Melody Timeline

This may be too ambitious. I may need to save a draft and come back, but hey.

As I may have touched on lightly before, I am intrigued by the timeline of the events that are and are not depicted in the film Melody. Not like I haven’t spoiled away without mentioning it before, but this is going to cover pretty much the entire film’s events. You can watch it free on YouTube, in some quality. I am going to get the DVD when and if I can manage it. I expect that to be a revelation, between the sound and picture quality and the viewing size.

First the three main characters are introduced. It isn’t a school day, which suggests perhaps a Saturday. I have other things to say about this sequence, but that’s a whole post.

It’s clearly not winter, or even the near outskirts of winter, even such as it might be in London, at any time. We are not seeing an entire school year, nor are we seeing the beginning of the school year. The kids in their level are clearly established and comfortable in their school. My understanding of the education system there would make it their first year in that school, with the first five years, equivalent to kindergarten through 4th grade, having been elsewhere.

The film having been written around First of May by the Bee Gees suggests that we could interpret the timing in general to have been around that part of the year, with the first itself maybe having been a significant date. I’d propose it to be the date they hung out after school and she took him home for tea, or else the date he fell in love with her when seeing her in dance class.

We have the introduction, which sparks the friendship with Ornshaw and gives us an idea what the three of them are like.

Then there’s a day when Daniel and Ornshaw hang out after school and we learn more about everyone, between that and scenes in school. Interestingly, we see that up until that afternoon, Daniel really isn’t in with, buddies with, the other boys in the school, almost as if he’s a newcomer.

The third day depicted is when Daniel sees and falls in love with Melody, then follows her after school, and finally shows up at Ornshaw’s humble abode to help with housekeeping.

Next day depicted we see an assembly. Ornshaw creates a whisper brigade when he sees Daniel staring at Melody, resulting in her looking back.

The following scene could be the same day, or a different one. I choose to call it a different day. Daniel drags his cello to the music room, finds her waiting to have a lesson or whatever, and plays a duet with her on recorder after her friend Rhoda gets called in by the teacher.

Still on the same day, in the evening, we see Daniel suffering a dinner party with his parents and their friends. We see Melody watching TV while eating dinner with her mother and grandmother. It turns out she forgot to pick up her pink dress at the cleaners. She blames it on the man in the raincoat at the cemetery, leading to an exchange in which we see that she is a smart-ass, and that she obviously likes Daniel a lot. We never see a scene like even a more subdued view of what she leads them on with, and it may or may not be based on anything at all.

Next day, the lunch scene. After he’s done reminding us he played Oliver, Daniel tries to sit with Melody in the cafeteria. She doesn’t say no, but just says her friend Maureen usually sits there. It’s possible she might have made room, but Ornshaw retrieves him and lots of kids laugh. She stares a little at Daniel across the room afterward, and makes a rude face at Ornshaw.

Then there’s a monthly dance. This strikes me as a Saturday thing, or a Friday thing. Kids have come to it in street clothes, rather than what they’d be expected to wear to school. It can’t be the same day as the lunch scene. She’s dancing enticingly. Daniel is hanging with Ornshaw and a bunch of other boys, mostly making fun of the dance. Daniel gets Ornshaw to go out on the floor and offer to dance with Melody’s friend Peggy while he dances with Melody, if they’re willing. It’s going great until Peggy revolts, insults Ornshaw’s dancing, and he kicks her. Afterward, still daytime, the boys gather to see the latest homemade explosive tested. Melody puts on makeup in the bathroom until her mother calls her for tea and she wipes it off, looking alarmed and sad.

The next scene is athletics day, what we might call field day in my neck of the woods. And if that works the same, it’s right at the end of the school year, in the last weeks, if not days. I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the possible timing before. This is when they make unimaginably perfect use of the song To Love Somebody.

This segues into a new school day in which Daniel and Ornshaw get in trouble with the Latin teacher and have to go after school for a paddling. Afterward, Melody is waiting and despite her not saying a word and Ornshaw’s best efforts, Daniel goes with her. Cue the song that is their theme: First of May. This is the big day when they are officially together, such as it is at 11. They hang out all afternoon. She points out that if he’s been going around telling everyone he loves her, why not tell her. Then she reads a gravestone where the wife died after 50 years of happy marriage, and the husband followed her after only 2 months. This becomes perhaps the most famous dialog of the film. She asks if he’ll love her that long. He says yes. She doubts. He says “I’ve loved you for a whole week already, haven’t i?” They smile about it. They go to her flat. She opens the door, steps in, and when he hesitates, she pulls her in by his school tie. Too funny! They have tea with her family and she glares at her father a lot, as only a girl around that age can.

