dual personalities

“We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”*

jack-o-lantern

I am certainly not a fan of horror films. I have never understood the human desire to be scared, whether it be at the movies or at the amusement park on a roller coaster. These are thrills I do not seek. Call me dull, whatever.

However, I do have a few suggestions for Halloween-y movies to watch tonight. If you are like me, you turn off the lights and pretend you are not home and spend the evening watching a movie. Call me dull, whatever.

1. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

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In this romantic story set in the early 1900s, young widow Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) moves to the seaside English village of Whitecliff despite the fierce disapproval of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. She falls in love with and rents Gull Cottage, where she takes up residence with her young daughter Anna and her devoted maid Martha. On the first night, she is visited by the ghostly apparition of the former owner, a roguish sea captain named Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), who “allows” her to stay. Eventually they write a book together which saves her from financial disaster. I say this a lot I know, but truly, they do not make movies like this anymore: low-key, touching and, yes, romantic. I watched this movie recently and it made me cry.

2. Signs (2002)

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Signs is my favorite film in the M. Night Shyamalan oeuvre. Written and directed by the brilliant Shyamalan, it was scary the first time I saw it, but not so much now. However, it is worth watching over and over, because it is also a great movie about an Episcopal priest who has lost his faith. Yes, there is a lot more to this movie than extraterrestrials! By the end of the movie (spoiler alert!) the hero/minister has found his faith again and donned his collar, having saved his family from extraterrestrials in the bargain. Mel Gibson (not a favorite of mine) is really good in this movie, as are Joaquin Phoenix and, as the children, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin. I saw this movie recently and it made me cry.

3. and 4. Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989)

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In the first Ghostbuster movie misfit parapsychologists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Ackroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) lose their jobs at Columbia University and establish a paranormal extermination/investigation service known as “Ghostbusters”. They go on to save New York City. In the sequel (which unlike most sequels, is pretty darn good) they save NYC again and all is once again well in the world. Also I should note that these movies are funny without being overly vulgar. There is a funny joke about a guy being “Dick-less”, but it is pretty restrained by today’s standards.

Venkman: Or you can accept the fact that this city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean,”biblical”?

Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff!

Venkman: Exactly.

Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!

Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes!

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!

Venkman: Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!

Mayor: Enough, I get the point! And what if you’re wrong?

Venkman: If we’re wrong, then nothing happens! We go to jail; peacefully, quietly. We’ll enjoy it! But if we’re right, and we can stop this thing… Lenny, you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters.

Please Note: This movie will not make you cry, unless you laugh ’til you cry.

Do you have any suggestions? Young Frankenstein (1973)? The Addams Family (1991)? What will you be watching? Personally, I may hunker down and binge-watch Angel, Season One.

Angel_DVD_Season_(1)Don’t judge me.

If you are not in the Halloween mood at all, you could choose to celebrate the birthday of the late, great John Candy (October 31, 1950 – March 4, 1994), who is a particular favorite of mine, by watching one of his movies.

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Recently I was channel surfing and found Uncle Buck (1989) which I watched for awhile. I laughed so hard I was literally (literally) weeping during one scene where Candy goes into the empty Men’s Room at an elementary school and finds a wall of mini urinals. The  man was a comic genius. I should note that the OM watched this scene with the great stone face, never breaking so much as a smile. He was not amused. What can I say? To each his own.

*Bill Murray in Ghostbusters

“Everything passes, only the truth remains.”*

According to some sources, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born on this day in 1821.

Dostoevsky

Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist, and philosopher, Dostoyevsky was also, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, “a God-possessed man if ever there was one, as is clear in everything he wrote and in every character he created.”

“What’s mystery? Everything’s mystery, my friend, everything is God’s mystery. There’s mystery in every tree, in every blade of grass. When a little bird sings or all those many, many stars shine in the sky at night–it’s all mystery, the same one. But the greatest mystery is what awaits man’s soul in the world beyond, and that’s the truth, my boy….

…No, my friend, you’ve got me wrong; I’ve always respected science since I was a boy and, although I can’t understand it myself, that’s all right: science may be beyond my ken, but it is within the ken of other men. And it’s best that way because then everyone has what comes to him, and not everyone is made to understand science…”

–Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Adolescent

Fyodor and I are on the same page.

I have read Crime and Punishment and a wonderful book of excerpts edited by the Bruderhof, The Gospel in Dostoyevsky. I think it is time for me to tackle The Brothers Karamazov this winter. I have read parts, but never the whole thing.

So a toast to the great Dostoyevsky! Поехали! (Let’s get started!)

* Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov 

Way back when Wednesday: Steve McQueen comes to St. Louis

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Spoiler alert! Crime does not pay!

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery is a 1959 heist film shot in black and white. The film stars a 28-year old Steve McQueen as a college dropout hired to be the getaway driver in a bank robbery. The film is based on a 1953 bank robbery attempt of Southwest Bank in St. Louis.

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It was filmed on location in south St. Louis in 1959 and for anyone who grew up here, it is a fascinating movie, which captures a moment in time, that is gone, gone, gone.

