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movies and memories

A bright, cold, peaceful Sunday morning. Last year from December to March, we had some sort of indeterminate season with cold bits; this year, it’s called winter and it has hit hard. Good news for Bill my homeless friend, who makes his winter money shovelling for the neighborhood. Bill has appeared regularly at my door with his almost toothless grin and his trusty shovel. He fills the bird-feeder while he’s out there. The faithful family retainer.

Yesterday’s treat – my first long session alone with my 8-month old grandson, now known officially as Booboo. His mother was very busy, so her roommate Holly brought him over and there we were, Glamma and Booboo, for the day. I was ready: the blanket was on the floor covered with toys and books, and in the kitchen, avocado, banana, yogurt, MumMums, Cheerios, and Arrowroots. With him came bottles, diapers, changes of clothes, wet wipes … The arsenal. All was needed. He cried once, for two seconds, when he hooked himself in the mouth with a toy fishing boat, and I was not paying attention. Otherwise, he played, he ate, we chatted, and then he fell asleep in my arms. I didn’t want to put him down.

I did not think I could love any human being more than my two children, but this boy may just prove me wrong. He owns my soul. He is the personification of joy. Okay, a stinky diaper does take the angel choir down a notch. But just a notch.

There was a moment of sheer terror – he managed to scoot himself off the blanket while I was making up a bottle; when I turned around, he had grabbed my bicycle, leaning against the wall. Nightmare images of it falling on him … How to be vigilant enough?

For once there are no photos; my hands were full.

The night before, I’d had a powerful dream, a brief moment of sleep during a restless night. My father, mother and I were travelling together. At one point, Dad and I sat looking at my mother, who was sewing in the sunshine, stunningly young and beautiful. My heart was pierced. “She’s gone!” I cried to my father. “She’s gone.” And in the dream, I howled in grief, more than I have yet in real life, though in my sleep, tears ran down my cheeks. I was awake enough to be aware of all this, and yet asleep.

Friends have been writing about their own experience of grief. I’m on track.

Last night, after Booboo went home, TCM handed me a gift – two fabulous movies for an evening of vegging out. “Guys and Dolls,” the best musical ever written, and, I’m always happy to note, of the same vintage as yours truly – written in 1950. I first saw it in Halifax in about 1962, in an amateur production in which my school music teacher played Adelaide. I loved it so much, I went twice, and have since seen the movie several times and a few stage versions. How can a silly story about smalltime hoods and the sexual negotiations between men and women in a repressed era become so moving and richly musical? And yet it does. The movie cast is sublime, as are the cars in the background. It’s one of my life’s tragedies that I never got to play Adelaide. “The female remaining single …” I’ve been rehearsing it all my adult life.

Then TCM announced “Captains Courageous” with Spenser Tracey and I nearly turned off the set, imagining a Horatio Hornblower type of flick. But though Tracey is saddled with a ghastly curly wig and an inconsistent Portuguese accent, it’s a beautiful film about a boy’s need for the love and attention of a father, as well as the courage of fishermen. It resonated deeply on many levels. Has there ever been a face as handsome in a kind way as Spenser Tracey’s, as masculine and yet sensitive, humorous – and wounded?

PS Just went to Wikipedia to read about “Guys and Dolls,” and found another connection. When I went to the British theatre school LAMDA in 1971 – mentioned in my last post – the star of the school was an incandescent actor called Ian Charleson, who later went on to international fame as the Scottish minister in “Chariots of Fire.” Despite his effortless superiority to us, his schoolmates, in every theatrical skill, he was sweet, generous and open, and we adored him; the loss was incalculable when he died of AIDS in 1990, at 40. He died just 8 weeks after performing what reputedly was one of the best Hamlets ever.

But I didn’t know he was a singer too – and, it turns out, he played Sky in a ground-breaking production of “Guys and Dolls” in London. If I am ever granted 3 wishes, one of them will be to go back in time and see Ian in this production.

The revival opened March 9, 1982, and was an overnight sensation,[20] running for nearly four years and breaking all box office records.[21][22] The original cast featured Bob Hoskins as Nathan Detroit, Julia McKenzie as Adelaide, Ian Charleson as Sky and Julie Covingtonas Sarah.[23] The production won five Olivier Awards, including for McKenzie and Eyre and for Best Musical. Eyre also won the Evening Standard Award, and Hoskins won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award.
Following Ian Charleson’s untimely death from AIDS at the age of 40, in November 1990 two reunion performances of Guys and Dolls, with almost all of the original 1982 cast and musicians, were given at the National Theatre as a tribute to Charleson. The tickets sold out immediately, and the dress rehearsal was also packed. The proceeds from the performances were donated to the new Ian Charleson Day Centre HIV clinic at the Royal Free Hospital, and to scholarships in Charleson’s name at LAMDA.[29]



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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