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.


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?


September Swashbucklers: Captain Blood

This month’s theme will be (drumroll, please) … Swashbucklers! We’ll start with the 1935 film Captain Blood, a highlight of the genre starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.


Liz: “Will you be back for breakfast?” the housekeeper asked.

“Who knows, my pretty one? Who knows?” Peter Blood replied.

Who knows what will happen next to quick talking, quick thinking Peter Blood in this movie based on Rafael Sabatini’s novel of the same name. Peace loving physician to Jamaican slave to feared pirate captain, Blood goes from one adventure to another.

I love the witty remarks of Peter Blood (a perfect role for Errol Flynn) and the intelligent, bold way he plots and executes the escape of himself and his fellow slaves. Stealing the all but abandoned Spanish pirate ship as the pirates raid the town is brilliant. As is the way he later sails between two French ships with a French flag flying until just before he attacks them to once again save Port Royal.

I didn’t care for Peter and his friends becoming pirates and frequenting Tortuga, but I understood why the bitter Peter chose to do so. It is also fitting to the story that Peter should buy and then fight for Arabella Bishop, while pretending to ignore her.

Quick moving plot with many unexpected turns, sword fights and naval battles, memorable characters, romance, and a happy ending make this one of my favorite adventure movies. The actors themselves—Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone (the often featured swashbuckling villain) and many other familiar character actors—also greatly add to the enjoyment.

Favorite quotes:

“Hi ho for the Governor’s foot!”

“Do you think you could find a piece of timber about this long and this high?”

“I think so.”

“Good. Lash it to your spine; it needs stiffening.”

Jaz: Errol Flynn forever ruined my impression of pirates. It’s entirely his fault the mere mention of the word conjures images of an impeccably dressed, sword-fighting gentleman with a debonair smile. Especially the smile. And Captain Blood started it all.

The film follows the main character, Peter Blood, as he goes from being an honorable physician to a slave in the West Indies to a – surprise! – pirate captain and then to a –

But I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t watched it. And yes, I do realize I’ve spoiled the ending for pretty much every movie we’ve discussed. I couldn’t help it.

Colonel Bishop, the detestable evil despicable slave owner (played with a zest by Lionel Atwill), just so happens to be uncle to beautiful Arabella (Olivia de Havilland), who just so happens to fancy the impertinent Blood, who just so happens to be a slave for sale after being convicted of treason for treating a wounded man, who just so happened to be a soldier in the Monmouth rebellion.

Arabella buys Blood for 10 pounds, partly to spite her uncle, partly to rescue him from working in the mines, but mostly because he’s Errol Flynn. Of course we all know what ensues. Later, the brilliant Blood manages to escape on a ship with his companions and becomes the most well-known and respected pirate on the high seas.

Throughout Captain Blood, there’s enough swashbuckling action to satisfy even the most demanding classic action film fan: sword fights, explosions, raids, commandeerings, more sword fights, and … sword fights! The special effects are convincing and the fights intense. The film’s main death, shot on a rocky shore awash in foaming waves, was quite dramatic. I also liked the use of light and shadow, particularly in the opening scenes.

I love this film, partly because of the above-mentioned content, partly because I like the main character … but mostly because he’s Errol Flynn.

Favorite Romances: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

So, the announcement you’ve all been waiting for: What are our top four romantic classics? You’ve probably gathered by now that Jane Eyre is one of them, but I’ll give you the full list anyway.

They are (not necessarily in order of favorites, just in the order we’ll talk about them): Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (it got the most votes by those who commented), North and South (the BBC miniseries based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell, which has nothing to do the American Civil War), and Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney’s version and the classic fairy tale). Thanks for your comments!

Now for Jaz’s and Liz’s opinions on Jane Eyre:

Jaz on Jane Eyre

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

Jane Eyre is so much more than just a romance. Bold feminism, stinging social commentary, moral dilemmas and delicious scandal leap from its pages. Not to mention lunatic wives locked up in the attic.

