Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Month: August 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Quotes with Page Numbers – Truman Capote’s Experiences of New York City

Truman Capote has a simple but powerful way of talking about the places where he has lived, and the book and movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an example of the author’s ability to do just that. Unfortunately, too many people only know of the Truman Capote who wrote In Cold Blood, but I would almost venture to say that the author’s book about the brutal killings in Kansas is totally unlike him.

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I would venture to say that Capote is more a man of The Grass Harp, which is a play that is set in two acts:

“Set on the outskirts of a small Southern town, The Grass Harp tells the story of three endearing misfits—an orphaned boy and two whimsical old ladies—who one day take up residence in a tree house. As they pass sweet yet hazardous hours in a china tree, The Grass Harp manages to convey all the pleasures and responsibilities of freedom. But most of all it teaches us about the sacredness of love, “that love is a chain of love, as nature is a chain of life.”

“This volume also includes Capote’s A Tree of Night and Other Stories, which the Washington Post called “unobtrusively beautiful . . . a superlative book.” Amazon

Truman Capote is also the man of A Christmas Memory:

“First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection from Truman Capote (In Cold BloodBreakfast at Tiffany’s) about his rural Alabama boyhood is a perfect gift for Capote’s fans young and old.

“Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: “It’s fruitcake weather!” Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship and the memories the two friends share of beloved holiday rituals. ” Amazon

[By the way, if you buy the correct volume of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, A Christmas Memory is included in the volume].

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Truman Capote is also the man behind The Thanksgiving Visitor:

“A Christmas Memory,” “One Christmas,” and “A Thanksgiving Memory.” All three stories are distinguished by Capote’s delicate interplay of childhood sensibility and recollective vision.

“Available for the first time in a single volume are the three holiday stories that Truman Capote regarded as among his greatest works of short fiction. Two of these childhood memoirs – “A Christmas Memory” and “The Thanksgiving Visitor” – center on the author’s early years with a family of distant relatives in rural Alabama. Both pay loving tribute to an eccentric old-maid cousin, Miss Sook Faulk, who became his best friend. In “A Christmas Memory”, Miss Sook, Buddy (the narrator), and their dog, Queenie, celebrate the yuletide in a hilariously tipsy state. In the poignant reminiscence “One Christmas”, six-year-old Buddy journeys to New Orleans for a reunion with his estranged father that shatters many illusions. And in “The Thanksgiving Visitor”, Miss Sook invites the school bully, Odd Henderson – called by Buddy “the meanest human creature in my experience” – to Thanksgiving dinner.” Amazon

In the same way that some of the best of Capote shares memories of his childhood homes, Breakfast at Tiffany’s captures Manhattan in New York City, which was also Capote’s home for a while. Audrey Hepburn was the perfect person to capture the quiet hominess of Capote’s writing style.

At times, a movie may not be absolutely true to an author’s intent and may, indeed shoot beyond where the author was headed. Truman Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly Golightly in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the book, Capote describes Holly as having albino blonde hair. I read the book after I watched the movie, and I am glad that I did. I was stunned to read that Holly Golightly was supposed to have blonde hair. In my opinion, Audrey Hepburn is the quintessential Holly Golightly, and in my opinion, the movie would have been less effective with Marilyn Monroe. The Audrey Hepburn-Truman Capote match is perfect for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes. It was a face beyond childhood…. I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty, as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.” p. 12

“She was never without dark glasses, she was always well-groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes….One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress….” p. 14

“I discovered, from observing the trash-basket outside her door, that her regular reading consisted of tabloids and travel folders and astrological charts; that she smoked an esoteric cigarette called Picayunes; survived on cottage cheese and melba toast….” p. 15

“Also she had a cat and she played the guitar.

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“On days when the sun was strong, she would wash her hair, and together with the cat, a red-striped tom, sit out on the fire escape thumbing a guitar while her hair dried.” p. 16.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a movie that was released in 1961. It is based on Truman Capote’s novella by the same name.

[Most of us know that Audrey Hepburn made fashion history in the black dress and sunglasses that she wore in the film. Like most people, I have long associated the fashion staple the little black dress with Audrey Hepburn and the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and when I as a child, I memorized the theme song “Moon River” and learned to play it on several instruments. In many ways, I grew up with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I could have sworn that I had seen the movie before, but until recently, I had not.  I decided that I needed to correct that mistake, and I am glad that I did.]

[“The song ‘Moon River’ was written especially for Audrey Hepburn, since she had no training as a singer. The vocals were written to be sung in only one octave. The famous black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the opening scenes of this movie was sold for $807,000 on December 4, 2006 at Christie’s Auction House in London, making it the second most expensive piece of movie memorabilia ever sold.” Read More Here]

[“Tiffany’s flagship store (since 1940) is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City. The former Tiffany and Company Building on 38th Street is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The polished granite exterior is well known for its tiny window displays. The store has been the location for a number of films including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sweet Home Alabama and Sleepless In Seattle.” Read More Here]

As I said before, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is largely about the period when Manhattan was Capote’s home:

“I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods. For instance, there is a brownstone in the East Seventies where, during the early years of the war, I had my first New York apartment. It was one room crowded with attic furniture, a sofa and fat chairs upholstered in that itchy, particular red velvet that one associates with hot days on a train. The walls were stucco, and a color rather like tobacco-spit. …The single window looked out on a fire escape. Even so, my spirits heightened whenever I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its gloom, it still was a place of my own, the first, and my books were there, and jars of pencils to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be.

“It never occurred to me in those days to write about Holly Golightly….” – Truman Capote –Breakfast at Tiffany’s page 3

“Outside, the rain had stopped, there was only a mist of it in the air, so I turned the corner and walked along the street where the brownstone stands. It is a street with trees that in the summer make cool patterns on the pavement; but now the leaves were yellowed and mostly down, and the rain had made them slippery, they skidded underfoot. The brownstone is midway in the block, next to a church were the blue tower-clock tolls the hours.” Breakfast at Tiffany’s, p. 10

 

In 1961, I was 11-years-old, and I was growing up in rural Southeast Missouri–which is a world away from New York City. I did not visit New York City until 2010, and in an odd way, I am glad that I did not watch Breakfast at TIffany’s until after I had become familiar with the Big Apple. My current home is very close to New York, and I visit the city often. As the film opens, a cab makes its way from Tiffany’s to Holly’s apartment, and it follows a route along what has become my favorite walkway in NYC. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was filmed over half a century ago, the New York City that it captures is very much the same now as it was then, and I loved seeing the NYC that is captured in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Central Park is one of my very favorite places, and part of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is filmed there.

Bandshell, Central Park (from 66th to 72nd Street) Manhattan

Conservatory Water, Central Park (from 72nd to 75th Street) Manhattan.

“That Monday in October, 1943. A beautiful day with the buoyancy of a bird. …

“We ate lunch at the cafeteria in the park Afterward, avoiding the zoo (Holly said she couldn’t bear to see anything in a cage)…. Leaves floated on the lake; on the shore, a park-man was fanning a bonfire of them, and the smoke, rising like Indian signals, was the  only smudge on the quivering air. Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring; which is how I felt sitting with Holly on the railings of the boathouse porch. I thought of the future, and spoke of the past. Because Holly wanted to know about my childhood. She talked of her own, too; but it was elusive, nameless, placeless, an impressionistic recital, though the impression received was contrary to what one expected, for she gave an almost voluptuous account of swimming and summer, Christmas trees, pretty cousins and parties: in short, happy in a way that she was not, and never, certainly, the background  of a child who had run away.” p. 51

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‘Passing a Woolworth’s, she gripped my arm: ‘Let’s steal something,’ she said, pulling me into the store, where at once there seemed  a pressure of eyes, as though we were already under suspicion. ‘Come on. Don’t be chicken.’ She scouted a counter piled with paper pumpkins and Halloween masks. … Holly picked up a mask and slipped it over her face; she chose another and put it on mine; then she took my hand and we walked away. It was as simple as that.

“Outside, we ran a few blocks, I  think to make it more dramatic….p. 52

“We wore the masks all the way home.” p. 53.

During the early part of the film, Cat is the only character who wasn’t wearing a mask. But the true monsters of the film are its rats, and the depth of the movie revolves around Holly’s discoveries about them.

