Monday, September 13, 2010

TV Bites: Wait Until Dark

Audrey Hepburn's Raisin Bran Muffins

So, I bet you all thought I was going feature Roman Holiday for my Hepburn Month. You know Hepburn-Hepburn, Holiday-Roman Holiday, obvious-obvious. But really to be quite honest, I can’t stand Roman Holiday. Just don’t get Gregory Peck at all. But the real genesis for planning this double Hepburn bill was that I was looking at TCM’s schedule for late September and when I saw it listed, I immediately thought, “Gee, I haven’t seen Wait Until Dark in years." I then proceeded to search around to see if Audrey Hepburn had any recipes of her own and, lo and behold, I found a mess of them.

And what also turned out to be quite interesting (read on) is that both Hepburns were having both personal and professional stress and both left Hollywood for some time after making these respective films. So, bang-zoom, here we are with a Hepburn double bill. Also, didn’t notice at first, Wait Until Dark was released in 1967, the same year as the first TV Bites, Cool Hand Luke.

Since we’re only doing snacks for TV Bites, this got me thinking that I would like to screen Charade for my class early next year, maybe for Valentine’s Day. I’ve got enough recipes by Audrey Hepburn to do a four course meal. So, if you’re a Hepburn fan, keep your fingers crossed for that. But for now.... TCM will be screening Wait Until Dark on Sep 19, 08:00PM, Oct 03, 12:00PM, Dec 21, 06:30AM (all times EST), and it's available on Demand at Amazon or from your favorite video store.

My only complaint about this film is the character of young girl, Gloria. I would have totally rewritten her scenes, especially her first. But that's my take.

Tip: Make sure you dim all the lights as low as possible when viewing the film. When it was in theaters, the managers would dim the house lights towards the end as low as legally allowed to heighten the effect of the finale.


“They should make heroin look like something else. Candy bars maybe.”

The play, written by Frederick Knott (who also wrote Dial M for Murder), has been a stalwart for amateur productions for decades now, but began life on Broadway in 1966 starring Lee Remick and Robert Duvall, and directed by Arthur Penn (man, I would love to go back in time and see that production! Duvall as Rout? yeah.). A West End (London) production also in 1966 starred Honor Blackman. A 1982 HBO television production starred Katherine Ross and Stacy Keach. And in 1998, there was a short-lived Broadway revival starring Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino. Last month, a new production was staged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Suzy Hendrix is both a newlywed and recently blinded woman living in a Greenwich Village, New York apartment. One day, her husband Sam meets a woman, Lisa, on a plane flying home who makes up a story to get Sam to hang on to a small doll for her which she’ll retrieve from him the next day. Sam does not know the doll is filled with heroin. The man whom Lisa works for, only known as Rout in the film, figures Lisa is trying to double-cross him and kills her. He also wrongly believes Sam has found the heroin and has hidden the doll in a safe in the apartment. He blackmails two of Lisa’s former partners into playing a con game on Suzy in the hopes that she will lead them to the doll. Suzy falls deeper and deeper into the web being spun by the con men. But since she has no idea where the doll is, nor what it contains, her usefulness (and life) become less and less important to the criminals. The entire story takes place in her apartment (though the movie added a few scenes outside).

Born of European aristocratic stock in 1929 (her mother was a baroness), Audrey Hepburn grew up surrounded by the horrors and barely herself survived WWII. She became not just one of the most beloved actresses of all time, but certainly one of the most beloved human beings of the 20th Century. She is equally remembered for her humanitarian work as goodwill ambassador for UNICEF from the 1950's onward, as for her films. In her later years, she also spent a great deal of her time as a volunteer worker in remote areas of the Third World.

Now there is a strange little story reprinted all over the Internet about Audrey Hepburn and the film’s director Terence Young, that is even included in a biography written by Donald Spoto, that I want to get into here. It goes typically like this:

“During World War II, 16-year-old Audrey Hepburn was a volunteer nurse in a Dutch hospital. During the battle of Arnhem, Hepburn's hospital received many wounded Allied soldiers. One of the injured soldiers Audrey helped nurse back to health was a young British paratrooper - and future director - named Terence Young who more than 20 years later directed Hepburn in Wait Until Dark.”