Jane’s character inspires: she emerges strong and independent in spite of her troubled past. I admire her moral integrity, passion and – most of all – her stance on gender equality.

Rochester is all about unbridled passion. He’s had numerous affairs, possibly fathered an illegitimate child or two and considers adultery a perfectly reasonable option. But he’s also intelligent, generous and loving.

Note that Jane marries Rochester only after she’s financially independent … and Rochester has lost Thornfield, his sight and an arm to boot. How feminist is that? Brontë was ahead of her time.

Aside from Brocklehurst, I strongly disliked the emotionally-repressed St. John. While not truly a villain, he does manipulate Jane for personal gain.

Other thoughts:

Were Jane and Rochester truly unattractive, or just when measured against contemporary ideals? Brontë describes Rochester as dark, muscular and broad-shouldered, with “granite-hewn features” and beautiful eyes. Jane is slender, pale and petite, with green eyes and hazel hair.

Doesn’t sound so bad to me. I’d take a Mr. Rochester look-alike any day.

The bedroom fire scene is rather scandalous. Rochester wants her to stay (“What, you will go?”), and Jane is confused and elated — but definitely not shocked or repulsed.

The element of creepiness in this novel is fantastic. Demonic laughter, footfalls vanishing into the dark, creaking doors, mysterious fires, foreboding nightmares and dark mansions … As Jean Webster, author of “Daddy Long-Legs” writes, “It’s melodrama of the purest, but just the same, you read and read and read.”

My hat’s off to melodrama.

Liz on Jane Eyre

I must admit to being skeptical about Jane Eyre before I read it. I saw a movie version (I can’t remember which one) as a kid and received the mistaken impression that Jane left a really nice guy to go back to the married Mr. Rochester. I was disappointed in her. Fortunately, at the encouragement of Jaz, I decided to give the book a try a few years ago. I started reading it and my skepticism became enthusiasm. Forgive the cliché, but I couldn’t put the book down. Jane isn’t just the protagonist, she’s a heroine, and even Mr. Rochester turns out a pretty decent hero. With mystery, romance, plenty of plot twists, and main characters I can admire, Jane Eyre is one of my favorite romances.

Notes on Select Characters: Jane’s strength of character, independent spirit, and ability to overcome tragedy are inspiring. Some may disagree, but I believe Jane went back to Thornfield at the end to check on Mr. Rochester, not to live with him. And who wouldn’t go back after those eerie calls? However, I must admit to getting impatient with her when she refuses to accept the beautiful clothes and jewels Mr. Rochester offers her after they’re engaged. I understand her reasoning, but I still want to shake and her and say, “He’s your future husband. Take the stuff and get out of your drab Lowood clothes. There’s nothing wrong with a poor woman marrying a rich man so long as she isn’t marrying him for his money.”

There’s certainly plenty to censure in Mr. Rochester, but there’s plenty to like as well, especially, strangely enough, when you contrast him with St. John Rivers. Both men are charitable and St. John has a cleaner past, but Mr. Rochester loves where St. John brings to mind I Corinthians 13:3 (“And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I am nothing.”).

Adele: Sweet but frivolous girl without whom Jane would never have met Mr. Rochester. It’s interesting that Jane finds love and a home after going to take care of an orphan like herself.

Bessie: Gotta love the outspoken but affectionate maid character.

Diana and Mary: Every girl should have friends like these.

Most loathsome character: Mr. Brocklehurst: Self-righteous villain who misuses Scripture to endorse his lavish lifestyle and feelings of superiority.

Favorite Parts: I love it when Mr. Rochester is about to call Jane “my darling” or some other affectionate name and has to stop himself at “my”. And, it’s not a part exactly, but the depiction of Jane and Mr. Rochester as being the perfect and only match for each other is what makes Jane Eyre one of my favorite romances.

Reader Questions: What do you think of Jane and the other characters? What is your favorite or least favorite part of the novel?