The “loved you a week already line” is a clue that it’s been a week since the day he fell, which definitely means my thinking later about two things being the same day would be right.

The state of vegetation at this point, visible particularly in the cemetery, would indicate it’s pretty late in spring or getting into summer. British school goes much longer than in the US, so near the end of the school year would actually be in July. That would make this not May 1st, and would mean substantial time had already passed if the meet cute happened on May 1st. Probably that’s a red herring, an artifact of the song used in and toward the concept for the movie. Conversely, filming could simply have gone on long enough for me to think it’s later in the year than is being depicted. We know filming was taking place in and around May 1970, since Tracy Hyde turned 11 on the set in May. I don’t know when it started or just how long it took. They used the large number of child extras for mob scenes early and then moved on to scenes with fewer people.

The next day that is shown is the day the two of them skip school and go to the amusement park and seaside on a train. There is no way they planned that and did it the very next day. I just don’t buy it. Sure, it’s possible, but they’d effectively just gotten together. There’s a clue later that there are days of life before that we don’t see because you don’t show every detail of everything on film.

The next day, beyond a doubt the actual next day, is when they face the headmaster’s wrath for skipping school. Now, they tell him they want to get married. Well, Daniel does, and she looks startled. Somehow, when the each get to class, the classmates know or extrapolate their desire to marry. They have a very bad day. This leads to the famously heartbreaking scene of them sitting in the cemetery in the rain, her head on his shoulders, him holding his satchel over their heads to try to keep some of the rain off. That day ends with her sad, frustrated parents not doing a good job with why she can’t get married and what maybe should actually happen next. Her father makes it clear that Daniel has come home for tea with her a number of times, and they really like him. That points to some number of days and amount of time spent hanging out together that we don’t see on screen. Daniel is in bed, fidgeting thoughtfully. I have to write about the differences between the respective parents and families sometime.

Finally, the last day shown also seems like one that might not have been planned until later, so might not be the very next day. All the more so because of the reaction the classmates initially had toward them wanting to be married. Now the classmates are helping, even if some are still amused or think it’s a lark. It seems like the rebellion had to have taken some planning. However, this might have been possible earlier in the school day and during break, since the kids actually left school during morning break and didn’t return. I am inclined to place this the very next day, but would believe it if I were told it was later.

So how many days were we shown? Let’s see…

We are shown 12 days for sure, if I counted right scrolling through the above, and we can add in a pair of Sundays, for 14 days.

If they go consecutively to that point, Friday is the duet, unless it’s on the same day as the assembly. It could be. She and Rhoda seem like they might be talking about Daniel staring at her. If that’s Friday, we skip a weekend until the next school day, and the lunch scene can’t be until Monday. If not, lunch scene could be Friday. If we’re going for the most compact timeline possible, that’s Friday and the dance is Saturday, so something happened 6 days that week, 1 day the prior week, and we’ve covered two Sundays.

That makes athletics day the Monday after the dance. I am taking that to be a standalone day, devoted to that stuff.

Tuesday would be the big day when they get together officially and have tea with her family. We are shown him going to tea then. It is implied by her father that he went to tea some number of times afterward. That’s the black box. All that came before could be back to back, but there’s the implication that there’s a gap before the next day we are shown, or her father phrases poorly. Since he fumbles for words in other ways, that’s possible. Daniel having loved her a week already, if he’s being exact, measures from the Tuesday before, which would indeed have been the day it happened. That’s a straight shot of consecutive days, and makes sense to me based on the extent to which I have been there in my youth.

On some subsequent day, not likely the next one, the kids skip school for the seaside. If it’s consecutive, then it’s Wednesday., day 12. Definitely the next day after that is the bad day of fallout, day 13, a Thursday. If it’s all consecutive, without those extra days of the relationship building and taking him home for tea, the final day is Friday, day 14. If I figured it right.

I’m figuring life happens, and it needed some build to get from the establishment of the relationship to the day at the seaside, so it could have been as long as weeks before then, but afterward the whole thing wraps quickly. The timeframe from meeting the characters to the end is probably not much more than a month, even if it’s more than 14 days.

All of this really makes me want to post a commentary about the parents. It’s late for bed, so not now. I thought this would be quicker, but I got too descriptive. There was a reason for the blog name, way back in the day. I’ll have to review this tomorrow and edit if I typed anything wrong or goofed in other ways.

