Hooray for The Artist

Hooray for The Artist and good for The Academy!   

I just attended film for the second time. I first agreed to see it at the behest of my theatrically inclined granddaughter. Black and white? No dialogue? What kind of gimmick was this? 

What a delightful surprise! Always intrigued by the past, I especially love vintage cinema. I remember watching “Sunset Boulevard” for the first time as a teenager. I was captivated by silent screen idol, Norma Desmond, watching silent movies which captured her as a nubile young siren. No wonder growing old drove her crazy—with such a tantalizing visual reminder of everything she had lost.

The roaring twenties was my era. I love everything—the campy art deco, the elegant cars, the sylph-like women with bobbed hair, and the leading men with bedroom eyes and pencil mustaches. They reveled in their youth, their beauty, and their disdain for convention. The writers, artists, and actors inhabited a realm apart from us mere mortals and were idolized for it.

The women were vamps, their lives surrounded by mystery. Precious few contemporary actresses will become icons like Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, Loretta Young, or Katherine Hepburn to name a few. It was not a “tell all” world back then. A star was expected uphold a public image. I, for one, prefer not to know every sordid detail of their private lives. It ruins the magic.

Yes, glamour is mostly an illusion, but that is what creates the magic. I know Fitzgerald was a notorious alcoholic and Hemingway ended his life with a shotgun. But the tragic details don’t negate their towering talent and the burning desire to live life to the hilt. This is what made them legends.

The Artist, captures the magic and excitement of an age when cinema was young and movies served as a primary escape from the great depression. We have DVDs now and every manner of electronic device to entertain ourselves, yet nothing matches sitting in a dark theatre waiting for a movie to begin. For a few hours, we hope to suspend reality without interruptions.

An allegory for every great story, The Artist depicts George Valentin’s fall from the pinnacle of Hollywood silent films. He is brought down by the new “talkies.” Sound is his enemy, so it is banished from the movie. Words are not needed. His chance encounter with the lovely Peppy Miller is classic. They are struck by the thunderbolt, and their lives will never be the same. Dialogue would be a distraction.

Uggie the dog understands that. Indeed, he is the star of the show. His biography states that he narrowly escaped the pound. This makes him perfect for the role. The little guy is all heart. He saves his master from self-destruction so Valentin lives to dance his way into the dawn of talking films. Corny, but satisfying. Like watching Charlie Chaplin duck-walk off into the horizon at the end of a film. He adjusts his bowler, twirls his cane, and you know he is smiling.

I am old enough to dread the inevitable changes I see coming. My children are already lamenting the vanished world of their childhood—which really makes me feel ancient. Maybe nostalgia is wired into the human psyche.

I hear rumors that books and newspapers will disappear, replaced by electronic media. I can’t imagine a world without books so I hoard mine, just in case. My dream house has floor to ceiling walls of books. Then again, maybe that’s heaven…

I hope I can survive a transition to the brave new world as gracefully as Valentin. My motto is: treasure the past, anticipate the future, and relish the present.

When all else fails—dance!

Seaside Book Signing

I had a book signing at Seaside on March 14th at Sundog bookstore located in Santa Rosa Beach on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Selling books was icing on the cake since just being there was a treat. Made famous by the film, The Truman Show, in 1998, the town is unique. Duplicate communities have sprouted up but nothing is quite like the original with its taffy-colored houses trimmed in white gingerbread.

The day started out gray with fog rolling in off the water. But by midday, the warren of angular peaks and widows’ walks shimmered against a robin egg blue sky.

Spring break was in full swing and I had a bird’s eye view from my little table on the bookstore’s front porch. The expanse of green grass on the square that supports farmers’ markets and festivals was teeming. Dogs chased balls, teenagers basked in the sun, and children toddled and tumbled along the hills.

I enjoyed visiting with fellow book lovers who gravitated to Sundog which is located in the heart of the town. A lovely young girl congratulated me on The Messenger and introduced herself with a wide smile made adorable by a mouthful of metal braces. Told me she had read at least half of the books in the teen section.

Two lovely ladies from Canada who had known each other since grammar school chatted with me and swapped stories about our travels. Another couple purchased a book for their daughter who was named Cozette after Le Miserable—one of my favorite novels and musicals.

A man sat down next to me for a brief respite while we discussed the inspiration for The Messenger and his son’s voracious appetite for books. It was his eleventh birthday and the trip was a bonding experience for both.

I discussed the challenges of being published and promoting a book with a musician who was writing his own songs and hoping to sell them.

But a chocolate brown Rottweiler puppy with a splotch of white on his chest stole the show. I should have offered to rent him for a couple of hours since everyone who passed stopped to pet him. Hard to imagine he will one day grow into a bruiser weighing over a hundred pounds!  

Like most independent bookstores, the customer service is friendly and personal. It is the perfect place to browse during a lazy afternoon, perusing floor-to-ceiling shelves and tables laden with every genre of book. Then camp out on the beach or relax at an outdoor café sipping a latte or savoring a gelato.

Just a taste of Paradise…