dual personalities

Month: September, 2017

The trouble with perfect movies

is that they make it hard to tolerate mediocre ones. Fortunately, today’s post is about one of the perfect ones, The Trouble with Harry (1955), starring the incomparable Edmund Gwenn, Mildred Natwick, and John Forsythe, and introducing Shirley MacLaine and Jerry Mathers.  Filmed in pristine rural Vermont, the Trouble with Harry combines great situational comedy with spectacular scenery and an assortment of sweetly eccentric characters.

While on  a tramp through the woods, young Arnie (Jerry Mathers) finds a corpse.

High jinks ensue as different people believe they are responsible for the ‘murder’ and try to dispose of the body, which gets buried and exhumed about three times. Everyone seems to take the crisis in stride as they approach the back-breaking toil with resignation and plenty of witty dialogue.

The script includes some priceless exchanges, including this conversation between  young Arnie and the dreamy artist, Sam Marlow (John Forsythe).

Sam Marlowe: Perhaps I’ll come back tomorrow.

Arnie: When’s that?

Sam Marlowe: The day after today.

Arnie: That’s yesterday. Today’s tomorrow.

Sam Marlowe: It was.

Arnie: When was tomorrow yesterday?

Sam Marlowe: Today.

Arnie: Oh, sure. Yesterday.

Aside from being amusing, that conversation actually ends up playing an integral part in the resolution of the whole story. Imagine that — a script that is both funny and tightly plotted! The direction and comedic timing of the actors are just perfect.

Who but Mildred Natwick (Miss Graveley) and Edmund Gwenn (the captain) could make afternoon tea both hilariously horrifying and romantic?

As the Captain admires a large tea cup that Miss Gravely purchased earlier in the day:

Captain: A real handsome man’s cup.

Miss Graveley: It’s been in the family for years. My father always used it… until he died.

Captain: I trust he died peacefully. Slipped away in the night?

Miss Graveley: He was caught in a threshing machine.

Hitchcock’s restrained direction allows the actors to play their roles to perfection, but the movie’s greatest asset is its script. Forgive me for harping on this point in recent posts, but I can’t help it. Nowadays, too many movie-makers seem to have forgotten the fundamental necessity of a good script.

Watch or re-watch The Trouble with Harry. It’s the perfect Fall movie and is guaranteed to raise your spirits (pun intended!).

A little romance etc.

The end of September is upon us! This busy week has flown by and the rest of the year, I have no doubt, will fly by as well. This weekend I will do my best to slow down.

I’m going to finish my Mitford book. I’m going to organize some stuff at home. Maybe I’ll get the OM to drive down to Jefferson Barracks with me. They have a Civil War Museum there which I have never visited. I was reminded of it when I read that on September 30 in 1843 Ulysses Grant arrived at Jefferson Barracks, south of St. Louis, for assignment to the 4th Infantry.

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While stationed there, a West Point classmate, Frederick Dent, Jr., invited Grant to his parent’s home, White Haven, on the Gravois Road. After Dent went west with his regiment, Ulysses continued to visit the Dents–and in particular his sister, Julia Dent. When he was assigned to duty in the Southwest, Ulysses had to make a mad ride from Jefferson Barracks, perilously crossing the Des Peres River at flood stage to say goodbye to Julia.

He arrived at White Haven wet and disheveled. Then, in Grant’s words, “I mustered up courage to make known, in the most awkward manner imaginable, the discovery I had made on learning that the 4th infantry had been ordered away from Jefferson Barracks.”

Julia’s recollection was more romantic: “He declared his love and told me that without me life would be insupportable.” He gave her his ring and she gave him a lock of her hair.

It was quite a while before they saw each other again. Four years later on August 22, 1848, they were married at Julia’s home in St. Louis. They were a devoted couple through thick and thin, through war and separation, and all the way to the White House.

