Thursday, October 19, 2006

Think Happy Thoughts







There is a musical by Stephen Sondheim called PASSION, the opening words of which are 'Some say happiness comes and goes'. Truth be told, I had never heard that expression before seeing the lush play about love and obsession. I had experienced the phenomenon but never heard it put into an actual phrase-ology, if you will. In the same way that Dorothy says 'people come and go so quickly here!'; so operates the emotion called happiness.

Why, just three days ago I was happy. I was more than happy--I was REALLY happy. It was one of those days when nothing could go wrong, my head, my heart and my body were all in a good place and I was able to spread a little sunshine. The next day I awoke, crankin. I was on an emotional downswing for which I had no apparent explanation. I laboured under the mood for several hours until I could no longer handle it. I felt that I deserved to have another happy day. After all, no one was sick, no one was dead, no client was displeased, no friend was on the warpath--there was NO reason for this unhappiness. I think I had (often do) PMS. That's Pouty Male Syndrome.

Desperate measures must be taken.

While doing my housework and office work and even some work on the computer for my boss, I turned on the movie SHIRLEY VALENTINE. It is one of my happy movies. I do not, in fact, need to be in the room when the film is on my television screen. As long as I can hear Pauline Collins/Shirley Valentine say "Talkin to a microwave! Wall! What's the world coming to?" or "Marriage is like the middle east..there's no solution", I have my system of support. Occasionally, I can run into the other room to look at the scenery of London and, then, Greece. And I WILL run into the other room just in time to see Miss Valentine turn to the camera to say 'Good job we're not having soup--or I'd put me face in it and drown meself.' Pat and I have often remarked on our happy movies and SHIRLEY VALENTINE is high on my list. I'm so very grateful that when they made the movie, the original creator of the character (who won a Tony award on Broadway for the one woman show) was allowed to play the part, rather than have it done by someone who was more famous. Pat and I drove to Rhode Island once to see Helen Reddy play SHIRLEY VALENTINE onstage. Every actress over forty, over fifty, over sixty, even (much to my dismay) over seventy seems to play Shirley. Brady and I quote the Willy Russell piece with alarming regularity, spot on Liverpool accents and peals of laughter. This picture was exactly what I needed.

It was not, though, enough. So it turned into a double barrelled assault and I got out STEPPING OUT.

I remember when STEPPING OUT was playing the cinemas. It was in one cinema in Dallas, when it came out. It was in one cinema--for one week. Both of us ardent admirers of the inimitable Liza Minnelli, Pat and I go to see every film (well, we did--she doesn't do that many anymore) that she made. People have allowed Miss Minnelli to become a joke, a charicature--and I guess that wedding photo of she and David Guest, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor is enough to back it up. I suppose the over exagerated mannerisms and physical appearance makes it easier, not to mention the catch phrases, the giggles and eveything else that has made La Liza into a drag queen. What people forget, though, is that the woman is a genius. I do believe I will save my thesis on the genius of Liza Minnelli for another day--today is about happy movies. And STEPPING OUT makes me happy. I know, I know--anyone who knows the play is offended by the tilm; they make so many changes to the script that it turns it into an entirely different story. You know what? I usually am bothered by this kind of thing, too; with regards to STEPPING OUT I just don't care. I don't care about the holes in the plot, I don't care about things that are not possible in reality, I don't care about any of the one implausibilities in the film. It's a movie about dancing so, right there, you got me over a barrel. It features Shelley Winters, Jane Krakowki, Bill Irwin, Andrea Martin, Ellen Greene, Carol Woods, Sheila McCarthy, (and an actress shows work I don't know, outside of this film--Robyn Steven), as well as my beloved and treasured Julie Walters. It's got Liza singing, Lilza tap dancing, a big closing number with a curtain call..it's a bunch of misfits finding happiness by doing something for themselves. It may just be a tap class in the basement of a church but they are doing something for themselves and making themselves happy, building a family of friends. I approve of this storyline. Oh, and it has a song by Kander and Ebb. STEPPING OUT cannot help but be a happy movie, at least for this (obvious) homosexual.

After SHIRLEY VALENTINE and STEPPING OUT, one would think I had a smile on my face. And I was in a better mood, yes I was. I was not, though, happy (yet). I would have to pull out all the stops and go for my secret weapon.

I do not know anyone who does not love Angela Lansbury. I believe that everyone--if they watch Broadway, film or television, has a deep affection, a true love for this star. I believe that, like Elvis or Audrey, Angela Lansbury is one of the performers of our society that, by simple virtue of her being here and her working, people will always fall in love with. For some people it is all about MAME or SWEENEY TODD. There are those who love Angela from her youthful performances as gorgeous villainesses in the movies. The person does not exist who does not know who Jessica Fletcher is. And let us not forget the movie that introduces every young person to Angela, for the first time: BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. Angela Lansbury walks onscreen and you can't help it: you feel better. I didn't choose any of these options to make myself happy. I didn't go after NANNY MCPHEE or BLUE HAWAII or MRS SANTA CLAUS or THE COURT JESTER or any of her other many memorable films (and I certainly didn't go after THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE).

Rachel and I watched MRS 'ARRIS GOES TO PARIS.

Based on a novel by Paul Gallico, MRS 'HARRIS was a tv movie that Miss Lansbury did in 1992 that I was lucky enough to find on a shop shelf, when shops still sold vhs. It hasn't been released on dvd but soon.... In fact, none of these movies are on dvd. I'm glad I still have a vcr! Mrs Harris is a delightful character and in the hands of this treasure of an artist, one of my favourites. She is a simple charwoman who wants to own a dress by Dior. It is the 1950's and England has a new queen and Ada Harris works for three years to save the money for a Dior dress and she ends up stranded in Paris for a week while the fashion house makes her a dress, fit to order. There, she makes new friends and she manages to sweep up the mess of their lives, leaving everyone happy as she returns to England with her Dior dress, happy in her own right. The supporting cast is Diana Rigg, Lila Kaye, Lothaire Bluteau and Omar Shariff, the European scenery is absolutely heavenly and Angela Lansbury makes me smile and cry at the same time. She makes me happy. It doesn't matter what she is doing. Angela Lansbury is one of my happy thoughts.

There are few celebrities that I really, really, yearn to photograph, right now. Oh I want to shoot pics of many celebrities. But I ACHE to do a photo of Angela Lansbury. Also, Julie Andrews but she is the subject of another, a similar bit of blogging.

As the closing credits of MRS 'HARRRIS GOES TO PARIS began to roll, I realized that it worked. I was no longer in a pouty mood. I was happy, once more. I don't understand what it is that brings on the grey inside my head or why it can be sent off in a whiff of a film I have watched so many times that the images are a film of memory for me, rendering obsolete the actual video itself. I don't see the point in trying to analyze the system. It is like Mount Rushmore: it's there. I know this is how I operate and on the days that it becomes necessary, I give in and know that it will all be past me, as I reach for one of those happy movies.

please note that every photo in this story was pulled off the internet.

2 Comments:

Blogger Steve's Travel Page (STP) said...

Thanks for the kind words on Liza Minnelli. It's such a shame she's become such a caricature in the eyes of an unrelenting media. I had an opportunity to meet her once and found her a pure delight.

8:13 PM  
Blogger jungle dream pagoda said...

Hey Sweets,lovely post!Gotta see that Angela film.My own happy movies...B at T (natch),Pretty in Pink,Shakespeare in Love,and get this...Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (also listed in my guilty pleasure movies along with Total Recall).

12:28 PM  

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