Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guns 'n Gowns

All I wanted was a little Noel Coward.

But when I got to Movieland to buy my ticket , I couldn't remember the name of the movie.

Asking what the Movies and Mimosas feature was, I was told, "Logan's Run."

Wrong answer. I knew for sure I hadn't come out for a '70s sci-fi flick. No way I'd screwed up that badly.

A check with her manager revealed that it was, in fact, 1933's "Design for Living."

But when I hand her my card to buy a ticket, she charges me $7.50. Wrong again.

After a call to her manager asking why the Mimosas feature was coming up at full price (instead of the reduced price they wisely charge for people willing to be up at the ungodly hour of 11, she got it corrected.

Am I the first person to buy a ticket for this show, I inquired. It was 10:59, so it seemed unlikely.

Nope. I was the first, hence the wrong title, wrong price and general confusion.

Inside, I had the theater to myself.

The Paramount picture began with a credit saying, "N.R.A. Member, We Do Our Part."

Who knew the gun lobby was in bed with Hollywood in the '30s?

The film begins on a train in France and the 3rd class car where the characters met looked surprisingly like the train I'd been on Italy a few months ago.

The entire first conversation between the three main characters took place in French (sans subtitles), perfectly appropriate but unlikely now in ADD-driven Hollywood.

Ten minutes into the movie, two women joined me in the audience. My private screening had been violated.

Frederick March and Gary Cooper played a playwright (of un-produced plays) and a starving artist, respectively.

Miriam Hopkins, the girl they met, was an artist for an ad agency who responded to their attentions and quickly took to both men.

And as all women know, it's problematic when you like two men.

A thing happened to me that usually happens to men. You see, a man can meet two, three or four women and fall in love with all of them, and then, by a process of interesting elimination, he is able to decide which he prefers. But a woman must decide purely on instinct, guesswork, if she wants to be considered nice. 

I feel your pain, honey.

The three become fast friends, ignoring that both men are attracted to her and want her for their own.

They live in a little flat near Montmartre where the painter paints and the playwright types and they welcome people to their home saying, "Welcome to Bohemia."

I intend to start saying the same when people come to visit me.

Miriam's character decides that her role will be as muse and critic to make them better artists ("I'm going to be the mother to the arts").

The movie walked a fine line between Depression-era decorum and innuendo-laced dialog and situations.

The Edward Everett Horton character was the fuddy duddy who tried to provide the moral compass, no doubt because he really doesn't play any other type of character.

Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day. 

Actually, I'm pretty sure that it is.

The film was pure '30s Hollywood escapism, with Hopkins wearing feathered satin dresses at breakfast after which March asks her, "What shall we do after lunch? Take a long walk for our digestion?"

Oh, yes, darling, let's do, I'd answer.

Since it was pure Hollywood, the playwright sold his play and became a sensation and the painter got commissions (although he stood true to his art and refused to paint women with double chins) and Hopkins gave up her own career to support the men she loved.

The sorrows of life are the joys of art.

By the end, she'd tried marriage (unconsummated, naturally) to her boss but had returned to Bohemia and hr two favorite guys.

But no sex; this was a gentleman's agreement, despite one of the trio being a lady.

And they all three lived happily ever after, with Hopkins promising to continue using her "baseball bat" of criticism to make them better men.

Sigh. They sure don't make 'em like they used to.

The two other women in the theater clapped when the movie ended and as I joined in, I went over to say hello to the only other people in Richmond interested in seeing Noel Coward on a sunny Saturday morning at the crack of dawn.

Both raved about the movie and I agreed, chiming in about what an ideal platonic arrangement it would be to have two very different men to mold.

The look on their faces was borderline appalled, so I smiled and exited.

Not bohemian types, I'm guessing.

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