A Thing For Guys Called Jack

This morning after taking care of the usual morning items—a few dishes, tidying the living room, planning dinner, etc.—I happened upon a Jack Lemmon movie I’d never seen, called The War Between Men and Women. I suppose I could find it commercial-free online, but if I did that, I’d have to pay full attention to it instead of just having it on the TV for a little company while I do whatever else needs doing. And I’m not sure it’s worth anyone’s undivided focus. Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 10.30.55 AM
I feel like this is the kind of movie my parents would have made an effort to see without me. As I’ve mentioned before, they seemed to have no qualms about letting me watch outlaws escaping to Bolivia, cynical cops chasing down French drug dealers, people attempting to avoid death on a capsized boat, or creepy TV shows about vengeful stepchildren, but no hint of sexiness was allowed, even the awkward Jack Lemmon kind. Dream
This is super funny to me for reasons that would be boring to go into. But parents were commonly like that back then, from what I understand. And I doubt they had any idea how wildly attractive I’d find late 40s rude schleppy swinging Jack Lemmon with greying, slightly overgrown wavy hair and glasses. Or maybe they did. Wedding
I’m not reviewing it, much. It’s watchable, but not great. Barbara Harris is terrific, and Lemmon is, as always, exactly what is required. Lisa Gerritsen, who played Phyllis’s daughter Bess on Mary Tyler Moore, has an important role as a girl with a stammer, and she performs that well. Jason Robards has a small key role as a character James Caan apparently decided to base his career on. The story itself is awkward and runs in more than one direction at the same time. I doubt James Thurber, on whom Lemmon’s character is loosely based, would have been impressed by it, but there are funny lines, touching moments and amusing animated sequences, and it’s a good fair look at 1972, which counts for a lot with me these days. This reviewer thought very well of it.
Warinjapan
PS: one very good element of this movie is the scene near the end with Jack Lemmon and Lisa Gerritsen walking though animated pages of James Thurber's The Last Flower. I didn't find video just of that, but you can see the book itself here; mute it if you don't like the music.

 


My Boyfriend Bill

if he were still alive, would be 95 when this is posted. Now, let's face it. Even if he hadn't died by "misadventure," no way was this guy making it to 95. Odds were against him living past 70. On the other hand, my dad did. Of course, in my dad's family, dying at 77 was actually somewhat early. Okay, back to wherever we were headed.

My love for William Holden developed slowly over about 30 years, and then suddenly, bam! I could not get enough of him. At nearly 45 years old, I was crushing hard like 1977 ripping pages out of Tiger Beat hard. And after about a year of rewatching his films and catching up on so many I'd never seen, he started invading my thoughts. In 2011 I plastered one of my Tumblrs with him, posted about him here several times, and then last year I saw so much of him at other Tumblrs, etc., I was jealous. I mean that in the possessive sense. I've never minded sharing Gene Kelly or Hugh Laurie, etc., but Bill Holden was mine. What did a lot of young persons know about that world I was birthed into, the world which shaped who he became, and informed my sensibilities as I grew up and as it passed away? This world, the one we're in right now, is unrecognizable by comparison. To love this glowing yet damaged creature fully outside of context is to love a different person than do I. Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 10.58.30 PMYes, I cropped his wife Brenda Marshall out of this photo. It's a metaphor.

But that's mostly preposterous, of course. I know this. I know what it says about me, too. It's not, though, like I'd get into internet fights about it or whatever. It's just a reflection. 

It's like how I am about James Garner. I can barely speak of it and risk suddenly being surrounded by a spontaneous retroactive adoration that waters down this particular intensity I've held onto for over 40 years. It's weird, but it isn't really weird at all. It's dreadfully, drearily ordinary. I so dislike confronting how ordinary I am sometimes, don't you?

William Holden was like Dean Martin in certain respects. He did what he did because that's what he did. He was both laid-back and very fussy. He appeared to be all surface; handsome, handsomely wearing what he wore, looking effortless, like sprezzatura.

Looking back, it's obvious how smart Dean Martin was, and that he was laughing at everyone else and how seriously they took themselves. I mean, their effort. He was serious when he needed to be, without all that energy-consuming effort. 

