While I consider myself as a steadfast member of the Arts-Loving community who NEVER composes gushing fan letters...in fact, entirely void of sentiment of the treacley kind...sometimes events have a penchant for taking strange detours, eternally causing a brain-reverberation of that ole cliched adage, “Never say never...”
Such is the case with Marlyn Mason and the new motion-picture short The Right Regrets.
Let me state right off the bat that I am not Ms. Mason's publicist or, one of her “people,” if, indeed, she maintains a stabled staff of Masonites (or Masonettes, if they're of the singing and dancing variety). I am an admirer of her work, and have been since the 1960s. For those unfamiliar with the actress or her extensive, formidable credits, please click on her highlighted hyperlinked name above…and be prepared to be awed.
Yeah, that's right: Bonanza, Ben Casey, Marcus Welby, Dr. Kildare, Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy...to say nothing of heading the late Sixties David Merrick-produced/George Abbott-directed Max Shulman-Elmer Bernstein Broadway musical How Now, Dow Jones...All good stuff. And did I mention co-starring with Elvis in perhaps his most bizarre MGM outing, 1969's The Trouble with Girls (well I did now!)?
I first became acquainted with the actress when she responded to an article I wrote for this very site, regarding film noir, and, more prominently, Barbara Stanwyck – with whom Mason worked on two separate occasions. We soon became fast friends – a virtual dream fantasy for me filled with a neverending supply of laughs and fun.
What blew my mind was what the indefatigable artiste was up to now; for the past half dozen years or so, the septuagenarian actress has donned additional artistic hats on her dome at a time when most of us are in the process of hanging 'em up on that top shelf in the retirement closet. In 2009, Ms. Mason appeared in a short film which she also wrote, entitled Model Rules. It went on to garner some great press and eventually won The Northwest Emerging Artist award for "Best Short” at the 2009 Salem Film Festival in Salem, Oregon . Since then, Marlyn wrote and starred in 2010's The Bag (another pip!) and only two weeks ago unveiled her latest and most ambitious project to date, the aforementioned The Right Regrets, which she also produced.
Much must be said about her third foray into filmmaking. So highly thought of was her newest script that it attracted the attention of legendary television director Ralph Senensky, who came out of a 25-year retirement to helm the project. Senensky (who turned 90 this year) and Mason had the twenty-and thirtysomething crew running ragged as they intrepidly traipsed along the rough-hewn beauty of Carmel, CA, where the majority of the picture was shot.
Based on an incident from Mason's recent past, The Right Regrets is a love story of the highest order...and not one that you would ordinarily expect. It isn't a “meet-cute” geriatric nicey-nice episode, but a wildly romantic tale with more than a dash of mystery. Marlyn's co-star is Maxwell Caulfield, the dashing 54-year old actor, best known for his appearances on TV's Dynasty, The Colby's, Emmerdale and the 1982 feature film Grease 2. Originally, the lovers were to be near the same age, but once Caulfield was suggested and intrigued by the project, there was, to quote Mason, “...no other choice. Our pairing was just perfect.” FYI, the suggestion came from Caulfield's noted Hollywood agent Budd Burton Moss, who, at 83, likewise shows no signs of slowing down. Mason, Senensky and Moss had all known each other since the 1960s. The Right Regrets has an original score by the phenomenal jazz composer/musician/historian Bill Kirchner and features the piano sound of jazz great Marc Copland .
While all of the above would in and of itself make great fodder for a piece in your print and/or cyber publications, there is an added carrot. The buzz on The Right Regrets not only gleaned it a top spot at last week's aforementioned Rhode Island Film Festival, but additionally begat its debut date, August 7 as special Marlyn Mason Tribute Special Event: a mini-homage that showcased all three of her pics, followed by an often side-splitting Q & A. Commenting on her nude scene in Model Rules, the actress responded to the exuberant crowd with a typically bawdy, “Damn, my tits look great on a 50-foot screen!” And they did!
Marlyn-Mams aside, there was yet another awesome event on that breezy New England night: The Right Regrets' debut coincided with the actress/writer/producer's 73rd birthday! An imposing sheet cake approximating the size of most Hollywood egos was wheeled out after the screening, and Mason spent the better part of the next hour doling out pieces of pastry topped with a dollop of witty asides.
But the party hadn't ended for Marlyn OR The Right Regrets. On August 11, the final day of the gala, Rhode Island International Film Festival Executive Director and CEO George T. Marshall announced that Marlyn's flick was to be the recipient of the first-time ever RIFF Ambassador Award, part of an exchange program with Canada's Montreal Film Fest this coming October. As Marshall jubilantly explained, "Ever since the premiere of her short film Model Rules, Marlyn Mason has become an important part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival family. Her passion, enthusiasm and amazing heart have inspired everyone on board. She has shown us that anything is possible as long as you believe in it hard enough and are willing to put in the work to make it a reality. Marlyn is simply amazing. She is not only a great and gifted talent, but an exceptional human being whose inner radiance and warmth touches everyone she meets. Knowing Marlyn is such a gift and her friendship is something I treasure."
In an uncharacteristic moment of brevity, Mason simply responded with a startled and overjoyed, “I'm thrilled.” So will you be, I suspect, when you check out The Right Regrets.