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LAURA JOHNSON HAUNTS GENA ROWLANDS IN 'OPENING NIGHT'

year: 1977 pictured here is haunting beauty Laura Johnson
Not only centering on an actress portrayed by director John Cassevete's wife Gena Rowlands preparing for a Broadway play making initial rounds in New Haven and other small venues, but beneath the surface of this play-within-a-movie, there's an intense and spooky, eerie "ghost story" involving a beautiful young emotional fan, who's killed by a car after the first performance...

Enter a primal, lusty, jarring, hauntingly gorgeous Laura Johnson stalks throughout as Cassavetes takes us on a voyeuristic journey with many layers albeit with the same frantic vibe, as if real life and fiction were inseparably hybrid: backstage, on stage, and in various locations where other characters, including Ben Gazzara as the director, Joan Blondell as the writer, Paul Stewart as the producer, and Cassevetes himself as the co-star all try desperately to get Rowlands on track before opening night...

Gene Rowlands haunted Score ****1/2
But only she can discover this complicated character within herself, who, in her estimation, has no interesting qualities other than being in her mid-forties; making for something she cannot face: acting her age. And while much of the film is either Gena battling her demon (singular), or butting heads with Gazzara, scenes with Blondell trying to gather logic from the diva are the most telling: conversations between women with nothing and everything in common: the play at hand, and one has much more to lose...

What it all comes down to is the division between the director behind the direction, John Cassavetes... playing a character who's the type of character-actor he'd be if he weren't a director... and this cursed starlet that wants control of everything. Especially herself...

Making OPENING NIGHT a sort of cerebral "chase" film (otherwise known as a Thriller): with Rowlands after the young girl's urgent ghost, perhaps representing youth gone by, as those around her attempt to snare this tormented woman under a far deeper influence than has ever been covered (and/or uncovered) by the legendary married team of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, who would collaborate on only two more films in the next decade: GLORIA and, if you don't count TEMPEST not directed by Cassavetes, LOVE STREAMS.
Gene Rowlands in OPENING NIGHT d. John Cassavetes
Laura Johnson in her first role plays Nancy Stein, a girl turned hallucination for actress's actress Gena Rowlands
Five years later Laura Johnson became a regular on FALCON CREST as the slutty sister of Susan Sullivan
Laura Johnson seducing Cliff Robertson on the FALCON CREST third season episode The Betrayal
Laura Johnson in the FALCON CREST episode Coup d'Etat whilst being thrown out by sister Susan Sullivan
Laura Johnson as Nancy Stein during the first attack on Gena Rowlands in OPENING NIGHT
Results of the last fight between Gena Rowlands (Myrtle) and Laura Johnson (Nancy) in OPENING NIGHT
We can't forget veteran actress Joan Blondell: she gave James Cagney a run for his money, and Gena's no different
John Tuell as Gus Simmons, big handsome lug in "real life" is the antagonist of the movie's play in OPENING NIGHT
Former counter-culture biker flick starlet Sherry Bain in OPENING NIGHT
Sharon Van Ivan and the recently late James Karen (as a Bell Boy?!) in OPENING NIGHT
Citizen Kane and Kiss Me Deadly veteran actor Paul Stewart with Cassavetes
Gena Rowlands attacked by Laura Johnson in OPENING NIGHT
A woman under a different kind of influence, and a much better film with Gena Rowlands in Opening Night
Backstage as Gena Rowlands divas right into OPENING NIGHT
Gena Rowlands and Joan Blondell in her hot rod going to a seance in OPENING NIGHT
Laura Johnson as Nancy Stein (A Jew? Right!) in OPENING NIGHT
Ben Gazzara closes the curtain on Gena Rowlands in OPENING NIGHT
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