Documentary Reveals A Different Side Of Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is a documentary about the celebrated Broadway singer and actress filmed as she approached her 87th birthday. She first appeared on Broadway in 1944.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The performer Elaine Stritch began her career on stage decades ago in New York. Now nearing 90 years old, she's left the Big Apple for Michigan, to be near family. She's been on Broadway, TV; and she's known for her voice. To understand her legend, Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan recommends a new documentary. He has a few words to describe this legend.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Formidable, indomitable, irascible - pick your adjective, and it pretty much describes the force of nature who holds the stage in "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me." Television watchers will recognize Stritch as the actress who won an Emmy playing Alec Baldwin's redoubtable mother on "30 Rock." But it's for her singing she's best known, whether it be a Stephen Sondheim lyric or a standard like "The Object of My Affection."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION")

ELAINE STRITCH: (Singing) The object of my affection can change my complexion from white to rosy red...

TURAN: "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" is not an examination of the career of the performer with a big personality who first appeared on Broadway in 1944.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME")

STRITCH: I've got a certain amount of fame. I've got money. I wish I could drive.

TURAN: What we have is a snapshot of the woman as she approached her 87th birthday, still as much in love with performing as ever, and wondering how long she can keep it up. But what makes this documentary especially involving is that watching it reveals a different side of Stritch: vulnerable, insecure, even fragile. Truthfulness in performance is Stritch's trademark, and her honesty in life is what captivated friends like the late James Gandolfini.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME")

JAMES GANDOLFINI: In my profession, there's a lot of cynicism and, you know, sometimes you think you're ridiculous putting on somebody else's shirt and pants and pretending to be somebody. And then you run into someone like her, who reminds you that it's a beautiful tradition.

TURAN: We see Stritch's frailty as well as her courage, especially her constant need to manage her diabetes. Yet whatever this woman is saying or doing, you want to be there to experience it. There's no better formula for an entertaining documentary than that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STRITCH: (Singing) He's not the kind that'll leave me...

GREENE: That is quite a voice. Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times.

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