vintage inkstand

words and images from the past

Happy New Year 2018!

December 31, 2017


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RING OUT, WILD BELLS

by Alfred Tennyson (1850)

“Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky

The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

Black and white illustration of large bells ringing across a wild winter landscape

Illustration by Frederic B. Schell 1885

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,

For those we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.”

 

100 Years Ago this Month…December 1917

December 30, 2017


 

As a British woman mixes her Christmas pudding, her husband arrives with packages from other nations (including America) during World War I

“Christmas Pudding” (John Fergus O’Hea [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

A Christmas menu from 1917 promises: Cream of Celery Soup; Currant Jelly; Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing; Mashed Potatoes; Scalloped Onions; Tomato and Lettuce Salad with Mayonnaise; Plum Pudding; Cake; Mints; and Coffee. Christmas Pudding, whether in America, Canada, or Great Britain, completed the meal (with its raisins, real cream, and brandy).

Still, war constrained many in their feasting as sugar became a real luxury. Homemakers substituted fruit salads for cakes and sweet breads, and “Meatless Tuesday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” were encouraged. Home cooks made their pumpkin pies with molasses instead of sugar, and eggless recipes were shared in magazines and recipe booklets.

A Christmas card in 1917 may have looked something like this:

The Red Cross suggested Christmas “packets” be made and sent to our American soldiers overseas. Items recommended:  writing paper, playing cards, mechanical puzzles, tobacco, chewing gum, figs, dates, hard candy, and other small items all wrapped in a khaki handkerchief that the soldier could then use. This patriotic pamphlet also suggested an “electric torch,” a fancy name for a flashlight (“The American Red Cross Woman’s Bureau”).

World War I ship wooden block puzzle

Puzzle of World War I warship (by Alf van Beem [Own work] [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Gifts on the homefront were practical:  toiletries, clothing, or hosiery.

According to Style: A Dry Goods Review catalog of 1917, popular toys that year included kiddie cars and tin toys such as mini warships. French, American, and Japanese dolls took the place of “banned” German dolls. No matter the gifts, Americans were encouraged to use Red Cross seals to send their Christmas cards:

1917_US_Christmas_Seal

By Denune (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Although the United States had entered the Great War that year, Great Britain, France,  and Canada had been fighting since 1914. One of my favorite fictional characters, Rilla (Rilla of Ingleside), writes from the homefront in Canada:

“31 December 1917: Our fourth war Christmas is over. We are trying to gather up some courage wherewith to face another year of it” (L. M. Montgomery Rilla of Ingleside).

RillaOfIngleside

As for books, best sellers of 1917 included Mr. Britling Sees it Through by H. G. Wells and The Worn Doorstep by Margaret Sherwood. Both convey the experiences of World War I from the homefront in England, the latter reading as if it is nonfiction, a bit reminiscent of Elizabeth von Arnim.

H. G. Wells describes the Christmas of 1914 (through the eyes of the fictional Mr. Direck, a visiting American) as a time focused on the War, patriotism, and a general feeling of anxiety:

“Always before, Christmas had been a time of much gaiety and dressing up and prancing and two-stepping at the Dower House, but this year everything was too uncertain to allow of any gathering of guests…the Christmas tree was banned as too German, and it was discovered that Santa Claus had suddenly become Old Father Christmas again…” (Mr. Britling 280).

H. G. Wells from the book "Six Major Prophets" by Edwin Slosson

H. G. Wells from the book “Six Major Prophets” by Edwin Slosson

It seems that the American point-of-view gave Wells a chance to satirize both himself (or at least his type) and his own country. Similarly, Sherwood’s narrator views the British through the eyes of an American. Describing the lengthening days, she embraces the weather and the birds that bring her company:

“Winter is gentler here than at home, bringing at times enfolding grey mist and hours of rain; yet we have had many days of clear and sunny cold, and snow has fallen on the roof of the little red house…The English robin stays with us evidently throughout the winter; the rooks have not deserted; and we are visited daily by silver-winged gulls which come all the way from the sea for the food we put out” (The Worn Doorstep 141).

On a personal note, my family played a “game” at Christmas wherein we each were asked a personal question;  then, everyone in the room shared what they thought we would say, and we revealed our own answer at the end. After we had all done, we all told where we would live if we could live anywhere in the world.

