Ages In Melody

I was thinking. I know, sounds dangerous. Unless I am mistaken, we are never given a definite age for the kids in the movie. Right? There are now two references that come at the possible ages indirectly.

One is when Melody is inconsolable with her parents, after the bad day that followed the day they skipped school to go to the seaside. When told that people generally wait to see if they like each other when they’re older, she asks how old. Her father says “in their twenties, older sometimes.”

She plaintively says “but that’s twice as old as I am now.”

Which only tells us she is at least 10, and that much was already obvious. She could be as old as 12 and still shorthand it to “twice as old” in reference to twenties.

We do know that Tracy Hyde’s age was 10 at the very, very beginning of filming in May 1970, and 11 from May 16 through the end of filming in August.

We also know that Mark Lester’s age was 11 when filming started in May, and 12 when filming ended in August, since his birthday was July 11. Probably just as well he was a year older, as it worked well for them to look the same age in the film.

Finally, we know that Jack Wild was 17 during filming, and turned 18 the September 30 not long afterward. He very much looks and seems older in the film, while still looking young enough to pass. In his case, actual age of the actor tells us nothing.

Now that I know what the headmaster is actually saying to Melody after Daniel discloses that they want to get married, there is another clue. Which I guess is about what I always took to be implicit. “I assume you’ve already promised your fair, freckled first-form hand in marriage to this young gentleman?”

As I noted, I could never figure out that the headmaster was saying first-form in that exchange. That’s an indication of grade or level in school, or it was at the time. First form in North America is equivalent to 7th grade. The surviving British term seems to be sixth form, but in that article it notes:

Pupils started their first year of secondary school in the first form or first year, and this was the academic year in which pupils would normally become 12 years of age.

In the US the year for turning 12 would ordinarily be 6th grade, or the 7th year of school including kindergarten. In a typical system with a middle school, that would be the first of three middle school years. I went to a jr high system, so elementary went through 6th grade, jr high was 7th and 8th, and then it was four years of high school. I think the system that ends at 10th grade, or 11th year, makes a lot of sense. A lot of high school was repetition or boredom, and that could be a good point to separate out the harder core academic track students from those who would pursue a more vocational or job training path. But I digress.

I had always imagined this as 5th grade, and thus particularly early, based on their ages. Further, it is obviously late in the school year, based on my analysis of the timeline from various cues. That’s a big difference, 5th to 6th. You could say that was the leap from cooties to not cooties, generally speaking. It didn’t take a stretch to imagine a similar story happening to me in 5th grade. For 6th it would just have been a matter of being one of the lucky guys who had a girlfriend. There was one I knew of in just my classroom, which was one of four or five classrooms for the grade.

In Melody, the kids actually seem younger and more innocent than that, except sometimes they don’t.

I’ve seen reviews or commentaries that range from describing the kids as 10 years old to 12 years old. Then again, I’ve seen reviews that made me wonder if the reviewer actually watched the film. Sort of the equivalent of dashing off a last minute book report for school based largely on the jacket description and what you imagine was in the book, or get from opening and reading a couple paragraphs in a few places and maybe the conclusion.

Speaking of conclusion, I think what I should probably conclude is that they are in the equivalent of 6th grade, AKA 7th year, and that if they are 11 in the film, they won’t remain so much longer. It all works with the skilled depiction of showing the two of them growing up dramatically over a short time. For that matter, it’s not clear either of them were still comfortable acting as young kids even when they still were shown that way. Melody was out of place with the gang of little kids mobbing the rag man. It was just… what she knew at the time.

So I’m going to call them 11, but high side. I am prepared to believe that Tom Ornshaw was actually older, maybe by a year. Wiser, if not. He’s a study all by himself. Bright but treated as stupid. Clearly older in outlook and wisdom than his form one cohort. I’m going to call them 6th grade.

Something I Haven’t Figured Out

Somewhere in my childhood, I irrevocably internalized women being in charge. Weird thing, right? In a culture that allegedly stomps all over women? #YouToo? Probably not. I don’t perceive it as all that common. What I cannot fathom is how that happened to me. What was the influence? Or who?

I always had a fear of authority figures, which I mentioned in another post. Or maybe not always, but from a very young age, origins unknown. I’d figure that was my father, for lack of anything better. It’s not like he yelled or spanked me all the time, though, or even seemed menacing for the most part. There was no denying he was in charge, at least when he was around. I really remember one spanking, and I never got over feeling traumatized by it, but it seems a bit much to have drawn an overarching fear of authority figures from that. I’ll get back to this, probably. I mention it because it seems related, in that I came to see females as authority figures based entirely on gender.

In my house were my mother and my older sister. My mother really couldn’t be the source. My sister and I were extremely close until she hit puberty, at which point I didn’t understand why she’d turned into a raving bitch. Which didn’t last, but I never quite looked at her the same after the burst of unpleasantness. We weren’t the closest in age, but she noted recently that the two of us were the most alike. Expanding to include my stepsisters, later, my late stepsister and I were the two closest in age. It is possible I picked up some of it from my sister, but it would most likely have been one of multiple sources.

My paternal grandmother lived in the same house. We saw a lot of my maternal grandmother. Both could be dominant. Neither grandfather was exactly a rug, though, to the extent any of this might have been learned by watching deference that went all the way into pure domination. Examples of strong women, not tyrannical women, in other words. Same with aunts. I had one aunt who could be offputtingly harsh. The others were merely strong women. None would have shown me to be really timid of women. Aunts by marriage are a similar case. One uncle was married to a woman I never much liked, but I also didn’t see that much of her in my life. Maybe more than I remember, since they lived in our house when we first moved in. My parents took over payments and ownership of the house from my grandparents when they could no longer afford it. That situation became one of the roots of my parents ultimately divorcing, ironically leaving my mother with the house she never wanted.

Every teacher until sixth grade was female, and for the first few years of school, so was the principal. That could have been a factor, to whatever extent the buildup to my perception of women as authority figures happened after I hit school age. I loved my first grade teacher, but there was an incident where she smacked me on the hand. It wasn’t undeserved, but it was shocking and I never got over it. I couldn’t bring myself to go visit her when I graduated high school. While that was partly because I didn’t actually graduate per se, and I had serious issues with school and teachers at that point, that incident lurked under it and made me not want to see her. Plus that was a lot of years. Maybe she didn’t really keep some of my work all that time to give me when I graduated and came back to see her. I was her class superstar.

The other teachers varied. I was apathetic about second, like third but hated the math teacher in third, loved fourth and had a crush on the math teacher in fourth, and disliked fifth, especially when we had math, but loved the ELA teacher in fifth. I just don’t know.

My very first best friend was a girl. Then I had a best friend who was a year older than me through basically fourth and fifth grades. She was a strong, somewhat dominant person, but nothing that ought to have harshed me. There was a weird incident I don’t remember in detail from fourth grade, where I got hit by a fifth grade girl at recess who was swinging a purse as a weapon. It was quite unpleasant and there was an inquisition. They were attacking boys their age that way, and I got mistaken. Then I felt bad about anyone getting in trouble!

I don’t think any of my female cousins were a negative factor. There were a couple of them I was particularly close with at times.

When I was 11, my father met my stepmother, so along with her I met my stepsisters. They got married when I was 12 and it was kind of a shock because my father’s house was abruptly their house. There was no more deference from my stepmother. She was in charge, period, and brooked no dissent. I dissented at times. My stepsisters kind of mirrored that, as you might expect. Generally we got along, though, at least for a while, and it was the older of the two who was more abrasive to me. The thing is, I believe all of this was after it had, at least in large part, already settled in my perception that women were in charge period and don’t mess with them dude, or disagree lightly if you knew what was good for you. They were scary.

I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was cumulative or if there was some forgotten thing, maybe at an especially young age, that brought this on or formed the nucleus of it. It baffles me, but I also can’t get past it. It makes girls scarier from a crush and dating perspective. It affects relationships, such as they are. It affects my perception of what I can expect, and of when I have or don’t have approval.

To some degree it’s universal with me, male or female, to assume I suck unless I am told in no uncertain terms and regularly that I do not suck. That maybe ties into perfectionism and anxiety, but it means that if I am dealing with a female of interest, there can be no ambiguity or uncertainty. To me, no means no forever and ever amen. Conversely, yes means not really, I am not serious unless I beat you over the head and shoulders with a yes club until you see some sense. A little frown, a look that seems too serious, it means you hate me and I am done.

Oddly enough, this seems to have applied more to personal relationships than to managerial relationships. It does mean I take female managers seriously and always have. Some have been great and some not, but I’d never start out assuming they are not competent. That takes time and evidence.

I think the very worst thing it did, besides contributing to my not dating to speak of and being scared away too easily, is dominate my marriage. It’s all I can do not to laugh when the wife complains about being stuck, having no say in things, etc. I’ve mentioned how I almost hung up and backed off entirely simply from her tone of voice the first time I called, and by then she was essentially a sure thing already. Even if she was no Daphne Zuniga. Or Nicollette Sheridan. She sounded so harsh. It was frightening.

I always deferred to her completely. Right from the decision she made that we ought to get married, not that I was opposed, but I might not have concluded it at that point left to my own devices. I redacted some grumbling here, so I hope it still makes sense.. It has been incredibly hard to say no more recently, but I have gotten better. Usually it’s passive things, though. Again with trimming things. I am still working on being my own person. We might never have gone awry had I not deferred so completely in the early days. I’m not sure I knew how to do otherwise.