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Holly’s goodbye letter from José:

“My dearest little girl, I have loved you knowing you were not as others. But conceive of my despair upon discovering in such a brutal and public style how very different you are from the manner of woman a man of my faith and career could hope to make his wife. … So I hope you will find it in your heart not to condemn me I have my family to protect, and my name, and I am a coward where those institutions enter. Forget me, beautiful child. I am no longer here I am gone home.” p. 94

“All right, he’s not a rat without reason. A super-sized King Kong-type rat like Rusty…. I did love him. The rat” p. 94

“All right — so he’s not a regular rat, or even a super rat. He’s just a scared little mouse. But — oh, golly, gee, damn!” Movie quote

Neither the book nor the movie are perfect. The book is plagued with politically incorrect references to “dykes” and “les negres,” and the movie suffers from some very weak scenes in which Mickey Rooney poorly plays a China Man. Those scenes are embarrassingly inappropriate now.

I’m glad that I stuck with the film through the rough patches, however, and into the relationship that develops between Hepburn and George Peppard. This relationship and Holly’s struggles with “the Reds” is the meat of the film.

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul Varjak: Sure.
Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!

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“Angst. But what do you do about it?”

“Well, a drink helps.”

“I’ve tried that. I’ve tried aspirin, too…

“What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s. It calms me down right away,  the quietness and the proud look of it: nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real-life place like Tiffany’s then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.” p. 38.

“Didn’t I tell you this was a lovely place?”

“Do they still really have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes?” “…Oh; yes.” “That’s nice to know… It gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing.”

[I don’t want to completely destroy the film for people who haven’t seen it yet, but the message lies within Holly Golightly’s attempts to deny what is and is not valuable in life. Because of the honest way that Capote created Holly Golighty, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is much more than Romantic Comedy [a genre that I usually detest]. For several minutes into the film, I thought that the movie was going to be silly, but by the end, I was in tears. Holly Golightly is a well-developed character. She is a hayseed who has escaped to New York City and who is caught in the fruitless snare of trying to play the part of someone that she can never be.]

“…the kid’s fifteen But stylish: she’s okay, she comes across. Even when she’s wearing glasses this thick; even when she opes her mouth and you don’t know if she’s a hillbilly or an Okie or what. I still don’t. My guess, nobody’ll ever know where she came from. She’s such a goddamn liar, maybe she don’t know herself any more. But it took us a year to smooth out that accent. How we did it finally, we gave her French lessons: after she could speak French, she could imitate English.” p. 30.

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“But Doc, I’m not fourteen anymore, and I’m not Lulamae. But the terrible part is (and I realized [p. 69] it while we were standing there) I am. I’m still stealing turkey eggs and running through a brier patch. Only now I call it having the mean reds” pgs 69-70.

“Never love a wild thing….That was Doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up…if you love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.

. . .

“…it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.” p 70

“No matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.” [movie[

If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s and several other related features free Here.

“She’s a phony. But she’s a real phony. You know why? Because she honestly believes all this phony junk that she believes.”

“Promise me one thing: don’t take me home until I’m drunk — very drunk indeed.”

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Holly Golightly’s relationship with Peppard develops slowly:

“For I was in love with her. Just as I’d once been in love with my mother’s elderly colored cook and a postman who let me follow him on his rounds and a whole family named McKendrick. That category of love generates jealousy, too.” p. 72

“Those final weeks, spanning end of summer and the beginning of another autumn, are blurred in memory, perhaps because our understanding of each other  had reached that sweet depth where two people communicate more often in silence than in words: an affectionate quietness replaces the tensions, the unrelaxed chatter and chasing about that produce a friendship’s more showy, more in the surface sense, dramatic moments. … we spent entire evenings together during which we exchanged less than a hundred words; once, we walked all the way to Chinatown [p. 79] … then moseyed across the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the bridge, as we watched seaward-moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline….

“So the days, the last days, blow about in memory, hazy, autumnal, all alike as leaves: until a day unlike any other I’ve lived.

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“The stables–I believe they have been replaced by television studios–were on West Sixty-sixth Street. Holly selected for me an old sway-back black and white mare: ‘Don’t worry, she’s safer than a cradle.’” p. 82

I have watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s repeatedly now, and every time “Moon River” begins to play, I get cold chills. I love the way that the film opens on a surrealistically empty New York City Fifth Avenue, and the way that the taxi cab drives you down to Holly Golightly’s apartment. I have walked that same route so very many times that i have nearly memorized it, and the book does allow you glimpses into Manhattan and NYC, but the movie is distinguished from the book in the way that it ends with the cat:

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“She was still hugging the cat. ‘Poor slob,’ she said, tickling his head, ‘poor slob without a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody. We just sort of took up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent, and so am I. I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.’ She smiled, and let the cat drop to the floor. ‘It’s like Tiffany’s,’ she said.” p. 37

[Holly Golightly decides to run away from all of her troubles and asks her writer friend (the George Peppard character) to

gather her belongings and cat and to bring them to the bar, for her escape].

“The sky was red Friday night, it thundered, and Saturday, departing day, the city swayed in a squall-like downpur. Sharks might have swum through the air….” p.. 98

“Stumbling skidding up and down the fire escape between Holly’s apartment and mine, wind-blown and winded and wet to the bone (clawed to the bone as well for the cat had not looked favorably upon evacuation, especially in such inclement weather) I managed a fast, first-rate job of assembling her going-away belongings. I even found the St. Christopher’s medal. Everything was piled on the floor of my room, a poignant pyramid of brassieres and dancing slippers and pretty things I packed in Holly’s only suitcase. There was a mass left over that I had to put in paper grocery bags. I couldn’t think how to carry the cat; until I thought of stuffing him in a pillowcase.

“Never mind why, but once I walked from New Orleans to Nancy’s Landing, Mississippi, just under five hundred miles. It was a light-hearted lark compared to the journey to Joe Bell’s bar The guitar filled with rain, rain softened the paper sacks, the sacks split and perfume spilled on the pavement, pearls rolled in the gutter: [p. 99] while the wind pushed and the cat scratched, the cat screamed–but worse, I was frightened, a coward to equal José: those storming streets seemed aswarm with unseen presences waiting to trap, imprison me for aidng an outlaw.”

. . .

And the cat, released, leaped and perched on her shoulder: his tail swung like a baton conducting rhapsodic music. Holly, too, seemed inhabited by melody, some bouncy bon voyage ompahpah.” p. 100

. . .

“…and we pulled to the curb of a street in Spanish Harlem. A savage, a garish, a moody neighborhood garlanded with poster-portraits of movie stars and Madonnas. Side-walk litterings of fruit-rind and rotted newspaper were hurled about by the wind, for the wind still boomed, [p.101] though the rain had hushed and there were bursts of blue in the sky.

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“Holly stepped out of the car; she took the cat with her. Cradling him, she scratched his head and asked. ‘What do you think? This ought to be the right kind of place for a tough guy like you. Garbage cans. Rats galore. Plenty of cat-bums to gang around with. So scram,’ she said, dropping him, and when he did not move away, instead raised his thug-face and questioned her with yellowish pirate-eyes, she stamped her foot: ‘I said beat it!’

. . .

“I was stunned ‘Well, you are. You are a bitch.’ ” p. 102

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“…Where’s the cat?”

“Oh, cat.” [How the movie ends, but not how the book ends]

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not a GREAT book, and it is not a GREAT movie either. But because I had connected with the movie, I read the book, and I liked them both. The movie’s cat scene is unforgettable, and it is definitely the part of the movie where I knew that the movie “had” me.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s the movie was released at a time when there were only a few super movies. Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were exceptions to that rule. I read Margaret Mitchell’s book Gone with the Wind when I was 16, and I enjoyed it, but I loved the movie. I am still trying to wade through reading the books of The Wizard of Oz, but I have watched the movie numerous times. I credit The Wizard of Oz with helping me become the person who I have become. When I was a young child, I watched that movie with my dad and when I was a young child, I learned how to distill the magic that runs parallel to existence. When I was a little girl, my third grade teacher gave me my own copy of the book Louisa Mae Alcott. It was a biography, and it was the first real book that I had owned. No doubt, that book and that teacher changed my life, but it is through the movies along my way that I have discovered magic.

