Posted by highhurdler on April 3, 2012
After reading fellow Morlock Greg’s article last month I’m William Holden. Who are you? I was about to “Leave a Reply” – especially since I had the chance to be the first to post one – when I stopped myself and started giving it some real thought. In truth, I struggled with my answer, realized that my response would be lengthy and, since I knew I’d be filling in for R. Emmet Sweeney soon, saved it for today.
As I watch and review (particularly classic) films, it is rare for me to really connect with the characters in the story. My life is so mundane compared to theirs. I’m not as handsome, my spouse isn’t as beautiful, we don’t do (nor have we ever done) so many daring things – especially in such a compact timeframe as an hour and a half. I can’t articulate and speak my thoughts as well, nor have I been to such exotic locales or venues. However, on rare occasions, the hair on the back of neck is piqued, goose pimples rise on my forearm or thighs and/or tears well up in my eyes when what is happening on the screen conveys a truth about my life, or current life situation.
It happens unexpectedly, without warning, and even while watching an obscure or forgotten ‘classic’ on TCM during the day. Suddenly, in the midst of a B musical, second-tier romantic comedy or more likely a lesser known drama featuring a fading star (or starlet), there is a scene which “rocks my world” or touches me to the core of my being. In a flash I’m transformed from casually watching to fully engaged, my emotions at the surface. I may even press the pause button to stop the movie in an attempt to stay in the moment, or have a good cry … but then it’s passed. Again, these occurrences are rare and “sneak up on me”, and so they are cherished if not always remembered. I’ve never made a list of them, and perhaps I should have (or should start). I know that I probably rated the film higher than most other people would for the truth I found in it (which may have been buried within 90 minutes of piffle).
So what does this have to do with Greg’s question “Who am I?” Well, there are times when I identify with a particular situation, perhaps more than the specific actor. So much of what happens on the screen is unreal to me, especially given the time in which the story is set (before I was even born!), and because (e.g.) I’ve never been a soldier in a war, can’t sing or dance, and rarely have exactly the right words to say in the heat of the moment … nor am I able to smoothly react to any unexpected situation thrust upon me. So, Cary Grant I’m not. But there are times when I wish I was. Even Cary Grant (born Archibald Leach) is reported to have said that he wished he was Cary Grant! Five and a half years ago, when I posted my very first (sample) entry to this MovieMorlocks blog, I listed Grant as one of my favorite actors. He still is (as is William Holden, who knew?). So it really wasn’t a surprise to me when, after compiling a few of my most memorable actor-“wannabe”-moments (below), that the scenes which came to mind first featured my favorite actors:
When ex-Marshal Will Kane makes the decision to delay or even forgo his pending honeymoon (with Grace Kelly, no less!) to turn back, return to Hadleyville and face Frank Miller and his gang of outlaws, to protect the townsfolk (who turn their back on him), I wish I was as brave as Gary Cooper.
When Barton Keyes slowly and meticulously figures out (in a style that Peter Falk must have adopted years later when he played Columbo on television) that Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson were having an affair and must have killed her husband, I wish I was as smart and persistent as Edward G. Robinson.
When Rick decides that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans and convinces Ilsa to get on that plane with Victor, I wish I was as selflessly noble as Humphrey Bogart.
When the ugly Beast gets the beautiful Belle to see past his horrid outward appearance and fall in love with the real and tender heart that she awakens in him, in spite of himself, I wish I were Robby Benson? Well, O.K., probably not.
But there are films with which I have an even deeper connection, because I saw them at a moment in my life in which I could relate personally to a situation up on that screen. Chariots of Fire (1981) is one. Ordinary People (1980) is another: in my youth, when I first saw it, I identified with Timothy Hutton’s character, who so yearned for his parents’ (particularly his mother’s) attention in the shadow of his brother’s larger-than-life persona that he attempted suicide. Though I never got to that point, I could relate to the feeling if only some of the situation. Ironically, later in life, I’ve identified with Donald Sutherland’s character: a father striving desperately to help his disenchanted youngest child even though he is woefully unprepared for it. He means well and his heart is in the right place, but he’s also rather clueless about what’s really going on in his family. He stresses about it (jogging, his ‘escape’), suffering many a sleepless night until ultimately he is enlightened about the reality of his situation.
Kind of a long winded response, I know, but I hope you can relate;-)
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