I watched it one Friday afternoon at work–“previewing” it for a film course at school–and my assistant (who is from South St. Louis) and I had so much fun pointing out landmarks–

Planning the heist in Tower Grove Park

Planning the heist in Tower Grove Park

Tower Grove Park! Magnolia Avenue! The Southtown Famous Barr!

Love those St. Louis names!

Love those St. Louis names!

We wondered where the bar was where Steve goes and drinks a Budweiser.

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No need for a concealed carry permit in the good old days!

Well, it’s a small world really.

You want to know how small? The film was directed by Charles Guggenheim, who was a neighbor of ours on Westgate Avenue for awhile back in the 1960s before he got famous and won three Oscars for documentary films. His daughter Gracie was a friend of my dual personality. (Actually I don’t think my sister liked Gracie too much, but they got invited to the same birthday parties.) Be that as it may, the point is that there really are/were six degrees of separation between me and old Steve McQueen.

Anyway, Guggenheim’s switch to documentaries was a good move on his part. This movie is not very good, despite Steve’s best efforts trying really hard. Who knew he would become such a star? No one who saw this movie. (Don’t worry, I thought he was terrific!) But I do recommend it to anyone from St. Louis. It is a hoot and a half. You can find the entire film on YouTube.

“In silence the three of them looked at the sunset and thought about God.”*

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This is one of the trees in my front yard. These last few days of Indian Summer have really reminded me of Maxfield Parrish paintings–especially the light at the end of the day when the setting sun reflects so beautifully off of the orange leaves.

Maxfield Parrish (2)

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MAXFIELD-PARRISH-OLD-WHITE-BIRCH

maxfield-parrish-riverbank-in-autumnKnow what I mean?

If you haven’t noticed, be sure to look this evening.

*Maude Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib

“Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise”*

We experienced a lovely Indian summer weekend here in flyover country. It reached 82 degrees on Saturday!

I went straight home on Friday and parked on the patio.

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It was lovely.

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Unfortunately I had made plans to attend a women’s retreat (“Soul Sisters–Saints Alive!”) on Saturday at church–whatever possessed me?–and this caused me to spend several hours inside with a bunch of old church ladies. It wasn’t so bad, but I did rush outside at the end of it…to enjoy the sunshine.

I cleaned up the Florida Room at home and moved all the plants inside. The patio furniture will go inside soon and we will be closed up for the winter. Sigh.

But for a few more days, we’ll enjoy the summer-like weather. Sounds like a good excuse to go to Ted Drewe’s for a concrete-for-lunch!

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Which is what the OM and I did on Sunday.

Have a great week!

*Hymn #707, Frances Ridley Havergal

“We couldn’t even hear you in the night.”

“No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one else will come any nearer than that.”

Since it’s nearly Halloween, I thought a post about Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, one of my favorite books, would be appropriate. I always thought that she must have had a particular house in mind, so I looked around to see what fit the bill in North Bennington, Vermont, where she lived with her literary critic husband and four children. I give you the Park-McCullough house, built in 1865.

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“No Human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.”

And the inside isn’t much better.

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“I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.”

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“Perhaps someone had once hoped to lighten the air of the blue room in Hill House with a dainty wallpaper, not seeing how such a hope would evaporate in Hill House, leaving only the faintest hint of its existence, like an almost inaudible echo of sobbing far away…”

Big-House

And of course, we can’t forget the wonderfully evocative beginning (and end) of the book:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

So, if you are looking for something suitably creepy to read for Halloween, pick up the truly wonderful Haunting of Hill House. If you don’t have time for the book, try the 1963 film version (avoid the 1999 remake like the plague), starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. Here’s one of the most spine tingling scenes:

 

Note: to be fair, the Park-McCullough house is a lovely spot where people go to get married and enjoy the Vermont countryside. But I do think it probably inspired Shirley Jackson, who had an amazing ability to see the dark underbelly of even the most scenic and wholesome places and people. The source of the first three pictures is http://www.dailygazette.com/photos/galleries/2008/jun/29/0629_parkmculloughpix/809/. The last one I got on google image.

Have a spooky weekend!

 

“Baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way.”*

Since I asked the trivia question yesterday, for which True Grit (1969) is the answer, I will suggest it as my Friday movie pick.

True-Grit-1969

It has been a long time since I read the book by Charles Portis, but I remember that this film is a remarkably close adaption of it, which makes for a really good and authentic movie. The story revolves around Mattie Ross who is bent on avenging the death of her father and bringing to justice his killer, Tom Cheney. She hires U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn to go after him and insists on accompanying him on the trail. They are joined by a Texas Ranger, La Boeuf, as they head into the Indian Territory.