Orange bricks, towers, and spires of "Hammerton College," Cambridge University (pixabay)

“Hammerton College,” Cambridge University (pixabay)

My mom spoke about old England and how the scholarly and Bible-focused universities had a feeling of home, a drawing she could not quite articulate. I think Margaret Sherwood expresses this so well in her search for a home in England, almost as though she had been in the room with us the other night:

“Everywhere, indoors and out, I am aware of forgotten chords of sympathy…In some way, by memory, by prophecy, all seems mine; the worn paths; the hollowed door-stones; the ruddy faces moving up and down the walled streets, and the quiet under the grass in the churchyard” (The Worn Doorstep 4).

So, another year closes.

“A Quiet Christmas”

December 25, 2017


A Quiet ChristmasLouisa May Alcott captures the feelings of Christmas like no other writer other than perhaps Dickens himself (and I think their styles are extremely compatible). Her gift for pathos, making her reader smile and laugh and cry, making us feel again as children feel, reminding us to think of others during the holidays, may have come from personal experience.

We can only imagine how L. Alcott and her sisters felt as younger children when money was very scarce in their household. I think she gives us glimpses of Christmases past in the settings and characters of her fictional stories and novels.

If, indeed, Alcott placed her own experiences in her stories, Christmases likely revolved around making garlands for the tree, putting on Christmas plays for neighbors, sledding, skating the river, cutting fresh greens, telling stories, singing, and having the family all together.

BringingHomeTheHolly

“Bringing Home the Holly” by E. Stuart Hardy (Laugh and Play)

Has the writer put herself in the character Jill (Jack and Jill published 1880), a dark-haired energetic tomboy who insists on sledding down an ice-packed, dangerous hill with Jack? Perhaps Alcott said or thought these very words herself as a young girl:

“You boys think girls like little mean [average] coasts without any fun or danger in them, as if we couldn’t be brave and strong as well as you” (Jack and Jill 7).

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“On the Ice Hill” (Harper’s Young People 1879)

Alcott’s fictional Rose (Eight Cousins 229) exalts in receiving both skates and a sled for Christmas and gets “rosy” cheeks trying out her gifts. After dinner, the cousins dance a Scottish “jig” in terms so convincing, I feel the real L. M. Alcott must have been at least audience to such a performance.

 

An Old-Fashioned Girl’s Polly, too, prefers the jolly marches and “trots” with the boys over the graceful waltzes with young men at Fanny’s party two weeks before Christmas. We can only guess that energetic Louisa May Alcott felt the same as her young protagonist.

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“Christmas Roses” by Jane M. Dealy

 

Alcott often includes “garlands” and trees in her stories, especially those set at Christmas time. Sometimes the raw simplicity of nature gives the greatest joy, as when Sylvia, the protagonist of Moods, thrills to receive a sprig of holly from home at Christmas. It is easy to imagine this as a personal experience at one time or other in Alcott’s young life.

 

 

In another story by LMA, “A Country Christmas,” decorations involve a sort of indoor window box filled with “scarlet geraniums, Christmas roses, and white chrysanthemums” (Kitty’s Class Day and Other Stories). Again, it is roses and chrysanthemums that appear in Little Women. Might these have been the same kinds of flowers that seemed to be the Alcotts’ only enjoyment for Christmas in 1860?

“A quiet Christmas; no presents but apples and flowers. No merry-making; for Nan and May were gone, and Betty under the snow. But we are used to hard times, and, as Mother says, ‘while there is a famine in Kansas we mustn’t ask for sugar-plums'”  (Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters, and Journals 1889).

The setting seems more symbolic in the picture the Christmas spirit shows Effie in “A Christmas Dream and How it Came True”:

“Bells were ringing so merrily it was hard to keep from dancing. Green garlands hung on the walls, and every tree was a Christmas tree full of toys, and blazing with candles that never went out” (Lulu’s Library).

The above story is one that Alcott offered as a Christmas gift to the children who so loved her stories and were always begging for more from the busy writer. Later in the story, Effie gives out gifts to poor children, and we can almost taste the treats of Christmas:  “wreaths of popcorn, apples, oranges, horns of candy, and cakes of all sorts, from sugary hearts to gingerbread…”.