©Jacki Kellum August 31, 2017

Memorize

I Enjoy a Good Book – I Am Enamored by a Good Movie

On the third Friday of each month, I lead a Book & Movie club at my local library. The idea is to find good books that have been captured as good movies. For many years, it was a bit of a habit to dismiss books made into movies, saying: “But the book is better,” and I have found that some people hold on to what may have been a truth at one time. In recent years, however, there have been some excellent movie interpretations of books: i.e. The Lord of the Rings, Out of Africa, Pride & Prejudice, and I can earnestly say that in many cases, I prefer watching good movies to reading.

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2005 Pride and Prejudice

I am a visual person, and I love the outstanding, panoramic photography that becomes part of the movie’s total experience.

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Lord of the Rings

In a great movie, the music becomes part of your total experience, too. I never shall forget the first time that I watched The Lord of the Rings. As soon as the music of the Shire began, I was totally enamored by everything Lord of the Rings. I loved the setting. I loved the characters. I loved the cinematography, and I loved the story. I learned to love Tolkien through film and not through his books;and I believe that it is okay to admit that we find movies to be literature, on their own terms.

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When I watch a movie, the actors and actresses become the actual characters of the book. Don’t ever try to convince me that Ian McKellen is not the one, true Gandalf the Grey.

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Before I watched Selma Hayek play Frida Kahlo on the screen, I had seen Frida Kahlo paintings for decades. Yet, after watching Frida, Selma Hayek has become Frida Kahlo, in my mind.

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Because of the movie Out of Africa, Meryl Streep has become Isak Dinesen to me.

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And because of her portrayal in the 2005 movie Pride & Prejudice, Kiera Knightley has become all of Jane Austen for me.

At times, a movie may not be absolutely true to an author’s intent. Truman Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly Golightly in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the book, Capote describes Holly as having albino blonde hair. Because I am responsible for picking the book-movie selections for my club, I watch every movie-book combo that I can find, and in most cases, I watch the movie before I read the book. That was the order with my experiencing Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I was stunned to read that Holly Golightly was supposed to have blonde hair. In my opinion, Audrey Hepburn is the quintessential Holly Golightly, and in my opinion, the movie would have been less effective with Marilyn Monroe.

“It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes. It was a face beyond childhood…. I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty, as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.” p. 12

“She was never without dark glasses, she was always well-groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes….One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress….” p. 14

“I discovered, from observing the trash-basket outside her door, that her regular reading consisted of tabloids and travel folders and astrological charts; that she smoked an esoteric cigarette called Picayunes; survived on cottage cheese and melba toast….” p. 15

“Also she had a cat and she played the guitar.

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“On days when the sun was strong, she would wash her hair, and together with the cat, a red-striped tom, sit out on the fire escape thumbing a guitar while her hair dried.” p. 16.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a movie that was released in 1961. It is based on Truman Capote’s novella by the same name.

Most of us know that Audrey Hepburn made fashion history in the black dress and sunglasses that she wore in the film. Like most people, I have long associated the fashion staple the little black dress with Audrey Hepburn and the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and when I as a child, I memorized the theme song “Moon River” and learned to play it on several instruments. In many ways, I grew up with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I could have sworn that I had seen the movie before, but until recently, I had not.  I decided that I needed to correct that mistake, and I am glad that I did.

“The song ‘Moon River’ was written especially for Audrey Hepburn, since she had no training as a singer. The vocals were written to be sung in only one octave. The famous black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the opening scenes of this movie was sold for $807,000 on December 4, 2006 at Christie’s Auction House in London, making it the second most expensive piece of movie memorabilia ever sold.” Read More Here

“Tiffany’s flagship store (since 1940) is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City. The former Tiffany and Company Building on 38th Street is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The polished granite exterior is well known for its tiny window displays. The store has been the location for a number of films including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sweet Home Alabama and Sleepless In Seattle.” Read More Here

To a large extent, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is Capote’s story of having lived,  as a writer, in New York City.

“I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods. For instance, there is a brownstone in the East Seventies where, during the early years of the war, I had my first New York apartment. It was one room crowded with attic furniture, a sofa and fat chairs upholstered in that itchy, particular red velvet that one associates with hot days on a train. The walls were stucco, and a color rather like tobacco-spit. …The single window looked out on a fire escape. Even so, my spirits heightened whenever I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its gloom, it still was a place of my own, the first, and my books were there, and jars of pencils to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be.

“It never occurred to me in those days to write about Holly Golightly….” – Truman Capote –Breakfast at Tiffany’s page 3

“Outside, the rain had stopped, there was only a mist of it in the air, so I turned the corner and walked along the street where the brownstone stands. It is a street with trees that in the summer make cool patterns on the pavement; but now the leaves were yellowed and mostly down, and the rain had made them slippery, they skidded underfoot. The brownstone is midway in the block, next to a church were the blue tower-clock tolls the hours.” Breakfast at Tiffany’s, p. 10

 

In 1961, I was 11-years-old, and I was growing up in rural Southeast Missouri–which is a world away from New York City. I did not visit New York City until 2010, and in an odd way, I am glad that I did not watch Breakfast at TIffany’s until after I had become familiar with the Big Apple. My current home is very close to New York, and I visit the city often. As the film opens, a cab makes its way from Tiffany’s to Holly’s apartment, and it follows a route along what has become my favorite walkway in NYC. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was filmed over half a century ago, the New York City that it captures is very much the same now as it was then, and I loved seeing NYC captured in the film.

Central Park is one of my very favorite places, and part of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is filmed there.

Bandshell, Central Park (from 66th to 72nd Street) Manhattan

Conservatory Water, Central Park (from 72nd to 75th Street) Manhattan.

“That Monday in October, 1943. A beautiful day with the buoyancy of a bird. …

“We ate lunch at the cafeteria in the park Afterward, avoiding the zoo (Holly said she couldn’t bear to see anything in a cage)…. Leaves floated on the lake; on the shore, a park-man was fanning a bonfire of them, and the smoke, rising like Indian signals, was the  only smudge on the quivering air Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring;; which is how I felt sitting with Holly on the railings of the boathouse porch. I thought of the future, and spoke of the past. Because Holly wanted to know abut my childhood. She talked of her own, too; but it was elusive, nameless, placeless, an impressionistic recital, though the impression received was contrary t what one expected, for she gave an almost voluptuous account of swimming and summer, Christmas trees, pretty cousins and parties: in short, happy in a way that she was not, and never, certainly, the background f a child who had run away.” p. 51

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‘Passing a Woolworth’s, she gripped my arm: ‘Let’s steal something,’ she said, pulling me into the store, where at once there seemed  a pressure of eyes, as though we were already under suspicion. ‘Come on,. Don’t be chicken.’ She scouted a counter pied with paper pumpkins and Halloween masks. … Holly picked up a mask and slipped it over her face; she chose another and put it on mine; then she took my hand and we walked away. It was as simple as that.

“Outside, we ran a few blocks, I  think to make it more dramatic….p. 52

“We wore the masks all the way home.” p. 53.

During the early part of the film, Cat is the only character who wasn’t wearing a mask. But the true monsters of the film are its rats, and the depth of the movie revolves around Holly’s discoveries about them.

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Holly’s goodbye letter from Jose:

“My dearest little girl, I have loved you knowing you were nt as others. But conceive of my despair upon discovering in such a brutal and public style how very different you are from the manner of woman a man of my faith and career could hope to make his wife. … So I hope you will find it in your heart not to condemn me I have my family to protect, and my name, and I am a coward where those institutions enter. Forget me, beautiful child. I am no longer here I am gone home.” p. 94

“All right, he’s not a rat without reason. A super-sized King Kong-type rat like Rusty…. I did love him. The rat” p. 94

“All right — so he’s not a regular rat, or even a super rat. He’s just a scared little mouse. But — oh, golly, gee, damn!” Movie quote

Neither the book nor the movie are perfect. The book is plagued with politically incorrect references to “dykes” and “les negres,” and the movie suffers from some very weak scenes in which Mickey Rooney poorly plays a China Man. Those scenes are embarrassingly inappropriate now.

I’m glad that I stuck with the film through the rough patches, however, and into the relationship that develops between Hepburn and George Peppard. This relationship and Holly’s struggles with “the Reds” is the meat of the film.

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul Varjak: Sure.
Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture a give the cat a name!

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“Angst. But what do yu do about it?”

“Well, a drink helps.”

