so.

But Hitler and his history are, in fact, at a critical juncture: Those whose families experienced Nazism are dwindling in numbers; and a recent poll revealed that 66 percent of millennials cannot identify Auschwitz as a concentration camp. Another 22 percent said they hadn’t heard of the Holocaust or were not sure they had heard of it — a horrifyingly high percentage when you think about it. In other words, those who urge us never to forget are watching that happen.

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So it is strangely hopeful news that young people born well after the end of World War II are watching the “The Man in The High Castle,” both for its young, attractive stars and its haunting take on what could have been. Season one of the show was Amazon’s most-streamed original series when it debuted in 2015 and had 8 million viewers as of early 2017. Given that Prime caters exactly to those millennial preferences for convenient online delivery and shipping, we can guess a good number of those eyeballs were on the younger side. (One survey estimates that 39 percent of Amazon Prime subscribers are between 18 and 34.)

One scholar keenly in touch with perhaps this morbid curiosity among the younger set is Noah Isenberg, director of the Screen Studies Program at the New School in New York, who teaches a popular class entitled “Berlin-New York-Hollywood.”

“Students are more attuned to these issues [refugees, nativism] today,” Isenberg said. “And they look to the Nazi period as a means of understanding the deeper roots of a culture and ideology that otherwise seemed far removed from America.”

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As Quartz’s Ashley Rodriquez astutely pointed out in her 2016 take on season two of “High Castle,” season one debuted in 2015 when “same-sex marriage had just been ruled legal, the U.S. had a progressive black president, and neo-Nazism was the farthest thing from most Americans’ minds.” Season two, she observed, debuted amidst the rise of the alt-right, churches being vandalized with swastikas and shouts of “Hail Trump!” and Nazi salutes swarming the internet in a viral video clip released by The Atlantic. In this context, she wrote, “The alternate reality manifested in the show doesn’t seem so far off.”

So there is an undeniable instinct to point to current leaders and the tumultuous political climate as reason for watching and the creative impetus. It’s as if Hollywood is screaming through its powerful global megaphone to pay attention to the past.

In his 2017 book “Hitler in Los Angeles,” USC professor Steven J. Ross tells the formerly untold story of how Hitler sent cronies to Hollywood to infiltrate the studios and film unions, as well as assassinate film stars and (primarily Jewish) studio heads. And Thomas Doherty, author of 2015’s “Hitler and Hollywood,” says: “Even if it [Nazism] is not lived or felt history anymore, Hitler and it has become an all-purpose insult and stand-in for evil.”

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In the popular Netflix series “Babylon Berlin,” Hitler’s name has only been mentioned once so far, but as Ariana Romero of noted, “his monstrous shadow hangs over the proceedings like a portent of the atrocities to come.”

Perhaps that’s why the 1962 Philip K. Dick novel on which “The Man in the High Castle” is based still holds water, as does the late Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America,” in which Charles Lindbergh wins the presidency and befriends all things Nazi. To quote Rodriquez on “High Castle,” “It suggests that the evil that was embodied by the Nazis was not defeated with them, but lives on, omnipresent, in our daily choices.”

So we can’t simply point the finger at Hollywood for our latest cultural obsession. Some things, like evil, are evergreen fodder for the imagination.

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One key question “Jojo Rabbit” may answer: Can we laugh at any of this when confronted with it on our screens and during this politically charged time?

With the distance that history provides, younger generations may be able to find surprising humor in this darkness. One of the films Isenberg shows in his class is “To Be or Not to Be,” a screwball comedy that took on Hitler — while the story was happening (1942). The movie was considered too close to the bone at the time — as was Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator(1940). Both were box office bombs but, in hindsight, are considered classics. By the time Mel Brooks gave us “The Producers” in 1967, we were apparently ready to laugh at the idea of “Springtime for Hitler.”

But should we? Are we empowered more when we laugh at evil straight in the face? Or devote our attention elsewhere?

Christina Campodonico contributed reporting to this blog.