I'm not sure Bill Holden was quite so smart, but I do think he possessed the same sharp view of himself, other people, the whole world. Some people, they're tortured by it all, and he was one of those people. And so, Africa, right? But also so much booze and cigarettes and needing to bathe over and over again. Perhaps trying to wash away something he could never take back. Anyway, it wasn't all effortless effort for him at all. Yet he kept at it. Alone

I can love all that only retroactively because I've seen it in others, first hand, and because I'm fascinated by the puzzle of it all. In the every day present here and now, I like my puzzles to be crosswords or mazes on a little screen, and I am way, way over tortured passion. But it is a seriously groovy fantasy, not unlike when you're 15 and you find out a movie star you love prefers other men and you think, because you are 15 and silly, I could change him. He'd want meScreen Shot 2013-04-16 at 11.00.29 PM

Nah, it's not really like that. It's just intensity, power, a sort of kinetic chiarascurro, and that's exciting; knowing what you know now, all that experience filters your view and colors your desires. You know how to play with fire, or at least imagine that you do. Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 11.03.53 PM

Is someone reading this and thinking very earnest thoughts? Let's turn the record over and consider this. It is raining hard as I write this, the iPod across the room is playing a gentle jazz tune, I forgot to wash some of the paint off my legs from when I was working on a new canvas earlier, and in a few minutes, when I turn out the light to sleep, I'll press one of the pillows to my side in this great big bed, and contemplate something only briefly earnestly. 

From here Panties

To here
Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 10.53.04 PM

Bill Holden was a movie star, a box office hero. Did he want to be revered for more than that? Did he want to be revered at all? Probably not. Who can ever live up to it? 

I watch this and grow sad and think, yes, he died too soon. It was a "wrong" death. 

But I cannot be serious for more than 9 minutes at a time. (And as pt 2 appears to be missing, that's just as well.) So then I go back to thinking of him as my boyfriend Bill, just before I drift off to sleep.

Like this, Supper

Or this,  Cognac

And especially like this: Tracks

More photos collected here.


I've Got A Crush On You and this thing about men

Okay, this is Frank singing for Columbia Records in 1948. He was 32ish. This is a little over 3 minutes long.

I've Got A Crush On You

And here he is for his own label, Reprise Records, in 1960. He was 44ish. And it's about a minute shorter, which is too bad, but it's because there's not so much horn action.

I've Got A Crush On You

I mean, you see what I'm saying here? They're both very good. But only one of them sends me. 

Youth is wasted on the wrong people. 

 

 


Wherein I wax on a bit about Bill Holden's bare chest

One of the best things about watching a William Holden movie from the mid-50s to early 70s is there's a high degree of likelihood he'll be in some state of partial undress, rather a lot of the time. In fact, if you look at candid photographs of him out having his real life adventures, you'll see that he's often shirtless in those as well, or unbuttoned, wearing shorts, barefoot, etc. The man clearly enjoyed being a natural part of nature, though they say (they who say these things) that he was obsessed with showering, too. Well, maybe there's the answer; you take a shower four times a day, you tire of putting on a new set of clothes each time. 

Breezy-1973-William-Holden-pic-91

But, and this is true of other Hollywood stars of his era and earlier, he is often seen onscreen with a hairless chest. They (same they or possibly another set altogether) say this was done for Picnic (1955) because he was (definitely but who cares?) a bit too old for the character he played, and the bare chest made him look younger. I dunno. That doesn't really add up for me, but whatever. His chest is also hairless in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957,) but not Sunset Blvd (1950,) The Bridges of Toko-Ri (1954) or Paris When it Sizzles (1964.) I don't remember at the moment what his chest hair condition was in The World of Suzie Wong (1960) but I think the reason we saw less of him in that film is in case it led us to figure out just what a man does with a call girl, and that would be bad.  Wong

So maybe in his case there was some kind of mid-late-50s ban on very hairy chests, which had him continually shaved up between Bridges and Paris, but other actors previously had this treatment as well. Funny Hollywood. They took the hair off men's chests, but added it to so many of their heads. 

I mean, Bill Holden had one seriously hairy chest. And even though I grew up in the hairy man 1970s, this is not something I normally find specifically appealing. However, there are sometimes special circumstances. I do like hunting for treasure.

Here's the man, hairless and hairy. 

Damp

Bridgefrayedshirt

Nakedgun

Franklyshirtless
"They let me grow it on my face."

Tumblr_l3fmojTjQE1qazanuo1_500

Billboat

Holden

Parischesthair

Soon I'm going to do another gratuitous post about Bill, with images of him holding various (and mostly pointy) objects.

Glassesholden

More William Holden pictures here, 3 pages so far. Yes, well. 


A great deal of blather, men and how I love them, 1965, tao, time travel, etc.

(also posted at http://liliales.tumblr.com)

Something I saw earlier on Tumblr has been nagging at me. It was a photo of the most attractive man I can name, with a mild note of misery that he had inevitably aged. They were enchanted with the face, but maybe not the man wearing it.

 
This is wholly enchanting, isn't it?