“I’ve tried that. I’ve tried aspirin, too…

“What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s It calms me down right away,  the quietness and the proud look of it: nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real-life place like Tiffany’s then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.” p. 38.

“Didn’t I tell you this was a lovely place?”

“Do they still really have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes?” “…Oh; yes.” “That’s nice to know… It gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing.”

[I don’t want to completely destroy the film for people who haven’t seen it yet, but the message lies within Holly Golightly’s attempts to deny what is and is not valuable in life. Because of the honest way that Capote created Holly Golighty, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is much more than Romantic Comedy [a genre that I usually detest]. For several minutes into the film, I thought that the movie was going to be silly, but by the end, I was in tears. Holly Golightly is a well-developed character. She is a hayseed who has escaped to New York City and who is caught in the fruitless snare of trying to play the part of someone that she can never be.]

“…the kid’s fifteen But stylish: she’s okay, she comes across. Even when she’s wearing glasses this thick; even when she opes her mouth and you don’t know if she’s a hillbilly or an Okie or what. I still don’t. My guess, nobody’ll ever know where she came from. She’s such a goddamn liar, maybe she don’t know herself any more. But it took us a year to smooth out that accent. How we did it finally, we gave her French lessons: after she could speak French, she could imitate English.” p. 30.

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“But Doc, I’m not fourteen anymore, and I’m not Lulamae. But the terrible part is (and I realized [p. 69] it while we were standing there) I am. I’m still stealing turkey eggs and running through a brier patch. Only now I call it having the mean reds” pgs 69-70.

“Never love a wild thing….That was Doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up…if you love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.

. . .

“…it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.” p 70

“No matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”

If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s and several other related features free Here.

“She’s a phony. But she’s a real phony. You know why? Because she honestly believes all this phony junk that she believes.”

“Promise me one thing: don’t take me home until I’m drunk — very drunk indeed.”

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Holly Golightly’s relationship with Peppard develops slowly:

“For I was in love with her. Just as I’d once been in love with my mother’s elderly clred cook and a postman wh let me follow him on his rounds and a whole family named McKendrick That category of love generates jealousy, too.” p. 72

“Those final weeks, spanning end of summer and the beginning of another autumn, are blurred in memory, perhaps because our understanding of each other  had reached that sweet depth where two people communicate more often in silence than in words: an affectionate quietness replaces the tensions, the unrelaxed chatter and chasing about that produce a friendship’s more showy, more in the surface sense, dramatic moments. … we spent entire evenings together during which we exchanged less than a hundred words; once, we walked all the way to Chinatown [p. 79] … then moseyed across the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the bridge, as we watched seaward-moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline….

“So the days, the last days, blow about in memory, hazy, autumnal, all alike as leaves: until a day unlike any other I’ve lived.

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“The stables–I believe they have been replaced by television studios–were on West Sixty-sixth Street. Holly selected for me an old sway-back black and white mare: ‘Don’t worry, she’s safer than a cradle.'” p. 82

I have watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s repeatedly now, and every time “Moon River” begins to play, I get cold chills. I love the way that the film opens on a surrealistically empty New York City Fifth Avenue, and the way the the taxi cab drives you down to Holly Golightly’s apartment. I have walked that same route so many times that i have nearly memorized it, and the book does allow you glimpses into Manhattan and NYC, but the movie is distinguished from the book in the way that t ends with the cat:

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“She was still hugging the cat. ‘Poor slob,’ she said, tickling his head, ‘poor slob without a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody. We just sort of took up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent, and so am I. I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.’ She smiled, and let the at drop to the floor. ‘It’s like Tiffany’s,’ she said.” p. 37

[Holly Golightly decides to run away from all of her troubles and asks her writer friend [the George Peppard character] to

gather her belongings and cat and to bring them to the bar, for her escape].

“The sky was red Friday night, it thundered, and Saturday, departing day, the city swayed in a squall-like downpur. Sharks might have swum through the air….” p.. 98

“Stumbling skidding up and down the fire escape between Holly’s apartment and mind, wind-blown and winded and wet to the bone (clawed to the bone as well fr the cat had not looked favorably upon evacuation, especially in such inclement weather) I managed a fast, first-rate job of assembling her going-away belongings. I even found the St. Christopher’s medal. Everything was piled on the floor of my room, a poignant pyramid of brassieres and dancing slippers and dancing slippers and pretty things I packed in Holly’s only suitcase. There was a mass left over that I had to put in paper grocery bags I couldn’t think how to carry the cat; until I thought of stuffing him in a pillowcase.

“Never mind why, but once I walked from New Orleans to Nancy’s Landing, Mississippi, just under five hundred miles. It was a light-hearted lark compared to the journey to Joe Bells bar The guitar filled with rain, rain softened the paper sacks, the sacks split and perfume spilled on the pavement, pearls rolled in the gutter: [p. 99] while the wind pushed and the cat scratched, the cat screamed–but worse, I as frightened, a coward t equal Jose: those storming streets seemed aswarm with unseen presences waiting to trap, imprison me for aidng an outlaw.”

. . .

And the cat, released, leaped and perched on her shoulder: his tail sung like a baton conducting rhapsodic music. Holly, too, seemed inhabited by melody, some bouncy bon voyage ompahpah.” p. 100

. . .

“…and we pulled to the curb of a street in Spanish Harlem. A savage, a garish, a moody neighborhood garlanded with poster-portraits of movie stars and Madonnas. Side-walk litterings of fruit-rind and rotted newspaper were hurled about by the wind, fr the wind still boomed, [p.101] though the rain had hushed and there were bursts of blue in the sky.

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“Holly stepped out of the car; she took the cat with her. Cradling him, she scratched his head and asked. ‘What do you think? This ought to be the right kind of place for a tough guy like you. Garbage cans. Rats galore. Plenty of cat-bums to gang around with. So scram,’ she said, dropping him, and when he did not move away, instead raised his thug-face and questioned her with yellowish pirate-eyes, she stamped her foot: ‘I said beat it!’

. . .

“I was stunned ‘Well, you are. You are a bitch.’ ” p. 102

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“…Where’s the cat?”

“Oh, cat.” [How the movie ends, but not how the book ends]

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not a GREAT book, and it is not a GREAT movie either. But because I had connected with the movie, I read the book, and I liked them both. The movie’s cat scene is unforgettable, and it is definitely the part of the movie where I knew that the movie “had” me.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s the movie was released at a time when there were only a few super movies. Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were exceptions to that rule. I read Margaret Mitchell’s book Gone with the Wind when I was 16, and I enjoyed it, but I loved the movie. I am still trying to wade through reading the books of The Wizard of Oz, but I have watched the movie numerous times. I credit The Wizard of Oz with helping me become the person who I have become. When I was a young child, I watched that movie with my dad and when I was a young child, I learned how to distill the magic that runs parallel to existence. When I was a little girl, my third grade teacher gave me my own copy of the book Louisa Mae Alcott. It was a biography, and it was the first real book that I had owned. No doubt, that book and that teacher changed my life, but it is through the movies along my way that I have discovered magic.

©Jacki Kellum August 30, 2017

Enamored

Happy National Dog Day – German Shepherd Dog Drawn by Jacki Kellum – Tribute to Former Pro Baseball Player Mark Littell

Today is National Dog Day, and I thought that this would be a good time to share my most recent dog drawing.

Fritz – A German Shepherd Dog Drawn in Pencil by Jacki Kellum

This is an iPhone photo of a drawing that I have begun of what I believe Mark Littell’s dog Fritz looked like. Mark Littell is about to release his second memoir book Country Boy Conveniently Wild. This new book is about Mark’s childhood before he became a professional baseball player and pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. Mark and I grew up together, and he has asked me to do some drawings for his book. That is my main project now.

Sunflower – Watercolor Painted by Jacki Kellum

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Most people only know that I can paint wild, colorful flowers, but when something doesn’t call for a wild, colorful flower, I can also draw, and I would say that to lllustrate Mark’s childhood, I won’t need many florals.

Mark and Eric Littell and Fritz

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This drawing is a close-up study of the head of one of the geese that I am drawing for Mark’s book. One of Mark’s stories is about a flock of geese this his dad bought to weed the cotton fields. The geese terrorized Mark and his younger brother Eric.

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Mark and I grew up in Gideon, Missouri. In the class photo above, I am on the top row–the second person from the left.

