The Capitol is super today

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • January 31, 2006

by Karen Feld

It’s not the Super Bowl, but there are three hot tickets on Capitol Hill today: Judge Samuel Alito‘s confirmation vote and Fed chair nominee Ben Bernanke‘s confirmation, followed a few hours later by President Bush‘s State of the Union address, in which he’s expected to lay out a vision and direction for the remainder of his presidency. Showbiz lure: It’s never too late

What a thoughtful gift Lee Caplin, founder of Picture Entertainment Corp. and producer of the film “Ali,” gave his mom, Ruth Sacks Caplin, 85: the rights to “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.” While in London in the 1970s, his mom – a Chevy Chase resident and wife of former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mortimer Caplin, a founding partner of the law firm Caplin & Drysdale – connected with late British author Elizabeth Taylor‘s novel, which she borrowed from a hotel library. Caplin decided to get to work. She found a book on the how-to’s of writing a screenplay, and began transforming the novel. “It was a quiet, private activity,” she told me. Although a virgin at screenwriting, her script caught the attention of the now-deceased first lady of theater, Helen Hayes. The problem was something called “rights,” and they weren’t for sale.

My mom the screenwriter

Little did Caplin know that her son, Lee, was determined to acquire the rights. More than a quarter of a century later, he convinced Taylor’s estate to sell the rights. “He never mentioned it,” said Ruth, “until he phoned one day two years ago and said: ‘I have the rights.’ ”

Mother-and-son collaboration

“Working with Lee was lovely. He’s very artistic and verbal,” his mom said. Joan Plowright plays the lead. “She’s superb. When they added bits, and I objected, they took them out. … I didn’t want love scenes sauced up they way they do now,” she told me.

“No surprise to this columnist, since I’ve known the family for many years and Lee and I grew up together as teenagers. The director told her, “We’re not making a granny film,” but Ruth Caplin‘s vision was considered and taken into account. “Lee was very protective of me in this. It was my baby,” she said. “He was bringing it to adulthood.” The film was screened here last weekend and opens in theaters in March.

And now, at 85, this local gal is working with her son on her second commercial project, “Thunder on the Left.” Caplin has updated the script. “I’ve changed it to another generation.”

Doggedly determined politician

Gov. George Pataki, R-N.Y., tried to break up a fight between his dog and a neighbor’s dog last week and ended up with an injury to his hand that required stitches and lots of discomfort. But nothing, not even swollen handshakes, will keep him out of Iowa, where he stars at a GOP event in Sioux City later this week. Yours truly can certainly relate. I got in the middle when two large dogs attacked my tiny ones in August and spent a month at the keyboard with my hand in a cast.

Father-and-son team sighted at Poste

Sighting: Arena Stage “Awake and Sing!” star Jana Robbins catching up with “Wicked” composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and his director son, Scott, having an early dinner at Poste Brasserie on Sunday evening. Papa Schwartz was in town to accompany his son with the incidental music he’s written for the piano at a reading of Scott’s adaptation of Willa Cather‘s “My Antonia.” Scott also directed Valerie Harper in the national tour of “Golda’s Balcony,” which opens in D.C. at the Warner Theatre on Feb. 28.

Sighting: Bush twins clubbin’ again, this time dancing on top of tables at D.C. hot spot Play, at a bash put on by Grey Goose Vodka.

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