HOLLYWOOD—From Hollywood Hills to Malibu, this has been a year for women in entertainment. Stars, directors and producers have made a statement about where the industry should go in 2010. This week I want to recreate the 1939 and 2008 theme films “The Women.” Hollywood’s most successful year was 1939 and the debut of MGM’s “The Women” premiered. That film was led by Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine and Norma Shearer, and was a real hit. In 2008 the re-make, though not as big of a hit, starred Jada Pinkett-Smith, Meg Ryan and Annette Bening. As 2009 ends we focus on the women who made a difference in Hollywood over the last 12 months.
Starting off with my friend and “Queen of the Lot” costar Tanna Frederick, who shocked critics with her amazing performance in “Irene In Time” on the big screen only to prove she has the chops to embrace the stage in Henry Jaglom’s “45 Minutes from Broadway.” Tanna is a team player; we had so much fun in our scene in her film “Queen of the Lot” that is due out in the spring of 2010. What is on the agenda for the beauty? A possible Oscar nomination. Hollywood is buzzing about Frederick’s incredibly unique portrayal of a damsel who never gets over losing her father as a little girl. With the Academy going back to 10 not five Best Picture nominations, it’d be crazy not to include “Irene in Time” in the top category.
Ashley Jones led Hollywood leading ladies this year with roles on both HBO’s “True Blood” and the most watched show on the planet, the Emmy-winning daytime drama “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Jones jockeyed between sets in Malibu and Hollywood’s CBS TV City for her roles as Daphne on “TB” and Bridget Forrester Marone on “B&B.” Ashley told me just this week, “B&B is my priority, I never forget the opportunity Brad [Bell] gave me, and if I can possibly do other roles again in 2010, as long as it can be worked around ‘B&B’ I’m open to it." The shocking death of Daphne on “True Blood” still has fans buzzing about the character’s possible return. “It is Alan Ball,” Jones tells Canyon News. “I am the luckiest actress in the business. I’ve worked for Alan Ball and Bradley P. Bell, what can be any better than that?”
Actress Susan Flannery proved what skill and passion she possesses in her “B&B” role as Stephanie Forrester. Constance Towers-Gavin has been all over the place. From making a pilot for 20th Century Fox to raising hell on “GH” as Helena Cassadine and also starring alongside John Aniston and Jesse Sofer in “The Awakening of Spring,” the socialite and star plans on taking on Canadian audiences next year in a play.
Michelle Stafford the multi-Emmy winner on CBS’s “The Young and the Restless” made an exciting announcement this week. On Monday, she posted the following message on her Facebook page, “Natalia Scout Lee Stafford, Born Dec. 21 at 11:23 pm 8 lbs, 3 oz, 19 inches. She is so supercool. Just chill & very happy to be hanging. J" [Sic] Good for Michelle, what a way to end the year. After an incredible storyline with handsome Joshua Morrow, she ends the year happy in her personal life as well. Stafford had a surrogate carry the baby.
Susan Lucci had a birthday on Wednesday. Since no one would believe her age, like Sophia Loren, I won’t talk about it. The diva will be bringing Erica Kane, a role she’s played for nearly four decades in a NYC studio is coming to Hollywood when “All My Children” pulls up stakes this week and is relocated here to Tinseltown.
Eileen Fulton is still blowing audiences away on the cabaret front, Ruta Lee is here in Hollywood for the holidays but don’t think she’s slowing down, the youthful star who is also a brilliant business-woman remains a working actress in Hollywood, just as her late friend Lucille Ball predicted she’d be doing. She also shuttles between her homes here in Hollywood Hills, Palm Springs, Texas and Mexico. Who can keep up with Ruta?
Can’t have a year-end review without the Beverly Hills-based Bell ladies. Lee Phillip Bell, the widow of the legendary Bill Bell, Sr. started it all. More than three decades ago she and her talented husband Bill Bell, Sr. Created “The Young and the Restless,” which is being helmed now by Bell's daughter-in-law Maria Arena Bell. I could go on about her tremendous success as executive producer, but it’s best to use the words of two of her talented stars. Joshua Morrow tells Canyon News, “She’s reinvigorated our show. With Maria at the top, we have no place to go but up, she’s done so much already.” “Y&R” costar Thom Bierdz says, “She is an incredible woman, just like her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, Lauralee. She’s an asset in so many ways to the show and the industry.”
Segue into Lauralee Bell. A beautiful young woman who I grew up with and who I admire as much as I do her parents and distinguished siblings. Lauralee captivated fans world-wide as Christine Blair Williams on her parents’ iconic “Y&R.” Growing up in Chicago and later moving to Beverly Hills, Lauralee went from terrific child-star to the most popular and underrated adult daytime actress in television history. Now the woman whose tackled everything creatively so far and has come out a winner can add to her impressive resume director, producer and actress to one of the first Internet series “Family Dinner,” which has become a real hit.
Fans and viewers of her webisode series know that it’s only a matter of time before the series hits cable or network TV. Bell has been quietly working on just that as well as her handsome and talented husband Scott Martin who is also a creative force behind the scenes of “Family Dinner.” You can’t expect a Bell to create a series without putting in place a strong cast of women to back up the show. As if “Family Dinner” with Lauralee alone wouldn’t be a hit, she’s cast funny-lady Phyllis Diller and Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman in her series.
What does 2010 hold for these beautiful women? Lots. I’m on for the ride. See me in the spring in Tanna Frederick’s “Queen of the Lot,” while I dream of working with both Ashley Jones and Lauralee Bell on the screen as well. Listen up, I’m ready for my close up, ladies! As long as Hollywood has these great women involved in our industry, the state of the industry will remain very strong.
Next week we honor the men in Hollywood who made a difference in the entertainment industry this year. No hints, but you can expect one to be a producer, one a fine actor and the other, well, you just have to read this column next week to find out.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Canyon News staff to our readers. Thank you for being a part of it all.
Photos courtesy: Tanna Frederick by Paul Smith, Ashley Jones by Gilles Toucas, Bell Phillip TV Productions and Lauralee Bell by Bell Martin Productions.