back to 1971: HOLLY DOES SCARECROW
Gary Comenas (2016)
Scarecrow in a Garden of Cumbers publicity
Holly Woodlawn (with Jeff Copeland) in A Low Life in High Heels: The Holly Woodlawn Story (NY: St. Martins Press, 1991) p. 191-196:
My next cinematic endeavor, Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers, tells the whimsical tale of Eve Harrington (I couldn't believe it myself), a girl from Shaker Heights who comes to New York in search of fame and fortune and is bombarded with lunacy. It is a riotous romp of oddities and mishaps as she stumbles across a cab-driving nun, a pair of female twins on the rampage for women's rights, and a midget wrestler who falls in love with her, but in the end, Eve chucks New York and heads for Hollywood. Not only was Eve a funny role, but the show was a musical as well! And you know how I'd been dying to get in front of the cameras and belt out in song. Finally it happened. They gave me a big musical number with sequins, glitter, and chorus boys. I was thrilled, and signed the contracts immediately.
The producers moved me into the Chelsea Hotel and appointed a lawyer to oversee my finances. The Chelsea was a grand little hotel, and I cherish the torrid memories of living there... And right along with me was Estelle, that demented hoodlum and dear friend of mine. Estelle was continually drinking himself into a drunken stupor and having a blast... Needless to say, my humble home was in an uproar with Estelle, Ondine, Jackie Curtis, and the rest of the gang whooping it up on my golden terrace. We were smoking pot, shooting speed, and dipping into all sorts of jollity. Wine, weed, booze, men... it was ancient Greece all over again...
I was also shooting Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers, which took three months to shoot. We worked twelve hours a day. It was a big to-do , with a big crew of big men. When we shot on location, there were large studio lights and dollies and reflectors and barricades and security guards blocking off the streets. They even had a clapboard marking the beginning of each scene. Gee, this was more professional than I ever dreamed. I even had my own trailer/dressing room, with an air conditioner that worked! I was feeling quite pampered.
The first scene we shot took place in a tavern. Naturally, I was the first to discover that the bar was fully stocked. And of course, since I am the nervous type, it behooved me to have a nip... Well, those cocktails are tricky, let me tell you. Every time I downed one, another popped up in my hand. Funny how that happens. And by the end of the day, my nerves were not only calmed, they were dead! So loaded was I, in fact, that while the producers were driving me home I simply lost my mind... I jumped out into traffic and began to bawl hysterically...
The following morning I received a call from the director. He said that I either get my act together and lay off the booze or they were chucking the film entirely. I chose to give up the bottle (and the pagan revelries on my golden terrace) promptly checking out of the Chelsea and moving in with the film's screenwriter. She and her girlfriend were both recovering alcoholics...
Now that I was off the bottle and drying out, everything was going smoothly. Filming was going well, and I was happy. Then I got a message from Johnny [Holly's ex-boyfriend who also played the high school student in Trash]. He was in town with a friend and was staying at the Plaza Hotel... I made arrangements to meet him after filming later in the day. As you might have expected, I fell head over heels in love, with my legs in the air like a dime-store floozy waiting to be ravished. And I was! Over and over again.
Johnny decided to stay with me in New York, and the producers hired him to be my assistant. He moved in with me at Sandra's and it was just like old times. I felt like a true woman again, now that I had a man. And a job!
Scarecrow was an independent film which involved the prolific talents of two people I had always admired and respected: Bette Midler and Liliy Tomlin. They did not perform on screen, but perform they did. In one scene, for instance, I go to a movie theater, and while I'm watching the film, my mind drifts off into a fantasy and I become a little girl. The producers had cast a child who looked just like me; Bette Midler sang a lullaby on the soundtrack, called Strawberries, Lilac, and Lime.
Later we filmed a scene in the apartment of Jane Wagner, a good friend of the screenwriter's. Jane, as you know, is the comic genius and talented writer who later collaborated with Lily Tomlin on the Broadway hit The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Anyway, the scene had me lying in Jane's bed covered with salamis (don't ask me what that symbolized.) I pick up the phone, dial the operator, and SNORT! On the other end was Ernestine! Lily Tomlin was a good friend of Jane's and the screenwriter's, and she made a cameo voice-over in the film as a favor to them...
We filmed the finale of Scarecrow at the Broadway Central, an old-Deco hotel that collapsed a few years later. The scene has me taking an acting class when off I go into another dream sequence. This time I find myself on a Hollywood sound stage surrounded by handsome chorus boys dashingly attired in white tuxes and top hats. I felt just like a Ziegfeld girl! My costume included a Christmas tree garland I'd strung all over my body, along with a silver metallic waterfall headdress cascading from my head. Looking like a float out of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I was flanked by gorgeous boys in white as I sang I'm Lost in My Dreams of Heaven.
