If you’ve seen Mommie Dearest (and, really, who hasn’t?), you’ve been exposed to the indelible image of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford taking the gardening shears to her rose bushes while muttering “box office poison” with every gasp of air. But Joan wasn’t the only one on that infamous 1938 list. So was Katharine Hepburn.
Miss Hepburn was under contract to RKO at the time, and the story goes that the studio wanted to be rid of her because of her bad box office, but was obligated to make two more pictures with her at $75,000 a pop. So Miss Hepburn was told her next film would be a little jewel called Mother Carey’s Chickens, which she refused to do. RKO insisted she make the movie or buy out her contract. So Miss Hepburn wrote the check. Clearly, there are certain chickens with which one doesn’t want to be associated.
A few days ago, I received an email from one of those groups that are always asking you to sign a petition for this or that. I probably wouldn’t have opened it except for the fact that the name of my favorite national fried chicken chain was in the memo title. Hoping for coupons, I was disappointed to find that my favorite chain—let’s call them Olive Oyl’s to protect their identity—has been using factory farmed chickens that aren’t well treated, to say the least.
Now, before you think I’m joining up with PETA, I’m not. But now that I’ve been told, I will be guilty of averting my eyes from things that are going on if I continue to enjoy extra crispy, spicy chicken strips from Olive Oyl’s. And I’ve already had to give up Chick-fil-A for other reasons that have nothing to do with factory farming. Where is my inner Katharine Hepburn to help me get through this new chicken quandary?
Why is it so hard to do the right thing? It’s not that I need those particular chicken strips. There are other comfort foods and cheat foods available, as long as no one tells me how pepperoni is made or how the pigs and cows were treated before they landed on my pizza.
We’ve seen a couple of other things in the past few days that indicate there is a similar, but much more consequential, “chicken” quandary out there in which some folks are finding themselves. And this one is not about eating chicken. It’s about being the chicken.
According to that email, the factory farmed chicken is “a genetic monster,” a “Frankenchicken” that is “so big. . . she often struggles to stand under her own massive weight.” That image brings to mind certain members of Congress—those that are in such fear of losing their positions that they abrogate what power they do have to hold on to a position which, due to their abrogation, is rendered powerless.
Unwilling to stand up for what is right or even what the majority of their constituents want, they seem unable to rise to their feet in their respective chambers. Perhaps that’s why they’re called sitting members of Congress.
But back to Miss Hepburn. The role she refused in Mother Carey’s Chickens went to Anne Shirley, who was coming off an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Stella Dallas. She played Barbara Stanwyck’s daughter, a part later played by Trini Alvarado in the Bette Midler remake Stella. Miss Shirley, after a number of films, retired from the screen in 1944 at the age of 26. Miss Hepburn, on the other hand, engineered her comeback with The Philadelphia Story, both on Broadway and on film, and went on to win three additional Oscars for Best Actress in an acting career that continued for into the 1990’s.
Perhaps some of our elected officials should get in touch with their own inner Katharine Hepburn to help get them through their current “chicken” quandary.