A Reel-Life Disaster Film

Three hundred miles away, I can only imagine chaos unfolding.

Three hundred miles away, I can only imagine chaos unfolding.

By Judy Berman

Sheila hasn’t called in a while, and that usually means trouble.

Movie script writers would salivate to be able to tell her story. But it often is one she doesn’t want to share because she doesn’t want to “trouble” any one. Sheila’s golden silence, however, automatically triggers the exact response she wishes to avoid.

“Hey, Sheila,” my calls always begin in an upbeat fashion. “What’s happening? I checked the obits, and you weren’t listed.”

“Everything’s OK … (a very pregnant pause) … now. Oh! (almost as an afterthought). When you talk to Jan (a mutual friend), tell her I wrote a letter, but it burnt in the fire.”Burning match

“What fire?” I ask. (I shake my head as I wonder: “how come my calls are never like the ones in the commercials? ring. ring.)

“Nothing serious,” Sheila says soothingly. “I lit a match to look under the mattress, and it caught on fire. Damaged my bedroom!”

“Got a pen handy?” she inquires casually. “I’ll give you my new address.”

“You moved?” I’m 300 miles away and am powerless to do more than just voice my concern.

“Yeah, had to after the fire. Didn’t need that expense on top of the parking tickets.”

Common sense dictates that, if I ever want another full night’s sleep, this is the point where I should hang up and get an unlisted number. But, a morbid fascination keeps me hanging on.

“Parking ticket problem?” I mumble, knowing the answer won’t be a simple one.

“Yeah, my neighbor had been moving it for me every day – alternate parking here. But when he went in the hospital, the car just sat there accumulating tickets. Sometimes as many as three or four tickets a day.”Parking meter

“What with the other problems I’d been having,” she continues unmercifully, “I sort of put it on the low side of my priorities. Up until I got the notice threatening to garnish my wages if I didn’t pay up, that is.”

Now, Sheila’s been relatively unruffled during this whole story. I, on the other hand, have not exhaled once.

I take another breath, pause and ask, “How much do you owe?

“Twelve hundred dollars!”

I inhale incredulously and then, mercifully, exhale. Despite that kind of money not being within her reach, she’s been calm. Almost Zen-like.

Still Sheila’s closing remark nearly unglues me.

“When you talk to Jan about me, try not to worry her.”

“No problem,” I assure her. “I know exactly how to handle this. Trust me”

As I hang up the phone, I’m thinking: “I’ll just tell Jan that they’re making your life story into a disaster film. And it’ll be bigger than “Titanic,” “Towering Inferno” and “Airport” all rolled into one.”

* Is your favorite disaster movie on the list below?  What are your candidates?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

Stay Gold, Ponyboy

By Judy Berman

Living life on the fringes. Always feeling like you’re on the outside looking in.

That’s the theme of the novel, “The Outsiders,” by S.E. Hinton. It’s one I can relate to, and I’ve been out of school for a few decades. The book and the movie still resonate with readers today.

Elvis, The Beatles, leather jackets, D.A.’s greased-back haircuts and madras shirts. They evoke a different time – the early-‘60s. That was when America worried about a nuclear attack and building bomb shelters. We had not yet gotten involved in Vietnam and the flower children of the mid-1960s were still a few years away.

Many look at those times as being more innocent. But it had its share of troubles, too. Like the author, I had friends who were rich, as well as those who were poor and lived “on the other side of the tracks.” A few were “hoods” and, around me, they were great guys. I knew that neither life was problem-free.

S. E. Hinton wrote about the clash of those two groups. She was 15 and still in high school when she began writing her novel. It was published in 1967,  when she was a freshman in college. She has said that the characters were not based on any one person she knew. Ponyboy, Johnny and Dally’s characters each had their own universal appeal, she said.

The movie, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is one I’ve shown to my students the past several years. They see the PG version, although I prefer the PG-13 version because the story thread is much closer to the book.

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” That’s Ponyboy Curtis’ opening line in the novel.

A few blocks later, Ponyboy is jumped by members of the Socs (or Socials, the rich kids). When he yells for help, his brothers and gang members of the Greasers, the hoods, rush to his defense.

Their next encounter is deadly. It forces Ponyboy and his friend, Johnny, to run away to avoid arrest. At one point, they’re focused on the countryside’s beauty and wish that scene could remain forever.

I recall a similar experience when I lived in the country. As I looked out our kitchen window, the whole countryside was awash in gold. Then, sadly, as the sun rose higher, the golden hues began to yield to nature’s green coloring. Ponyboy, in repeating lines from Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay:”

“Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day, Nothing gold can stay.”

When Johnny asks what it means, Ponyboy tells him that things cannot remain as they are.

Like the scene they witnessed, their innocence will slip away. What they’ve gone thru will transform them forever. Near the end of the book, Johnny told Ponyboy to “stay gold.”