ChristmasEve

“Christmas Eve” by F. Florence Mason

Like Dickens, many of Alcott’s Christmas plots revolve around poor and even destitute characters who cannot afford to celebrate Christmas in any sort of monetary way. These are usually children or teenagers, and Alcott captures the feelings of a child who feels left out while the others around her have a more middle-class experience.

Older sister Tessa longs to give her younger brothers and sisters a happy Christmas (Alcott “Tessa’s Surprises”). With a “heavy heart,” the motherless child is quite aware that all of her “father’s earnings had to go for food, fire, and rent.” Here we see the independent and self-reliant spirit of Alcott’s Transcendentalist background come into play as the girl hatches a plan to earn some money by singing for pennies.  Tessa gives all she has to buy simple gifts of shoes, caps, and mittens for her siblings’ stockings. How often Alcott felt both the lack and the satisfaction of providing something for her family through work and God’s provision is conveyed in these simple stories for children.

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Christmas Day in the Evening by Charles M. Relyea (1910)

At the end of the story, a Christmas play is devised by one of the families for which Tessa sings. In real life, older sister Anna describes the Alcott sisters producing their own adaptation of a Dickens’ story in 1850. This idea of producing and acting in plays shows up in several stories, as the characters rummage through old dresses and cast-offs in attics for “costumes.”

Play-acting seems to have been a popular form of entertainment in many cultures during the 19th century. It is not so far-fetched, for how many families in our modern society watch movies at Christmas time? Through another form of storytelling, Lou’s gifts were richly used to entertain family, friends, and neighbors long before she became the famous writer Louisa May Alcott. Thanks to Anna Alcott Pratt (the real-life “Meg), a book of their plays is anthologized in Comic Tragedies (1893).

Holly

Louisa May Alcott helped us to see the longings of children at Christmas time, the sweetness of simple joys, and the blessings that can be found in even a “quiet Christmas.”

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

 

 

Christmas Illustrations in Literature

December 13, 2017


Illustrator Frances Brundage wishes us a Merry Christmas in 1910:

Christmas_card_Brundage_signed

Frances Brundage Merry Christmas image

If you could caption this postcard, what would you call it?

Louisa May Alcott was no longer alive when Brundage began to illustrate re-printings of Alcott’s beloved novels (the above drawing is not connected). I’m not sure the sweet-faced cherubs drawn by this idealistic, albeit extremely talented, artist would have attracted LMA’s attention had she been alive. I sense she may have looked for a sense of humor over a sense of nostalgia.

Alcott most likely expressed her own experiences in several of her stories in which children do not anticipate any “extras” for the most wonderful day of the year, as in the opening line of her most famous novel:

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents…” (Little Women)

For a little girl at that time, a pretty dolly was the most coveted of toys. Somehow, I picture Alcott rather wishing for books, pens, journals, a pair of skates, or a bright toboggan rather than a doll!

The Coming of Father Christmas

In the next illustration, an English Christmas is celebrated by a “merry troop” in  “The Coming of Father Christmas,” written by Eliza F. Manning and published in 1894 in London:

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The Coming of Father Christmas by Eliza F. Manning (1894)

In this narrative poem, Father Christmas asks some children to come with him to bring some orphans from the inner city and be their “playmates” for the day. In the illustration, we see the various social backgrounds of the children all feasting together. Notice the piles of oranges and puddings on the table (ah, it brings to mind Dickens himself).

Then, Father Christmas distributes the gifts:

“Here’s my basket full of treasures…tops and goodies, marbles, dolls. Climbing monkeys. Pretty Polls; A Jack-in-the-box, and picture books too, Old Mother Hubbard, and Little Boy Blue.”

Finally, he reads the Christmas story as the children listen near the dying fire of evening, the Christ child the true lauded one of the day. Here, you may access the The Coming of Father Christmas. It is worth a read for its stunning illustrations.

“I Will Honor Christmas in My Heart and Try to Keep it All the Year”

Another British illustrator, Arthur Rackham uses humor to depict scenes in a version of A Christmas Carol published in 1915 by Lippincott. I love the way both Dickens and Rackham give us a glimpse of the games once played at celebrations in the 1800’s.

