By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin February 21, 2014 at 12:00AM
The best way to remember, and celebrate, the late, great Elaine Stritch would be to watch this recent documentary portrait (and her one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty.
You’d have to be inept not to get good material when you turn a camera on the irrepressible Elaine Stritch. Fortunately, first-time director Chiemi Karasawa earned the actress’ complete trust, so we get to see her in every facet of her life, on stage and off—bounding along Manhattan streets, greeting fans, rehearsing with her adoring accompanist, working on 30 Rock, even enduring a short stay in the hospital. Stritch is a magnetic force and this briskly-paced documentary captures her in all her glory. (It was filmed as the Broadway legend was about to turn 87, two years ago.)
She has been called larger than life, which is not a bad description for the acerbic, quick-witted performer. She loves performing and soaking up the love she receives from her audiences—a love she says she craves in “real life” but only feels when she’s entertaining. Broadway producer-director Harold Prince says that like many brash people, she has insecurities which can make it difficult to work with her. But, he adds conclusively, she’s worth it.
That helps to account for her long career in the theater and nightclubs, in spite of a long bout with alcoholism. But how to explain her indomitable spirit? She lost a husband she loved to brain cancer, and more recently, endured the deaths of two sisters. Yet she goes on.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is not meant to be a biography; her background and career are sketched in, but this is a candid portrait, not a conventional career survey.
If you love show business in general, or Elaine Stritch in particular, consider this a must-see.