A unique treat at this time of year is finding the holiday greetings from Madelyn and Pete Hammond in our mailbox.
Madelyn’s the entertaining industry’s marketing wizard and Pete’s the chief film critic and columnist for Deadline Hollywood.
For many past Decembers, they’ve powered their creative guns for clever spoofs of the movie posters of fun or favorite films.
It began with a silly snapshot on a Hawaii beach where they feverishly embraced for a beatnik shutterbug, emulating Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here To Eternity. The 1953 classic included Montgomery Cliff, with Frank Sinatra in a breakthrough role that won him an Oscar for a Best Supporting Actor.
“We liked the photo so much that we sent it as a lark to friends at Christmastime. Other pals begged for a copy.
More photos followed, and mailings grew and grew.
In time, the printing and the sealing of envelopes and the stamps for l,000 cards became costly. “Whatever, we love it … it keeps us connected with our business associates and pals,” recalls Madelyn.
“This Christmas we chose West Side Story celebrating its 60th anniversary of its Broadway debut directed by Jerome Robbins,” says Pete.
Surprise, surprise. We were there on opening night at the Winter Gardens Theatre on Sept. 26 with our parents and girlfriend. Everyone was blown away with the performances of Carol Lawrence as Maria and Larry Kert as Tony, also Chita Rivera as Anita and Michael Callan as Riff, one of the leaders of the Jets gang fighting the Sharks.
The majestic score by Leonard Bernstein, and irresistible lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, along with the choreographic genius of Jerome Robbins enthralled the audience.
Afterward, the opening night crowd jammed into Sardi’s, on West 44th Street, that traditional gathering spot for Broadway first nighters.
Exhilaration filled the air. The following morning, the reviews were love letters.
“The 1961 film, also directed by Jerome Robbins,” adds Pete, “won 10 Academy Awards, still the biggest amount of Oscars ever received by a musical.”