BTW, there is a new biography of Grant. Here’s the review in the New Yorker. I don’t think I’ll be reading this book, even though it is actually pretty positive. No one today really gets U.S. Grant except maybe John Keegan:

“In 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, Grant, aged thirty-nine, with four children at home and scarcely a penny in the bank, had made no mark on the world and looked unlikely to do so, for all the boom conditions of mid-century America. His Plymouth Rock ancestry, his specialist education, his military rank, which together must have ensured him a sheltered corner in the life of the Old World, counted for nothing in the New. He lacked the essential quality to be what Jacques Barzun has called a “booster,” one of those bustling, bonhomous, penny-counting, chance-grabbing optimists who, whether in the frenetic commercial activity of the Atlantic coast, in the emergent industries of New England and Pennsylvania or on the westward-moving frontier, were to make America’s fortune. Grant, in his introspective and undemonstrative style, was a gentleman, and was crippled by the quality.” (The Mask of Command)

In other news I went to see the Steve McQueen movie last night. I enjoyed it a lot because it was two hours of Steve McQueen. There were some hokey elements to it–Pastor Greg driving his green Shelby Mustang around–but it was well done. The movie suggests that although he had made it to the top of his profession and was a “superstar,” Steve was longing for meaning in his life, and finally at the end of his life, he found it in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It wasn’t a deathbed conversion. He found religion when he took flying lessons and became friends with his flight instructor, a Christian family man who talked to him and took him to church. He was planning to move to Ketchum, Utah with his 3rd wife and run the general store (sounds like a good plan to me) but he was diagnosed with cancer and never got the chance. Wonderful Billy Graham came and met him on the private jet that was going to take him to Mexico for some alternative treatment.

Anyway, I have felt a bond with Steve ever since I had a dream when I was in the 5th grade where I gave him a tour of Middlebury College.

Guess I know what I’ll be watching this weekend. Have a good one!

Keep letting your light shine

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“Those who love much, do much and accomplish much, and whatever is done with love is done well…. Love is the best and noblest thing in the human heart, especially when it is tested by life as gold is tested by fire. Happy is he who has loved much, and although he may have wavered and doubted, he has kept that divine spark alive and returned to what was in the beginning and ever shall be.

If only one keeps loving faithfully what is truly worth loving and does not squander one’s love on trivial and insignificant and meaningless things then one will gradually obtain more light and grow stronger.”

―Vincent Van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh

By the way, I am going to see this tonight:

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This documentary is directed by Jon Erwin (who directed Woodlawn (2015) which I recommended) and is focused on shedding light on the actor having become a born-again Christian late in his life. I  remember that Billy Graham visited him when he was dying, so this should be interesting.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

“Lord, make me a blessing to someone today.”

As I mentioned, I have been reading the latest Mitford book, To Be Where You Are, and I have to say, I am enjoying it immensely.

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Here is an interesting short interview with the author Jan Karon.

Hardly anyone believes me when I say that Mitford is everywhere; it is portable, we carry it with us if we choose to. Just be thoughtful of and really interested in others. And hear this: Listen. That is a great start to discovering that Mitford is everywhere you go. I promise.

She is correct, of course. Mitford is the people, not the place (although I do love the place.)

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What I have learned reading the Mitford series over the years–and I have read all 14 novels, several times–is that we must appreciate and be thankful for the little things, and take joy in them. Enjoying basic things like having a roof over one’s head and good food on the table and a fire on the hearth leads to contentment. Add to this, being engaged with one’s community and loving your neighbors, and you will be a happy fellow indeed.

The other thing I have learned is that prayer is nothing without Trust. You can pray your head off, but if you don’t really trust God and believe that everything will be okay, it all means nothing.

Philippians 4:13, for pete’s sake!

“I can do all things through him who gives me strength,” in case you’ve forgotten.

And don’t forget the prayer that never fails: Thy will be done.

So if you are feeling down–and who hasn’t felt down lately?–take a trip to Mitford. Turn off the TV news and read a book!

P.S. I have been watching Hamish Macbeth on Netflix as recommended by my DP and it is wonderful! Another small village filled with characters!

Beside the big river

On this day in 1888 Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

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His family had its roots in New England, but his paternal grandfather, William Greenleaf Eliot moved to St. Louis soon after finishing his graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School in 1834. He established a Unitarian Christian church there, the Church of the Messiah, which was the first Unitarian church west of the Mississippi River. Today it is called the First Unitarian Church of Saint Louis. When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited St. Louis, he met Eliot and called him “the Saint of the West.”