For all that, I have had plenty of female friends. It has often seemed easier than having male friends, though male friends have tended to be closer friends overall. There have been a few who have had at or near “best friend” status as an adult. One was Daphne, even though I fell for her at our very first encounter, when I was in tenth and she in ninth grade. Another was Joan, who married Zach and before that dated Perry. Sophie, a graphic designer I worked with on volunteer projects, introduced to me by Frank. And of course Naomi and Sally would number among them. I don’t really make new friends anymore. The wife is my best friend, even though the marriage is basically an economic and child rearing arrangement long since and there was never much romance. We get along marvelously and see things the same in most ways. I find it hard to imagine a marriage in which that wasn’t reasonably the case, even if you could also have a more traditionally (if it is traditional and not a fictional thing we’re led to believe) emotional and physical romance.

This whole thing might be related to my pedestal problem. Putting someone on a pedestal requires extreme deference. If most girls go on a pedestal, not just crushes, with it a matter of degree, then that would explain how I would see them all as in charge and my wants or opinions as unimportant or worse.

But I don’t know. Thus the title of the post. I like to think I have gotten better. Clearly I didn’t get better when I stopped the serial crush addiction, though, since the wife was a good while subsequent to that. I think she got extra deference because she was weirdly willing to sleep with me, and was completely forward and unambiguous about it. That it didn’t do a good job of lasting once we were married just makes us, near as I’ve ever been able to tell, normal. But there’s the problem of deference again. Bad enough not to date because I wasn’t being asked and wouldn’t do the asking, generally speaking. My waiting for her to be overtly interested got old, or so I’ve been told. Being married didn’t cure me of having been deeply conditioned to think it was wrong for me to want or seek sex, that I was unworthy of it and too repulsive even if it was a myth that girls had no interest in that. Which is demonstrably the case. Universal lack of interest in sex on their part has always been demonstrably untrue. But the conditioning! At least I know where much of that part came from, even if the more general belief in the dominance of women has no apparent source.

Movies

So Captain Marvel is out and the youngest would love to go. I kind of wanted to, and having not personally watched the, to me, unknown actress playing the hero spout off SJW nonsense, I could ignore that. It actually comes down to money. I’m still not out of the slowest time of year, and running behind until the tax refund hits. I skipped Aquaman! I really wanted to see that! And it was reportedly good, which Captain Marvel isn’t as much. I skipped taking the boy to Spiderverse, again money, and I wouldn’t have even considered it until it became clear it was spectacularly good.

I’m torn, because it does set her up for Endgame. But that’s another concern. The wife is wondering if throwing her into Endgame creates a deus ex and diminishes the merit built by the existing MCU heroes as we made our way through the current phase.

I’ve missed other movies and not had it ruin things that came after, so it’s not the end of the world. I never saw Winter Soldier, Dark World, or Ragnarok. I’ve been told that two of the three are must see.

On the other hand, I am eager to see Shazam. That’s not something I would ever have expected to say, but it looks fantastic. There will be Homecoming and a new Wonder Woman this year. I’ll have to see Star Wars 9, regardless of the issues with the previous one. I didn’t hate Solo as much as some people did, but hey, why would I. Heh.

Captain Marvel, though? I want to want to see it. Probably won’t in the theater, though. I had no idea Brie Larson was an Oscar winner for Best Actress along the way. As noted above, I had never heard of her when she was cast. Samuel L. Jackson has been one of my all time favorites since the first time I saw him, in the fantastic film The Negotiator with Kevin Spacey, also a huge favorite starting then, now sadly a pariah. It could be worth seeing just for Jackson, and the de-aging effects.

Orville and Connections I Make

I watched the latest episode of The Orville a while ago. I have to go to bed too early to watch it Thursday night, so it’s a Friday morning ritual once I am home. As I told the wife, not every episode is going to be in the best science fiction ever aired on television that last week was, but it was good, and unexpected. For instance, I knew River Tam there had to be involved in the destruction somehow, but I wondered if she could destroy ships with her brain or what else the mystery mechanism might be.

I was also telling the wife that they not only have an Admiral Halsey, but also an Admiral Perry. Heinz Doofenshmirtz would be sad. Everybody knows the name Ted Danson, but the wife didn’t recognize Victor Garber, who plays Halsey. She never watched Alias at all, not even a little as I did. Other than that, to me his most notable role was as one of the friends in Sleepless In Seattle, one of the me movies I named. I forgot While You Were Sleeping when I wrote that post. Those two movies sound antithetical to each other, but I lean toward loving both of them.

Scrolling all the way down, I found Garber’s first role was as Jesus in Godspell, released in March 1973. Doesn’t look at all like the distinguished older gentleman we’ve long seen him as in more recent decades. There’s a video of the song Day By Day as used in the film, and you can see him there. However, the song was on the charts before then.

We sang Day By Day in chorus in 6th grade, which was the 1972-1973 school year. 99% Sure it was 6th, not 5th, and it’d be logical all around, plus well timed with respect to the movie, notwithstanding the song and stage production weren’t new. I’ve long had it on MP3 and just can’t help singing along with it, despite not being religious. It makes me happy and takes me back.

So there you go. From Orville to Godspell and chorus at the twilight of elementary school. It’s the fundamental interconnectedness of all things at work.

When the Pedestal Goes Away

Original title was Shower Thoughts, but since that’s the name of a site or whatever, I figured I’d go with the other one. It is, however, where I had the train of thoughts.

I ended up thinking about what it must be like to be a celebrity and to need or want to protect your safety and privacy. Rebecca Schaeffer came to mind. It must be especially weird when you aren’t a big name, but are nonetheless a name to some.

Melody was essentially a commercial flop, as delightful and well made as it is, and was saved from complete obscurity and financial ruin for the production company’s first film by runaway success and a favorable distribution deal in Japan. So the film was always huge in Japan and a few minor markets, so Tracy Hyde, not already a big name like Mark Lester and Jack Wild, was an idol regionally. She went on to do some other roles through her twenties, but nothing huge. Melody went on to become, increasingly to this day, a cult classic.

Thinking of her life was a trigger to this. You’ve been moderately famous. You’re not hugely sought after, but in some circles there’s still demand. You were paid fairly modest amounts for the roles you did. Now you have to cope with staying private, the possibility of being stalked, the possibility of being more in demand by fans than you’d prefer. Perhaps paid appearances now and then are a boon, but it’s not the same as having been on a series that gets you steady employment as a convention guest for decades. You have a life.

That made me think of Keanu Reeves, who is an amazing human being, quietly humble, charitable, and an ordinary guy. He reportedly simply goes ahead and rubs shoulders with everyone, riding the subway and so forth. Reading about him makes you want to be more like him. He’s just a guy, who just happens to act for a living. Perhaps we ought to see actors more like that.

All of this, which took far less time to think about in the quick shower before work than it takes to write and expand slightly upon, reminded me of my revelation of the past few years (it’s been around five or so since the provocation and probably between 3 and 4 or so since I worked this out) that I have tended to put people on pedestals in my life. I make them, in my mind, something they can’t ever be. I did this to my friend Zack, but never to my friend Frank. Two very different people met at two different times. If anything, I was the one on Frank’s pedestal, but not the same problematic way.

Being seen by me as falling off the pedestal, or not having belonged there in the first place, was messy. The mess was made and can never be unmade, but I made the breakthrough of recognizing that Frank Zack is and always was just a guy. A good guy. A guy with strengths and foibles like any of us. Which gives me an inverse thought I should address, if not in this post. (Typed the wrong name, though the same applies. Or did, since Frank died several years ago.)

I generally did the same with girls. Those I crushed on, anyway. But if I saw things I didn’t like, that already created cognitive dissonance. Anyway, the more the pedestal, the more difficult for me to see her as approachable and act accordingly. If the wasn’t a pedestal, or it was countered too greatly, I’d go the other way, and be talking myself out of it. I recognized the pedestal problem with girls before I ever recognized the harm it had done to that friendship over the decades, and before I ever saw Zack once and for all as a mere mortal. And figured out that being a mere mortal in not a bad thing!

This also made me think about the way I have always looked at authority figures, which includes teachers/professors and bosses. I have no idea how I developed it. It has to go back to an extremely young age or be somehow inherent to me. I always had a fear of authority figures. I was the last kid who would ever have gotten in trouble with the police. I had no dealings with them. Yet they terrified me.

With bosses, I would either be afraid of them or, if I saw them as stupid or incompetent, not take them seriously at all. Neither thing works very well. Usually they are just people doing a job, and have strengths and weaknesses. Usually they are not in fact out to get you, and do not want you to fail. That’s the opposite of what they’d be after. Duh. Arguably this also intersected unhealthily with my perfectionism problem. Forget bosses. I never thought did a good enough job at anything. Except sometimes I knew I was great, and it would be times like that when I’d know a boss was stupid for not realizing it. Then I’d not take them seriously, rather than being afraid of them. Seldom have I ever realized later that I wasn’t as good as I thought, in those cases. Usually, though, I assume I am awful unless regularly and vehemently told otherwise. I’ve gotten better about this. Assuming you don’t take the state of my employment as an indication that, no, I have not, which could be. If you’re awful, who would hire you, and why would you go trying to get a job you can do better than most people that you’re sure you can’t possibly do as well as they’d expect? Why go there? So maybe not.

But I digress. I know I always do, but these are topics neither thought of in the shower nor contemplated for inclusion when I thought of writing this.

