December 8th, 2010

carole lombard 03
  • vp19

I see dead...celebrities (again)

Among the many regrets classic film fans have is that Carole Lombard and Cary Grant, shown above in the 1939 drama "In Name Only," never starred in a comedy together. But that might soon change...well, sort of.

The British tabloid The Sun reported Monday that veteran movie director/producer George Lucas -- in the words of British friend Mel Smith -- "has been buying up the film rights to dead actors in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together, so you'd have Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck alongside today's stars." (As might be expected, the Sun used neither Welles nor Stanwyck to illustrate the story, but Marilyn Monroe.)

It should be noted that Lucas has since denied he is acquiring the rights to deceased actors -- although many of their images, such as those of Fred Astaire and John Wayne, have been used in commercials -- and dead celebs are still marketable commodities. (Moreover, the Sun, a newspaper that runs topless photos of women each day, has never been noted as a paragon of journalistic integrity.)

However, as CGI technology continues to advance, reviving dead stars in new films appears inevitable. (Not that it's such a new concept; Lombard was among the notables seen alongside Woody Allen as "chameleon" Leonard Zelig in the 1983 mockumentary "Zelig.")

Part of me would be excited to see "new" Lombard product, but there would also be trepidation. I would have to be assured that the writers, directors and producers behind such a project would use the image of her and other actors no longer with us with intelligence and care. I'd feel a lot more confident if someone such as Peter Bogdanovich -- who has knowledge of, and respect for, classic Hollywood -- were involved than if it came "from the director of (insert latest frat-boy comedy here)." If only we could similarly resurrect directors such as Ernst Lubitsch and Howard Hawks, or writers such as Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder.

What would your ground rules be for the use of dead actors in films? Let's have your input. Meanwhile, despite its potential pitfalls, the concept is tantalizing...imagine a movie in your mind co-starring Lombard and (husband) Clark Gable.

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