Robert Wise and Witherspoon's Consent
Burbank, California—Director Robert Wise has died at the age of 91, and all anyone has to do is read his filmography to know that we've lost another Hollywood legend. His movies are among the greatest, including two of the all-time biggest box office hits, The Sound of Music and West Side Story, and the brilliant Executive Suite, starring William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck (unfortunately, not available on DVD).

Mr. Wise directed a variety of movies, 39 in all, including The Day the Earth Stood Still with Patricia Neal, The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen, and I Want to Live! with Susan Hayward. As the Indiana-born college dropout, who was an editor before he became a director, once told the Associated Press: "I'd rather do my own thing." He did.

Redford's Return

So few of today's movies measure up to the classics, but I'm still feeling breezy from Lasse Hallström's wistful An Unfinished Life. When the Jennifer Lopez character is berated by Robert Redford's old cowboy for breaking a plate, it reminded me of a scene from Mr. Redford's own family drama, Ordinary People. In that 1980 masterpiece, Mary Tyler Moore's perfectionist mother—who, like the Redford character, lost a son in an accident—is more concerned with saving a broken plate than with preventing a broken home.

Livvy on DVD

Ordinary People was released in the decade that would be the pinnacle of success for lovely singer Olivia Newton-John, star of Grease and, lately, the subject of rumors surrounding the unsolved mystery of her friend, Patrick McDermott, who apparently disappeared after taking a fishing trip off the California coast. In recent years, Miss Newton-John has faced divorce, cancer and the death of her mother, Irene, and she's still belting them out—in wonderful concerts and on her latest CD, available exclusively at Hallmark—while smiling and making a good thing better. She will survive this, too.

In fact, ONJ's new DVDs take the format's application to music to the nth degree. Her music videos and clips from her 1982 HBO special, Olivia in Concert, are packaged in two $14.95 DVDs, Video Gold, Volumes I and II, and they're first-class. Each disc is housed in a sturdy case—no wimpy-thin casings—with a printed booklet about every music video's production.

Clips include each cut from ONJ's groundbreaking Physical video album (hers was the first full-length album to be produced for video), a rarely seen title cut from her Totally Hot album that has her showing off dance steps and putting the polish on glossy video long before MTV. Volume II is better for diehard fans; it's packed with ONJ's best rock tunes—Twist of Fate from her 1983 bomb, Two of a Kind, reuniting her with John Travolta, Heart Attack and a song about a ménage a trois where she looks like Morgan Fairchild gone wild. Included in the collection is a piece of lesser-known jazz pop called Tied Up, directed by top-notch Brian Grant, in which a playful ONJ cavorts in a sleeveless jacket looking like a million bucks. Other highlights include an anti-paparazzi number penned by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, The Rumour, featuring more snazzy choreography and Elton on background vocals. Another spiffy tool: the DVDs feature a playlist function that allows you to choose the sequence in which the videos play.

Drawing the Line

Speaking of the stalkerazzi, a photographer tried to snap shots of Just Like Heaven's Reese Witherspoon and her children without the Legally Blonde star's consent. The incident at a Disney theme park led to charges against the photographer, who may have picked on the wrong actress. This one fights back, having told police after a previous incident that she was nearly forced off the road by these thugs and, in light of what happened to Princess Diana, we all know where that can lead. These parasites steal people's images and, at their worst, assault famous people. Snaps for Reese Witherspoon, who plays Mrs. Johnny Cash in the upcoming Walk the Line. Let her enjoy Disneyland with her kids and leave her alone.


• 9/2/05 - The New Orleans Disaster and the Line on 'John Galt'

• 9/9/03 - Olivia Newton-John: Grease Goddess

• 3/21/03 - George Chakiris Looks Back at His Work, 'West Side Story' & Winning the Oscar

• Review - West Side Story

• Review - An Unfinished Life

• Review - Just Like Heaven


• Home Video - Executive Suite, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, More of Robert Wise on: VHS, DVD

• DVD - Ordinary People

• Olivia Newton-John DVD: Video Gold 1, Video Gold 2