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It is good to take a moment to remember that the 1830s in St. Louis were the early days. For years Protestants had been conducting services in their homes, but it was not until after the Louisiana Purchase that Protestant churches were built. In 1818 Baptist missionary John Mason Peck organized the First Baptist Church. This was followed by a Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal church (founded in 1825 when Thomas Horrell became the first rector of the Christ Church Episcopal Church). So Eliot was quite a pioneer.

William Greenleaf Eliot was also a benefactor of educational institutions in St. Louis and co-founded my flyover university with his good friend Wayman Crow in 1853. Originally named Eliot Seminary, the name was eventually changed to Washington University.

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Eliot became chancellor in 1871 and was associated with the university for the rest of his life.

I have fond memories of growing up next to Washington University back in the days when small children were free to roam and even cross big streets without adult supervision. In the early sixties my siblings and I used to walk up to the campus and play “army” heavily armed with toy guns. (We were big fans of the television show Combat! and so we were continually fighting the Battle of the Bulge.) I’m sure this would be considered quite inappropriate these days–small gun-toting children wandering on campus–but, boy, did we have fun. My older brother was the captain, I was the lieutenant and our little sister (and DP) was the sargeant. (Her middle name is Sargent, so it seemed especially appropriate.)

We knew (or should I say, our brother) knew our way around campus. We also knew where all the candy machines were.

Eliot also founded my Alma Mater Mary Institute in 1859, a school for girls which he named after his daughter, Mary Rhodes Eliot, who died at age 17.

T.S. Eliot spoke at Mary Institute’s centennial in 1959. Our father was a teacher there at the time and so he met the great man. ANC III also wrote the centennial history of Mary Institute.FullSizeRender.jpg

Well, I digress.

T.S. Eliot once said:

It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.

I have to agree. I have probably mentioned already that there is something about growing up in a town on a river that is different. You always have your bearings for one thing. You know North and South because you know where the river is.

When Eliot visited M.I. in 1959, he gave a lecture and at the end he read “The Dry Salvages” (one of the Four Quartets) in its entirety. Here is the first stanza.

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons, and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.

Snapshots of the weekend

Well, the weekend flew by as usual when daughter #1 is in town. Friday night she went out with her BFF Liz who was in town from Denver, so the OM and I had a quiet night at home watching an Elvis movie which I had DVR’d. Elvis never disappoints, even in a pretty terrible movie like Roustabout (1964)!

1964-ELVIS-PRESLEYs-16th-movie-Roustabout-is-released-by-Paramount.jpgOn Saturday after some errands and a spin class–daughter #1, not moi–the wee babes came over with their parents to celebrate their Aunt Mary’s birthday.

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Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 3.31.24 PM.pngWe had guacamole, but forgot the cake. Oh well, she had lots of presents to open and we had a mini-dance party.

On Sunday daughter #1 and I skipped church and instead headed out to the Pedal The Cause bicycle event in Chesterfield to cheer on the boy who was riding in the PTC Classic.

IMG_1484.JPGThis was the 20-mile event and he finished with a smile on his face.

IMG_1487-1.JPGHe got a medal and he deserved it. We are really proud of him to say the least. Ultimate Lacrosse supported #UltimateWheeler and raised $2500 for the cause.

IMG_1491.JPGIt was only a year ago that he was recovering from his second big surgery.  Praise the Lord, the boy has done great and we are grateful every day.

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The little bud tried to eat his sign, of course

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IMG_1622.JPG.jpegDaughter #1 headed home later in the afternoon and we went back to our normal level of activity, hunkering down at home. I did some laundry. I was pretty tired from all the fun and outdoor activity, but not as pooped as this little guy.

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Today is a big day at work. Have a good week!

No dumb country-yokel arts, right?*

It was an up and down sort of week, or, to be accurate, a down and up sort of week, since it started out badly and improved as it went. I won’t dwell on the bad stuff, which was mostly work-related and therefore boring. Suffice it to say that by mid-week I was searching diligently for something light and fun to watch and/or read. And, oh my, how the good Lord delivered! Son #1 and I discovered the 1990s British TV show, Hamish Macbeth, starring a young Robert Carlyle, his adorable dog, and a host of other familiar faces.

Set in the remote Scottish Highlands, the show revolves around the village constable, Hamish Macbeth, as he struggles to keep the peace among an eccentric but endearing cast of local characters. Hamish loves his life in Lochdubh (who wouldn’t?), and is willing to do almost anything to avoid drawing the attention of his superiors in Inverness, lest they promote him and he has to move away. Rather than following the letter of the law, he often finds himself mediating between injured parties or achieving justice after a convoluted series of events magically comes together. And did I mention the beautiful scenery?