Magic Ponytail

Yes, Melody again. I have things to say about what I call the “meet cute” scene, but I just watched closely enough to be sure the filming goof I that had left me confused before was indeed a goof.

I’ll cover the thoughts and feels, too. That is exactly how it happens. As much as other scenes and uses of songs grabbed me, this scene was the epitome of being young and falling in love “at first sight” with a young lady. Maybe she’s been in your school and maybe you’ve seen her before, or maybe not, but then it hits you. The world stops and there is nothing else.

Daniel’s friend Ornshaw grabs Daniel and another boy as they are about to head up another flight of stairs, pulling them to the window of a door to a room where dance instruction of some girls is happening. Ornshaw is facially jeering and laughing at the girls, and perhaps the adults, and gets the others in on it, if not as derisively. Daniel is as fascinated as amused in the first place, then he sees her. Musical notes of their theme, First of May, slow and wistful, can be heard. Melody is dancing, tossing her hair as she spins and looks upward in slo-mo, somewhere beyond fetching.

Now he has only eyes for her, and he certainly isn’t laughing. Then there a bang, Ornshaw looks startled, and the teacher opens the door to pull them in and punish them by making them dance ballet along with the girls.

Daniel actually makes an effort, trying to keep his eyes on Melody the whole time. She notices and smiles at him twice. The next scene is after school, all the kids thundering out the doors and taking off for whatever they get up to on the run home, while he ducks aside to a drinking fountain to watch for her to come out the door. Then he follows, gets caught watching her and some friends gathered in the overgrown cemetery, and heads away while her friends laugh and she looks thoughtful. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One resonance for me is that there’s a dance connection with my first crush from fourth grade. To be visited later, but aspects of Daniel and Melody remind me of aspects of that first crush, my second really major crush, the most significant one of high school, in ninth grade, and a girl from my second year of college, eight years later.

Back to the movie goof. We see melody with completely loose hair as he sees and falls in love with her. (This is a key point when I look at the timetable of the film events.) Then we see her with her hair tied back in a ponytail, with a blue ribbon or bow. Depending on shot or angle, she is back and forth from being one way or the other and ends up mostly in the ponytail. This is a filming discontinuity, where she was one way for some takes and the other way for other takes. They were put together without concern for the difference. Not important, but I noticed.

I just love that part. I love lots of parts. It’s the initial turning point in the relationship between Ornshaw and Daniel, highlighted in the earlier part of the film. Ornshaw triggers the fact that a girl would come between them, yet continues to facilitate.

Melody Remake

Melody is definitely a product of its time. One of the topics that came up in the BFI roundtable video was someone wanting to do a remake. The director and writer didn’t understand how that would be possible, on the one hand, and on the other hand described Moonrise Kingdom, partly inspired by Melody, as a remake. That movie is one I’ve never seen, that never pinged my radar, but that I’d now like to see. It appears to be funnier and perhaps less adorably innocent, while leaning that way.

But a remake? A new Melody? Hard to imagine. An exact analog? Just about as hard to imagine. You might have to do it as a time travel movie to capture anything like it, or as a memory/dream of the past. I could totally see either of those kinds of scenarios. Peggy Sue Got Married, but with a childhood crush. Since mine all went wrong, I could imagine making one go right, or giving it a better shot. But if you go back and are the youngster, knowing what you know, you’re not exactly innocent. Maybe you go back as a friend or classmate and exert influence.

You know what I wouldn’t mind? A book version. Not sure it’d sell, but the film leaves me wanting more detail, to know more about what they are thinking and feeling, and about their families and situations. I’d been thinking to post about the timeline of the movie, what happens when, how much time passes between scenes/events, and how much time the whole thing covers. Maybe I’ll launch right into that, now it’s on my mind. I am normally a reader of SF and fantasy, though I’ve been known to read almost anything. What would you call it? Fictional biography? Young adult romance? Juvenile romance? Emphasize the school aspect, the other kids and the revolt, and call it something else?

Yeah, I don’t think a remake seems like a good or viable idea. A direct one would be a period piece, but the past is a foreign country and it’s hard to capture the scenery or the feel with modern locations. A book? I’d read a book that was the exact story, expanded. Heck, I’d read the script it was made from, and watch any deleted scenes. It’s a shame it was made in pre-VHS days, let alone pre-DVD days. Few people even had cable TV then. If Melody appeared now and had mediocre box office, it’d be out on DVD shortly, complete with deleted scenes, interviews, etc. It’s amazing we have the 17 minutes of “making of” footage we do on YouTube.