When filming finished and the movie went into post-production, everyone went their separate ways. Johnny and I moved back into the Chelsea and stayed for a month until my funds started to dwindle. We went to the production company's lawyer every day to get twenty-five dollars, which was deducted from an account set up from my earnings. Fifteen dollars went for food and ten dollars went for a bag of heroin. Yes, I was back to my old ways.
Bob Mucci (Film Score Monthly - Posted: Sep 4, 2012 - 10:29 AM):
Following considerable critical and media acclaim for her performances in two Andy Warhol productions (1970’s TRASH and 1972’s WOMEN IN REVOLT), transvestite Holly Woodlawn took on the starring role in her first non-Warhol film, SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS (1972). Ismail Merchant had offered Woodlawn a $3,000 role in his film “Tacky Women” (later retitled SAVAGES), but Woodlawn instead took up the offer to star in SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS for $6,500. The film was about an aspiring actress from Kansas who comes to New York and meets a host of zany characters. Holly Woodlawn played both the female lead, “Eve Harrington,” and a male anti-hero, “Rhett Butler.” A split-screen technique was used for the sequences in which the characters appeared together. All of the characters’ names in the film were taken from popular motion pictures and books. Characters included “Mary Poppins,” “Ninotchka,” “Margo Channing,” “Walter Mitty,” “Blanche DuBois,” “Baby and Jane Hudson” (played by twin sisters), “Marjorie Morningstar,” “Joe Buck,” “Noel Airman,” “Ratzo Rizzo,” and “Stanley Kowalski.” The film also had musical numbers that were spoofs of 1930s and 1940s routines choreographed by famed dance director Busby Berkeley. One production number, “The Dusty Rose Hotel,” sung by Tally Brown, paid homage to Judy Garland’s “born-in-a-trunk” sequence in 1954’s A STAR IS BORN.
Tally Brown in Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers
Co-starring with Holly Woodlawn were Tally Brown, Suzanne Skillen, and Yafa Lerner. And according to one report, the film included “cameo appearances by Playboy bunnies.” Years later, a 1979 Boxoffice article reported that Lily Tomlin had participated in the picture via a voice cameo in which she played her famous character “Ernestine,” a telephone operator. Although the film’s director stated in the article that Tomlin actually appears in the picture, other sources assert that she contributed only a voice-over. While SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS marked Tomlin’s first participation in a motion picture, she may not have actually appeared onscreen until the 1975 film NASHVILLE.
SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS marked the feature film debut of co-producer/director Robert J. Kaplan. Kaplan’s co-producer was 24-year-old Wall Street financier Henry A. Alpert, making his motion picture debut. The screenplay was by Sandra Scoppettone, her first script. The film’s title is taken from the Bible, the Epistle of Jeremiah, 1:70: “For as a scarecrow in a garden of cucumbers keeps nothing, so are their gods of wood, overlain with silver and gold.”
The picture was shot in 16mm entirely on location in New York City, with specific locations including Greenwich Village, Central Park, and the Chelsea Hotel. The 3 months of filming ended in early August 1971. The film’s final budget was $125,000. The film’s score consisted primarily of songs composed by Jerry Blatt, with lyrics by Marshall Barer. Many of the songs were sung by Bette Midler. It was also reported that Barry Manilow, who frequently worked with Bette Midler in the early 1970s, contributed some of the music to the film. Again, director Kaplan's later statements contradict some other sources, with him asserting that Midler appears onscreen in SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS, while other sources state that she only sings on the soundtrack.
Initially distributed by Maron Films, SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS opened in New York’s Waverly Theater on 15 March 1972. The film was blown up to 35mm for theatrical distribution. Although March 1972 reviews indicated that the film was not yet rated by the MPAA, and the film is not currently listed on the MPAA website, by the time it opened in Los Angeles in August 1972, local newspaper reviews listed the rating as PG. While the low-budget independently-produced film came a cropper with most of the critics who saw it, Holly Woodlawn was treated generously by many reviewers.
The Los Angeles Times' Kevin Thomas lamented that “only sporadically” was the movie “equal to Holly Woodlawn, who is a genuine clown, an irrepressible, infectious mugger.” Of a like mind, the New York Times’s Vincent Canby could find “really no reason to seek out” the “witless” and “insignificant film,” but nonetheless predicted that “Holly Woodlawn might some day” become accepted as “ a conventional comedienne” because she “comes close to being an awkward but endearing underground amalgam of Patsy Kelly, Joan Davis and Martha Raye, with a little bit of Jack Lemmon (in SOME LIKE IT HOT) added.”