I think my point was to compare my realization about my friends just being people, and girls just being people even if they give me elusive butterflies, to the fact that celebrities are just people. People who sometimes need or want to cope with the potential problem of other people not seeing them as such. Of course, fame can be a rush. I’ve had a minor form of it in the past. It really was kind of a kick. So maybe that’s the price of that rush, but you’re still just people. If you were a kid when the fame started, maybe it’s nothing you ever sought or could have known the price of before you started paying.

Storytelling Part 3

Might as well get around to finishing what I started in Part 1 and Part 2, and finish spoiling the whole 48 year old Melody film for the almost everybody who’s never seen it. Of course, you can see it if you want, using the link discussed here.

When I left off, we had gone through the vignettes of Daniel falling for Melody and then attempting to get her notice, summed up in the great use of To Love Somebody during athletics/field day. This also ends with one of those things that never gets explained or expanded upon, but is pretty dramatic, when Daniel faints after winning the race with visions of Melody going through his head. We don’t know how long had passed between the dance and field day, and we don’t know how much time passes between field day and the next school day shown. Except we do, because we are about to have firm evidence that the timeline is one week from the time he sees her in ballet class to the day they first hang out together.

I could write about how short that seems to me for the sort of scenario the kids are involved in, and for certain things to have been said and done. I went through something like it, less successfully, and we’re talking months, not a week. But that might be another post. I also learned just when filming took place, besides that it was in 1970 and happened to include May, so Tracy Hyde had birthday cake on the set. It was May to August, which supports my observation about the state of vegetation in some scenes. Since filming is hard, it makes sense to have taken that long. But not longer, allowing editing and production time before it started being released in March 1971. You figure the horrible dinner party scene took an entire day of filming, and that was just one little scene to show more about how awful the adults in the Latimer family were. The scene in the headmaster’s office took a lot of takes because Mark Lester was too unflappable to express anger without being provoked sufficiently. Which might explain some of Tracy Hyde’s acting in that scene, depending on how things were spliced. But I digress.

He loves her. She seems to reciprocate. Just one thing remains. It’s another school day, and we see Daniel and Ornshaw both get in trouble with the beastly Latin teacher for not being able to present what was supposed to have been “prepared ‘omework.” We never see the kids doing homework in the film, or worrying about it, but they probably had at least as much as my kids tend to have. That’s vastly more than the almost none I had at their ages, but the British schools seem to have been different from my experience.

After school the boys go to the teacher’s office to face his wrath. Ornshaw has the trick of stuffing a towel down his pants to soften the blow while he pretends it hurts. He has Daniel do the same, but Daniel gets caught and is actually harmed after Ornshaw has left the room. Nice bit of acting, the look on the teacher’s face when he notices the towel and pulls it out. This whole thing ties into a couple of later scenes.

When Ornshaw comes out, he sees Melody hanging around one floor below, waiting. He knows darn well why she is there and tries to encourage her to move along. There’s been animosity between them and of course Daniel is his so don’t come between them please. Too late!

Daniel comes out, sees her, and she smiles at him. I haven’t written about how much the apparent age or maturity of the kids varies through the movie, but in this part she looks particularly old and mature. At any given time, the school blazers tend to contribute to that. I suspect that the filming was long enough that growth was a factor, so they look taller or shorter at points during the film. My youngest is very nearly the exact age as Mark Lester during filming. He’s growing like a weed, and any second will become the tallest of the three kids, even versus the exceptionally tall one who just turned 13. She’s just taller than I was when I turned 13, but then I grew 4 inches in the five months after I turned 13, getting most of the way to my final height. The youngest is that height almost a year and a half sooner. But I digress. I risk digressing into my son having crushed on a girl who played cello, which made him more enthusiastic about his decision to play violin. I think he got over that, but there’s an example of a crush at that age.

There’s not really talking in any of this, except by Ornshaw. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel, yet he helps by telling him not to let her see him cry, then taking the towel from Daniel so he doesn’t have to carry it. They start down the stairs.

There’s Melody, planted inexorably at the foot of the flight of stairs, in a pose that could be described as forward. It’s completely confident and unambiguous. The boys stop. Ornshaw looks at Daniel. They continue and Ornshaw resumes trying to get Melody to toddle off. When they get to the bottom, she just looks at Daniel, saying nothing, meaning everything. Ornshaw talks, trying to persuade Daniel to go do things with him that afternoon. Anything! Just to be with his friend. It’s a great way of showing just how heartbreaking this will be for Ornshaw.

Daniel walks to Melody,a s she walks away, stops and looks back. They walk off together while Ornshaw pleads. Then they run to the doorway where they’ll go down the final flight of stairs.

We see them round a corner and come down an aisle between seats that would be used for assembly, heading to the door at their theme, First of May, starts to play. The next part is brilliant visual storytelling with no audible dialogue.

We see Daniel try to carry her bag for her, to her amusement, and then she takes it back. They walk close, obviously a pair. When they walk through an arched stretch in the schoolyard, they hold hands, then let go when people might see them.

Oh heck. You can see this sequence without ever watching the whole film. You just need the video of First of May with cemetery scene left in.

They talk as they walk along, but we don’t know what they say. They make their way to an old cemetery and end up chasing around like puppies for a bit, playfully. Then they are walking together again, holding hands as they head into another section of cemetery. Ultimately it’s her leading him to a spot. The music fades and they are sitting, talking.

She says that her friend Muriel says that he’s been going around telling people he loves her, which she doesn’t mind, but why not tell her if he has to tell someone. She’s always the last to know. That last has just the right plaintive tone. Apparently Daniel has been busier than we’ve seen. Perhaps this was why they showed him being impetuous enough to light his dad’s paper on fire, or forthright enough to tell the director of the Boy’s Brigade that he didn’t know what he was doing there, it was his mother’s idea. You need to have enough innocent boldness, or just boldness, to do something like going around telling everyone you love some girl in school.

Sharing the apple is a cute touch. Not sure I’d ever have done that. Germs, you know. It fits the song. Some of the later cover art they did features the apple in a way that sums up the themes of the film. I have never figured out whether there was a point to her tearing up a handful of dead grass or vegetation when he hands her the apple.

She does most of the talking.He’s very quiet, and we’ve already seen that she’s more social, talkative, and can be a smartass when expressing herself. To the degree she reminds me of Ella, a similarity is her being surrounded by groups of other girls who were her friends at school or from the drum and bugle corps. In 9th grade, we read The Merchant of Venice in English, which was one of the classes we shared. She was kind of behind me, so I couldn’t stare at her there as I did in the horrible algebra class. I loved that book! I used to describe the friends around Ella as “Portia’s train,” the way that sort of retinue was described in the book.

She observes it’s nice there, and that her mom tells her not to go there but she’s not frightened. Nothing to be frightened of when you have the boy with green ears and so forth. LOL. Looking for something to say, since he’s about as much help as I’d have been around that age, she looks around and then reads a nearby gravestone. The name of the woman on it is Ella Jane, appropriately. They’d been married 50 years of happiness and then he died just two months later. This is crucial, since this sparks the idea of marriage. Storytelling prop.

I wonder if that’s a real gravestone or if it was a prop they produced for the purpose of the story. I’ve seen video of people walking through the very cemetery decades later, but nothing where someone found the exact spot.

Anyway, she observes “he only lasted two months after she died.” Finally speaking a full sentence, Daniel says “he must have loved her very much.” This is pretty much the most famous dialogue in the entire film.

She asks him how long is fifty years. He gives the reply in number of school terms, which shows how young they are and how limited their worldview is. It’s also kind of funny.

She asks “will you love me that long,” turning to look at him with an adorable smile. He nods. She says “I don’t think you will.” Wise observation, but hey, it can happen.

He replies “of course, I’ve loved you a whole week already, haven’t I?” He smiles and looks almost tongue in cheek. He laughs slightly and they both smile. This is when we first hear him say he loves her. It gives us the timeline from the day he sees her to now, locking everything through that day into place. I know life can move fast at that age, but it seems like too little time for the strength of the friendship with Ornshaw, and for the antics between Daniel and Melody to have happened and come to fruition. It works great for the dialogue, though! This is the scene that Tracy and Mark reenacted on at least one of their reunions decades later. The acting here is great, and so is the way things are conveyed.

First of May reprise kicks in as they continue eating the apple and looking at each other, and we segue into them walking along a road again. I’d love to be able to read lips to know what they are saying when they stop and try to duck through the fence to jaywalk. They pause and are foiled. Not sure, but I assume that is trying to show them being kids and not always angels. Then they are walking through the yard in front of her building. A little girl runs up to her and they pause for a kind moment between her and the kid. Maybe that means to show them as not little any more, by comparison. They reach her door and they have an exchange. It may be that he has seen him as walking her home, and is reticent, while she is inviting him for tea. She opens the door and, in one of my favorite, funny touches, she reaches back out the door and pulls him in by his tie. Inside the door, she looks amused, as well she should. Even though it was different sets and might have been widely separate days of filming, it’s seamless. Her mother and granny look up from the table and at the doorway, surprised. Melody announces “he’s come for tea.” This brooks no dissent.

We get more of her family dynamic when they are at tea. We see her being daddy’s girl, since he is home. We see tension between him and her mother, if not outright fighting as we saw with Daniel’s parents. Her father is obviously someone who can’t do with silences, so he has to find something to talk about, a story to tell. Melody gives him a number of “if looks could kill” looks as he goes along. Ultimately, though, it’s a nice interlude. It cements things and caps off the day.

At no time do we ever see Daniel’s parents meet or be aware of her. Interesting.