Mark Littell’s Senior Picture

Mark Littell was a good-looking boy who was about three years younger than I, but because our families were friends and took trips together. I knew Mark  fairly well. Mark recently reminded me that our families would frequently go to a  little local restaurant [it was not much more than a diner] for Sunday dinner. The restaurant was named The Clarktonian [the Clarktonian is situated in the town Clarkton].  The Clarktonian was one of those places that had great coffee and a wall of homemade pies. Rich and creamy, homemade coconut pie in buttery and crispy crust comes to my mind.

Mark’s first book On the Eighty Day God Made Baseball is filled with stories about the days that Mark played ball first for the Kansas City Royals and second for the St. Louis Cardinals. You can buy the book at Amazon Here

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Mark’s second book will be titled: Country Boy Conveniently Wild. Both Mark and I are country people and both of us are pleased to be able to look back at how growing up in the country has enriched our lives. In the above image, you see the initial marks that I made, as I began to draw a country mail box.

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Here is that same mail box, a few hours later. The drawing is still incomplete and messy. One of the stories that Mark Littell tells in his new book is about the “loco” weed that grew wild along the ditch banks and country roads of our rural home. In the above drawing, I am practicing weed drawing. This isn’t Mark’s loco weed. I’ll leave that to your imagination. I work on several pieces a little bit each day. That helps keep me fresh. This is just day 1 on the mail box. It will get better. I am using #2 Ticonderoga pencil and Ebony pencil for my drawings. I’ll probably paint this, too .

For a while, drawing and painting farm scenes was done so very much that it became hokey, and as I embrace the challenge to illustrate my country heritage, I want to avoid hokey sentimentality. I live on the New Jersey Shore now. My current home is close to Philadelphia and to New York City–far away from the cotton fields that cradled me as a child, but I cherish my childhood in rural Southeast Missouri, and I  want my drawings to express some of the dignity, as well as some of the softness and some of the rustic vintageness that is part of country living.

Be looking for Mark’s new book, which should be released before the new year. I’ll be drawing and painting several things about the country between now and then. I’ll keep you posted.

©Jacki Kellum August 26, 2017

   

Dignify

Synchronize

Learning to Trust Myself While Remodeling My Kitchen

Almost forever, I have wanted a kitchen with brick accents. When the stars aligned themselves so that I could remodel, I found myself at that juncture where I needed to go shopping for the tile to do the backsplash. I went into the showroom, thinking something marblish, to match my countertop, and then I saw it: my brick was installed on their floor. I told the salesman that I wanted the brick. It wasn’t a cheap choice, but I didn’t have a large surface to cover. It shouldn’t cost me much. Before I could think twice, I had ordered the brick and paid for it.

The next day, I showed some less daring friends the brick that I had chosen for my kitchen, and they were appalled. Brick? Not white subway tile? Everyone is using white subway tile now. Not you? Doubt surged through me, and I sped back to the showroom to change my order, but the bricks were on their way. No canceling now. The designer who had helped me came up to speak to me, and I asked her: “Should I have gotten white subway tile for my kitchen? Please, tell me the truth. I can use the brick somewhere else.”

She responded: “You’re kidding, aren’t you? I’ve told everyone about your brick kitchen.”

I had told her of my plans to remove the sheetrock from the breakfast room ceiling and to allow the exposed rafters to show. [Quite honestly, that was a gutsy move, too–one that also caused the nay-sayers to shutter].

 

The designer told me that my brick and exposed rafters plan had made her want to remodel, too. At my urging, she reluctantly showed me the subway tile. It was 4 times cheaper than the brick, and for very little money, I could have bought enough subway tile for my kitchen, but the designer said: “White subway tile is sterile. Your brick is warm. You just don’t seem like a sterile person to me.”

She was right. Very little about me is like everyone else. Why would I choose the same thing as everyone else to decorate my house?

My builder only speaks Spanish, and I only speak English. When I  showed him the brick, he shook his head and frowned.  I managed to glean the meaning of “Not happy.” from his disapproving words. But halfway into the installation, my builder had changed his mind.

“Bonita,” he said.

I tried to express my thoughts to him.  I wanted to tell him that my brick made me feel cozy. I looked up the translation and showed him the word:

“Acogedor.”

“Ah, si, Acogedor.”

When I am painting and when I am writing, I consider it a great day when something visceral within myself takes over and essentially completes my project for me. This gentle urging is intuition. It is the hand that guides my brush, as I paint. And it is my writer’s voice. The intuition is the spark that helped Michelangelo release his sculptures from a piece of rock.

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I am accustomed to listening to the urges that guide me as I create, but when I began remodeling my kitchen, I found myself doubting my choices.

Once again, I am reminded: “Learn to Trust Yourself.”

©Jacki Kellum August 23, 2017

Visceral

My Garden Has Pumpkin Power!

Two years ago, I snapped this idyllic photograph of my garden’s waterfall.

Here is that same spot today.

My fireball hardy hibiscus is still standing, but nature has completely camouflaged the waterfall beneath it.

Three years ago, I allowed a pumpkin to decompose in the back of my garden, and two years ago, one pumpkin plant volunteered to grow from that old pumpkin’s decomposition. This year, my garden is oozing with volunteer pumpkin plants. They are twining up and around everything in my back yard

Some of the plants are blossoming.

And some of the blossoms have yielded baby pumpkins.

My grape arbor is covered with vines, but the birds eat the grapes before I can turn them into wine.

The birds don’t bother the poke berries. They are smart and know that poke berries are poisonous. I know that poke is a weed, and it is worthless, but I love to watch it grow. I love to watch all of my garden grow. This time of year, I simply allow my garden to do its own thing. It never fails to delight me.

©Jacki Kellum August 22, 2017

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Ooze

A Word about Disappointment and Disillusionment – The Word “Eclipse” Is A Fine One to Add to Your Box of Words

Today. parts of the USA will have a front row seat to watch a Solar Eclipse. It has been 38 years since America’s last opportunity to see the shadows that are caused when the moon moves between the earth and the sun, thereby blocking the sun’s light. Like most of America, I failed to buy the proper glasses to watch the spectacle that will unfold across the sky, but I find myself thinking about what a fine word “eclipse” is, and I find myself pondering over some of the eclipses that I have experienced in life.

If my marriage had not failed, I would have celebrated my 45th wedding anniversary on August 19. Probably because I never remarried, on August 19, I found myself inclined to write something about the fact that still married or not, that was a special day for me. Society would not have divorced people mentioning their wedding  anniversaries, but whether I am supposed to mention it or not, August 19 still marks  the day that I entered a marriage that lasted 18 years and from which three children were  born. Frankly, I am suspicious of  a society that would suggest that people who were once married should one day walk away from two decades of life and not look back, but hey, I am not the societal norm, and quite honestly, I am glad that I am not so very compartmentalized or detached from my emotions that I could elect to block out 18 years. I would prefer to experience pain occasionally than to never feel at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t long for an opportunity to relive my actual marriage.  I did not have a great marriage, but I will always be saddened by all of the damage  that my divorce caused. When I was a child, girls were raised to believe that their most golden, shining accomplishment would be that of marrying and raising a happy family. Two people marry and like the way that the sun and earth are positioned in the sky, the stage is set.. Like the moon, disappointment lurches between the couple, and the shadows fall. The opportunity for a happy marriage–for a stable family–is eclipsed by disillusionment.

“Eclipse”–what a fine word it is. My divorce has not been my only disappointment. I am afraid that I have experienced far too many disappointments, and today, the day of the 2017 Solar Eclipse, I am reminded of a fine song to match the occasion:

©Jacki Kellum August 21, 2017

 

Total Eclipse of the Heart
Bonnie Tyler

Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit lonely
And you’re never coming round
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit terrified

Lurch

 

My Family Owned British Estates with Secret Chambers to Hide Catholic Priests – How Medieval England’s Religious Persecution Affected My Family

Allow me to preface all of this by saying that during my childhood, the Whitaker side of my family [who married a Dunscomb, also of England] were fire and brimstone Southern Baptists. I remember when Kennedy was elelcted president. We Southern Baptists thought that civilization had come to an end. Imagine my surprise to learn that some of my earliest ancestors owned British estates with large houses that had secret hiding places to hide Catholic Priests.

