Howard Safir Feuds With WCBS News … Intern Calls Howard Stern a ‘Bitch’ … Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week

One of the best and still freshest of films noir is 1949’s The Third Man [Thursday, Dec. 11, WLNY, 55, 3 A.M.] , a classic example-like Casablanca-of an extraordinarily memorable picture that is not really the personal vision of one artist, but rather an amazingly fortuitous convergence of talents at just the right moment with exactly the correct material, each of them working, both separately and together, at top form. The idea for the movie-an American writer trying to unravel his friend’s mysterious death in corrupt post-World War II Vienna, run by all four Allied Forces-came from the brilliant, legendary Hungarian producer (and sometime studio head and director) Alexander Korda. He went took it to one of England’s greatest contemporary novelists, Graham Greene, not only a fine prose and dialogue writer but a superb constructionist; Greene did the original screenplay, although the most famous speech in the picture-the one about the cuckoo clock-was actually contributed by one of its stars, Orson Welles. In fact, Welles’ role of Harry Lime is one of the briefest leading parts in any movie, yet it dominates the picture and is its most unforgettable aspect. Welles always used to say it was a perfect star part, like the title role in the famous old stage melodrama, Mr. Woo : “Everybody talks about Mr. Woo for close to an hour and finally, at the end of Act 1, the silent figure of Mr. Woo is glimpsed crossing a bridge as the lights fade out, and the audience comes out saying, ‘Isn’t that guy playing Mr. Woo great?’ That’s a star part.” (It is also the only screen role of Welles’ whole career that he did with absolutely no makeup, especially no false nose.) However, director Carol Reed’s extremely effective style of shooting and cutting this picture would have been inconceivable prior to director Welles’ earlier 40’s films, Citizen Kane, The Stranger and The Lady From Shanghai . At the head of a flawless cast of European actors is Welles’ own discovery, Joseph Cotten at his most likable, with Alida Valli at her most alluring and Trevor Howard at his most acerbic. The famous theme music, all composed and played on a zither, became an international pop hit. In America, the film was bought for distribution by producer David O. Selznick who, though he’d had nothing to do with its making, slapped his name all over the credits. A year later, Selznick, Korda and Welles were at Cannes, Orson told me, and Korda suddenly said to Selznick: “You know, David, I just hope I don’t die before you.” Surprised, Selznick asked why. Korda replied: “Because I hate to think of you going to my gravestone, scratching off my name and putting yours on.”

-Peter Bogdanovich

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Police Commissioner Howard Safir and his friend Raoul Felder, the celebrity divorce lawyer, are making noises about filing a libel lawsuit against aggressive reporter Marcia Kramer and WCBS-TV.

The Commissioner was enraged by Ms. Kramer’s News 2 report in July charging him with spending more than $1,000 in taxpayer money on a sumptuous meal in Little Italy. The Channel 2 story was indeed partially mistaken. Mr. Safir’s meal, it turned out, was not taxpayer-funded.…

Weeks after the original piece was broadcast, Ms. Kramer and WCBS did correct the error-but that hasn’t appeased the commish.…

“We’re mulling things over,” Mr. Felder said. “I’m appalled by what happened.” …

The fight started when Ms. Kramer spotted a good story on the front page of the July 24 Daily News : The city’s top cop was caught dining with around 20 colleagues at Taormina of Mulberry Street. Not only was the restaurant off-limits to cops, the News revealed, but it had long been owned by a reputed Gambino capo. It was also a favorite hangout of John Gotti.…

Ms. Kramer got to work, and her report was ready for the 6 P.M. broadcast. ” News 2 has learned that taxpayer dollars paid for Safir’s meal,” Ms. Kramer said in the report. “He’s a big sport. Tipped 50 percent. Your tax dollars at work.” …

How did News 2 pull off such a scoop? Easy. A field producer from the station shoved a mike in the face of the manager, a man with faltering English and a heavy Italian accent.…

“Did he pay for everybody last night, or did he just pay for himself?” asked the field producer, off camera.…

“No, no, he pay-a, I think he pay-a, some check for the city, ah, New York. That’s, ah, New York City check,” the manager stammered.…

That was all Ms. Kramer needed. Moments before air time, a spokesman for Mr. Safir called the station with a denial. But that didn’t stop the newscast from going with its saucy report. “You might call this the scene of the crime,” said Ms. Kramer in the voice-over as the camera showed the restaurant’s facade. “The Police Commissioner chowed down last night, eating a little pasta, a little antipasto, a little fish. Tonight, he’s eating lots of crow.” …

Facing the camera at the end of the report, Ms. Kramer tacked on Mr. Safir’s denial. In the 11 o’clock version of the story, Ms. Kramer played down the angle that the meal was paid for by taxpayers. (A private group called New York’s Finest Foundation actually footed the bill.) …

Mr. Felder complained on Mr. Safir’s behalf the next day. Ms. Kramer delivered her correction on Aug. 6: “The Commissioner was hopping mad at the story,” the reporter said, “and he had a right to be.” A nice start, but her correction ended up heaping blame on the stammering source. “It seems the manager of the restaurant in Little Italy got it wrong,” Ms. Kramer said.…

Mr. Safir was not satisfied with that.…

Asked if he would file suit, Mr. Felder turned suddenly oracular. “It’s like wine,” he told NYTV. “Eventually, you have to open the bottle, or get rid of it.” A spokesman for Channel 2 news had no comment at Observer press time.… [WCBS, 2, 6 P.M., 11 P.M.]

Monday, Dec. 15

You won’t see the naked Howard Stern intern in any reruns of The Howard Stern Show on the E! channel. Why? Because Mr. Stern is a wuss, claims Zach Waldman …

Mr. Waldman is the intern who, with Mr. Stern’s encouragement, let it all hang out one morning for the cameras. “In my opinion,” said Mr. Waldman, “Howard doesn’t want a bunch of yes men around him, but that’s what he has. He told Roseanne on the air that he thought what I did was great and that I was their favorite intern, but that they had to make an example out of me and fire me. But when did the king of all media become management’s little bitch?” …

On tonight’s edition, a beautiful mismatch: Fiona Apple takes Howard seriously. [E!, 24, 11 P.M., 11:30 P.M.]

-By Deirdre Dolan and Greg Sargent