This is the end of certainty about the timeline of events. The vignettes used in telling the story until now could have been separated substantially from each other in time, if not for the confirmation on this day that it all took place over a week. To me that timetable is a borderline anomaly, or creates some. But it’s a story. You make decisions and trade-offs.

And so we have no idea whether the next day is the next day or sometime later. The only evidence we have that it’s not the next day, beside it seeming rather abrupt, is when Melody’s father refers to Daniel having been to tea multiple times. That suggests a longer build up once he is her boyfriend, and more opportunity to reach the point of planning that day together. Also that would give more time for them to be so attached that marriage seems reasonable to them, at least in their perception of it. They don’t always seem innocent enough to be that innocent.

The next scene is a morning at school, attendance, and they aren’t there. We see they are on a train. They hop off, looking sort of furtive even though by then who’s going to catch them. There are a lot of questions about how they managed to sneak away like this. They are dressed for a day of fun. That means their school clothes, blazers, satchels… those are all at home, should someone notice. They had to get out the door that way, with what they were carrying for the day out, not for school. But that’s mechanics that are outside showing the story. We can wonder and imagine, but really it just is. Hand wave.

We see them on amusement park rides. During some of this the some Give Your Best plays, as it did when Daniel hung out for an afternoon with Ornshaw. We see them eating cotton candy and buying ice cream cones. We see them walking along the beach in bare feet, spying and then jumping on trampolines. Then they watch a wee kiddie pageant, which she is totally into and he tolerates because he is with her. We see them sitting on a sheltered bench, which is still there. You could go sit where they sat, if you wanted to seek it out. Mostly it’s companionable silence, which is a great thing to be able to have with someone, but they converse and some of it is lame. It doesn’t entirely fit with them having hung out and talked on other days.

If that tells a story, it tells how limited their world is. They talk about what they would be doing in school right now if they were there, and what subjects they like. He pretends he doesn’t like history so much after all, since she hates it. She loves geography. Can’t blame her there. That actually factors later, as some things do throughout the film.

When the rain is over, we see them on the beach, building a sand castle and talking idly. Her dad doesn’t like the beach and usually stays home, “in the pubs, mostly.” She’s aware of his drinking problem, if it’s a problem.  That reaches back to the beginning when she had to go find him at the pub. That pub is still there, operating under the same name. His family rides in the car, but they don’t generally get out. The adults have a row and don’t talk until they get home. We get some of their view of adults firsthand, besides the over the top adult acting intended to convey how kids see them. He goes down and steps into the water with a container, brings some water back, and then she wonders why it all went away. That’s particularly lame, because a six year old would probably understand that water poured onto sand is going to dissipate through it. Do they really want us to see the kids as being that young and ignorant?

While patting sand in place, one of their hands pats onto the other one’s hand and they are sort of… startled. I don’t know why, given all the hand holding they did, even if it was just the one day prior and this is the very next day. Still, that is the impetus for him asking if they should get married. She thinks maybe someday, perhaps, which is a smart answer. They talk about how old might you have to be before you can get married. As old as our parents? He worries if they wait they might be “old miseries.” Great expression! The wife is an old misery. LOL. Too much social media. I never would have said LOL in blog posts 15 years ago. Most adults they know are old miseries. Melody stands and looks out across the water, getting sandy hands in her hair and wistfully saying to the world at large “I don’t know. I really don’t know…”

That segues into a scene where the two of them pop up from behind a screened enclosure, now wearing their swim suits, clothes hung on the enclosure. Initially holding hands, they run down to the water, step in, then step out because it’s COLD. you hear her say “I’m done!” while pointing to herself. Then she goes back in, which he is supposed to do together with her. He’s a little slow about it. She kicks water to splash him, then he splashes her, and fun ensues. Considering he stepped into the water shortly before this, if it was cold he should have noticed. A little glitch there. That scene ends with a musical thud. We see nothing of when and how they get home, the rest of their day, the reaction at home if any of the parents figured out what they had done, nothing. This is another absence of telling what isn’t essential to be told. I’d expect to see more of it in a book. A film or show would trim things exactly this way.

It goes straight to the two of them in school clothes, insides the door of the headmaster’s office, unambiguously the next day. This scene required many takes, at least the part where Daniel gets angry and yells at the headmaster. We don’t see anything about how they wound up being sent or called there. We don’t see whether there is or will be interaction between school and parents.

I should note, as I may have before, that if kids that age skip school here, the school calls home to see if the parents know the kid is home. A parent is supposed to call to tell the school the kid will be out. In elementary it’s a special number where you leave voicemail. In middle school it’s just calling the office. I don’t know if anyone goes to even that length in high school. The schools seem to be good at treating the kids as being older and more responsible as the get older in age and year. In my day, there was nothing like that. There was no hyperactive fear of kidnapping, which is what actually drives the safe to school line concept. We were simply expected to take an excuse note from a parent the next day and give it to the office.

Anyway, the headmaster is funny. He’s actually quite gentle with them, and I saw Mrs. Latimer’s hand in that. since she is buddies with him and he’d want to keep in her good graces. The range of expressions from Melody during part of this is amusing, since I am not sure that’s what we ought to be seeing. I can’t help wondering what the director was telling them during this. When the headmaster stands behind the two of them and puts a hand each on one of their shoulders, she looks at his hands and has a “get that off me you creep” look, an amused look, a worried or alarmed look, an amused look, and so forth as he speaks.

When Daniels tells him they know what their priorities are: they want to get married, she whips her head to the side and looks at him like WTF. I mean, we never saw them actually come right out and decide with each other that yes, this was absolutely what they wanted to do. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t. I figure the look was more “OMG why are you telling him that.” Then, when asked if she’s offered him her hand, she says she doesn’t know, she’s not sure what it all means. That sure is a switch from their vehemence. Daniel gets mad because he thinks it funny, but it’s not and he’s treating them like they’re stupid. The headmaster tells them that’s it, “the matter is finished.” Then the real fun starts.

They go back to their classrooms. Weird thing is that if they got sent to the office while other kids went to class, they should be entering a class in progress. Instead, they are entering classes where the kids await arrival of the teacher. She gets tormented, even by some of her closest friends. He gets tormented worse, and ends up in a fight on the floor with Ornshaw. Latin teacher breaks it up. Daniel is nursing his bloody nose while Ornshaw apologizes from the next desk, feeling terrible.

After school, in one of the most iconic scenes, we see Daniel and Melody sitting in the rain in his cemetery. Her head is on his shoulder and his arm is around her neck. His other hand is holding his satchel above them, in a vain attempt to keep them from getting completely soaked. We don’t know what he is saying, but he is talking furiously to her. That is the one clue I figure we have that says the next day’s events take place the actual next day, rather than at some later date. We don’t need words, anyway. This tells the tale of what the day has been like for them and his strength in trying to make her feel better.

Then she is home, hair getting dried, sitting at the table while her father does most of the talking to her and her mother interjects from behind. Granny lurks around back there, and we see some good facial acting on her part. They know about her wanting to get married and are telling her people just don’t get married at her age. In this whole scene, she seems pretty young, whereas there are so many times she seems older than she is. They do a poor job of explaining. She doesn’t accept it. If the plans for what in film terms appears to be tomorrow have already been made, it is moot anyway. As I said, I felt for her father here. Tracy Hyde does an excellent job being pathetic. It calls back to her love of geography. She likes being with Daniel more. Daniel is home, in bed, thinking. We see nothing of his parents.

Final bit. Flash to what we could take to be the very next day. Complete turnaround from the classmates. Daniel’s mother is frantic because he left a note that they were eloping. First we have known that she has any clue about the girl or the depth of things, and she’s a mess. It’s ridiculous. Headmaster takes her call, assures her things are fine, he’d seen them in class. He’ll go check. When he does, he learns one of the classes never came back from morning break. The one kid there is the kid who’s been trying to make a homemade bomb the whole time. Turns out their classes went to the railroad arches for a wedding.

Headmaster gathers up the teachers to go break it up. As they are driving off, Mrs. Latimer drives up in her fancy car and ends up following. Nothing to worry about. They get to the barren land by the rails and break up to try to flush out the kids. Meanwhile, Stacey, the bomb kid, has run off to warn them the teachers are coming. Obviously his planned role. The headmaster is so oblivious, he doesn’t notice Stacey had a bomb right on the desk when he walked in and asked where the others were.

We see the kids gathered and Ornshaw starting the ceremony. The kids laugh and he tells them it’s not funny, it’s serious. Rhoda is the maid of honor, even though during most of the movie you might think Peggy or Muriel were closer friends. I didn’t identify the boy who seems to be the best man. I like Rhoda. The actress, Lesley Roach, was in a lot of stuff before Melody, then disappeared after 1976. We had a local family named Roach when I was a kid.

It’s funny when Ornshaw tries to read the whole thing, fumbles it, and basically leaves it as taking the respective other to be their husband and wife. “Will you?” “I will.” “Yeah, I thought you might.” same with Melody, blah blah obey blah. “I will.” She has kind of a blushing bride look, and seems amused. Maybe Tracy was trying to keep a straight face and almost not managing it. This also had to be funny if they shot the scene earlier in filming than they did some of what built up to it. The more extras involved, the earlier they shot it. These were more the core group, but they still might have done this sooner and then completed what had only the main characters afterward.