The Holme – The Whitaker Ancestral Estate in Burnley, Lancashire, England

Richard Whitaker was knighted in 1327 by King Edward III. He owned a 40-room estate called The Holme. The Whitaker family owned The Holme from 1431-1959. Holme Hall [as well as other of the Whitaker estates] is mentioned in the book Secret Chambers and Hiding Places.

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‘It was originally a 40-room manor house…and as the seat of the Whitaker family from the 15th century. The first Whitaker to arrive at The Holme was believed to be Richard de Whitacre, who arrived in Cliviger in 1340 from “High Whiteacre” at Padliham. … Originally built of wood, the center and eastern wing were rebuilt by 1603. The west remaned of wood until 1717 and had one or more private closets for the concealment of priests, the family have continued as recusants until the end of Elizabeth’s reign, if not later.” More Here

SECRET CHAMBERS AND HIDING-PLACES

CHAPTER I

A GREAT DEVISER OF “PRIEST’S HOLES”

“During the deadly feuds which existed in the Middle Ages, when no man was secure from spies and traitors even within the walls of his own house, it is no matter of wonder that the castles and mansions of the powerful and wealthy were usually provided with some precaution in the event of a sudden surprise—viz. a secret means of concealment or escape that could be used at a moment’s notice; but the majority of secret chambers and hiding-places in our ancient buildings owe their origin to religious persecution, particularly during the reign of Elizabeth, when the most stringent laws and oppressive burdens were inflicted upon all persons who professed the tenets of the Church of Rome.

“In the first years of the virgin Queen’s reign all who clung to the older forms of the Catholic faith were mercifully connived at, so long as they solemnised their own religious rites within their private dwelling-houses; but after the Roman Catholic rising in the north and numerous other Popish plots, the utmost severity of the law was enforced, particularly against seminarists, whose chief object was, as was generally believed, to stir up their disciples in England against the Protestant Queen. An Act was passed prohibiting a member of the Church of Rome from celebrating the rites of his religion on pain of forfeiture for the first offence, a year’s imprisonment for the second, and imprisonment for life for the third.[1] All those who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy were called “recusants” and were guilty of high treason. A law was also enacted which provided that if any Papist should convert a Protestant to the Church of Rome, both should suffer death, as for high treason.

“[Footnote 1: In December, 1591, a priest was hanged before the door of a house in Gray’s Inn Fields for having there said Mass the month previously.]

“The sanguinary laws against seminary priests and “recusants” were enforced with the greatest severity after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. These were revived for a period in Charles II.’s reign, when Oates’s plot worked up a fanatical hatred against all professors of the ancient faith. In the mansions of the old Roman Catholic families we often find an apartment in a secluded part of the house or garret in the roof named “the chapel,” where religious rites could be performed with the utmost privacy, and close handy was usually an artfully contrived hiding-place, not only for the officiating priest to slip into in case of emergency, but also where the vestments, sacred vessels, and altar furniture could be put away at a moment’s notice.” Read More Here

Tonight, I was watching Father Brown Mysteries. Season 2, Episode 1 is about the secret chambers in British estates. That reminded me of the my own family and their secret chambers.

Oddly enough, another of my ancestors, Reverend William Whitaker was a noted protestant:

Reverend William Whitaker and Susan Whitaker

Birthdate: December 1547 (48)
Birthplace: Holme, Burnley, Lancaster Co., United Kingdom
Death: December 4, 1595 (47)
Holme, Lancaster, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Trinity College,Cambridge,England
Immediate Family:
Son of Richard Thomas Whitaker and Elizabeth Whitaker

Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge University, MASTER OF ST JOHN, CAMBRIDGE, Theologian and Academic, Master of St. Johns College Cambridge
Reverend William Whitaker was vehemently Protestant and against the Catholic Church, and he wrote an important document that supported a study of the scriptures. His ancestors were recusants and had supported the Catholic Church and are believed to have hidden Catholic priests in closets at the Holme. “His [William’s] work, Disputatio de Sacra Scriptura contra hujus temporis papistas, inprimis Robertum Bellarminum, or Disputations on Holy Scripture, remains one of the premier volumes on the doctrine of Scripture, often under-appreciated, little read, but standing like a titan amongst the volumes of the English Reformed Churchman. One of the premier issues that divided and still divides informed Protestants from Roman Catholics is the question of the place of Scripture. Reformed Churchmmen like Whittaker, then like now, declared that the Scriptures alone are the rule of faith and practice whereas Roman Catholics assert co-equal veneration and co-authoritative roles between Scripture, traditions held by the Church and other unwritten issues. This debate is not new. William Whitaker forcefully and brilliantly championed the Protestant, Reformed and Anglican position in 1588. ” Wikipedia

A Robert Whitaker was one of Reverend William Whitaker’s descendants and is also one of my ancestors. He married Margaret Lisle Whitaker. An interesting fact is that Margaret’s parents were both killed because of their protestant beliefs.  Margaret’s father was instrumental in ousting King Charles and when Charles II reclaimed the throne, he fled to Switzerland where he was murdered. Margaret’s mother was the last lady in England to be beheaded. She was executed because she had harbored protestants.

Margaret Whitaker [Daughter of Sir Sir John Lisle (Descendant of King Edward III) and  Alice Beconsawe Lisle (1617 – 1685)

[Note: Alice Beconsawe Lisle was sympathetic with the religious dissenters. Her husband Sir John Lisle was an ant-Royalist who played a part in the de-throning of King Charles. Because Alice harbored fugitives of the  Monmouth Rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor, she was beheaded. She was the last female to be beheaded in England. Dame Alice was a daughter of Sir White Beconshaw of Moyles Court at Ellingham in Hampshire and his wife Edith Bond, daughter and co-heiress of William Bond of Blackmanston in Steeple, Dorset. She had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who married Sir Thomas Tipping of Wheatfield Park in Stoke Talmage in Oxfordshire. Alice became the second wife of Sir John Lisle (1610 – 11 August 1664), and bore him seven children.[1] Lisle was an English lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1640 and 1659. He supported the Parliamentarian cause in the English Civil War and was one of the regicides of King Charles I of England.[3] Fearing for his life after the Restoration he fled to Switzerland, but was assassinated by an agent of the crown in Lausanne in 1664.” Wikipedia]

“He [John Lisle] advocated violent measures on the king’s removal to the north, and obtained some of the plunder arising from the sale of the crown property. To the fund opened on 9 April 1642 for the “speedy reducing of the rebels” in Ireland, Lisle contributed _600. In December 1647, when the king was confined in the Isle of Wight, Lisle was selected as one of the commissioners to carry to him the four bills which were to divest him of all sovereignty. He spoke in the House of Commons on 28 Sept 1648 in favor of rescinding the recent vote, that no one proposition in regard to the personal treaty with the king should be binding if the treaty broke off upon another; and again, some days later, urged a discontinuance of the negotiation with Charles. He took a prominent part in the king’s trial. He was appointed on 8 Feb 1648/9 one of the commissioners of the great seal, and was placed on the council of state. He was a violent anti-royalist, and active promoter of the King’s trial, and drafted the sentence. He was present in Westminster Hall, 27 Jan 1648/9, when the sentence was pronounced, though he did not sign the death-warrant.[3]” More Here 

John Lisle’s Estate was at Northcourt Manor and Westcourt

Northcourt

Sunken Rose Garden at Northcourt

Northcourt Kitchen Garden Gate

Northcourt Garden

Northcourt Countryside

Northcourt Garden Building

The above image is of Westcourt

 The Regicide’s Widow tells Alice Lisle’s story:

“Rebellion, persecution and injustice in Restoration England are the themes of this colourful and passionate book about the last woman to be beheaded in England. Lady Alice Lisle was the last remaining link with the hated regicides, the men who signed Charles I’s death warrant, and when she gave shelter to a clergyman who had been involved in the popular uprising known as Monmouth’s Rebellion, Judge Jeffreys, the ‘Hanging Judge’, showed no mercy. “The Regicide’s Widow” recreates a disturbing period of British history through the characters of Lady Alice Lisle and Judge Jeffreys, a period when fairness, justice and truth were cast aside in the interests of political power and conformity. It is a truly Machiavellian story of statecraft, with government and judiciary involved in a ruthless display of might. In the end this display worked against them, for while it did not lead to direct revolt, the effects were so harsh and memories so vivid that the people of the West were among the most energetic supporters of the Glorious Revolution which three years after the Bloody Assize brought James’ rule to an end.” Amazon

“By about 1660 after the King Charles II had been restored to the throne, John was forced to flee to Switzerland in fear of his life. Alice was left behind in England, pregnant with their youngest daughter Anne.  About this time, all of John’s holdings were seized by the crown, with the majority going to James, the king’s brother and to John Lisle’s younger brother William who remained a royalist.  Thank goodness Moyles Court belonged to Alice, but her fortunes had definitely declined.  She still had seven unmarried children to raise….