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24 Stand-Up Comedians Turned Auteurs, From Donald Glover to Bo Burnham (Photos)

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Unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld, the number of stand-up comedians today who thrive and achieve stardom solely fro their on-stage comedy is dwindling. There’s a long history of people who got their start in stand-up comedy only to find another …

Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Skyscraper’ Blazes to $1.95 Million at Thursday Box Office

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Dwayne Johnson’s “Skyscraper” grossed $1.95 million at the Thursday box office, while Sony’s “Hotel Transylvania 3” earned $2.6 million in previews.

In comparison, Johnson’s last movie “Rampage” earned $2.4 million in previews before opening to $35.8 million. Perhaps another comparison is “The Legend of Tarzan,” which earned $2.6 million in previews before grossing $38.5 million its opening weekend in 2016.

Legendary and Universal’s “Skyscraper” is looking to open in the $35 million to $40 million range, against a reported budget of $120 million.

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The action film stars Johnson as Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent and amputee who gets a job as head of security for the tallest building in the world. But when terrorists attack the building and frame him for the crime, Sawyer must both clear his name and save his family from danger. Rawson Marshall Thurber wrote and directed the film, which has a 52 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Neve Campbell also stars.

The animated film “Hotel Transylvania 3” is also opening this weekend and is expected to open in a similar range as “Skyscraper,” with both films contending against “Ant-Man and the Wasp” for the No. 1 spot. $35-40 million opening would be a solid start for “Hotel Transylvania 3,” given it had a budget of $65 million.

By comparison, the first “Hotel Transylvania” opened to $42 million in 2012, while the 2015 sequel opened to $48 million, the best opening for an animated Sony release.

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“Hotel Transylvania 3” sees Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) and his family take a break from running the monster getaway spot and head on a cruise vacation. Along the way, Dracula falls in love with the ship’s captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), not knowing she is the great-granddaughter of Dracula’s archrival, Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan).

Genndy Tartakovsky directed the film and co-wrote it with Michael McCullers. The film also stars an ensemble cast featuring  Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, and Mel Brooks, all of whom reprise their roles from the previous films in the series. The film has a 59 percent RT score.

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All 12 EGOT Winners, From Audrey Hepburn to Whoopi Goldberg (Photos)

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Martin Scorsese Receives First Robert Osborne Award As TCM Classic Film Festival Gets Underway In Hollywood

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John Morris, ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Young Frankenstein’ Composer, Dies at 91

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John Morris, who provided the score for many of Mel Brooks’ films including “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein,” died Thursday at age 91, according to his daughter, Bronwen Morris.

Morris’ partnership with Brooks dates back to 1967, when he wrote the score for Brooks’ film, “The Producers,” as well as the original arrangement for the musical’s showstopping number “Springtime for Hitler.” Morris received Oscar nominations for the title song from “Blazing Saddles” and another for the score for the 1980 drama “The Elephant Man,” which Brooks produced. He also received a Grammy nomination for his “Elephant Man” score.

Morris’ other credits on Brooks films include the score for “Spaceballs,” “The Twelve Chairs,” “History of the World, Part I” and, most famously, “Young Frankenstein,” where the recurring motif for the Frankenstein monster’s childhood became one of the most recognizable themes in modern movie history.

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Beyond his work with Brooks, Morris’ works include scores for “Dirty Dancing,” “Clue” and “The Woman in Red.” He also won an Emmy in 1978 for his score on the after-school special “The Tap Dance Kid,” highlighting a TV career that included the themes for Julia Child’s long-running cooking show “The French Chef” and the Craig T. Nelson comedy “Coach.”

Morris died at his home in Red Hook, New York, and is survived by his wife, a daughter, five grandchildren and two great- grandchildren.