Little has changed since the book was published in 1967. There are still cliques and those who are on the outside. Hopefully, as teens read this book and see the movie, they will see the harm that comes from stereotyping, from forming cliques, and how they view others who are not part of their group.

Ponyboy realized that just because he was poor didn’t mean he’d be stuck in that life. He was going to make something of himself. That’s an excellent observation. One that I hope my students take away from the story that Hinton crafted when she was a teen herself.

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* Main photo of cast in “The Outsiders”   http://www.listal.com/viewimage/1402794h

* Photo of Ponyboy and Johnny from the movie  http://www.fanpop.com/spots/the-outsiders/images/29368683/title/johnny-cade-ponyboy-curtis-photo

* Photo clips from the movie, “The Outsiders,” and Stevie Wonder singing “Stay Gold.”   http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=the+outsiders+movie+music+video&mid=BEBF8C699E909E8E2096BEBF8C699E909E8E2096&view=detail&FORM=VIRE1

* Video of Ponyboy and Johnny. Scene where Ponyboy recites Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwJ-ppxCGPk

* Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19977

* S.E. Hinton’s website: http://www.sehinton.com/

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Charade in Paris

By Judy Berman

A train races down the tracks in a desolate country scene. Before the opening credits roll, one of its passengers tumbles out in his pajamas. Dead.

The widow – although she doesn’t it know it yet – also appears to be about to meet a violent end at a ski resort. As Reggie Lampert (played by Audrey Hepburn) sips a cup of coffee, a gun is aimed directly at her. Fortunately, it’s a water gun, and the shooter is her young nephew, Jean-Louis (Thomas Chelimsky).

His next water-soaked victim is Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). This Stanley Donen film, “Charade” (1963), is being re-released this year on DVD. It also can be seen online, and is well worth the view.

Most of the action in this romantic comedy/suspense thriller takes place in The City of Lights.  Several years ago, this movie inspired my husband, Dave, our daughters, and me, (all of us “Charade” aficionados) to check into the Hotel St. Jacques, stroll along the Seine River, dine on a riverboat, tour a market off the Champs-Elysees and take in other sites featured in the movie.

When Hepburn returns to Paris, she discovers her husband, Charles, had emptied out their place. She frantically runs from room to room, and is startled when Inspector Edouard Grandpierre (Jacques Marin) emerges. He asks her to come with him.

At the morgue, she identifies her husband’s body. The Inspector reveals her husband had multiple identities, planned to leave the country, and gives her Charles’ small duffle bag.

It contained an agenda listing his last appointment – Thursday at The Gardens, 4,000 francs, a letter to her – stamped and unsealed, keys to their apartment, a comb, a fountain pen, a toothbrush and tooth powder.

Not much to go on. When she returns to the apartment, the door creaks, and she hears steps across the floor. It’s Peter Joshua (Grant), and he suggests she go to a hotel where she’ll have a safe place to stay.

Hotel St. Jacques actually is a great place to stay. Some of the film’s interior shots were filmed here. But this turns out to be a bad choice for Hepburn. She no sooner opens the door to her room than she is confronted by George Kennedy (as Herman Scobie) – one of three men she wishes to avoid.

Kennedy threatens her. He and two others – James Coburn as “Tex” and Ned Glass as “Gideon” – are convinced Hepburn knows the whereabouts of the $250,000 that her husband stole from them.

Hepburn runs toward a winding antique staircase and screams for Grant. Grant rushes inside. You hear a scuffle and then silence. Hepburn tentatively opens the door and finds Grant on the floor. Kennedy is nowhere in sight. He escaped out the window. Grant follows.

When you step outside the hotel at night, you can almost visualize Grant leaping from one balcony to another in pursuit of Kennedy.

A fourth man, Hamilton Bartholemew (Walter Matthau), tells her that he’s with the CIA, and the money her husband stole really belongs to the U.S.government. Matthau tells her the government wants the money back. He warns Hepburn: “Now that he’s (Charles) dead, you’re their only lead.”

Grant and Hepburn also find time for romance over dinner aboard a riverboat along the Seine River. We took a similar cruise. In the dark, the Eiffel Tower looked golden and the view of the Notre Dame Cathedral from the river also is impressive.

Despite this idyllic setting, the body count and tension mount in the film.

The movie is a classic game of who do you trust. Donen keeps us guessing, even after Hepburn discovers where her husband hid the money.

If you can’t make it to Paris, check out this movie. Viewer discretion is advised. Shortly after you watch it, you’ll want to see the real thing.

** Post a comment below if you’d like to share what film from past decades is most memorable to you?

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photos of Audrey Hepburn, Jacques Marin, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, George Kennedy, and Walter Matthau and Audrey Hepburn in the movie, “Charade” (1963)

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Charade

* “Charade” – movie trailer – about 3 minutes

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056923/

* “Charade” – movie summary, cast on IMDb (Internet Movie Database)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056923/