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.

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.

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.

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.