Love Crazy

Jaz on Love Crazy

Love Crazy” is aptly titled – it’s about the craziest screwball comedy I’ve ever seen. And racy content! For a minute I thought it was pre-code.

Steve and Susan Ireland are a happily married couple about to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Their method of celebration is a repeat of their wedding day and rather bizarre – it involves, among other things, rowing on the lake in the dark and walking three miles to the justice of the peace.

Unfortunately, everything goes wrong. Susan’s aggravating mother drops in, which leads to Steve getting knocked out in a malfunctioning elevator with old flame Isobel Grayson (played superbly by Gail Patrick) and ending up in her apartment to recuperate, then Susan’s mother sprains her ankle on a hideous rug and he ends up having to babysit the awful woman alone, so he escapes for a few hours with Isobel, which leads to Susan filing for divorce, which leads to Steve feigning insanity to delay the hearing, which leads to …

I’m beat. Suffice it to say it’s complicated. Along the way are a talking parrot, Steve au naturale, a “champion bow and arrower,” a sanatorium, and Steve in drag. All because his wife’s mother decides to visit.

So the moral of the story is patently clear: if your mother-in-law shows up on your anniversary, book her a hotel room.

Liz on Love Crazy

Love Crazy: The Thin Man without the murders. William Powell and Myrna Loy are a delightful on-screen couple, though as Jaz points out sometimes racy. In this comedy, Myrna Loy’s mother convinces her William Powell cheated on her—on their wedding anniversary no less—with his old sweetheart. Powell spends the next several months trying everything to get Myrna Loy back. He even pretends to be insane so she can’t divorce him, leading to some hilarious scenes, including one involving the emancipation of feet. I wish I could laugh with you over the funny scenes, but I’m afraid I’d spoil them for you should you watch the movie.

If you have seen it and want to tell me your favorite parts, please share them in the comments section.

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Persuasion: hypochondriacs, villains, and second chances

Liz: 

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“…It is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time” (Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice).

Such silliness is not followed by young Anne Elliot when Frederick Wentworth proposes. But, alas, her family and close friend, Lady Russell, object to her suitor’s lack of noble birth and low funds. Anne is persuaded, partly on their dislike and partly believing it in Wentworth’s favor that he be free to make his way in the world, to rescind her acceptance. So begins a lengthy separation.

Second to Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion is my favorite of Jane Austen’s novels. Other than a satisfying story of love preserving, the novel is full of excellent characterizations. Who doesn’t know someone like Anne Elliot’s sister, Mary—who, when happy, is quite fun to be around, but when the least little thing goes wrong, is determined to be miserable? Or who hasn’t been the listening ear and the intended mediator between individuals or groups all complaining about each other?

On the other hand, I certainly hope you don’t know anyone as vain and self-centered as Sir Walter, and I hope I never have the chance to find out if I could handle heartbreak, illness, and poverty as well as Mrs. Smith.

But back to the love story. With so many tales of engaged, or sometimes even married, persons falling in love with someone else (which leaves me wondering how this “love” is different from whatever was felt for the first lover), it is cheering to read a story of a first love withstand opposition and separation. And hopelessness, since there was no thought of reconciliation initially.

It’s a very good thing Anne did not succumb to loneliness, or else she might have agreed to marry the insidious Mr. Elliot (I hope Mrs. Clay catches him eventually. They deserve one another.).

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Sneaky looking Mr. Elliot, played by Samuel West (1995).

As Anne astutely reasons, it’s not wise to trust someone too controlled, whose tongue never slips. Perhaps an honest outburst every now and then is a good thing for one’s credibility.

Many applaud the romance of Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne that ends all her doubt as to the constancy of his heart, and though it was good, the act that marks him as a great hero in my opinion is the simple, and repeated, act of freeing Anne from discomfort whenever he can. The moment that particularly stands out is when he, though still angry with her, rescues her from her clinging nephew.

Note: Jane Austen actually wrote an alternate ending in which Anne goes to the Crofts and finds Captain Wentworth alone instead. If I remember correctly, there was no note between them. I prefer the published ending.

You might have noticed I said nothing about whether Anne should have allowed herself to be dissuaded from her first engagement; I leave that topic to you. Should she have married Wentworth then or asked him to wait until he was better established financially?

Jaz: Anne Elliot is a full-blown doormat. She takes care of others instead of herself, performs menial tasks and misses evening parties. She’s pretty much invisible; her widowed fop of a father prefers Anne’s two self-absorbed sisters (one of whom is a whiny hypochondriac) to her own company. In other words, she’s an early 19th century version of Cinderella.

Only in this story, Prince Charming gets the boot. He isn’t titled, and he doesn’t make anything close to a suitable salary for the daughter of a baronet. Or so say the baronet and Anne’s advisor, Lady Russell. Fast-forward eight years after the fact: Anne is miserable, still invisible, etc. Then Prince Charming (AKA Captain Wentworth) reappears. This is Jane Austen’s last novel, written just shy of a year before her death. It’s so full of regret, second chances and wistful love, it makes me wonder if it’s in any way autobiographical.

I’ve seen the two most well-known film adaptations, released in 1995 and 2007.

