Friday, August 31, 2012

A Lucky Cuss

Some enchanted evening, you may meet a stranger who offers to steal from a church.

In this case, the church was First Baptist and the problem was in the ladies' room.

There was no toilet paper.

Not in the stall or in the cabinet or drawers, not anywhere.

As an older woman and I scoured the bathroom, another woman walked in and discovered our dilemma.

"Is this your church?" she asked me, clearly unable to see that I was a heathen.

Nope, I told her.

"Mine, either," she smiled. "So I'll go  to the other bathroom and steal some."

That's just how Christians roll, I guess.

After making do with hand towels, I returned to my seat and my friend only to find the overture had begun.

Tonight was the final  night of the "Classics in the Courtyard" series and the big finale was "South Pacific," which I'd seen as a play twice, but never the movie.

Leave it to Hollywood to cast an Italian as a Frenchman.

I happen to know for a fact that they're not interchangeable, although a Frenchman once told me that if I couldn't find a good man from southern France, an Italian would do.

The movie's credits included thanking the Department of Defense, the Navy and the Pacific Fleet, although even after seeing the film, I still don't know what they did.

I always enjoy the period details of mid-century films, things like the pilot of the plane smoking a cigar in the cockpit as he dodges Japanese gunfire.

"South Pacific" was made in 1958, back when men still called women dames.

Nothing else was built the same
Nothing in the world
As the soft and wavy frame
Like the silhouette of a dame
There is absolutely nothing like the frame of a dame!

And back when we named their hips.

Her hair is blond and curly
Her curls are hurly burly
Her lips are pips
I call her hips "Twirly" and "Whirly"

A scene that got an unexpected response from the crowd dealt with age.

When Lt. Cable.learns Nelly is in love with Emile, he says, "That's hard to believe, sir. They tell me he's a middle-aged man."

The captain, himself past fifty, is not amused, shooting back, "Cable, it is a common mistake for boys of your age and athletic ability to underestimate men who have reached their maturity."

The mostly middle-aged and older audience found this hilarious, laughing out loud throughout the entire scene.

Mitzi Gaynor was adorable as Nelly and her very 1950s body with a tiny waist, curvy hips and thighs would look completely out of place by today's standards.

Curves aside, she knew how to play a small-town girl believably.

I'm as corny as Kansas in August
I'm as normal as blueberry pie
No more a smart little girl with no heart
I have found me a wonderful guy

And her point to Emile for why they were attracted to each other was one that resonated with this viewer.

"We're the same. We appreciate things. We get excited about things. We're not blase."

Like a lot of fifties movies, this one had its share of political incorrectness.

The scene where Bloody Mary brings the lieutenant to a hut to meet her teen-aged daughter smacked of something uncomfortably inappropriate, which the songwriters must have realized, necessitating the cheery  "Happy Talk."

Talk about the boy saying to the girl
Golly, baby, I'm a lucky cuss
Talk about the girl saying to the boy
You and me is lucky to be us

Likewise, only Rodgers and Hammerstein could write a song about how prejudice is learned.

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught

Because I'd been to two previous musicals of the series, by tonight I was a pro.

I brought candy to share with my girlfriend.

I was charmed rather than annoyed when a bird began flying around behind the screen, casting its shadow on the movie.

And when the explosions began, I immediately knew they were from the fireworks at the Diamond and not nearby gunfire, as some people had worried when it happened the first night.

So I finally got to see "South Pacific" on the big screen and under a nearly full moon.

Some enchanted evening 
Someone may be laughing
You may hear her laughing 
Across a crowded room
And night after night
As strange as it seems
The sound of her laughter
Will sing in your dreams

I must be as normal as blueberry pie to have enjoyed "South Pacific" in all its corny and un-PC glory.

But there's nothing like a dame who relishes a good love story about a middle-aged man.

Or even a cock-eyed optimist who wants to sit in a church courtyard at night with strangers.

She may not be younger than springtime, but she did remember the Milk Duds.

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