Thursday, August 27, 2020

Love with the Proper Stranger

FROG HOSPITAL -- August 28, 2020

Love with the Proper Stranger

By Fred Owens

Love with a Proper Stranger, starring Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963. This is the trailer. We watched it last week on Turner Classic Movies. Black and white, romantic drama/comedy.

She gets pregnant and finds him at work to let him know. They hardly know each other. Only one night, you see, but one night was enough. He is a musician living with Edie Adams, a dancer in a friends with benefits situation, although they did not use that term in 1963. But McQueen is willing to help Natalie find a doctor to terminate the pregnancy. They gather the $400 fee but the doctor proves contemptible and they both refuse to go through with the procedure. So, now what? Under pressure from her older brother, McQueen agrees to marry her -- to do the right thing, which is what some people did back then and some still do today. She refuses his dutiful proposal, it's not love, she says. Anyway, through this and that they actually do fall in love and he woos her with bells and banjos. Great movie. I've seen it several times. McQueen's only romantic movie. He plays a guy who is not used to traditional romance. In other words he is playing himself. She plays a young woman who wants to get away from her traditional family. Natalie Wood is the all-American girl in every way -- she reminds me of my big sister who was 24 when this movie came out and going out in the world with her own job and her own apartment and in no hurry to get married, which was a bit unusual at that time. McQueen plays it well too. He had just finished the Great Escape with the fabulous motorcycle chase and he was up to the challenge of a romantic lead -- but he is so much better than Tom Cruise in action or in romance. Natalie Wood is everyone's big sister even if you don't have one. She was just how it was supposed to be in 1963, before it all changed. She is what America looked like in 1963.

And 1963 was the last year you could say that. The civil rights movement was looming. After 1963 if the cast of a movie was still all-white, it wasn't supposed to be. You could either give Sydney Poitier a serious part or else prepare a good excuse why he wasn't included.  Integration was the goal. We were all going to mix together. It was inspiring.

Seeing to these changes was James Baldwin among other luminaries. He is shown here in a famous debate with conservative ikon William Buckley at the Oxford Union in 1965. Talk about crisp diction. These two fellows outdid each other on presentation. Buckley, and I'm being charitable, represented the brakes on the train of progress. Both of these fellows had been through this dance on other stages, using well-worn yarns and words pronounced so carefully they were almost chewed.

Baldwin made his point -- that the goal was that men like Buckely, although probably not Buckley himself, but some white men in any  case, might rise to the level of power and vision that was already in the possession of Baldwin and his fellow Negro advocates.  It was not, and Baldwin said this in a dozen different ways, an equality where he was to rise to Buckley's level, but the other way around. Such a bold stance was shocking in 1965 when Baldwin addressed the Oxford Union. Such pride and ego! And yet one can find in his writing and speeches, without too much trouble, moments of humility and the humor and smiles that come with that humility. One prayed, almost hopelessly, that Buckley might some day achieve that same humility, but he only became uncomfortable. You can see him squirm in his chair when Baldwin was speaking.

Notice the archaic language, Negro where we would say African-American. And he, where we would say he or she. It was the grammar of integration and the proper thing in 1965

Maybe this isn't useful, reviewing a movie from 1963 and a civil rights debate from 1965. It could be that I am just more comfortable with these words and these actors from times past.

Fire and Flood. Stuart Welch, the former owner of the Rexville Store in LaConner, helped me to make sense of the current disaster. We have multiple connected disasters all caused by climate change. Fire in California, flood in New Orleans, pandemic  virus globally, economic dislocation, and a President who is clearly unhinged  -- all connected and related, said Stuart in wise reflection. It is one great big problem and to know that and describe that is more than half way to a solution. so let us keep connecting the dots.

At Our House. Laurie has picked over 100 pounds of Concord grapes from the solid old vine in the back garden. These grapes are for juice and jelly or just to eat fresh. We processed seven gallons of juice for the freezer, and to enjoy on special occasions throughout the year. Then Laurie posted on the Internet to sell the rest of the grapes at $2 a pound. We also expect a bountiful harvest of passion fruit in October, some hundreds are green now but will develop that ripe purple color in due time. Last year Laurie sold her passion fruit at a dollar a piece and took in over $300. The almost ancient avocado tree, which has not had much fruit in the nine years that I have been present on this hacienda, is showing hundreds of ripening fruit which will be ready for harvest in March. So, in summary, it has been a good year for grapes, passion fruit and avocados, but the reliable golden delicious apple tree is taking a well-earned year off and not yielding much fruit.... Laurie just reminded me that the apple tree had a ton of fruit just last year and made many pounds of apple sauce.

We are sad realizing that the Thanksgiving party at her brother's house in Manhattan Beach will be cancelled this year. Not this year the happy house jammed with loud boisterous relatives, not the table overburdened with food, not Uncle Sam sprawling on the couch in the den watching the football game the whole time. But it will be like this for many families and we will all get by.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214
My gardening blog is  Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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