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Image by Arthur Rackham from A Christmas Carol 1910

In the scene at Fred’s Christmas party (one Scrooge was invited to attend), Topper chases after a pretty girl as they play “Blind Man’s B[l]uff.” He and Fred have conspired so that Topper can see the girl and always seems to go where she goes. Of course, he catches her, she pretends not to like it, and the two disappear together! (p 102)

I rather fancy that Alcott would have liked the humor and sharpness Rackham put into his “sketches.” He was known for his fairy and fantasy illustrations (as was Alcott as a writer).

Perhaps it is John Leech who visually gave us the Scrooge we all know and love in his illustrations of the very first edition of A Christmas Carol published by Chapman & Hall in 1843. Here, we see Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present:

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Scrooge’s Third Visitor” by John Leech (first edition 1843).

It is exactly as Dickens describes (except perhaps for Scrooge’s age), showing that this illustrator greatly understands the humor and irony of every detail. Here, a scrawny, childish old man in a ridiculous night-dress contrasts with the high-spirited, muscular Spirit of Christmas Present (even that name makes me smile).

Though his faces weren’t detailed, Leech gave us the true expressions of pity, joy, fear, despair, and compassion that challenge us all to “honor Christmas” in our hearts and try to “keep it all the year!”

Now, I leave you with another postcard, this time of a boy since I teach all boys, and we are nearing the end of the semester. Perhaps this year, we will get enough snow to build one of these:

Free-Vintage-Snowman-Image-GraphicsFairy-663x1024

This Month 100 Years Ago…

November 9, 2017


In October 2017, two of my grandparents weren’t born yet. The others were children. My great-grandparents were still very young…at least four of them were still in high school.

So much was happening in the world. World War I was raging, and America had only entered it about six months earlier. My Grandpa Great fought in this war at only 18 years old. I remember him singing, “It’s a long way to Tipperary. It’s a long way to go…” as his thoughts seemed to go back to this time in his life.

Meanwhile, in Russia, a revolution was taking place that would change the world, and not for the better, in my opinion. My sophomore class is reading Animal Farm, and it struck me that these events are now one hundred years old. How different it would all have been if only the provisional government had had a little forethought!

Here are some other highlights from 100 years ago:

Billie Burke, who would later play Glinda the good witch in The Wizard of Oz, was featured in the magazine Photoplay, having recently married Flo Ziegfield. Here she is in a feature story in October 1917:

Screenshot 2017-10-09 at 6.34.31 PM.png

 

The Chicago White Sox beat the New York Giants in the seven-game World Series of 1917. Here is a link to clips, or what we used to call footage, of the first game:

1917 World Series Game One

How formally everyone dressed, with umpires, coaches, and even spectators in suits, vests, and ties! Though not as lean or as in shape as today’s players, these early all-stars sure did have some raw talent.

Some classic books were published during this time, as well. I think if I had to choose my favorite Anne book, it would be this one published in 1917:

Anne'sHouseofDreams

In chapter ten, Anne visits the shore on a cool October evening:

“There had been an autumn storm of wind and rain, lasting for three days. Thunderous had been the crash of billows on the rocks, wild the white spray and spume that flew over the bar, troubled and misty and tempest-torn…now it was over, and the shore lay clean-washed after the storm…” (Montgomery 93-94)

She has a way of putting images and words together to express how I feel. This post is woefully late, but I am publishing it anyway!

At the Seashore: Part II

September 2, 2017


In part I of “At the Seashore,” I began exploring references to the seashore in classic literature and looked at the English holiday. I now turn to the seashore as a treatment.

To Treat Tuberculosis (and other diseases)

Sadly, some of the most gifted writers of literature were taken from us too soon and left us with preludes of what they may have written had they lived on even another twenty years. Oh, how I would love to read another Emily Bronte novel or find out who John Keats would have married.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Barrett Browning gave us a great gift in her letters written and received during her battle with consumption (an early term for tuberculosis).

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She was forced to leave England when the cold and damp began to affect her daily life. Browning explains in a letter to her friend, written in London in 1852:

“[I have been] coughing in my old way, and it has been without intermission up to now…this climate won’t let me live.”

Robert Browning, concerned about his wife’s health, insisted they move from England to Italy, where they wintered and lived more often than not from that point forward.

