Discovering Melody

I love the Bee Gees. I have since I was a kid and they were still producing their early, pre-disco hits. Before my record collection got destroyed, dating to before CDs were big, I owned most Bee Gees albums and had heard songs dating back to the earliest days of singles only, found on collections later. I saw them in concert on August 28, 1979 and it was amazing, though I was sad that some of the favorite older songs were done as a medley. This sets up how I came to be playing videos of Bee Gees songs on YouTube. I still do that sometimes, even with music I own. Early in our marriage, the wife gave me a four CD Bee Gees anthology. She tolerates them, unlike her distaste for The Carpenters.

Recently I discovered that favorites of mine, less mainstream than some even among their older hits, had videos associated with scenes from a movie. Heck, it wasn’t even that recently, but it was recently I went back and watched the movie in full. Repeatedly.

The movie is Melody, released in 1971, just before I turned ten. It didn’t do well in the US, and I never saw it back then. It was popular in Japan and a few other places, which is perhaps the only reason it’s not even more obscure. Besides the Bee Gees connection and two of the kids in it being famed child stars of the time. They had rights to several Bee Gees songs, so the writer incorporated Melody Fair and First of May into the plot. It would be easy to assume the songs were written for the film, but they predated it. It also makes perfect use of To Love Somebody, which may be my favorite Bee Gees song of all.

I have so much to say about or inspired by it, this is going to end up being a whole series of posts. I just created a subcategory for the film under the movies category. It dredged so many memories and feelings. It has also been a study in making a good movie and telling a story. Had I seen it at the time, and no been inexplicably bored or sleepwalking through it, it would have been formative. While this isn’t the topic I intended to explore in this post, the year it came out I was one year younger than the age depicted of two of the main characters, who in real life were also that age during filming a year before. That is, Tracy Hyde and Mark Lester are is two years my senior. Correction: mark Lester is three years my senior. She turned 11 while they were filming, April 1970. He was already 11, turning 12 in July 1970. The other primary actor was already about 17, but looked young. I interpret him to be slightly older than them, but in the same grade level in school. That was the late Jack Wild.

At the time when the movie released, I was experiencing my first crush, in fourth grade. I was completely clueless, except it felt amazing. I didn’t really understand what I was feeling. Seeing such a thing shown in a movie would have been interesting, especially given Melody’s somewhat resemblance to the girl in question. I never knew her name! It was pure chance that I learned several years ago her name is Cheryl.

One of the first things I wanted to write about after seeing the movie was the ending. Now, if you don’t want to be spoiled, even though it’s coming up on 50 years old, go search on YouTube and watch it: Melody movie. Some are better than others in picture quality, but some have unsychronized sound that can drive you crazy.

At the end, there is a revolt of the classes the star characters are in. Melody and Daniel are in love and want to get married, because isn’t that what you do to be together all the time? Sweet and innocent, and not taken well by the adults and, initially, classmates. You go from scenes of heartbreak to what appears to be the next day – timeline of the thing is another post – when they are just getting married. Daniel’s annoying mom finds a note he left saying they are eloping, freaks out, contacts the headmaster, and when he finds the kids never showed back up after morning break, the chase begins. The ending is entertaining, but in some ways feels disconnected from what precedes it. And yet, how do you end a film in which 11 year old fifth graders, were they American, are in such serious puppy love that they want to marry and can’t understand why they can’t, with too much they don’t yet know. I remember how love felt then, and I don’t recall any barking. If it were me and someone reciprocated, I might not have been thinking in terms of marriage, but I would have understood exactly how the characters felt.

The headmaster and bunch of teachers, plus Daniel’s mother, drive off to where they’ve learned the kids are. The kid who has been trying to make a successful homemade explosive during the course of the film was the only one to stay behind. He runs off to warn the others and reaches them just ahead of the adults. Being a fan of The Princess Bride, I can’t help thinking “man and wife, say man and wife” when they are interrupted right after they give the “I will” responses to the friend who is officiating.

Of course, this is not a real marriage, and they are being kids. The sheer level of panic strikes me as uncalled for. It wouldn’t be as exciting an ending, though, if the kids did the ceremony, went back to class, and everyone carried on. Prior to the elopement note, you never see Daniel’s parents being aware of Melody, even after the day the two kids skipped school to go to the seacoast. Whereas Daniel meets her parents and they like him a lot.

While the other kids give the adults a hard time about being captured, Daniel and Melody run off to escape, aided by Ornshaw, Daniel’s ne’er do well friend who figures so heavily into the story, including provoking the “meet cute” scene where Daniel falls at proverbial first sight. Eventually they get on a trolley on the rails – one of those little flat carts you propel by pumping two ends of a handle up and down. So it ends with Daniel and Melody riding off into the distance on an partly overgrown track.

My thought: Now what?

Seriously, I couldn’t help thinking what happens next.

Besides Melody and Daniel, now “married,” heading off, the chase of the kids ended when the kid who’d been unsuccessful with improvised explosives manages to blow up Daniel’s mother’s fancy car. Class issues in the film are another topic. And there’s good reason that one of the categories the movie falls under is black comedy. The teachers run off. The kids cheer and dance around. Mom looks lost and bewildered.

Is there anyone who won’t face consequences? What happens.

First, where are Daniel and Melody going to go? What are they going to do? Unless it turns into fantasy, like a fan thing I saw where they’re suddenly at Hogwart’s and people are wondering how 11 year olds can say they are married, the answer is home. They go home. And they go to school. And they continue to hang out together as much as possible. Which they could have done without the whole marriage notion.

If you extrapolate from First of May, they are in love while others are being kids, but it doesn’t last. Or if it does, when they are sufficiently older, they have lost their romantic feelings for each other. I know someone who set her sights on marrying a classmate when we were in third grade. Third! They recently moved to Maine, and have a bunch of grandchildren. The long term isn’t impossible.

The mom has to get home and explain to her husband what happened to the car. When Daniel does go home, they won’t exactly be happy, unless they are willing and able to shrug it off and move on.

Melody will arguably be in the least trouble at home. Her family are as supportive as they know how, a loving, lower class family rather than distant or absent. Her family isn’t involved in the ending at all, and would not be in a panic the way Daniel’s mother was.

The teachers and headmaster have to slink back to the school with proverbial egg on their faces. Assuming there are no authorities that give them trouble, the best thing they could probably do is carry on teaching as if nothing ever happened.

The rest of the kids are going to have to return to school later if not that day. They’re going to be seeing and dealing with those horrible teachers again. That could be bad, unless everyone just pretends nothing ever happened.

It’s definitely a fictional ending, because consequences.

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