Wednesday, September 02, 2009
I thought I'd write a bit concerning one of my very favorite actors, Stanley Tucci. The last two movies in which I've enjoyed his performances, The Devil Wears Prada and Julie and Julia, he's been cast opposite the protean Meryl Streep and has in both cases established a strong and memorable character on his own. A writer, director and producer in addition to being an accomplished and versatile actor (Puck, of all characters--and a charming one, in A Midsummer Night's Dream opposite Rupert Everett, Kevin Klein and Michelle Pfeiffer) Tucci has serious Broadway credits in addition to his many movies.
Not so well known is that during the filming of Julie and Julia, Tucci's wife began the terminal stage of her fight with cancer. She died in May of this year. Typical of his personal style, he made a dignified, quiet, deeply felt public statement and is now continuing to raise their three children on his own. I've admired him and his performances enormously over the years and look forward to whatever project he approaches next.
Some more Portland pictures. We spent most of one day traveling to and exploring Mount Hood and the Timberline Lodge, a grand hotel built in the worst years of the depression as a WPA project, driven by the personal interest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who came out west to preside personally on its opening and dedication.
Construction of the Lodge at the 6000 foot mark on the southern flank of the mountain was a major engineering feat. A small army of workers was required to build access roads and accommodations for the construction crews and decorative artisans before the big job of clearing the site and then harvesting construction stones, many weighing several tons, from the mountainside began. All framing timber came from trees felled on the lower slopes.
The spectacular site--here's Mount Jefferson, the next peak to the south in the great volcanic Cascade Mountain Chain, seen from the Lodge's terrace--was meant to be a major draw.
But the style of the Lodge was a matter of great concern. It would have to be fully in line with Oregon's culture and use as much in terms of native materials and building technique as possible. Margery Hoffman Smith, a Portland interior decorator was engaged to design and coordinate the interior; in the process she made the Lodge into a museum of arts and crafts as well as a hotel. She established that all furniture, fabrics, wood work, rugs, art and paintings, lighting fixtures, door handles, newel posts--everything--would be hand crafted by local artists and artisans. She employed hundreds of mostly destitute people, successfully pulling some through the depression singlehandedly. The watercolor artist engaged to paint a vast series of studies of native wildflowers, trees and shrubs to decorate the walls, was living in the wooden packing crate for a piano at the time Margery Smith was shown an example of his work and determined to hire him.
The great central hall, built around the monumental hearth and chimney.
A buffet table with ram's head carvings.
Timber and ironwork of the great hall's roof.
Each of the scores of newell posts in the lodge has a differnt bird or animal carved to top it. All ironwork was custom done, including the delightful door ring, below.
The construction workers were paid 90 cents an hour ($30 for a 40 hour week), an almost princely sum at the exact time that my English grandfather and grandmother were surviving on their youngest daughter's salary of $13 a week in a basement apartment in New York City.
The lodge was a huge success in the years immediately following its opening but was closed during WWII on the grounds that its operation and upkeep required staff who were needed for the war effort. Essentially abandoned, it fell perilously close to ruin, but was rescued and restored at many times its original million dollar (mid-1930s dollars) cost. Ms Smith was present at the reopening ceremonies and contributed to the documentary film that shows in a small screening room off the great hall.
The end of that day, Fritz and I spent a wonderful evening with Stephen Rutledge (Post-Apocalyptic Bohemian) and his husband Rolfe in their North Portland home. Old theater men like Fritz and me, they took a semi-derelict house and handcrafted it into a quirky, eccentric, deeply personal and unique residence.
The back yard, of typical size for a modestly-scaled house in a residential area, was reengineered and imagined into a space that defies recognition of its small area or presence in a crowded neighborhood. By the time you work your way through the house and then arrive at "The Fort", where we ate dinner and spent the bulk of out time, we might have been deep in a more than slightly enchanted woods. The two wizards who accomplished all this were great hosts and I'm looking forward to our next meeting. Given the fact that my daughter and son in law love it in Oregon, and will certainly be there for a long time to come, our next trip there should come sooner rather than later.
thanks for the nice words and pic.
It was such a lovely evening with you and Fritz in the boys' fort!
We look forward to your return....
The pics of Oregon and your Granddaughter are lovely.
I find him to be VERY SEXY.
Thanks for your kind words. we all like to receive rave reviews. It was such a nice evening & a thrill to meet you & your husband in person. Things I want to do in my lifetime: See your house & property in NH.
Great photos from your trip!