Elizabeth-Barrett-Browning,_Poetical_Works_Volume_I,_engraving

Circa 1848

Although Elizabeth Browning might have been inspired by living near the sea, she indicates strongly that she and her husband and son likely would have stayed in England or perhaps lived in Paris, had it not been for her lung illness. According to Elizabeth, her husband described Florence, Italy as, “dead and dull and flat”!

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Elizabeth Barrett Browning eventually succumbed to the disease in 1861 (nine years later), but she did not seem to agree that a warm climate was recommended as a treatment. I had always wondered why they didn’t live on the southern coast of Italy. Rather, it was a temperate climate that was advised. Studies in the mid-1800’s led many doctors to not be in favor of moist air for the treatment of such diseases.

Health experts at the time assumed that since fewer people seemed to acquire the disease in drier climates, humidity was somehow related to the acquisition and development of consumption or at least the tendency toward developing it. This was not so strange, given that city dwellings were damp and often had mildew or even black mold growing. Still, nasty moldy air hardly compares to salty sea air!

Certain writers ran in the same circles, and family members such as the Bronte siblings did not seem to realize they were contagious to one another, possibly because the symptoms might not present in earnest for years or might not present at all, in some cases. The treatments of this era are as intriguing as the general findings of the disease:

Dr._Kilmer's_The_Quick_Cure_(6875696249)

In the early to mid-1800’s, around the time Elizabeth Browning was suffering from tuberculosis, Henry Congreve promoted his patented elixir. In a booklet he used to convince sufferers that his elixir would cure them, he claimed, “colds are often brought on by taking hot liquors previous to going out of a warm room into the air in a cold evening; but generally they arise from an exposure of the body to the atmosphere, when it is heated above its usual temperature; or from a sudden transition from heat to cold” (Consumption Curable).

Congreve insisted that if a cough were not treated early on, it would definitely lead to consumption, the symptoms of which he described as:

“general emaciation, debility, pain in the side or chest, difficulty of breathing on taking the slightest exercise, and a Cough…[and] in its advanced stage a viscid expectoration, with hectic fever…” (Consumption Curable).

He explained that with over 50,000 people dying of tuberculosis each year in England at the time, the purchase of his elixir (containing ten percent alcohol) was the answer for consumption, as well as other lung ailments. He also told his readers:

“A temporary sojournment at the sea-side, for the purpose of inhaling the saline particles, with which the sea breezes are impregnated…will be attended with much advantage, as a means for stimulating the lungs to deeper and more frequent inspiration…” (Consumption Curable 1839 ed.).

Here we clearly see a connection between salt air and the improvement of symptoms in lung patients. Even medical journals and booklets from this same era recommended the sea as a treatment, especially for those who lived in the cold climates of northern England.

Charlotte Bronte watched her own family members waste away, one by one, and was especially tormented by memories of Emily’s last days. Although it was too late for Emily, Charlotte hoped to extend Anne’s life.

Anne Bronte, in a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey, claimed:

“The doctors say that change of air or removal to a better climate would hardly ever fail of success in consumptive cases if the remedy be taken t is generally deferred until it is too late (The Brontes:  Life and Letters:  Volume 2, 39).”

AnneBronte

Sketch of Anne Bronte, published 1898

Anne’s choice was Scarborough, located in northeastern England, where she had often accompanied the family she worked for (as a governess) on their holidays.  Perhaps it was of Scarborough Anne was thinking when her well-known character Agnes Grey was made to proclaim:

” no language can describe the effect of the deep, clear azure of the sky and ocean…the unspeakable purity and freshness of the air! (Agnes Grey, 1847 ed.)”

Anne, Charlotte, and even close friend Ellen made the journey to Scarborough, and Anne was able to see her beloved sea again. Unfortunately, she could not breathe well, even in the climate upon which her hopes were set, and she passed away within the month.

AnneBronteGrave.JPG

According to a book written by Dr. Edward Smith and published in 1865, the average high temperature during this time of year at Scarborough was around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, indicating a somewhat temperate climate (Consumption 218).

By the late 1800’s, Koch had discovered the bacteria that caused tuberculosis, and the world seemed to have discovered not only the health benefits, but also the mental benefits of a trip to the seashore.

Ravenscar

Sea-bathing at resorts could now be reached by railroads, and all sorts of ailments were purported as being helped by a trip to the shore, everything from skin disorders to asthma.