Amazing, huh? The universe is a cosmic, karmic wonderland. However, a very different version is told by her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, in his biography of his mother:

“One of the battles that finally freed the Netherlands was fought by the Allied forces in Arnhem.... Year later, during the filming of my father’s production of Wait Until Dark... the film’s director, Terence Young... found out she had been in Arnhem during the war. A tank commander for the British Army during the war, he had been responsible, only two decades prior, for the majority of the shelling that devastated the city and the neighborhood where she lived.

This link between my mother and Young solidified into a lifelong friendship as well as the source of many jokes: “If I had aimed slightly to the left,” Young would say, “I’d be out of a job right now.” But in her heart my mother much preferred the intense few days of shelling, which brought freedom, to the languishing fear she felt every time she stood by waiting for the Nazi troops and later the SS.....”

Other sources also note that Young was a tank commander for the Irish Guard during WWII and not a paratrooper. So which is the real story? My vote is with the latter version.

Hepburn and the film’s producer, Mel Ferrer, were married in 1954. Ferrer, no relation to fellow actor Jose Ferrer, was successful not just as a actor himself, but also produced and directed in motion pictures, television and Broadway. At first, it was all Hepburn had hoped marriage to be, but by the time they were about to begin working on this film, the marriage was seriously on the rocks. She had, in the last two years, suffered two miscarriages and was understandably depressed. And she had lost her desire to act. Further, she was especially unhappy about returning to Hollywood to film and tried to get the production to shift to Europe. Jack Warner purportedly punished her reluctance by refusing to let Givenchy do her wardrobe as she loved, and instead she had to pick out her own clothes - there is no credit in the picture for Hepburn’s costumes. Warner also apparently suggested Hepburn wear contact lenses to dull her expressive eyes for the film because he felt people wouldn't believe her to be blind. Hepburn also spent time at a school for the blind learning the basics of how to survive as a blind person.

Really, all she wanted then was to stay home and raise her son, she said: “I had always wanted children so badly that I was miserable when I went off and did [Wait Until Dark]... I couldn’t bear to be separated from him, so I stopped working.” And she did. And by the time the film was in theaters, she and Ferrer were separated and eventually divorced. She was also reportedly having an affair with actor Albert Finney, as well.

It would be nearly a decade before she made another motion picture. I think it may be reasonable to say that playing the part of a blind woman, trapped, being victimized and manipulated against her will – and consider how the criminals in the film are putting on a performance in which she is forced to play a lead role – wasn't probably so far from her true emotional state at the time.

But with all that going on in her personal life, Hepburn delivered a riveting performance. The film was a huge box office success. Audiences left theaters terrified for weeks afterwards. The film co-starred Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston, and Ephraim Zimbalist Jr. Hepburn was nominated by both the Academy (her 5th nomination) and Golden Globes for her performance. Zimbalist got a Golden Globe nod.

Alan Arkin had been nominated the previous year for his leading role in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, and this film solidified his star status. He has said that the worst part of making the film was having “to be cruel to [Hepburn]. It made me very uncomfortable.


Question: In the opening sequence Lisa & Sam are flying in from Montreal. Do you think it would have mattered if the screenwriters had chosen Minneapolis or Madrid?

A little history: In 1827, the drug company Merck & Co., began commercial production of morphine, which was soon heavily used to alleviate pain in soldiers during the Civil War. But then after the war ended, many couldn't break the habit. Also, opium dens were springing up around the country and were quite frequented by Americans. By 1890's, opium and morphine addiction had reached epidemic proportions. In 1898, the folks at the Bayer Company introduced a new drug they claimed would help cure people of their morphine addiction. They call the drug “heroin” (for “hero”) and it quickly became very popular – “addictively” popular. The US estimated 250,000 to one million users in 1900, which equaled between .2 and 1 percent of the entire US population at the time. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act in the US taxed manufacture, importation, and distribution of heroin, and by 1924, manufacture of heroin was completely prohibited in the US which sent users to the black market and created worldwide criminal webs of heroin producers and traffickers to provide product.