Before Ornshaw can say man and wife, years before this was a thing in Princess Bride, Stacey gets them the warning and they scatter. The main wedding party goes one way. The rest go the other to run interference. At this point it’s a revolt. It was just the thing with Daniel and Melody that provided the impetus. This is where Teach Your Children plays. I’ve seen it described as out of place or inappropriate. I don’t think so, for the scene and the ending the team decided on. I might have come up with a different ending, though I can’t say what.

The kids fight back with the teachers, who are outnumbered. Eventually it’s down to Ornshaw, Melody and Daniel, running from the evil Latin teacher. They lose him and Ornshaw has the newlyweds hop on a hand trolley that we saw in a much earlier scene of a test of one of the explosives.

In the meantime, Stacey has lit his latest bomb attempt and tossed it into the back of Mrs. Latimer’s car. It works spectacularly. He is amazed and overjoyed. That stops everything in its tracks, including, briefly, the running that Ornshaw and the newlyweds are doing, while they and the Latin teacher look back to see what the noise had been. The headmaster and teachers run away. Mrs. Latimer looks at her burning car in dismay, looking completely lost. More than she had during the brawl.

That’s it. Teachers are a mess and not looking good. Kids are not going to be able to escape being in trouble. Mrs. Latimer is going to have to explain the car to her husband and might want to reexamine her life. The honeymoon is presumably going to be short because where can they go, what can they do? They’re 11. It’s not a real marriage. They can’t support themselves. They’re carrying nothing but the clothes on their backs. But all of that is neither here nor there. What happens next. What people face. Those aren’t part of this story. Leave it to the imagination. Leave it as an ending that is too absurd for reality so why ask those questions. It was fun and told a tale that was meant to be told.

I don’t think I accomplished with this set of posts what I thought I was setting out to do. It ended up being more of a breakdown of the movie, much as people on YouTube break movies or show episodes down and look at what happened and some of the finer points in videos. I still say that watching this and seeing how the story was conveyed helped inspire and make me think, with respect to my old story that I should complete eventually. The lesson for me is it being OK to leave gaps and leave unanswered details the reader doesn’t have to know. There’s also a lesson in tying elements from earlier to later, and how to introduce people and places.

It’s late and I should already be in bed, since alarm time is 2:15 AM. I either have to leave this a draft or publish it but then proofread it when I get home later in the morning. Probably the latter.

Ornshaw. Tom Ornshaw.

I have no idea whether there is an official source of the name, but there seems to be common acceptance among anyone who cares that Ornshaw’s first name is Tom. I had wondered. At first I thought “what kind of name is Ornshaw?” Then I figured out it’s a surname, and he is never addressed as anything else. I have seen something like this, with a friend being called Fish rather than his first name, Tom. He almost answered better to the former.

I was going to put this in a post about things learned in fan fiction, of which there is an extremely tiny amount for Melody. It doesn’t get particularly  risque, but it does seem to ship Melody and Ornshaw, or the trio, or to attempt to fill in the bit where they get him to marry them, or to attempt to fill in what happens later. Logical enough, since I immediately thought of that sort of thing.

The other factoid I learned that way, official or not, is that Melody’s father, Richard Perkins, is a truck driver. He “drives big lorries.” It would fit with their working class status and with his apparent uneven presence home from work, pub time aside.

Anyway, I’m willing to accept that name. It sounds right. It’s possible that it’s in the script and enough folks know it that it got out in the wild as official. It’s possible it ended up in an interview, book, DVD extra, or who knows, and if you’re avid enough you caught it.

Me Movies

Back when he was one of my business partners, my friend Ted and I would go to a lot of movies. A lot of times they were ones his girlfriend wouldn’t have wanted to see, and I was single at the time. Before that, I frequently went with friends from my previous job. They did things like move across the country over the course of time. Late nineties, 1998 particularly, when I saw most of what showed locally, I went to tons of movies, usually alone. Sometimes I’d go to the mall, see one, eat at the food court, and see another, just to be out of the house.

Ted would tell me about movies he’d seen without me, usually with Winnie, and if it was something like a romantic comedy, his shorthand was to say “it’s a ‘you’ movie.” Everyone knew I was especially fond of those, and would sometimes get emotional, even at scenes or films where most people wouldn’t.

To this day, as a result, I refer to them as “me movies.”

A prime example would be You’ve Got Mail. I expected that to be lame, like one big ad for AOL, but it was one of the finest romantic comedies ever made. I really should watch it again sometime, as it’s been at least a few years.

After I was married, they maybe lost a little of their appeal. After we had marital problems, which in a sense have never ended, anything like that lost all or most of its charm for me. I was already recovering from that somewhat, but the story of, you guessed it if you’ve been reading the other posts, Melody, is that it took me the rest of the way out of the funk. Romantic songs didn’t lose their appeal in the way that movies did, but they also have more spark than they did. I’ve been feeling inexplicably happier and more hopeful than I probably have in years.

Melody is definitely a me movie. It hit a particular nerve because of the memories it dredged up, and the introspection it shone on my life.

Sleepless in Seattle. That’s a good one! I didn’t see it until years after it had come out. Ditto for When Harry Met Sally. Meg Ryan in her prime was just amazing. Joe Versus the Volcano! That was a riot, and she was so talented, playing three distinct characters. I still joke about having a brain cloud. I saw Kate & Leopold in the theater with my friends Naomi and Sally. It was Naomi who was the last of my serial crushes, the one who broke the streak and left me having given up, which led the way to meeting the wife online and in a more clinical, intellectual fashion. I miss the idea of romance, even though I never had it except in my mind.

Splash I saw on a date with Maddie, in a dollar theater in downtown… Salem, I think. Somewhere in that area. It’s had long since come and gone, and she thought I really really needed to see it. Tom Hanks before Meg Ryan. That was great. Imagine, me seeing a date movie, on a date. Of course, Maddie was attempting to encourage me, so that fit the bill. She also played songs on a jukebox that were meant for the purpose and went right past me, when we were in a restaurant the same day.

I was never as big on Julia Roberts, but I absolutely adored Notting Hill. It’s one of my favorites of all time, up there with You’ve Got Mail. I was sad to see the news when Emma Chambers died. Rhys Ifans as Spike reminded me of my older brother, and was amazing as an utterly different character, Earl of Oxford, in Anonymous. That’s not a romantic comedy, but posits the idea that Edward de Vere was the author of the works of Shakespeare. Brilliantly done. A different variety of me movie, you could say.

None of this is to dismiss the usual fare of action, science fiction, superhero, or fantasy movies and shows. Die Hard, for instance, is one of the greatest films ever made. You could use it as an example to take apart in detail to teach film making. It’s just that I’m known for loving me some romantic comedy, or even not so comedy.

Is This Forward?

When I talked about being forward, I counted up through the point in Melody when the relationship is established. He got her attention. She reciprocated and made it clear. They walked off after school was well over, since he had stayed for punishment, and hung out together in the overgrown cemetery.

It seems she tends to lead or dominate conversation, but I wouldn’t say that is forward so much as she having more idea than him what she wants to say, and him being a quieter type. She already has him where he wants to be, so it’s not like she can provide more encouragement.

But afterward, in one of my favorite little details, they arrive at her door. I’m curious about the scene with the little kid coming up to her before they get there, whether it was planned or spontaneous, but it was touching. Anyway, they get to her door. He has to know he hasn’t simply walked her home, but that she is bringing him to tea with her family. Or does he?

She opens the door, steps in, and with him standing uncertainly outside, her arm reaches back out, she grabs him by the tie, and drags him irresistibly inside. When they switch to the inside view, the actors/characters look vaguely amused, as if that funny thing just happened and they are self-aware of it The thing is, if they are true to the reported details, the exterior of the building was used, but for the interior it was a set built in the same large building much else was shot in. So the inside and outside shots were likely different days, or at least different times and locations. Unless this was an exception, or was an exception up to the point they enter the room with the table.

If he wasn’t clear, then dragging him in perhaps counted as forward. He certainly is shy and uncertain enough, but I can relate. She also seems bold in the way she announces “he’s come for tea” when her mother and granny look up and seem so surprised.

So perhaps there was more to Tracy’s view of Melody being forward or aggressive than what I covered and was dubious about.

My Ornshaw

Well, I was going to do a post with that title, specifically about my late friend, call him Frank even though he’s too dead to be offended by anything I might say, and ways he, and his interaction with me, remind me of Ornshaw. And Jack Wild.

In some ways, though, my old friend Zack could be written about similarly. In other ways, I was Ornshaw to Zack. Frank was rather introverted to be as overtly cheeky, though he was pretty good with snide or intelligent but not appreciated observations or questions. Zack wasn’t introverted and could be as cheeky as any of us ever got. I, especially as I age, have that cheekier side, though in many ways I am very much Daniel, but less extroverted or mischievous. Especially when I was young. It ends up rather relative.

Zack gets the “girl disrupts friendship” award the most. That really never happened with Frank. However, the friend-love as portrayed in Melody was more between me and Zack, mainly in that direction, and less so with me and Frank. I never got a girlfriend. Certainly not when there was a strong bond between me and Zack. Frank didn’t get a girlfriend at a young enough age to matter, or one that was a strong enough emotional bond.

Zack eventually got a first girlfriend in the form of the same Daphne I have mentioned as being so trying for me in other posts. She recently apologized to me for not realizing how I felt about her, which seems odd because I was completely unambiguous. I have never been that clear or overt. I seem to try harder in hopeless cases and less hard if chances are better. Because success bad? While wanting no part of me, she wanted or even lusted after my friends in inverse proportion to their interest in her.