By contrast, the New York Daily News’ Ann Guarino expressed scant interest in either the picture (“a sophomoric satire of old-time films”) or the star (“The average moviegoer may find it difficult to identify with Holly Woodlawn, who comes off as a caricature of Barbra Streisand in FUNNY GIRL without being half as funny”). And Variety’s “Vine” felt that, while the picture “is amusing for awhile,” it “eventually becomes increasingly tired, flat and perverse, despite Kaplan’s generally evocative direction and the suitable comic grotesqueness of the performances.” But Kevin Thomas summed up the consensus view of the “plump, Felliniesque” “amusing and talented” singer-actress Woodlawn. Concluded Thomas: “She has the movie’s best line when she slams down her phone in outrage and exclaims: ‘Onomatopoeia?! What kind of girl does he think I am?’”
SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS was later picked up for distribution by New Line Cinema when the film went beyond New York and Los Angeles. As for the future careers of the cast and crew, director Robert J. Kaplan made only one more picture, while neither co-producer Alpert nor writer Scoppettone made any additional films. Holly Woodlawn developed a New York nightclub act, which was also booked into venues in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston, while also appearing in one minor film in 1978. In 1982, she was hired by the producers of TOOTSIE to coach actor Dustin Hoffman (in his role as “Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels”) in the art of being a man acting as a woman in films. She was then away from films until 1993, when at the age of 46 she began appearing in low-budget films again, which she continues to this day. Actress Tally Brown appeared in a few more films, including SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1974) before leaving acting in 1981. She died in 1989 at age 54.
In August 1974, independent film distributor Howard Goldfarb, the president of H. G. Entertainment, Ltd., acquired the theatrical rights to SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS from New Line and intended to try a new distribution format for the avant-garde film. There is no information on any further distribution, however. The film has never been released on any video format, and the American Film Institute could not locate a print of the film to view for its cataloging project.
Publicity still of Holly Woodlawn in Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers3. The New York Times review of Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers
Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers (1972)
By VINCENT CANBY
Published: March 17, 1972
The tragic ironies that beset the exhausted, ever-hopeful characters played by Holly Woodlawn in her first two fiction films (the Warhol-Morrissey "Trash" and "Women in Revolt") now beset poor Holly's professional career as a fulltime, real-life female impersonator.
"Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers," in which Holly plays a gullible small-town girl seeking stardom in the big city, describes itself as a new kind of musical comedy, meaning, perhaps, that its faint smiles can be counted on the toes of one foot. It's not only the most insignificant film she has ever made, but, what's worse, the most over-produced, with original songs, sketches, and cast of 10s.
Yet "Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers" is also the first Holly Woodlawn movie to suggest that this anarchic talent might some day become a conventional comedienne, not because it's any good but because it is so quietly witless. Forced to cope with a written screenplay that denies the natural grotesqueness exploited by Warhol and Morrissey, Holly comes close to being an awkward but endearing, underground amalgam of Patsy Kelly, Joan Davis and Martha Raye, with a little bit of Jack Lemmon (in "Some Like It Hot") added.
Female impersonator or not, Holly has never seemed to get the knack of wearing high heels, which, I'm sure, explains at least some of the perennial popularity of a theatrical achievement like "Charley's Aunt."
Holly is not quite the whole show. A very pretty, real girl named Suzanne Skillen is seen briefly as a committed health food nut named, for no apparent point, Ninotchka. There is also one line that I liked, about a theatrical troupe's 47-week bus and truck tour of Rhode Island playing "Mister Roberts." However, if I quoted it, there really would be no reason to seek out the Waverly Theater, where the movie opened yesterday.
SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS, directed by Robert J. Kaplan; screenplay, Sandra Scoppettone; original music, Jerry Blatt; Lyrics, Marshall Barer; photography, Paul Glickman; editor Dick Cohen; produced by Henry J. Alpert and Mr. Kaplan. Running time: 82 minutes. At the Wavorly Theater, Avenue of the Americas near Third Street. (The Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration has not classified this film.)
Eve Harrington . . . . . Holly Woodlawn
Mary Poppins . . . . . Tally Brown
Ninotchka . . . . . Suzanne Skillen
Margo Channing . . . . . Yafa Lerner
Walter Milly . . . . . David Marguiles
Joe Buck . . . . . Sonny Boy Hayes
back to 1971: HOLLY DOES SCARECROW