We celebrate youth, and we sometimes celebrate the aged, but we rarely celebrate the process from one to the other. I think that's what I'm attempting to do as middle age crawls over me like a late summer afternoon shadow.

I would never wish a celebrity or anyone I knew would stop aging or look or act just the same as some one point in time. But I sometimes wish there would be a point at which we're old enough and wise enough to travel fluidly back and forth in our own time stream, to witness events and people as they were then, but from our current point of view. We'd be sensible enough to stay out of our own lives, of course.

You may know the year I was born fascinates me.

It was so dualistic in every arena; concurrently buttoned-down and loosened up. I'm both of those things in one small (ish) package. I believe in dressing up to go out, in manners and dignity and respect and slow-growth investment, and I'm also so open-minded I don't have any doors in my head, and I don't wear shoes unless I absolutely have to, and I just really don't care for money at all. I could dig outside in the dirt all day long, but rarely without my iPod or satellite radio plugged into my ears. I love Dave Brubeck, Dave Gahan, and the Dave Clark Five. And I love absolute silence.

Many people I know who are the same age as me feel like that. We're products of what I truly believe was a unique point in history. You may think you know just what I mean, but unless you're between 41 and 46, you really don't. I'm explaining it very poorly because it isn't explainable.
 

Anyway. I'd definitely visit 1965. All my first loves, I still love em. I watched them grow up, grow out of date, die or grow old. I don't love those people and that stuff only for what it was when I first made the discovery; I love all they were and are and will be. After all, as Madeline L'Engle once put it, "I am all the ages I've ever been." We're just flowers; we open up, take in light, produce seeds and begin to dry out and get droopy. People preserve flowers in books, to carry the memory of when their scent was fresh. It's the same flower, though, whether fresh or dried-out.

We preserve star photos at Tumblr the same way. But if you could go and visit the moments those photos were taken, what would you discover? How would it affect how you see these people now, so many years after their youth faded or they passed away? I guess it depends on whether you're viewing them as real people, or only a glorified reflection.

When I was a very little girl, my ideal of a man was a distinct cross between Bret Maverick and Speed Racer. This largely informed my view of men in general, so you can imagine I spent a few years somewhat confused and disappointed at what I saw around me. But still I've never not loved men utterly, for all their strengths and frailties and just basic maleness. (Except their socks. I can never love those.) And I've been thinking about kissing men for over 40 years now, though I've still never kissed a race car driver or a western anti-hero.

Much later on, when I reflected back on those early crushes, I read up on James Garner, who played Bret Maverick and another favorite TV character, Jim Rockford. I decided I'd probably like him even more than the characters he often portrayed. It wasn't possible to do this with Speed Racer, but I've read lots of books and articles and watched lots of interviews with all my other childhood favorites, and I found I liked them even more, most of the time, when I learned about their ideals and humor and weaknesses and real-personnesses. Would they like me in return? Well, who thinks about that? (In Fantasy Land, I have straight pretty teeth, though, and the rest is easy.)

In 1965, I'd want to watch some of these people and certain events right at the genesis of all that social change which flavored my childhood. They may have largely ignored it all, but it didn't ignore them, either raising them up or viewing them with disdain. 

Now, inside my aging head, my brain still sees me as the young hopeful woman with a 24-inch waist and long lean legs, socially awkward, casual in manner and formal in speech (or the reverse, depending,) slightly manipulative yet confused by outright duplicity…very little of this has changed except my waistline. And I'm calmer and wiser, and much less awkward as a result. 

Sort of.

So more even than just visiting my birth year, I'd most like to go back and see some of my favorite stars when they were the age I am now. (Except possibly Bill Holden. I'd meet him post-vasectomy, pre-Audrey Hepburn, but that's another tale altogether.) I want to see if they were recognizing then what I'm recognizing now.

This is the time in life to start defining what contentment really means, and to realize it's mostly just a choice we make, if we're willing. To be willing, we have to accept the utterly tiresome loss of collagen, a thickening waistline, sometimes the hair on our heads. The tradeoff is totally worth it, though. Youth is wasted on the wrong people. Aging can be very sexy, because it becomes a choice rather than an imperative. In our current era, we have more leisure to contemplate this, but I suspect plenty of people have known it right along, only it's a native secret that you can't quite understand until you're fully initiated into the club. 

And if you reach the age in which the contemplation of nature and all that came before now takes up the largest part of your day—that age at which, apparently, you're taking in more data than ever before, but don't feel so much like bothering with it all—you've earned the privilege of laughing at the notion that prettiness is largely defined by youthfulness. Even if you're a little wistful about it at times. 