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John Morris, ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Young Frankenstein’ Composer, Dies at 91

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John Morris, Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning composer for many of the classic Mel Brooks comedies including “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein,” died Thursday at his home in Red Hook, N.Y. He was 91. Morris was Oscar-nominated for co-writing, with Brooks, the title song for “Blazing Saddles” – a sendup of classic movie cowboy tunes sung by Frankie […]

Jacob Tremblay, Christopher Lloyd, and Mel Brooks are starring in an animated movie

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West End Review: ‘Young Frankenstein,’ The Musical

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Mel Brooks: ‘Blazing Saddles’ Would Never Be Made in Today’s ‘Stupidly Politically Correct’ Culture

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None of Anne Bancroft’s spark makes it into her new biography, Anne Bancroft: A Life

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Thomas Meehan Dies; ‘Spaceballs’, ‘Annie’ & ‘The Producers’ Author Was 88

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The Weinstein Co.’s ‘Leap!’ Jumps Back to Labor Day Release

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The Weinstein Company’s animated comedy “Leap!” will have a nationwide release Labor Day weekend, the company announced Tuesday. The movie was originally slated for an April 21 release.

The film follows an 11-year-old orphan (Elle Fanning), who dreams of moving to Paris and becoming a dancer — but faces plenty of obstacles. “Leap!” also stars Nat Wolff and Maddie Ziegler, along with Carly Rae Jepsen, Kate McKinnon, and Mel Brooks. Jepsen, Demi Lovato and Sia provided original music for the movie.

“Leap!” was directed by Eric Summer and Éric Warin and produced in partnership with Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou of Quad Productions, Laurent Zeitoun of Main Journey, and Andre Rouleau and Valerie D’Auteuil. It will premiere at the Bentonville Film Festival in May.

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“I can’t tell you about how much I love ‘Leap!’ and that’s why I’m moving it,” TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. “The producers made a fantastic family film when they created the French version of the film. Our team has done an incredible job building on their vision with the American version. Just last week we had Kate McKinnon add her genius voice to three characters, and the cast including Elle Fanning, Maddie Ziegler and Nat Wolff capture the heart and humor of the story so well.  We have made the decision to move back to Labor Day and build the awareness and excitement within our audience. As always, I want to do what is best for the film, which I think is the best animated film I’ve ever made, and test audiences have agreed. I screened the film just last weekend for Trevor Drinkwater and Geena Davis and they absolutely loved it. They will host the film’s premiere on the Saturday during the Bentonville Film Festival.”

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Mel Brooks to Receive BAFTA Fellowship

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John Hurt: Industry Mourns “Acting Legend” & “Truly Magnificent Talent”

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Edward Norton, Bella Thorne Join Meryl Streep in Animated Film ‘The Guardian Brothers’

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Edward Norton, Bella Thorne and Jim Gaffigan have joined Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman in the animated feature, “The Guardian Brothers,” The Weinstein Company announced Tuesday.

The movie also stars Mel Brooks, Mike Birbiglia and Randall Park. Zendaya was previously attached to the project.

“The Guardian Brothers” is about a Chinese family on the verge of losing their family business, a wonton soup shop. When the family’s grandmother passes away, the restaurant is left in the hands of Raindrop (Thorne) and her mother (Kidman.) But millions of miles away, The Guardians have been looking over humans for centuries.

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Gary Wang directed the animated feature produced by Zhou Yu and Light Chaser Animation Studios.

“The Guardian Brothers” was initially distributed in China by Alibaba Pictures on Jan. 1, 2016 under the title “The Little Door Gods.” Wang also wrote the screenplay, with Zhou Yu and Light Chaser Animation Studios producing. TWC the acquired worldwide rights, with the exception of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau, for the film.

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“Animation is unique in that, the lessons and values that underline the stories transcend culture and language in truly universal ways,” said TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have such an incredibly talented cast of actors bring this story of acceptance and adapting to change to kids and families all over the world.”

Wang added, “Harvey and the TWC team have put together a cast that is more than amazing.  It’s thrilling and surreal to see the characters come alive again, changed and yet the same. We hope the audience around the world would enjoy the movie.”

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