Hamish Macbeth is laugh-out-loud funny, but it also has plenty of serious moments and real conflict. The vibe is rather like a mix of Local Hero, The Englishman Who Went up a Hill and Came down a Mountain, and Shetland, with the emphasis on the first two. The one thing you can be sure of is that everything will turn out okay in the end. At least that’s my impression so far. I’ve only seen four episodes, and the show ran for three seasons. Here’s a bit of dialogue that captures the flavor:

TVJohn: “So it’s crows nailed to doors and threatening letters now, eh?”
Hamish: “And how do you know about that?”
TVJohn: “Isobel told me about the letter.”
Hamish: “I’m just after telling Isobel!”
TVJohn: “She knew already. Rory told her. And the postman told him. And Esme told Agnes about the crow on account of her niece, Kirsty, hearing Vicky tell Cameron at the barn.”
Hamish: “Ohhhhhonestly this place! Unbelievable!”
TVJohn: “I know, I know. You can’t clean your ferret’s cage out here without it being on CNN.”

Ah, village life. I can relate. You can watch Hamish Macbeth on Amazon if you get their Acorn channel. It’s also available on DVD. The TV show is inspired by a series of murder mysteries by M.C. Beaton. I’m reading the first one, Death of a Gossip, now. It’s enjoyable, but pretty average, and although it has its moments, it does not achieve the same tone as the show. My chief complaint is that Constable Macbeth doesn’t appear in the book often enough. Knowing that sometimes it takes an author a few books to establish her characters,  I’ll probably read more before I decide on the series’ merits.

Have a great weekend and “dinna fash yourselves”!

*”Listen here now. The big boys from Inverness are coming. Hamish says no takin’ the piss and no dumb country-yokel arts, right?” from episode 1, “the Great Lochdubh Salt Robbery”.

 

Set me free

Yesterday I went to the dentist first thing to have a crown replaced which felt like two hours of torture. Then I went to work and got a flu shot. Then I had two meetings in the afternoon and a small event at church after work. Some days, right?

Boy, am I ready for the weekend!

Daughter #1 is coming home later today to celebrate her birthday (belatedly).

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The wee babes will help us party like it’s 1999.

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You know, maybe I’ll stay up ’til 10 o’clock and have a second glass of wine.

Meanwhile, the boy,

IMG_1428.jpgwho is a cancer survivor, is riding in Pedal for the Cause, which raises money to provide funding for cancer research at Siteman Cancer Center and Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital through their annual cycling challenge.

Yes, it will be a busy weekend and a hot one.

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But it’s all good. Have a great day and a fun weekend!

This and that

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Fall is officially here…but the temperature is soaring well into the nineties in flyover country! In fact, yesterday we broke a record–97-degrees! Typical. I mean, we had a lovely, lovely August–which is usually the worst–and now when it should be cooling off, it is hot, hot, hot.

Not that I’m complaining…

Tonight on TCM they are showing some “counter-culture classic” documentaries:

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If you are watching the PBS Vietnam series and want to hear more of this background-music-to-the-times, check it out. I will be setting the DVR (but definitely not for Woodstock: The Director’s Cut.)

I thought this was interesting, but sad. It is good to know there are still people out there fighting the good fight. BTW, Ravi Zacharias is a very interesting dude.

And this is good to remember:

Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put thou my tears in thy bottle! Are they not in thy book?
Then my enemies will be turned back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust without a fear. What can man do to me?

–Psalm 56:8-11

The weekend’s a-comin’ soon!

Not waving but drowning

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Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Today is the birthday of English poet and novelist Stevie Smith (1902–1971). I remember going to go see the movie Stevie (1978) based on the play about her by Hugh Whitemore. I went with my mother and she was deeply affected by it. She sometimes reacted very emotionally to sad things and this always deeply affected me. It made me worry that we (her children) had no idea how sad and lonely she really was. But I suppose that is true for most children.

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The movie is available on YouTube, so maybe I’ll check it out. Anyway, a toast to Stevie Smith seems in order.

The painting is “Beyond the Sea 6” by Paul Bennett