Something rather than nothing

Artie Shaw is playing, and I’m wishing there was a tie here that needed loosening. But it’s just me and the angry cat, who is snoozing her life away on the corner chair, probably dreaming of killing one or more of us so she can lap up our blood in tyrannical satisfaction. 

There’s no use hiding the fact that in my imagination, the tie is being loosened from around the neck of someone who looks exactly like Bill Holden. He’d be 1950-attired right down to his skivvies, whatever passed for those 60 years ago. Um, no. Make it 1954, when the profile was leaner, the tie was longer, the shoes more casually elegant. Or elegantly casual, is probably the thing I mean. He smells faintly of shave lotion, Wildroot hair oil, laundry soap, the glass of Scotch he had at the train station bar before the ride home. The combination is subtle, yet coaxing. The back of his neck is sunned except right at the hairline, which is crisp, razor-sharp from a lunchtime visit to the barber. I know the texture of that skin so well, I can almost feel it under the weight of my fingertips as I press these keys. 

The tie is discarded, collar unbuttoned, and he leans in to hum lightly in my ear as he pulls the clip from the back of my head, letting my hair cascade onto my shoulders and down my back. 

I just realized it’s no longer thundering or pouring rain outside. The wind seems to have calmed, as well, and the silence is palpable after an evening of water hitting the roof, pouring out of the drains, rattling the windows—no, not quite silence, but it’s all background noise that emerged when the rain ceased. The clock ticks, the cat snores, the old TV hums as I’ve muted the music channel in order to properly think some of these things through. And asthma lingers. You can’t tell your lungs that since the weather has improved, they should instantly work better. But in 1954, I don’t have asthma, and my sharp intake of easy breath is stopped short as he tips my chin up and kisses me, teasingly tugging on my lower lip, pulling it in, and I bring my arms up under his to grip his shoulders, pressing against him. More thunder rumbles outside, interrupting my thoughts. 

Where were they going to go, anyway? I can imagine the roughness of his cheek against my own, and I can imagine the somewhat unusual yet resonant tone of his voice as he whispers silly, intoxicating nothings in my ear. Right now, imagining much more than that would turn this loneliness into a kind of prison, which it already is, and the acute awareness of that is turning my thoughts from sensual fantasy to a kind of inexpressible nihilism. How ironically post-modern of me. 

Can I not fully conjur it because it never fully existed? Oh, there’s the rain again. It’s swiftly, in half a minute, built from crawling and clamboring to a full stampede. 

Cereal sounds good.


On the death of film stars

I remember seeing certain deaths in the newspaper at breakfast when I was a child, and hearing the adults comment on them. Harry Chapin comes to mind, and Jim Croce. I was 8 when he died. That affected me because I knew a couple of his songs and I knew he wasn't old. He just up and died, accidentally, shockingly. 

Then there was Groucho Marx. I'd just finished reading his hilarious autobiography around the time he died, and I was kinda crushed. I felt like I knew him a little bit, you know? That was the first one that hit me hard, at age 12, and I've never forgotten it. (Elvis had just died three days earlier, and that barely affected me at all.) I can picture the column in the newspaper, below the fold—maybe there was something important going on in the world that day—just as I saw it that morning at the table. I cut it out and saved it in my scrapbook, actually. Wish I still had that.

I was very into old movies by around the age of 10. We'd always watched old stuff at our house, anyway, and all my fondest TV memories are in black and white. Well, plus we didn't have color TV until 1981. Since most of what I loved wasn't even in color, that never bothered me much. People were crap at adjusting their greens and oranges, anyway. 

I had early crushes on James Garner, Robert Stack, and Raymond Burr. But then I had a lot of time to myself starting in 1975 because of family illnesses and other difficulties, and I became infatuated with Cary Grant (pretty much been over that for a long time, but I do love him like an old boyfriend I outgrew,) Gary Cooper, and Gregory Peck. I was sad to learn Gary Cooper was dead, and that launched me into a decade of reading biographies and obsessing over which film stars were alive and dead. Every time I'd see one I hadn't noticed before, I'd ask Mom if he was alive. Most of the time she knew, sometimes we had to go to the library to look it up. 

Things weren't at all like they are now, of course. Old movies were 20, 30, 40 years old, not 50, 60, 70. That's real history now! 

In high school, I added Jimmy Stewart, Joseph Cotten, Gene Kelly, Rossano Brazzi and a few others to my growing list of loves. They were all still alive. I also developed mad passions for Jack Lemmon, Rex Harrison, and William Powell. Among a number of others, of course and sigh

Two actors I've always enjoyed but was never enamored by, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, were long dead. Then Bill Holden died, and Steve McQueen. My love for Holden has grown immensely over the past 10-15 years, never so much into McQueen. 

