She Who Must Be Obeyed and I spent this past weekend in Florida at the winter home of the Daddy d’Elisson - Eli, his ownself - and his bride Toni. Eli and Toni, in the last few years, have transformed themselves into full-fledged snowbirds, spending three months at their Citrus Hills pied-à-terre, the other nine in the New York ’burbs.
Saturday evening, after a pleasant dinner at a restaurant with a magnificent sunset view, we repaired to Chez Eli to watch a frothy romantic comedy on the DVD Machine. The movie was The Holiday, featuring Kate Winslet, Cameron (“Too big to fit in here...”) Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black, the latter in a desperate (and likely futile) attempt to build credibility as a Romantic Male Actor. A pleasant and amusing diversion, it was...
But what really made the movie for me was the presence of an elderly actor in a supporting role, an elderly actor who was the first celebrity I clapped eyes on in Real Life.
Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and set the dial for the spring of 1961, when I was in the third grade. That was a momentous year, owing mainly to the fact that we had a teacher who, in addition to getting married early in the fall (thus necessitating our learning to spell a longer and trickier name), had a passion for the Field Trip. We went everywhere. With the wonders of New York City just a train ride away, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium...and one memorable day, the NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center.
For a third-grader, the chance to see “behind the scenes” at a major television station was tremendously exciting. That day’s Field Trip culminated in our watching the videotaping of a couple of episodes of “Password,” then a popular quiz show hosted by the legendary game show host Allen Ludden. The show would pair a celebrity contestant with one chosen by audition from the ranks of the Great Unwashed, with each one in turn trying to help the other guess the Secret Word through the use of one-word clues.
The celebrity contestants? Anne Jackson...and her husband Eli Wallach.
I had no idea who the hell either of these ostensible “celebrities” was, but my Dad - Eli, his ownself - acted impressed when I told him whom I had seen. And seen not once, but twice, for after the taping we saw Mr. Wallach and Miss Jackson outside the studio. Right there, on the sidewalk! Walking! Alongside the Regular Folks!
I was impressed, at the time, to find out that Wallach was Jewish. Hey! We got something in common! Plus, ya hadda love a guy named Eli, am I right?
It was five years later that Eli Wallach would be seen in the iconic role of Tuco.
And another forty years later, here he was in The Holiday, playing lovable but irascible neighbor-cum-legendary Hollywood screenwriter Arthur.
Made me feel like a kid again, it did.
[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Velociman, source of all things Tuco, for the images from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.]