So she dated Zack. He got to make out a lot but that was the extent of it. I was miffed and it maybe somewhat took him away from me at the same time she was insulting me with her actions. Jealous, even, though somewhere along the line my interest had waned enough that it was probably more insulted than jealous. I also thought he could do better, and he did, later. The one Daphne really wanted was Frank, who she did eventually “date,” if you know what I mean. He had no actual interest, but at the time she was available and nobody else was. Sad.

Zack ended up with Joan, who had dated Perry up to around the time he went off to college. It was funny, since the first time they met, she didn’t like him. I inadvertently triggered the whole thing. Later I helped ensure they stayed together. But I lost him to her in at least the way Ornshaw lost Daniel to Melody. Or at least it added impetus to something that might have already been underway. In that, I represent Ornshaw. I was also perhaps the freer spirit when we first met at 11. Except at the same time Zack would say outrageous things I would never have dared, even between us. He got me used to using swears, even though I’d certainly heard them from an earlier best friend, Kara, and from the world at large. She once told me about having looked up the words to see if they were in the big dictionary at school when she was in sixth grade and I was in fifth. No, it may have been fifth and fourth, come to think of it.

On another note, I think Ornshaw needs more credit for intelligence and sense. He’s obviously street smart. He’s poor/lower class, part of the class elements shown in the film. It seems he’s an orphan, if he is in the care of his grandfather, or perhaps more accurately, caring for his grandfather.

He’s a troublemaker and smartass, sure. He’s also either older than his grade level, or more mature. His having girly magazine pictures behind his bible in scripture class is a nice comparison to Daniel’s innocence in having gotten a girly magazine from a boy at school so he knows what they look like to try his hand at painting nudes. He’s completely matter of fact about it when his mother finds what he is doing, bored and on an artistic exploration.

What was Wellington doing in Spain in the first place? That’s a good question! I had to look it up. It has a valid answer, which might have been outside the scope of what the teacher wanted to discuss in history that day. Nice these days to have the internet. I never thought to wonder what Talavera was, even though I saw it referenced heavily in a series I like.  In that case, it’s the name of a ship, presumably named after the battle. To dismiss Ornshaw out of hand? Rude.

Questioning the merit of learning Latin? Not unreasonable. It would be easy to come up with reasons to study Latin and convey them, but why not just add some extra beatings to the schedule? Rude.

Ornshaw is also wiser than his ostensible age about girls and what people might be up to. He knows what Melody wants when her finds her waiting after the Latin punishment, and assiduously tries to get her to go away. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel to her, and at the same time advises Daniel not to cry in front of her and disposes of the towel for him. He eventually buy into the importance of the marriage ceremony and that it’s serious, not funny, when the other kids in the rebellion are still laughing despite knowing why they are gather together. He knows to try to be offputting to Melody in the cafeteria, and has jumped in to guide his friend away from either any further embarrassment, or falling into her clutches then and there. He’s smart enough to know that while Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and he has it bad that way, Daniel also has it good in a way. He knows that school won’t be forever. Those kinds of observations and bits of wisdom really remind me of Frank.

If I take Frank to be my Ornshaw, it fits with Jack Wild. Drinking contributed to Jack’s death, even though he’d kicked it long since. Smoking, too, which is where they don’t overlap. Frank died at 52 of cumulative effects of drinking. I somehow missed that he was an alcoholic until the last maybe dozen years of his life. That’s a surprisingly good job of hiding it.

Oh well, This ended up long, but it covered two posts that I’d been thinking of writing.

Being Forward

In the video on the making of Melody, Tracy Hyde talks about similarities and differences between her and the character. For instance, they both love animals (though we only see this evidenced with the goldfish), which fits with Tracy having ended up running a boarding kennel which can be interpreted in some mentions to have been the family business.

She says that one difference is that she would not be so aggressive in getting a boyfriend, but instead waits for them to come to her. Is Melody particularly forward or aggressive, or does she merely make it obvious she is receptive, rather than being mysterious and letting Daniel flail around until maybe, just maybe, he does or says exactly the right thing?

Watching again, I can see how you could interpret her relatively assertive actions as being quite forward. To me they aren’t. If a girl actually wanted me, she pretty much had to bash me over the head and drag me away. It had to be utterly unambiguous, more so than should be necessary. It’s as if I were female instead of male.

What does Melody do? First encounter she smiles, which could be seen as encouraging, but is also just a pleasant acknowledgment that he is looking at her so intently and is in an awkward position yet trying. In assembly she just stares back with a serious look, or we don’t see a smile, since one appears in a still later. In the music room, she has no idea what to do. Make small talk? So she starts practicing and he makes it a duet. She smiles with her eyes while playing recorder. None of it is especially forward or demonstrative yet. In the cafeteria, the two look at each other when he gets redirected to a seat with the boys, but I don’t see strong encouragement there.

At the dance, she puts herself on display and pointedly keeps eyeing him. That seems like flirty encouragement, but it would be easy to ignore or to dismiss as too weak if you’re like I was. Or am. Obviously we get to see how mutual it has become then, after the dance. And agreeing to dance, well, that’s not being forward. He asked her. She just made it easy. As much so as is possible in the circumstances, anyway. Having danced, there’s something established, at least as a strong possibility. Seeking her out would have been reasonable. Seeking him out is not unreasonable on her part.

That said, in my experience, the stairway scene is forward. For a girl. It’s unambiguous enough, even for me, or should be. She waits, knowing somehow exactly where he will be after school is out. She adopts a bold stance, planted at the foot of the stairs, unmistakably wanting him to go with her. This is preceded by her having smiled at him in his post-beating discomfort.

He and Ornshaw start to walk past. This is painful to me, because I told myself aloud when watching it that I’d have been the idiot who went with my friend and then kicked myself forever. In doing so, I’d have hurt her deeply and that would have been it, so forget the crush buddy. She says nothing, just gives him, them, looks. Ornshaw does all the the talking. Danny walks over to her. They start to walk away and eventually run as Ornshaw gets more and more distraught.

That’s it. Now they are an item. That was the extent of her aggression. She planted herself in the right place at the right time and didn’t make it easy for him to pass on the opportunity. That’s not aggressive! That’s smart. That’s helpful. That’s giving the guy some feedback for goodness sake.

I very nearly didn’t date at all. When I got married, I can’t say it was to someone I’d dated, because we met online and knew we planned to marry before we met in person. That may be what was required for that to be possible for me, ever. So perhaps my interpretation of what is aggressive or passive on the part of a girl is colored excessively by my traditional shyness and timidity. When I called my wife on the phone for the first time, she sounded so offputting when she answered, I almost hung up and ran away. Speaking of why so serious. That didn’t have to involve a serious expression. It involved a serious tone. I took it to be something akin to anger, or a mood with which I would not want to deal. It was an incredibly close thing. And that after she had done nothing but encourage me, right down to sparking the whole flirtation online.

Daphne wouldn’t date me and she was the one I pursued most aggressively. We hung out a lot and actually did things as friends, and eventually she allowed me to take her on “a date.” Which was weird as a result of it not being real. She humored me.

One of my Melody-like experiences, in college, was sort of a mutual stumbling together without real aggression by either of us, but Maddie was closer to that than most girls ever were, and essentially asked me on the first thing that passed for a date. Maybe writing “go away” directed at me on a page in her notebook in accounting class was a form of being forward.

Later in college, but associated with my job, Layla asked me out and was entirely in charge. I would never have noticed her, let alone anything else, even after we were chatting amiably when she’d come into the store. By comparison, a much prettier, blond haired young woman hinted at me and it went right over my head until an older guy I worked with pointed out that she had basically just asked me out and I was an idiot. And that was the only shot I would ever get.

After college I ended up being a wedding date with Vera, who worked with my sister. She asked me. I hung out with her some, but that was really the only thing that could be called a date. There was no spark.

Some 14 or 15 years later came the wife. Even in her case I could have wiggled away and it could have been nothing, but she was the most assertive. That was what it took. I was ready never to be married or have kids, or for that matter, a relationship worth the name. I had given up cold turkey on the serial crush addiction and was learning to be myself, alone. Which sounds like a funny way to put it, but in my head I had the prospect of not being alone, before then. I was learning to accept it wouldn’t be otherwise.

Actually, counter-example to the wife, same time. There was a girl I always called Donut Girl. She worked in a donut shop near my office. Apparently she’d had her eye on me, seeing me go in semi-regularly to buy a couple donuts and iced coffee. One day she jovially said the two donuts I always ordered, getting my attention. Butternut coconut! Is that being forward? She was adorable. Might have been even younger than the wife would be, but probably close. I was aware of her after that, but I was never able to pick up the ball and close the deal. Presumably I could totally have asked her out, given/received numbers, whatever it is people do. If she was being forward, and was really interested, well… she wasn’t forward enough. Is that better?

My wife, since we have had issues over time, has told me many times that I would have no problem finding someone. No. I haven’t changed. I am still nearly that shy and I still have no idea how people go about dating. Without that effort the other way, I’d remain pretty hopeless. Having been married hasn’t made me bolder, and hasn’t made me feel more appealing. It’s crazy.

Why So Serious?

This overlaps a post I haven’t written yet, and perhaps should simply be addressed there, but perhaps I can shorten both of them by discussing this separately.

I’ve been there. I have had a Melody, sort of. I stared. I stalked, though nobody knew it was called stalking back then. How things went with Daniel and Melody, and how it felt to him, actually combines three girls for me, in 4th grade, 9th grade, and college. Since I have always been behind others in social development, the college thing isn’t as absurd as it sounds, and I’m thinking of specific elements.