“In 1664 when Alice was 47, her husband was assassinated in Switzerland, shot in the back by an Irish royalist.  She was left an outcast from family as well as society, and ridiculed for her religion.  According to the excellent and well researched book titled “The Regicide’s Widow”: “Moyles Court became one of the many refuges of these Nonconformist nomads [displaced ministers], and Alice Lisle undoubtedly risked prosecution for those she sheltered.”  There was a reported gathering of 200 Presbyterians there in 1669.

“So how did Alice end up sheltering the rebel John Hicks and get convicted of treason? Alice knew of Hicks as a nonconformist minister, most recently from Portsmouth.  Through a succession of restrictive laws and political maneuvering, the religious bigotry in England increased through the 1670s and 80s.  The mood and whim of those in power seemed to oscillate between leniency and oppressive persecution. I’m sure that Hicks wasn’t the only minister who was relentlessly targeted, tracked and fined for preaching to gatherings of nonconformists.  But the timing and location was such that on 24 Jun 1685,  Hicks was on hand to join rebel forces of the crown contender James Scott, Duke of Monmouth.  He probably hoped that he would receive better treatment and liberties under a different monarch.   The next day Hicks committed the treasonable offense of trying to persuade Monmouth’s English prisoners of war  to change their allegiance.

Their cause was short lived, for the rebel forces were quickly defeated by James II’s troops, with many rebels fleeing.  After a concentrated manhunt, Monmouth and his chiefs were captured and beheaded, although some of his rebels remained at large.  This is when Hicks and his companions Nelthorp and Dunne sought shelter at Moyles Court.  Their arrival was betrayed by their guide, and Alice was arrested as well as the fugitives and jailed at Salisbury pending trial.

PictureGrave of Alice (Beconshawe) Lisle in Ellingham, Hampshire

circuit-preacher-1800's

I am fortunate that one of my great aunts researched my family’s genealogical record. Her grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher.

Rev. Milton John Whitaker (1832-1908)

Whitaker, Milton John (Rev.) 1832-1908

My Dunscomb ancestors were Quakers and one of them was killed at the Isle of Wight. His wife brought their sons to America and joined the Quakers in Philadelphia. I find it interesting that after a lifetime in the South, I have managed to live my final years near Philadelphia.

I am not sure why it matters who our ancestors are, but somehow, I do care. I am posting this information for any of my family who are interested in our heritage. I am also posting this information for other Whitakers who are seeking some of the research that I have discovered. The Internet has vastly changed the nature of genealogical research. Researchers must be careful, but if they are cautious, they can find tomes of information about their families by simply searching through Google. I am thankful to my great aunt who helped me begin my research, and I am also thankful to my distant relatives who have helped me reconnect with my family’s story.

©Jacki Kellum August 20, 2017

 

When Words Fail, Music and Poetry Connect

Writing is difficult, and one of its greatest challenges stems from the fact that words, which are mere strings of letters, are clumsy in their attempts to convey emotion.  Writers arrange letters together in formats that have become standardized symbols for something else. For instance, the letters “a-p-p-l-e” are recognized as symbolic of a red fruit that grows on trees and is usually harvested in fall. If a writer adds other words, he might foster emotions about the red fruit or he might remind the reader of the fruit’s tartness, its, crunchiness, and its juiciness. If the writer is able to carefully juxtapose other letters around the word “apple,” the reader may leap toward memories of a grandmother and the rolling of homemade pie crust, and of warm, cinnamon desserts topped with vanilla ice cream. Yet, by merely spelling the word “a-p-p-l-e,” a writer is telling his readers very little. A writer must add more strings of letters and a bit of polish to the letters before hopefully, the letters can begin to mean. Music, on the other hand, has a more direct impact than simple strings of words.

The ancient Tao Te Ching says that as soon as we begin to verbalize a feeling, the emotion vanishes. In other words, the ancient Asians recognized that there is a vein of emotion within us that defies being conveyed through words.

Chapter 1 – Tao Te Ching

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things 

Some believe that music has the power to connect in ways that words often fail.

Music is the shorthand of emotion. – Leo Tolstoy

Image result for jacki kellum language of the birds

I believe that music, for humans, is like the language of the birds.

 

In Ancient Greece, music was believed to have an almost magical power of communication.

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. – Plato

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the movie Out of Africa. I have seen that movie several times before, and the music of that movie helps make it monumental. As I watched the movie again this past Thursday, I entered the Out of Africa experience as soon as I heard the music. The music of Out of Africa had become a type of shorthand link into my mind. The music could communicate to me in a way that words could not, and that is why I prefer excellent movies to reading. A well-made movie employs several passages into the spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about the inadequacy of words. He said that a child who feels about what is around him understands better than the scientist who tries to capsulize life into words. Emerson adds that poetry, unlike logical words, does have a music-like power to connect:

Science was false by being unpoetical. It assumed to explain a reptile or mollusk, and isolated it…. The metaphysician, the poet, only sees each animal form as an inevitable step in the path of the creating mind. The Indian, the hunter, the boy with his pets, have sweeter knowledge of these than the savant. …The poet knows the missing link by the joy it gives. The poet gives us the eminent experiences only,–a god stepping from peak to peak, nor planting his foot but on a mountain.

. . .

Poetry is the perpetual endeavor to express the spirit of the thing, to pass the brute body and search the life and reason which causes it to exist….It is a presence of mind that gives a miraculous command of all means of uttering the thought and feeling of the moment.

. . .

Imagination.–Whilst common sense looks at things or visible Nature as real and final facts, poetry, or the imagination which dictates it, is a second sight, looking through these, and using them as types or words for thoughts which they signify.

. . .

A poet comes who lifts the veil; gives them glimpses of the laws of the universe….

The solid men complain that the idealist leaves out the fundamental facts; the poet complains that the solid men leave out the sky.

Read More Here

Autumn scene. Fall. Trees and leaves in sun light

Ralph Waldo Emerson sought to explain through words how poetry communicates the essence of life that is beyond words:

No definition of poetry is adequate unless it be poetry itself. The most accurate analysis by the rarest wisdom is yet insufficient, and the poet will instantly prove it false by setting aside its requisitions. It is indeed all that we do not know. The poet does not need to see how meadows are something else than earth, grass, and water, but how they are thus much. He does not need discover that potato blows are as beautiful as violets, as the farmer thinks, but only how good potato blows are. The poem is drawn out from under the feet of the poet, his whole weight has rested on this ground. It has a logic more severe than the logician’s.  You might as well think to go in pursuit of the rainbow, and embrace it on the next hill, as to embrace the whole of poetry even in thought. – Emerson

Jacki Kellum Garden

I have a beautiful garden, and I often say that I am a nature watcher, but that is not the absolute truth. I do more than simply watch nature. Nature entrances me. I like to lose myself in nature. I like to become one with nature.  Nature communicates the primordial to me in ways that words hardly ever do.

“I find peace where the sun kissed leaves dance in the melody of the cool breeze that floats through the air.” ― Saim Cheeda

At times, I also connect with music and/or poetry  in that primordial way. The power of poetry is not that of its words, because words themselves are weak vessels. The power of poetry lies within its ability to capture and distill life itself.

©Jack Kellum August 20, 2017

Trance

The Magic of Nursery Rhymes – Learn to Dance by the Light of the Moon

Image result for vintage hey diddle diddle

No doubt, the cow that jumped over the moon has inspired many a poet, artist, illustrator, and just plain visionary and/or liver of life. Because it is so very common, we might tend to overlook the importance of a simple rhyme like Hey, Diddle, Diddle, but allow me to remind you how very, very important simple nursery rhymes actually are:

Hey, diddle, diddle,
BY MOTHER GOOSE

Hey, diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Hey Diddle Diddle | Hey Diddle Diddle" nursery rhyme drawing:

Consider all of the fantastic things going on in those few lines. A pet animal has become so very real that he can play a musical instrument, and not only that, he is playing a song that makes folks want to dance. Life is being lived at the max: it is over the moon–heavenly–and common household items have become human. They have gotten married, and have run away for a life of bliss.

