Sandy Dennis Foundation

Turner Classic Movies picked an off-peak hour — 6 p.m. yesterday — to show “Sweet November,” a movie we weren’t familiar with, starring Anthony Newley and the unique actress Sandra Dennis. Knowing it was a Sandra Dennis movie, we actually planned dinner so that we’d be done in time to watch — and were we ever glad we did.

This 1968 film tells an offbeat story about a young woman, Sara Dever, who — in a disingenuous way — charms a series of men into moving in with her for a month each. Sara is, by most standards, mad, but she is also irresistible in a way that Sandra Dennis was irresistible. The men who become her temporary lovers — arriving at the stroke of midnight on the first day of the month, leaving at the stroke of midnight on the last — are chance encounters, but in each she perceives some weakness, some flaw, and she helps him overcome it in 28, 30, or 31 days.

ANTHONY NEWLEY

Sara insists on the schedule. No man is to remain even a minute more than his allotment. Some are better than others at living up to this part of the bargain. The system begins to run amok when Sara takes in Charlie Blake, a seemingly unctuous Englishman who inherited a lucrative box-manufacturing company and is trying to expand it in the United States. As Charlie’s month, November, slips away, he is less and less inclined to part company with Sara. He is also increasingly concerned that her insistence on his departure has to do with something more — something darker — than her therapeutic routine.

THEODORE BIKEL

The cast of this film includes Theodore Bikel as Alonzo, a vegan sign painter and Sara’s one true confidant.

All the performances are moving, and Sandra Dennis is as good as she ever was on film, blurring the distinction between the actress and the character through inimitable speech and mannerisms and deep emotional insights. I had the good fortune to meet this actress on two occasions, and I found her just as mesmerizing as Sara seems to be in this film — and for many of the same reasons.

“Sweet November” was remade in 2001 with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. I haven’t seen that version, but from what I’ve read, it was a laughing stock. It might have been a bad film altogether, but even if it wasn’t, I doubt that many people who have seen Sandra Dennis play Sara Dever would want to see anyone else in the part.

Sandra Dennis and Anthony Newley in "Sweet November"

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SANDRA DENNIS

SANDRA DENNIS

Sandra Dennis, the actress, once told me about an embarrassing moment she had when she stopped in to see how Valdimir Lenin was making out in his tomb in Red Square. Well, it would have been embarrassing if it had happened to anyone else. I’m not sure – considering the glee with which she described it – that Sandra didn’t enjoy it. She was with another actress, touring what was then the Soviet Union, when they made the obligatory stop at Lenin’s place of repose. As they descended to the crypt, Sandra said, the temperature got colder and colder, giving them a sense of formality and sobriety. That feeling ended abruptly, she said, when they first caught sight of Lenin’s body in its crystal coffin. “All I could think of was Snow White,” she told me, “and I burst out laughing. It was bad enough, but the sound was echoing all through the tomb.” Somehow, I would have expected nothing else from Sandra, who was a lot like many of the quirky characters she played on the screen.
Well, Sandra might have appreciated the following story that appeared in Pravda this week, pointing out just how tough times are:
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THE BODY OF VLADIMIR LENIN, the leader of the Great October Revolution, will be left without a new suit this year due to the economic problems in Russia . Lenin’s clothes have not been changed after two months of prophylactic measures, although there is a strong need to have the mummy displayed in new clothes, The Trud newspaper wrote.  

LENIN IN REPOSE

LENIN IN REPOSE

Lenin has been wearing the army type jacket for 17 years as his mummified body was resting in the Mausoleum on Red Square . His clothes need to be changed once in three years. Most recent change of Lenin’s suit took place in 2003.

The funding is hardly enough for embalming activities, specialists of Lenin’s Tomb complain. “The state has not been assigning anything since 1992. We live at the expense of the Lenin’s Tomb Fund. Then there is this crisis going on,” an embalmer said.

 

Lenin’s body is dressed in expensive custom-made suits made of Swiss lustrine – the fabric, which Vladimir Lenin preferred when he was alive. The suit has a modern cut, which is still popular nowadays in men’s fashion. If specialists do not change the suit during the prophylactic works, they steam-clean and press it thoroughly: a slight speck of dirt can ruin the embalming effect.

 

Lenin’s mummy has been exposed to biochemical treatment this year. It was placed in the bathtub filled with the solution of herbs that produce the embalming effect. “This is a unique technology. It will help the body keep up its shape for some 100 years,” an embalmer said.

 

Lenin’s Tomb opened its doors for the general public again on April 18. Russia will mark the 139th anniversary of Lenin’s birthday on April 22. A visitor is first shown to the check point in the Tomb, where they will have to leave photo and video cameras, cell phones, large metal items and any types of drinks. Visitors are not allowed to either eat or drink during the viewing. Men are supposed to remove hats. It is not allowed to keep one’s hands in their pockets during the viewing either.