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1995: There were several things I enjoyed about this film. Number one: Captain Wentworth. So rugged, so feeling! Bravo to Ciaran Hinds for this satisfactory interpretation.

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Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth.

I also liked the casting and character interpretations for Sir Walter Elliot, the Crofts and Lady Russell. They were true to the novel and believable.

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Corin Redgrave as Sir Walter Elliot. Suitably vain and foppish.

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Susan Fleetwood as Lady Russell. I liked her intriguing hats and turbans.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Anne reads Wentworth’s letter. His voice is full of emotion, as is Anne’s when voiced over his own. But … and I have to say it: the kiss and ending were anticlimactic. Perhaps the director was emphasizing the PDA taboo? Many of the actors, including the heroine, were much plainer and older than described in the novel. Yes, Austen writes that Anne “lost her bloom.” But so did Marianne Dashwood, and we know  for a fact she was far from plain.

Anne’s character often wore a startled expression when nothing startling was going on. Another thing I’ll point out is that Anne’s family often behave — and sometimes look — like uncouth peasants.  Overall, though, this was a well-done, enjoyable film.

The 2007 version is basically an emo-fied interpretation of Persuasion.

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Captain Wentworth stood around brooding all the time. He didn’t appear in the least charismatic or outgoing as in the novel. Anne didn’t seem to know how to close her mouth, and near the end she chased after Wentworth all over London and wheezed through her whole conversation with him. Very unlike Anne. And that kiss wins grand prize for Most Awkward On-Screen Kiss of All Time. He took about two minutes to lean over.

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What does he expect her to do, jump for it?

However, the film was more accurate than the 1995 version, and contained beautiful, if rather gloomy, cinematography.

Marty

I hope you enjoyed last month’s Western theme. This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re doing a Love Ain’t Easy theme, and as a special treat, in a few weeks we’ll have a guest post by a friend of mine who recently had her first book published.

But on to today’s post: Marty

Jaz on Marty

I feel for Marty and Clara. At the same time, I want to slap them for wallowing in self-pity. “Snap out of it!” I yelled as I watched, brandishing my SunChips at the T.V. in exasperation.

Then again, marriage was expected. If you were 34 and unmarried in 1955, something was horribly wrong with you. “Why are you still single? You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” elderly ladies scold Marty. We don’t wonder at his depression. The single life isn’t always that great when you’re a shy, not-drop-dead-gorgeous person constantly hounded by matchmaker septuagenarians.

After an outburst in front of his nagging mother, Marty goes to the Stardust Ballroom, where he meets Clara. She’s not at her best – her jerk of a date just abandoned her for a prettier girl (how he did it elevates him to super jerk status). Clara, a 29-year-old NYU grad, teaches high school chemistry. Which makes me wonder: is her intelligence one of the film’s reasons for her “unattractiveness”? Since this is 1955, I’d say yes. Now, over 50 years later, some males still find it intimidating.

Marty is a bit of a downer at times, but I appreciate its quality acting and moving portrayal of still-relevant social problems. The film touches on the idiocy of unrealistic beauty standards and the downside of singledom … while nicely contrasting it with marital issues (live-in mother-in-laws, fussy babies, fights, etc.). Not to mention peer pressure. But shouldn’t Marty have enough backbone to stand by his choice? I think so.

Marty

Liz on Marty

From the first, Marty (played by Ernest Borgnine) seems like a really nice guy. He’s friendly and patient with the customers in the butcher shop where he works, even with those who pester him about being single now that all of his siblings are married. Those who know him well don’t see a reason why he can’t find a pretty girl and settle down and get married, but Marty knows why: he’s fat and ugly. At 34, he’s tired of being rejected for his looks. Then he meets a young woman familiar with rejection, who’s being ditched at a dance because of her plain appearance. Marty becomes a knight in shining armor by treating her as if she were one of the beautiful, much sought after women she’s been passed over for so many times. Granted, Marty does fall off his horse for a while when he lets his mother and friends convince him Clara’s not good enough for him, but picks himself back up in the end.

Comments on the characters: Marty’s character is easy to connect with. Most of us have had to endure remarks about singleness or have faced rejection of some sort at some time and can empathize with the frustration and hurt Marty feels. He gained my respect for refusing Clara’s shifty-eyed blind date’s offer of $5 to walk her home and then for asking her to dance after her date abandons her. However, I didn’t like his friends. “Slime balls” comes to mind when I think about them. Since birds of a feather flock together, the connection rubs off some of Marty’s gentlemanly appearance.

One particular conversation, however, between him and his friend Angie (“What do you wanna do tonight?” “I dunno, Angie. What do you wanna do tonight?”) sounds like a conversation I’ve heard before. Maybe one I’ve participated in…. Also, I thought Marty’s distinctive way of talking suited his character very well.

Clara: This lonely schoolteacher is very likeable, tough the scene when Marty asks her to dance and she slowly turns around and starts to cry on his shoulder is a trifle strange. However, she has a very nice smile, and I like the way the camera shots emphasize her smile and the way her face brightens when she smiles.

Conclusion: The movie was a little slow, but I liked the story of two people looking beyond appearances and other’s opinions.

Ever seen Marty? Any thoughts on books or movies that fit our Love Ain’t Easy theme?