For purposes of this, though, I am mainly remembering Ella, in 9th grade.

I remember how vexed she was by my interest. How serious she always seemed to be. How slow she was to smile or look happy. Melody strikes me the same way, except for returning the interest sooner. Even when they are together, she is serious.

It’s easy for me to misinterpret, or was in the past, and to be super sensitive to a stern or serious looking expression that wasn’t obviously and openly friendly or receptive. It was also as if you were angry or rejecting, if you weren’t overtly the contrary. I see the nuance better in the movie.

Conversely, in years past, I would put people off by seeming to smiley, friendly or jovial. I’ve had people see interest where there was none, or derision where there was none.

There were times when there was seriousness or a strong reaction that didn’t have a payoff. In the headmaster’s office after they’d played hookie, Daniel announces they want to get married and she turns her head abruptly with a shocked look at him. To me it seemed like “we decided no such thing!” At first, anyway. Then I decided it might mean “why are you telling him that!”

Anyway, I have seen the serious looks, the confusion, the stonewalling look that is as yet undecided on what to do about this. I have seen the annoyance of “everyone wants me to like him but what about ME.” That last in particular when Ella’s mother gave me and my bike a ride in the back of their station wagon and dropped me closer to home that I would otherwise have had to ride from. I really made a pest of myself. In the end, I hurt her terribly, as I didn’t know what to do when she reciprocated. All I knew was how to have a crush and the idea of a relationship, whatever that might entail.

Tracy Hyde did an absolutely brilliant job of capturing being a girl of a certain age range in that position. Perhaps it was simply because she was a girl of that age range and knew how she’d act, but she could have been Ella.

Melody Links

I keep referring to this and that regarding the Melody movie, but I have been sparse with links. Even if I link in future posts or I retrofit with some of the links in context, I want to create a one stop place for some of them. It’ll help my own reference, too.

You can find multiple instances of the entire movie by searching Melody movie, but the picture and sound quality various, and sometimes they don’t synchronize. That, to me, is far worse than something like Spanish subtitles or having the video include the movie, then start again and show half of the movie after it’s over. That’s the best one I have found so far, until I can arrange to get the DVD, which is like pulling teeth and needs to wait until I can afford it anyway. So…

Melody movie (1971)

Incidentally, ignore all the nonsense about S.W.A.L.K. being the real/original title of the film. It was written, filmed and cast to be named Melody and the other thing was an unfortunate move by a distributor for some markets. Also ignore that some people, including the person who posted the above, refer to it as Melody Fair. That is the name of the Bee Gees song that was part of the inspiration for the story and name.

To Love Somebody, video right from the film.

Melody Fair, video right from the film, not the crispest picture.

First of May, compiled clips from the film, rather than the part of the film that uses the song. The song is interrupted by some of the most famous dialogue in Melody, then reprises, so it has to be adapted to be a straight music video for the song.

Melody BFI Panel Discussion - Right at the beginning is the part where we learn it was always Melody and how the alternative name happened.

The Making of Melody  - This has interesting stuff in it, including the difficulties of working with all the children and of complying with the law on children in films, and Tracy Hyde’s mother’s more sympathetic view of the law, discussion of Mark Lester’s education, and what it was all about.

Lame trailer for Melody  – I might not have gone to see it either, if I saw this trailer. Not sure if it’s original or if it was something done for a video release.

There’s all kids of other stuff. Variants of videos using the music, shorter clips of the film, looks at the locations as they appear now (video and still), reunion clips of Mark and Tracy, and so forth.

Melody and Religion

After getting hooked on the movie, I looked up the differences between US and UK schools. Remarking about them to my oldest yesterday, she proudly already knew, and refers to her grade level appropriately when communicating with British people. This isn’t the post on that topic, but I also noted that religion was incorporated into the schooling. This wasn’t just a fictional thing. In the making of Melody video, Mark Lester talks about his on set schooling (and they also talk with his tutor) and lists subjects he studies. One of them is scripture.

The headmaster is obviously a religious figure, whether that is normal or not, and the first class you see any of the kids in is one he teaches on religion. It’s meant to be, and is, very funny. It shows how frustrating the kids can be, how impotent or incompetent the teachers can be, and the mischievousness of some of the kids. It’s also one of the points in the movie where I could not make out some of the words, or heard them wrong. I couldn’t distinguish “matzos” and eventually saw what it was online, where someone else asked.

In my case, between the accent and the sound quality of the video, when he spoke in that class I heard “pick up thy beard and walk.” Every time. Since it was completely nonsensical, I actually looked it up and was able to determine it was bed: “pick up thy bed and walk.” Even I not only could gather the biblical context, but also was pretty sure I’d heard it before as a child. I got dragged to church with varying regularity until I rebelled for good at 13. I still love the actual church. An ancestor was the first minister when it was built, my grandfather was sextant and a lay speaker, and the building is striking. I used to help clean it, and mowed the lawn when it had one, and felt reverent toward it. Had crushes on a couple of the girls there, too. One of those let me in free to see ET when she saw me in line for the movie when she worked at the theater years later.

I don’t know if religion is a universal subject in British schools, but both religion and education can be tools of government control of or influence on the population, so putting the two together would make sense from that perspective.

Later there’s an “assembly.” Plot-wise, it is a chance to get Melody and Daniel in the same place at the same time, since they don’t spend time in the same classrooms except by accident, as when he fell in love with her. It helps cement that he is interested, and lets a bunch of the other kids in on what’s happening in the process. Another place where Ornshaw is instrumental. Plus it gives us the lovely picture of her, turned to look across the room, smiling at him, to show while he races and To Love Somebody plays. We don’t see the smile in the footage used in the actual scene. She just looks serious.

In the assembly, the teachers all gather up on the platform in front and the headmaster starts calling kids up for the sorting hat. Wait, wrong movie! And no, that’s not a young Ron Weasley we see ever so briefly at the dance, but it sure could be. The headmaster, once he has silence, has them open their hymnals to a hymn number he can’t remember without his glasses, and starts leading them in song in his lovely voice. James Cossins vies with Roy Kinnear for my favorite adult actor of the film. His name always makes me think of Jamie Cousins, though. She was a girl in my grade. Never knew her, but a friend, more of a friend of a friend who was part of the proverbial gang, had a huge crush on her.

I finally got around to looking up the hymn they sing. I may well have heard it in church in my youth, but I’d never remember that. I’d caught enough of the words, even beyond the first three in triplicate, to find it easily. The song is Holy, Holy, Holy. Logically enough. It’s about the trinity, thus the triplicate holy.

Turns out it’s used for Trinity Sunday. What the heck is that? Now I know that’s the first Sunday after Pentecost. But what the heck is that? That’s the fiftieth day after the resurrection. It’s observed seven weeks after Easter, so it also moves, and that means Trinity Sunday moves.

All of which goes back to my looking at the timeline of the film. Not that the hymn couldn’t be used any time of the year, and not that the assembly is on a Sunday, but given the time of year the film obviously occurs, they would have to be near Trinity Sunday at the time. In 1970, the year Melody was Filmed, Trinity Sunday was May 23. In 1971, the year of release, it was June 6.

I previously surmised the assembly to have been on a Thursday. I might have expected it to be a Friday or Monday, if adhering to a weekday near the Sunday being observed, but this might all be nothing. It could simply be that they periodically have whole school or whole grade level assemblies that incorporate religion and/or other purposes. Still, the film is basically May/June. That’s when a lot of filming fell, when they are in the school year, etc. Someone could have been thinking it through in that much detail, or it could simply have been a famous and somewhat catchy hymn to employ. Given that nothing seems accidental in this film, though I might question some details or have done them differently, I lean toward it being intentional.

The only other things we see of religion are Daniel’s parents and their friends making fun of the devout, at least the Catholic ones, and Ornshaw stumbling over and skipping the finer details of the marriage rites in a prayer book.

Feeling for Mr. Perkins

I’m not sure I’m completely clear or settled on it yet, but as a father, I felt for Mr. Perkins – and the other adults in the family – when Melody melts down over being unable to marry Daniel immediately at the age of 11. We never see Daniel’s parents aware of it, or having met her, which is itself fascinating. I could also comment about his mother’s reaction later. But this is me, as the loving dad to Melody, perhaps with my own perspective from a later time, as well as from having had the potential to be a Daniel.

First, we don’t see what precedes the bit of conversation, or what follows. We go from Melody having her head on Daniel’s shoulder while he talks intently to her, sitting in the cemetery in the rain after the rough day that followed the perfect day, to her being home, Mom toweling her wet hair as she sits at the table.

It suits the needs of the story for the parents to be at a loss, so my take might derail events yet to unfold.

As explored in Moonrise Kingdom, which I have researched but not yet seen, sometimes it’s about the ritual. Even I might not have considered that until I saw it explained. Moonrise Kingdom was inspired in part by, and has parallels to, Melody, but is more modern.

I would want to acknowledge the feelings they have for each other. I would try to give an idea of what marriage is about, what it exists for as an institution, even if I didn’t want to go into a sex education lesson of at least the level, and maybe more, than a kid that age ought to have any time now.

I would point out that she can spend time with Daniel, as she has been, without being married. People do that before marrying, sometimes for many years. Even if you’re sure, you can simply be dating until you are of age.

I would point out that there is a legal age, which they are and were under, so no marriage could happen that would be legally binding. It would be a ceremony and might have meaning to them, but they would have to do it for real later.