Melody Ending Again

Revisiting my discussion of the ending of Melody from the prior post, Discovering Melody, after seeing a video of a BFI roundtable discussion that included Waris Hussein, Alan Parker, Mark Lester, and Sheila Steafel. Also contributing is a rewatch of a “making of” video from the time when it was filming, in which they talk to some of the cast and crew, and show small bits being filmed and directed.

One of the themes being explored was the anarchic nature of children. The ending seemed a bit extreme, but it had been brewing through the film. The teachers were depicted as being lousy, and the kids were increasingly rebellious until the proverbial explosion. Since Daniel and Melody could be considered “good kids,” it was funny that they were at the center of it, or the spark for it, in the end, but hey. Both of them are also shown being kids and being random, naughty, rebellious, or wise asses. Lighting his father’s newspaper on fire always struck me as completely out of character for Daniel, but that’s funny because it was still the establishing scenes of the movie and we didn’t know him that well yet. His father made me think of Mike Brady. Looking at IMDB, I can see why. They were also just two years apart, so of an age at the time.

The director or writer also referred to Melody and Danial “running away.” I wondered if they meant that was what the two were doing at the end, or if they meant the day playing hookie to the seaside and amusement park.

Notwithstanding that they might be trying to run away, they’d still end up home and back in school. While it’s clearly late in the school year at that point, it clearly wasn’t the final day.

On another note, before it’s off to work, in the other post I noted that the ages of Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde were the same. She turned 11 during filming, in May 1970. He was actually a year older, turning 12 in July, probably after filming was done. So they were both “11″ during at least part of the shoot, but the ten month difference would explain why they seem so identical in apparent maturity. If that makes sense. Girls tend to be ahead, so it made it seem more likely they’d latch onto each other. Plus his character was artistic and thoughtful, all the more reason his impish behavior to his father seemed odd. But there will be more on the families and such in a different post. Hard not to overlap the topics, but if I wrote it all in one, I’d forget things even more than I do already, and it would be way too long even b y my standards.

Update:
I realized later that the song used during the end rebellion is a big tie-in to the idea that the teachers are lousy and the rebellion has been simmering as a result. It’s the major song included that’s not by the Bee Gees: Teach Your Children by CSNY. I always loved that song. Looking at Wikipedia, it gets better, given the homemade grenade used at the end:

Nash, who is also a photographer and collector of photographs, has stated in an interview that the immediate inspiration for the song came from a famous photograph by Diane Arbus, “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park.”

 

Discovering Melody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thought: Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s definitely a fictional ending, because consequences.

Backpacks

I was thinking about backpacks just the other day. My three kids all had to have them to start kindergarten. It’s required. I already knew that they were pretty much ubiquitous these days, but…

I was in school until 1979, and never once had a backpack. Not even in high school. Nor did other people, at least not enough for me to notice. Books and such were carried in your arms. It was awkward, inconvenient, even sometimes painful, but at least during school there were lockers, and generally not everything had to come home overnight. Yet I am no sure how we managed without them.

College was different. While I didn’t start college until 1982, they’d long been a given in that environment. I may not have known that until contemporaries started college in 1978 and 1979, but by the time it was my turn, I knew to head to the store and spend $30 (in 1982 dollars! For one far less good than my kids have for much less!) in anticipation of the backbreaking load of books I would have to cart around.

Funny how that works, seeing the same topic addressed right after I’ve pondered it myself.

Speaking of the Bus Stop

The three kids are in consecutive grades, with the youngest now in kindergarten For the prior two years, the only people designated for the bus stop on this street were in this building, so we were able to get the bus immediately across the street. That was handy for being able to wait on the porch in weather, and for not having to walk any distance or be out sooner rather than later. It was a bit surprising to hit this year and discover that there were 5-6 other kindergarten kids on our street and around the corner.

Anyway,on top of what she said, there is also the matter of smoking. These parents who are so apparently helicoptery to their precious little kindergarteners (and older siblings), walking them right to the bus door for a long good-bye (and panicking because the older ones have to walk the half mile to the elementary school… can’t have free range kid practice in this dreadfully dangerous semi-rural town donchaknow), most of them smoke. Around their kids and around other people. At the bus stop. I found myself trying not to cough from it yesterday and thinking that I’d be an asshole to complain, because I hate to be That Person. It’s outdoors, after all. At the same time, my heart sank, imagining this Alll Year Long.

At least it’s transient, not like having someone on the first floor smoking all winter when the first and second floor apartments irreparably share air space. Still… Ugh.