Suddenly, it was dipping into the cold water and then rubbing down with a brisk towel afterward or taking a Turkish or Russian bath or even taking a “sand” bath that seemed to be the newest fad! They focused on the cold, the extremes, and the wind, believing that a good disturbance to the system was always beneficial.

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Symptoms of depression were supposedly “shocked” by the cold waters of the English sea, which afterward gave the sufferer a kind of reboot and lifted his or her spirits. Many today still believe in the benefits of this type of therapy.

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Soon, even songs proclaimed, “By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea…” as America joined her European sister in yearly visits to the shore. In part 3, I will explore how and why writers were inspired to write and create near the seaside.

 

Young at Heart: Ethel Barrymore and Frank Sinatra

August 15, 2017


One of my favorite all-time movies, Young at Heart (1954, produced by Gordon Douglas), revolves around the Tuttle sisters, Fran, Laurie, and Amy, in their search for love.

The three girls do find love, but in three very different ways in this remake of an earlier movie and based off of a book by Fannie Hurst. Aunt Jessie (Ethel Barrymore) is the girls’ surrogate mother and resident cook, housekeeper, and psychologist, using her influence to subtly guide the three girls into marriages with the man most suited for each.

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Ethel Barrymore gives a convincing performance as the down-to-earth aunt who seems to be the least in the household, but who actually wields the power.

EthelBarrymoreYoungAtHeart

Charming, happy-go-lucky Alex (Gig Young) the perfect “catch,” a successful Broadway composer who compliments this musically-talented family, pursues Laurie (Doris Day), while each of the three girls falls for him in her own way. Gig Young recognizes and states that “a lot depends on Aunt Jessie.”

gigyounganddorisday

Just as Alex claims Laurie as his pick, along comes his old pal Barney (Frank Sinatra), a brilliant musician who is drifting through life. Barney thinks he knows Aunt Jessie’s type, and, although not charming, Barney gains Aunt Jessie’s approval because he is honest and forthright. He wants to know what type of aunt she is, and she tells him she is the “you-can’t-hide-a-thing-from-me type.”

ethelbarrymoreandfranksinatra

Barney proves to be a challenge for Laurie, for he seems to not know how or care to flirt. He tells her that his masterpiece, a song he has been writing, has no beginning and no ending and that the “fates” won’t let him have a good life. She points out his incredible talent and encourages him to finish the song.

DorisDayLooksAtFrankSinatra

Barney and Aunt Jessie understand each other and share a sarcastic wit and keen insight into human nature. They are the only two who notice Amy’s broken heart. As Barney (Sinatra) croons “Someone to Watch over Me,” Laurie shows the least self-awareness while she is drawn to both protecting this new drifter and sacrificing herself for her sister Amy, not realizing that she can really do neither.

youngatheart

Without giving away the ending, I think this movie has as much of a twist as a romance of this era can have. Laurie must choose between an easy life with Gig Young’s character, who is much like her, or a struggling marriage with Frank’s character, who is her pessimistic opposite.

Frank_Sinatra_'57According to Doris Day, Frank Sinatra insisted that the ending of the movie be changed from its original, and the producer gave the star his way (Doris Day: Her Own Story). Years later, when Old Blue Eyes sang the all-familiar words, “I did it my-y-y way,” he meant it!

It is Ethel Barrymore who is the real star of this movie, upstaging even three superstars of the era and creating a character so believable, it is clear that the actress and her character both share a deep understanding of people. Frank Sinatra as Barney profoundly states, “Sometimes when you’re on the outside looking in, you can see things that no one else notices.”

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Doris Day remembers the movie in her book Doris Day:  Her Own Story. Day states that Barrymore was “fragile” and nearing the end of her life when the movie was being filmed, spending most of her time in a wheelchair. Yet, when called to a scene, she “was able to produce that special kind of grandeur that was the hallmark of the Barrymores” (149).

Ethel Barrymore was perhaps a little too elegant and a little too polished for the role of Aunt Jessie, but it could be that she wanted to show the wisdom and strength of all types of women–not just the young and beautiful, but also the matron aunts, the elderly, and the wheelchair-bound.  May we all realize that we are valuable and have something to contribute to those around us.

The major themes of this film are not hard to decipher. Love may not come into your life or develop as you expect, and the greatest love is found in a life lived for others.

For more on the Barrymores, go to:  The Third Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon

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