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 24. 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.