Even the homebound have movie stars.

November 11, 2010 at 8:49 PM (film) (, , , , , , )

Myself and three of my blog-aquaintances (blogquaintances?) have dealt past and/or present with the soul-stifling reality of being homebound…where along with any other mantras one chants, I think a necessity is this one: “it’s-better-than-an- institution,it’s-better-than-an-institution-it’s-better-than-an-institution…

I love Turner Classic Movies.  In the last five years I’ve seen at least 15 films that meet the “Buy the DVD when you have money again and watch it obsessively,” threshold for me and scores more that I love watching, but don’t feel the need to keep.

And one  that despite the melodrama, hammish acting by the male lead and unabashed sentimentality, that has been instrumental in keeping me mentally moving forward.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street. The beginning of the story of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

I don’t contend it’s historically accurate.  I don’t watch for that.  But…

The plot goes that a woman with  chronic illnesses a friendly attentive dog. and a dysfunctional family manages to become a nationally known poet from home, living in her bedroom.

There’s this one annoying cousin that  pushes the “sick person as saint,” line, but her immediate brothers and sisters don’t. She falls into the unfortunate role of ‘sick person as confidante in the beginning, as many of us do, when the able come to us with angst in their lives, about things we think we ourselves will never get to experience.

But soon, another poet meets her, rather suddenly falls for her and offers the very real possibility of a life beyond the walls. (Frederic March who played Robert Browning was apparently very embarrassed at how “hammy” he was.)  I’m ok with impulsive, brash, ridiculously cheery and loud.  I was married to a guy that acted like that sometimes.

I like that fact that although Norma Shearer’s Elizabeth improves, her getting completely ‘healed’ is not the main  point of the movie.   It drives home the point that it’s the dysfunctional family, a dynamic beyond her control, is limiting her far more than living in an upstairs bedroom is.

Her father is played to creepy effect by Charles Laughton.

The film ends with a list of positives, and hints of something Robert Browning may have given up himself, in order to commit to Elizabeth.  It’s sentimentalist , overacted by today’s standards, but the steady upward path of her progress, moving against more than one difficult tide of her life, with her talents as the springboard…I love it.

It’s a real chick flick guys, so avoid it if you can.  But it’s a pointer…for a way to have more good days, more hopeful days…At home.

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Adaptations that Flicker

December 29, 2009 at 2:04 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

There’s a group of four films seen recently on TCM that seem to deal with impairment, and/or confinement.

Also, click on the links for IMDB’s cool trivia about three out of four of these films.

Since these days I’m both I found them newly relevant…

1. First, “The Lion In Winter,” (1968)…about the imprisoned Queen of England in 1183 AD, Eleanor of Aquitaine, which I’ve blogged about before…so I’ll try to stick with relevant stuff.

Henry, her husband, rarely lets her leave her tower, but she is quite capable of using her lands and her sons as pawns in a vengeful game of strategy against the man who ordered the lockup.  She’s appropriate that she only briefly shows how difficult the confinement itself has been for her.

It’s [still] good to be Queen, even when you’re imprisoned.

Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close apparently did a TV version, but…

I’m sorry Patrick, I love you man, but…the 1968 version beats you….

“How kind of you to let me out of jail…”  Katherine Hepburn just kicks so much @zz…

2.  “The Miracle Worker.…” (1962)

I know.  I know.  Helen’s the Ultimate Supercrip, and it’s irritating as hell to be judged against her.  Between Helen and FDR we can’t win.  It doesn’t help that Annie Sullivan is the Plucky Independent Loner, whilst being visually impaired herself…The film is full of stereotyping…and it’s based on a stage play so there’s two levels of Poetic License right there

But…maybe it’s the student in me, but the second that Helen understands language…it’s not violins playing or anything….It just feels like she discovered the Internet of her time, the Way Past her impairments, in the same way the Internet has been the Way Past our impairments…

3. The Enchanted Cottage (1945)  I’m unsurprised that IMDB has no trivia about this movie.

Puke.  Just Puke.

An injured American Pilot must Brood in an Upstairs Room Forever because of some medium scarring of one eye socket and a twisted lip…Life is simply unworthy of living. Until the Homely Upstairs Maid loves him as he is, and he marries her because yanno, impaired men are entitled to their Forever Mommies….

[ Snarky Aside Irrelevant to Film in Question:]

Impaired women?  Suck it up.  You’re on your own.

To his slight credit he does realize quickly enough that he loves her as a woman, not just a caregiver, but that’s not why he proposed, and so I don’t let him off the hook.

The cabin (or the Vaseline on the camera lens) works its magic, and they see each other as unscarred and beautiful even though no physical change has actually occurred…They come out of their delusion, but live happily ever after anyway.

Thank God Robert Young had Marcus Welby MD in his future.

I find it stereotype busting that the oldest film on the list is my favorite…

4. The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

Norma Shearer was always playing these jovial, smart, atypical women…this is no exception.

This is the story of a real woman, Elizabeth Barrett 19th century author.  She  is confined to an upstairs bedroom, with a spaniel as a guard… but is clearly involved in all the little intrigues, joys and angst of her siblings.   While her impairment was never fully figured out in her lifetime (Wikipedia theorizes it was pulmonary stuff of some sort…) she had periods where it affected her more, and some where she was obviously less affected.  She’s quite decent looking, her writing is consistently considered good, published frequently, and opens the door for correspondence with other poets and authors, a really rich varied life of the mind, not just some fantasy.  There’s not much “Oh, the poor thing,” going on from her peers or siblings…they seem to think her impairment serious, but nowhere near death’s door… but her creepy controlling father more than makes up for it. He wants her dependent on him, to “wait for God” to kill her…

I think he loved her a bit too closely, at least in this film version.

I have two favorite parts in the film…

Fellow poet Robert Browning, an able bodied handsome fellow, comes to call and is immediately in love…he makes no apology for it, doesn’t make it some watered down and weird pity for her state.  He loves her, continues as a constant presence in her life and is merrily insistent that they have a future….She makes it downstairs to see him, they wander in the park, she’s much improved (though not ‘cured’) when she’s with him…

The creepy father tries to discourage Browning and his visits — to no avail.  He tries ‘kidnapping’ Elizabeth trying to force her to live away from him and the rest of her friends in another house…He’s just as hideous to another daughter, forbidding her to date, asking Elizabeth to provide a Bible so her sister can swear to him the sister won’t see her lover again.  Elizabeth refuses the use of her mother’s Bible, her first act of open defiance.

And now, my second favorite part:

There is a maid in the household who is in Elizabeth’s corner….Robert has sent a letter that they are to marry that evening, and settle in Italy.  this is the evening before Elizabeth is to be taken to the distant house by her father.  The maid has helped with packing, only she and Elizabeth knowing her real destination.  With her father at dinner, she, her dog, and the maid sneak downstairs with luggage and flee the premises.

Very shortly thereafter the father finishes dinner.  One of his other daughters reads a letter left by Elizabeth for her father, basically politely telling him to kiss off, she’s reaching for happiness…

Unaware she’s taken the dog, the father orders it killed immediately.

The last scene…The Brownings marry.

It’s going to be too “Happily Ever After,” for most people and that’s fine….

But living well while confined…if this is a positive spin on that…we need more.

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