But then, starting with William Powell when I was 19, my true classic loves all started to depart. One by one by one since then, all my childhood loves have died, except for James Garner. 

I'd only just rediscovered Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra around the time they died, and it was a gripping realization to have; these guys were in their prime before I was born, and now I was in that time of life myself. But they lived long rich lives, as did Grant, Stewart, Kelly, Peck, and Lemmon. So mourning them was more like mourning a bygone era than anything else. Also, I was an adult, mourning something lost from my childhood.

When Jim Garner, who is nearly 83, passes from this world, I don't know if I'll be overcome with sadness. It's a confusing thought. I mean, I love 1957-1985 Jim Garner of film and TV. He is, by all accounts, a very fine man for his family and friends to know and love, but to me he is mostly a collection of screen memories. Well, let's be honest. In considering all my oddly intense feelings for a handful of famous men, living and dead, he is the one about whom I've composed the most and most deeply, intricately detailed sexual fantasies. But also, he was so honest as a man on screen; a real man. A Jim Garner character is always a person we'd wish to know and we do know that extends to reality as well. There aren't that many big stars about whom we are certain this is true. 

I cannot remember a time in my life I wasn't basically in love with him, from very early childhood. Of course I don't really know him, but he always made you believe you could, right? And the point is, he was my first love, beginning over 40 years ago. Before I knew what sex was and before I wanted it, I wanted him. Don't take that wrong because it isn't. And I've never stopped wanting him. But when he dies, I'll still have everything of him I was ever going to have, anyway. His family will mourn the real person they knew and loved, and, as is generally the way, celebrate their lives with him. 

I think I'll be mourning an ideal that seems impossible to ever conjure again. But I guess I'm mourning that already. 

 


blather about dead film stars and a cocktail

I'm tickled remembering the summer of 2005 when I was making fake blog titles that mimicked bad ad slogans. Clearly I've stopped trying. Anyway.

I've been taking inventory of my personal DVDs. I don't have lots, and have bought many more for the family and/or individual kids than for myself over the years. But it's a semi-solid collection for how little money and effort I've put into it. There needs to be Nero Wolfe. And more movies starring my favorite old loves. I'd like to have Anchors Aweigh. I know everyone likes On the Town more, and I'd like that, too, but the other would come first for me. And then a couple other movies featuring Frank Sinatra. (As much as I love Guys and Dolls, I can never watch it without remembering Gene Kelly should be in there instead. Same with Pal Joey of which I have the vinyl soundtrack but not the film itself. But Sinatra acquitted himself well in those roles and a number of others.)

I would like to have the latest special edition of Singin' in the Rain. It was at Costco last year but so was An American in Paris that day and I had money for only one of them. Then Singin' in the Rain sold out so I never got it. It was my second choice and I lost the gamble on it. But I have it on the DVR right now. There are a few movies I record each year and keep around for months until the need for space bumps them off the list for awhile. The current crop is marked with a K here:

James Garner, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, what could be better? Well, the addition of Jack Lemmon, mainly. But I watch those three particular movies over and over again. Now, of course I love Singin' in the Rain? It has a couple of incredible musical numbers. But I honestly do love An American in Paris slightly more. It's a different kind of art, more what I'm into, is all. I like its contemporary time period and music, love love love the Gershwin, and how each frame was composed as a work of art. Love Minnelli. I liked it less when I was younger because it made me impatient. Now I think I could watch it go on for another hour if it liked to.

I love the Singin' in the Rain time period as well, but it's not one of the ones I'd like to quietly slip into for awhile. It's a different sort of treat for me. The movie also has more stress and anxiety than the other,  for which I have less patience than when I was younger. And I think the talky fashion show scene is pretty, but really no longer interesting to me. So they've switched positions in my heart, but not by all that much.

I watched An American in Paris twice yesterday, second time with the commentary on, and Singin' in the Rain today, and each fit its respective day beautifully. I painted a sort of modern jazz thing during the former, did some cooking and cleaning during the latter, pausing the TV to head into the kitchen for a new task from time to time. 

One task was to make simple syrup and squeeze lots of little key limes for the first gimlet of the season. It's a bit cold out, but was sunny all day, and the first buds are appearing on the dogwoods and other early bloomers in the neighborhood. In my backyard, the oregano has started to grow, and some of the mints. So it's nearly summer gimlet time, and I even had cucumber for garnish, but you can't see it in this photo. 

The thing to do is drink the gimlet, then eat the cucumber, made delicious by soaking in lime-enhanced gin.