Because marriage is in part an economic unit, and for the stable raising of children as well as mutual support, and only in part an extension of romance, it doesn’t really fit while you are yet a dependent child of the marriage your parents are in. It assumes you are adult in ways that have nothing to do with sex.

As old as the kids seem in the movie, which is as old as kids around me seemed when I was that age, they are still kids. Melody’s plaintive meltdown shows that. It’s out of character compared to Melody’s assertive enticing of Daniel away from Ornshaw, but the film shows a whole gamut like that.

Personally, I would have allowed, even encouraged, them to continue seeing each other and given them a chance to drift apart or else come of age together. With the free range nature of things then and there, you could hardly stop them from spending all their time after school together anyway.

The trick would be gently talking her – them – off the ledge of obsession with marriage as the only answer to the intensity of what they feel. Daniel hits on an important point when he yells at the headmaster that morning. They are young, not stupid. That has always been a guiding principle with our kids. They may lack knowledge or experience, or lose control of emotions more easily than they might later, but they are not stupid.

Storytelling

One of the things I wanted to write about in regard to Melody and myself involves the skill involved in the storytelling – the presentation and progression involved in showing what needs to be shown, without starving or overfeeding the audience. We get a wonderful, thought provoking, moving story without being left short and wanting more, beyond a modicum of curiosity or blanks we might like but needn’t have filled. Much is shown, not stated in dialog, enhanced with setting sequences to songs. I was sure this would be a huge post, so I have hesitated to start. Perhaps I can start, get as far as I get, then complete the thoughts in subsequent post(s) if needed.

I started writing a book a couple years ago, finally bringing together some ideas and things niggling at my mind for many years as to setting and such. I ended up drifting away from it, partly because I got busier, partly because writing is hard, and partly because loss of focus, direction, or inspiration can derail you for a time or a lifetime. Melody, specifically the way the story was presented, has helped inspire me. Along with that, I’ve had some additional ideas, and may be ready to try again. As I wrote, it was already visual and film-like, to me. Not hard, being inspired by my childhood, where I grew up, and my kids.

Needless to say, anything that goes into this kind of detail about the movie will spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

First, the setting is established while a Bee Gees song that had been unfamiliar to me plays. Completely suitable, though, since it talks about morning, ends in evening, and how it’s the morning of his life. It is the morning of the lives of the children involved, and the introductory song seems to touch on a dreamy relationship at the end of the song. It has a childlike innocence and magic, and urges patience. This fits with details much later in the film, but could have helped inspire it:

building castles in the shifting sands
in a world that no one understands

I probably had heard and dismissed the song years ago, but I love it now. It means so much.

You see the area where to story will take place from the air, and then you meet Daniel and Ornshaw as they participate in Boy’s Brigade. Ornshaw first, in fact, then Daniel held up as a comparison. We get an idea that Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and snobby. We get an idea of Ornshaw’s situation and see Daniel’s home life. Even his father makes fun of his mother’s antics.

Daniel seems sweet and innocent, but lights his father’s newspaper on fire by way of acting out. The song we hear playing on the radio is the same one the kids will dance to days later, a nice touch.

Then we meet Melody, the title character, to instrumental strains of her theme song, as the rag man arrives out front and she looks wistfully at what’s in his cart for trade. This introductory part does the job of portraying a more childlike side she is perhaps already losing. It also, in a more subtle way than Danny’s acting out, shows the anarchic nature of children when she takes clothing from the house to trade for things.

Back with Daniel, we learn he is talented at painting, but his mother objects to his moving to painting nudes and having something that someone gave him at school to show what they look like, She subtly destroys his painting and diverts him with the model rocket his father had broken, while she takes the material showing topless women. Thus we learn he’s good at painting and building models, and cement that she’s a lousy parent, not very nice at heart.

Back to Melody, we establish that she plays the recorder, which she’s doing in the bathroom to her mother’s annoyance. It appears that her mother and grandmother might not know she had traded clothing for a goldfish. The pinwheel is a symbolic connection to childhood. Sent to find her dad at the pub and get money for ice cream (we never see ice cream until she is with Daniel at the seaside, intentional resonance or not), she takes her newly acquired goldfish for a walk. During this part, Melody Fair by the Bee Gees plays, and it’s essentially a music video for the song. She doesn’t go find her father at first, but lets the fish go for a swim in a metropolitan water trough, still in the same spot at Lambeth and Kensington Roads almost fifty years later, but as a planter.

After catching the fish back into its jar, she heads to the pub, which is also still there. She looks through the windows, and into the door as an entering customer holds it open, but waits outside, looking worried. I had the impression kids weren’t allowed in. Her dad steps out, drink in hand, no indication how he ever knew she was there. we see her show the fish and presumably explain her mission, and he gives her money and tousles her head. She may make fun of him spending all his time in the pub later, and may glare at him repeatedly as only a girl that age can, but they obviously adore each other. She walks off. We segue into a scene of mayhem as kids race through an overgrown cemetery to school.

The initial introduction of the main two characters, and to a lesser extent the tertiary main character, are basically complete and now we set the stage with the school and surroundings that will play a big role. There’s an extended crowd scene of kids doing as much mischief as they can manage on the way to class. We meet the headmaster and get a humorous introduction to both the lame instruction and the challenge the kids can be.

That segues into kids going to morning recess, or break. The play games, fight, hang out and talk, one of them smokes, and we get to meet some of the supporting cast of friends. We see Melody in the context of a big group of friends, including the one who has kissed boys and is most advanced. Very much 5th grade as would have been familiar to me in 1971/1972. All the girls laugh when Muriel says she never used to kiss boys because she thought kissing would bring babies.

We move to history class with Daniel and Ornshaw, with more humor about the teaching. Ornshaw asks a valid question, showing how smart he actually is, but gets treated as cheeky and stupid.

After school, some boys go out by railroad tracks while one of them tries his latest attempt at a homemade explosive. Daniel follows. He’s apparently new and has no friends in the school yet. They tell him to go away, but Ornshaw defends him and he joins in. Bomb is a dud and they go to the bus stop. First bus leaves without most of the kids, then Ornshaw and Daniel establish their friendship by going out on the town, to Trafalgar Square, running around and goofing off to Give Your Best to Your Friends. This parallels a similar, later sequence when he is with Melody.

When Ornshaw needs to get home, Daniel freaks him out by getting a taxi, because money. This is one of many ways in which class distinctions are established.

We find that Ornshaw takes care of his grandfather and will have hell to pay if he doesn’t get home now. Daniel volunteers his mother to come help them out, as she does social welfare volunteer work.

That ends the beginning part of the film, where the basics are established. Melody and Daniel haven’t met yet. Daniel and Ornshaw had immediately become besties. This makes Melody displacing Ornshaw possible, because it will put Melody into Daniel’s life. At least, sooner rather than later. Same school, same year, they could have met eventually.

Now, my story started with minimal setup, then action, of sorts. That could work, but now I am thinking that maybe the kids should be better introduced. In writing it can be explained, but if it were on screen, there would have to be establishing scenes that show in a wider way where they are, who they are, why they are there, and how they reach the scenario where the action starts. I figured out how I can make this happen and give what comes next a more logical basis to boot. Since I was thinking about the story and the pacing as a result of this, I also solidified how to deal with one of my concerns about the later sequences. For that matter, they are not the only character and scenario to be introduced. That one was actually going to have more of an introduction, but I see how I can improve it, and perhaps that will unstick me on that part. I hadn’t even been able to begin writing it, and had written the character starting from the point where he meets the other three.

This observation is more about the storytelling subsequently in the film, but I was struck by the use of vignettes separated in time, sometimes ambiguously so, and by what was left out because every little thing need not be told or shown. It might not affect my writing, but I also observed just how much can be conveyed by minimal action. Tiny bits of dialog. Expressions, looks. Tracy Hyde was a master of that. It’s a wonder she didn’t have more of an acting career, but perhaps that’s a reflection of how poorly Melody did at the box office, and how long it languished before getting a DVD release in 2010.

I may break down the rest of the story later. I also need to talk about my Melody-like experiences, and about the mechanics of production. Having been there for one long day of shooting footage with a bunch of kids, I can imagine how grueling it was. All the more so after hearing the description of the whole day of shooting it took just for the obnoxious dinner party, and the large number of takes it took of the scene in the headmaster’s office, where the director thought he’d never get Mark Lester riled up enough to express Daniel’s anger.

Roy Kinnear

I found myself watching Melody and thinking Mr. Perkins, whose name we learn in passing is Richard when Daniel is at tea, seemed super familiar. I looked him up and sure enough! He was Mr. Salt, whose name we learn in passing is Henry, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Two great 1971 releases!

Thinking about it just now, how much does Peter Ostrum/Charlie remind you of Mark Lester/Daniel?

It’s a shame Roy Kinnear died so young, at 54 in 1988. He was 36 when filming Melody. To me he looks perhaps a bit older, but that might be hair and demeanor. He may be my favorite adult in the film, drinking problem or not. Perhaps I could relate, having not so long ago had daughters that age, and having a son basically that age. The times are different, as is the place, but when he was talking to a hysterical Melody about being unable to marry Daniel, I could see myself in those shoes. I’d meant this observation, and how I’d have handled it, to be a different post. Indeed, this was supposed to be about having noticed who he was and having been tickled by him in both roles.

Update:

I later learned from a good transcript and a replay to listen and watch lips to confirm it that Mr. Perkins is named Reg, not Rich. Presumably short for Reginald.