During WWII, heroin importation to the US was almost nonexistent as there was virtually no international trading of any kind and so addiction dropped in tandem. But then from the 1950's until the mid 70's, there was a huge spike in availability and use. Turkey and Iran were main world producers and exporters of heroin in the early 1960's, but efforts by the UN and US suppressed and slowed production from there significantly. Meanwhile, however, US (and France) were throwing dollars and guns at warlords along the Golden Triangle (Laos, Thailand and Burma) to reward them for fighting Communism. These warlords became druglords and eventually evolved into the main source for heroin in the world. In the last decade, the power has shifted from Southeast Asia to Afghanistan where today over 90 percent of all heroin in the world comes from.

But regardless of where it was grown and processed in late 1960's when Wait Until Dark takes place, drug rings based in France were the main traffickers of heroin to the Eastern US. The fact that Lisa is bringing in the heroin from Montreal, and that Louis, the man sewing the heroin into the doll in the opening sequence, speaks French to her – would be totally understood by audiences of the time to signify they were players in what would be famously dubbed: “The French Connection.”


There are three states in the US that have an “official muffin.” While New York City is well-known as the Big Apple, you might not know that the apple muffin is the official NY State muffin. Massachusetts is the corn muffin state. And Minnesota claims the blueberry muffin as its own. (Some Internet sites say that either Washington State and/or Virginia also named the blueberry muffin their official muffin, but I couldn’t find any reliable source to back those up.)

Wisconsin was considering making the cranberry muffin its state muffin in 1988, but one state senator objected because he felt it was bills like this causing voters to not take government seriously anymore. But then, a year later in 1989, the same Wisconsin State Legislature proclaimed the cow chip (a sun-dried piece of cow poop) the "unofficial" state muffin. Which, we must assume, was a move to get citizens to take government more seriously.

Grains (such as wheat, rice, corn, oats) all have a hard outer layer which protects the kernel. During processing into flour, the bran is one of the byproducts left behind. Wheat bran is considered to be extremely nutritious and is one of the best sources of dietary fiber. It's also packed with B vitamins (niacin, B5, B9, B12, ribflavin, thiamin) as well as at least 8 minerals and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Wheat Bran is also part of many animals healthy daily diets, especially horses.

Romanians make their Borscht with fermented wheat bran.

So, as I mentioned above, I was pretty excited to find that this Hepburn also liked to cook and thus could dish up recipes by both Kate & Audrey Hepburns this month.

"She was a very good cook," remembers her son Sean, "and also believed that the color combinations of the food on your plate were important." She told him: "It isn't very interested to eat a plate of white, therefore it can't be good for you either."

Audrey Hepburn's Raisin Bran Muffins
adapted from The Audrey Hepburn Treasures Book
Click for Printer-Friendly Version

makes 8 muffins

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 1/4 cup wheat bran
1 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat over to 375*

2. Soak raisins in warm/hot water for 10 minutes.

3. At the same time, in a medium-sized bowl whisk egg, then add milk, butter, and bran in bowl. Let rest for 10 minutes.

4. Add flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, honey to bran mixture and blend completely. Fold in raisins (removed from water).

5. Bake for 20 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean). Let cool and serve.

Official Audrey Hepburn Website
A Tribute to Audrey Hepburn
Roger Ebert's 1968 Review of Wait Until Dark
Wait Until Dark, the Play
TCM's Wait Until Dark Page
About Hepburn's work for UNICEF
PBS Frontline: The Opium Kings

Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto
Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers by Sean Hepburn-Ferrer
The Audrey Hepburn Treasures by Ellen Erwin
The Audrey Hepburn DVD Collection (Breakfast at Tiffany's / Sabrina / Roman Holiday / Funny Face / Paris When It Sizzles)
Wait Until Dark DVD
Muffin Pans @ Amazon

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