Life just does not get any better than what is described in Hey Diddle Diddle. I have spent my entire life, trying to get over that cow’s moon. Haven’t you?

Let’s give the cat, the fiddle, the cow, and the moon credit: They taught us how to dream.

I grew up reciting nursery rhymes, and I am quite sure that today, I still have a nursery-rhyme-mind. I think in cadences, and invariably, when I write a picture book manuscript, I do so in rhyme. The magic of childhood has been captured in nursery rhymes and by wonderful illustrators like Clara M. Burd who died 17 years before I was born in 1950.

I grew up chanting about Mistress Mary and her garden filled with cockle shells and cowslips all in a row, and to this day, I slave in my garden, trying to create a fairy tale escape for myself.

Jacki Kellum Garden Read Why Everyone Needs A Secret Garden Here at jackikellum.com

I grew up believing that Daddy had gone a hunting for a bunting to wrap me up and protect me in, and perhaps there is something wrong with that kind of fantasy, but I seriously doubt it. I believe that children need to be wrapped and swaddled and cuddled and protected. I believe that they need to learn to find magic and wonder while they can.

[Love Life and Life Will Love You Back by Margaret Tarrant who was still illustrating when I was born in 1950.]

I believe that children need to learn to love life. Certainly, as a child matures, life will find ways to come around and turn all of that magic on its head, but I believe that the child grounded in the wonder-world of nursery rhymes will have an arsenal to fight the evil that will surely come his way.

Image result for vintage humpty dumpty

Even as a child, I realized that things could go wrong. After all, Humpty Dumpty fell from his wall. A bit of reality is not bad, but I see no reason to turn children into cynics. As they become adults, they will have plenty of disappointment and set-backs. Eventually, fighting cynicism becomes difficult for most of us. Childhood is a time for picking rosebuds and for filling one’s well with optimism. It is a time for banking happiness and a time for preparing and for establishing attitudes that will hopefully carry us through the hard task of living.

Owl & Pussy-cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note. …

They took some honey, and plenty of money—what more could anyone want? Honey and money–the sweet stuff of life and PLENTY of money–enough money to pay the bills: that is more than enough for me, and that has become my mantra–Please, God, continue to provide me with what has become enough for me, and help me to Dance by the Light of Your Moon.

“Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

From Owl and the Pussy-Cat by Edward Lear

They danced by the light of the moon– That is what I want to do. I want to Dance by the Light of the Moon, and because of God’s grace, I do.

silver-sheets

On Silver Sheets, I Sail
by Jacki Kellum

Just before I open my eyes
I float along the misty skies.

I reach, I feel the soft, white hair
and fairy wings that flutter there.

I listen, I hear the slumber song,
The angel band that plays along

My dreams are in my pillow-pail.
On silver sheets, I sail.

©Jacki Kellum  July 4, 2017

©Jacki Kellum August 1, 2017

Recite

Happy 81st Birthday, Robert Redford-A Tribute to Out of Africa

Image result for out of africa Today, several stars aligned themselves perfectly. I lead a book and movie club at my local library, and today was the day for Out of Africa. I’ll write more about the book later, but here’s a quick tip: Read the book Out of Africa. You will feel as though you have stepped out into the Serengetti or into the land and life around any of the  Kenya that existed 100 years ago. Out of Africa is a splendid book about a remarkable lady Karen Von Blixen or Isac Dinesen, and I have nothing but good things to say about the book.

I also have a great admiration for Karen Blixen herself, and I hope to write much more about her later, but since it is Robert Redford’s birthday today, I want to say a few things about the movie version of Out of Africa, about Meryl Streep’s brilliant portrayal of Karen Blixen, and about Robert Redford’s depiction of Denys Fench Hatton.

Image result for out of africa meryl streep

Out of Africa Movie Quote — “Karen Blixen: If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

Allow me to begin by saying that although the movie Out of Africa has the same name as one of Karen Blixen’s books, the movie is only loosely based on that one book. The movie Out of Africa won seven academy awards, and one of those awards was for best screenplay. In my opinion, a great screenplay is a collation of information. Karen Blixen’s book Out of Africa is a memoir. It is a record of the Africa that Blixen knew and loved. The movie Out of Africa is a tribute to Karen Blixen and to the courageous way that she handled the suffering and loss in her life. If Blixen had portrayed herself as gallantly as the movie did, we would think that she was an egotistical narcissist. Although the movie does reflect an understanding of Blixen’s memoir and an empathy with her love of Africa, it is not told in Blixen’s exact words.  The movie is based on biographical accounts of Karen Blixen and on her other books, too. The movie is a loose but well-crafted synthesis of several sources.

Image result for out of africa meryl streep

In the movie Out of Africa, Blixen’s love affair with Fench Hatton is of utmost importance. In the book, Blixen’s love life is emphasized far less.

Before I went to book club this morning, I wrote a post about the ways that being alone and being lonely are two separate things. Today’s WordPress prompt has to do with being solitary, and remaining solitary is vital to the Fench Hatton that Redford creates in the movie:

Image result for out of africa meryl streep

Karen Blixen: When you go away… you don’t always go on safari, do you? Just want to be away.
Denys: It’s not meant to hurt you.
Karen Blixen: It does.
Denys: I’m with you because I choose to be with you. I don’t want to live someone else’s idea of how to live. Don’t ask me to do that. I don’t want to find out one day that I’m at the end of someone else’s life.

Image result for out of africa meryl streep

Karen Blixen: It’s an odd feeling, farewell. There is such envy in it. Men go off to be tested, for courage. And if we’re tested at all, it’s for patience, for doing without, for how well we can endure loneliness.

Image result for out of africa meryl streep

In the movie Out of Africa, Meryl Streep brilliantly portrays the courageous, bigger-than-life nature of a lady who essentially took on British Colonial Africa alone–and she did it at a time when ladies weren’t supposed to have the kind of stuff to endure such a test. Even though Karen Blixen lost everything in Africa, Meryl Streep portrays Blixen as having ultiamtely earned the respect and the admiration of the women, men, and native peoples that she eventually left there. In my opinion, Meryl Streep is never grander than she is in Out of Africa, and in similar fashion, I feel that Robert Redford’s greatest performance is in the same movie. I am not sure that Dennis Fench Hatton was the character that Robert Redford portrayed, but Redford’s performance was flawless. In the movie Out of Africa, Dennis Fench Hatton is noble but not perfect.

Related image

Karen Blixen: He even took the gramophone on safari. Three rifles, supplies for a month, and Mozart.

Fench Hatton loved literature, good stories, and music. He was intriguing, but he had difficulty sharing himself:

Berkeley Cole about Fench Hatton: He likes giving gifts… but not at Christmas.

Image result for out of africa robert redford

Although she would have considered Fench Hatton the love of her life, Karen Blixen is portrayed as never having the satisfaction of Fench Hatton’s absolute devotion. Fench Hatton needed freedom. He needed aloneness. He didn’t want to be needed or to be relied upon. At almost the end of the movie, Meryl Streep accepts the fact that she is leaving Africa without the kind of relationship that she had wanted with Fench Hatton, but in the movie, Fench Hatton has to admit that Blixen would be taking more of him than he had wanted:

Denys: You’ve ruined it for me, you know.
Karen Blixen: Ruined what?
Denys: Being alone.

Image result for out of africa robert redford funeral

When it would seem that things could not have gotten worse for Karen Blixen, they did, and Fench Hatton was killed in an airplane accident.

A day before she was to leave the Africa that she loved, Blixen admitted at Fench Hatton’s graveside:

“So take back the soul of Denys Finch-Hatton. He brought us joy, we loved him well. But…he was not ours. He was not mine.”

The Karen Blixen and Denys Fench Hatton of the movie Out of Africa are epic. I cannot imagine that any two actors could have portrayed these two people better than Meryl Streep and Robert Redford did. A movie like Out of Africa is literature, and Redford and Streep are largely responsible for this movie’s success.

Image result for out of africa robert redford funeral

As long as I live, I never shall forget Out of Africa.

Karen Blixen: [Voiceover] I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

©Jacki Kellum August 18, 2017

Solitary

 

 

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