John Wayne, of course, is great in his Academy Award-winning role of Cogburn. Glen Campbell isn’t bad as La Boeuf and Kim Darby as Mattie Ross has grown on me. If you can ignore her ridiculous modern hairdo, she is really pretty good. She is not supposed to be endearing or even particularly likeable–but she does have true grit and lots of it. Robert Duvall and the rest of the supporting players are also terrific. It is interesting to see Dennis Hopper in one of his last roles before he went the Easy Rider hippie/drug route. [Side note: Hopper always credited John Wayne with saving his career when, after seven years of no one hiring him, Wayne gave him a job in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965). (I could do a whole blogpost about actors whose careers were resurrected/saved by John Wayne.)]

True Grit was beautifully shot on location, mainly in Ouray County, Colorado, which is right next door to my ancestral Hinsdale County–so I am partial to the gorgeous San Juan scenery. The courthouse scene was filmed in the Ouray County Courthouse.

Unfortunately, I have watched the movie fairly recently, so I really should watch the new version tonight, but as I make it a rule never to watch re-makes of John Wayne films, I am unable to do so. This is a good rule. Therefore, I will try to get my hands on the sequel to True GritRooster Cogburn (1975) which co-starred Katharine Hepburn in a sort of western version of The African Queen.

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Although not the classic its predecessor is, it is a good and highly enjoyable movie. You can tell that the two great stars were simpatico and liked each other a lot.

So that’s my plan.

Have a great weekend!

*Rooster Cogburn in True Grit

Sesquicentennial news

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Westport–sometimes referred to as the Gettysburg of the West–on October 23, 1864.

N.C. Wyeth mural of the Battle of Westport at the MO State Capitol

N.C. Wyeth mural of the Battle of Westport at the MO State Capitol

Union forces under Major Samuel R. Curtis decisively defeated an outnumbered Confederate force under Major Sterling Price. This engagement was the turning point of Price’s Missouri Expedition, forcing his army to retreat and ending the last significant Confederate operation west of the Mississippi River. This battle was one of the largest ever to be fought west of the Mississippi River, with over 30,000 men engaged. Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickcock (a scout for Gen. Curtis), Frederick Benteen, and Jeremiah Johnson all fought in this battle.

I am definitely adding this trip to my “To Do” list. I have been meaning to visit Westport, Missouri (now called Kansas City) where my ancestors were among the first pioneers to settle. And now I find that there was a major Civil War battle fought there? Where have I been?

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Unfortunately, I will have to miss the reenactment, but, as you know, I am more of the self-guided-tour type anyway.

Road trip, anyone?

Trivia question: What famous movie character had a cat named after Gen. Sterling Price?  What movie?

“Being male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of age. But being a Gentleman is a matter of choice.” *

Well, the fashion bloggers are all commenting on the passing of the great Oscar de la Renta, so I thought I’d add my two cents. “His departure is tragic. Fashion will never be the same,” gushed the Man Repeller. Please. He was 82 and had led a fabulous life. His departure was hardly tragic. That is not to say we won’t miss him.

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Oscar in ox-blood shoes

Oscar de la Renta was a gentleman, a dying breed, of the old school. I remember seeing him on some talk show 25 years ago, conversing with some clueless host–probably Regis Philbin–about fashion. Oscar was telling the guy, “Oh, no no, you must never wear black shoes in the daytime! They are for evening only!” Regis was arguing with him (!), saying, “But black shoes go with gray slacks! C’mon!” Oscar stood firm. He knew he was correct and that Regis was a cretan.

Anyway, it goes way deeper than fashion. Oscar de la Renta knew that.

In case you haven’t noticed, there are fewer and fewer gentlemen of the Oscar de la Renta variety around. The kind who reflexively takes your arm when crossing a street. The kind who would never dream of using vulgar language in the presence of a female. The kind who always tells you that you look lovely when you get dressed up (no matter how un-lovely you look).

Another friend of mine, an 85-year old gentleman of the old school, died the other day. He went to Amherst back in the day and still wore shetland sweaters over button-down shirts and was like Oscar, in that (for example) if you were driving him somewhere and reached your destination, he asked if you would like him to park the car for you–so, you know, you could get out at the door and not walk in from across the parking lot.

No doubt we women are to blame for the deficit of gentlemen, having insisted on our equality and refused the pedestal. Whatever. I miss those old school gentlemen. And I will miss old Oscar.

*Vin Diesel (of course)

In Xanadu

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a leader of the British Romantic movement and famous opium addict, was born on this day in 1772, in Devonshire, England.

In honor of his birthday, here is one of his famous poems to read aloud.

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Kubla Khan Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and towers were girdled round;

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

 

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted

Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!

A savage place! as holy and enchanted

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,

A mighty fountain momently was forced:

Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung up momently the sacred river.

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,

Then reached the caverns measureless to man,

And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;

And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure

Floated midway on the waves;

Where was heard the mingled measure

From the fountain and the caves.

It was a miracle of rare device,

A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

 

A damsel with a dulcimer

In a vision once I saw:

It was an Abyssinian maid

And on her dulcimer she played,

Singing of Mount Abora.

Could I revive within me

Her symphony and song,

To such a deep delight ’twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

If you prefer, here is the great Sir Ralph Richardson reciting the poem: 

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