My mind is to movie trivia what flypaper is to flies. And I blame my mother for that.
Back in the days when the whole family (parents and children – in our case that meant 7 people in “cinema #1”) gathered together in the flickering glow of the TV’s blue rays to watch THE BIG MOVIE OF THE WEEK or some such program my mother would educate us on the careers, loves and lives of the stars that appeared before us. She might give us some background info about: the film itself – the challenges and process of making it, the original story upon which the film was based, its director or writer, the caterer, the makeup artists, the music etc.
She was the living embodiment of the SPECIAL FEATURES selection on your DVD. Only there was no button to turn on or turn off the program so, while we were focused on watching the movie her running commentary would be heard subtly in the background.
Did you know that Bob Cummings of LOVE THAT BOB fame was a health fanatic who took multiples of multiple vitamins, observed a strict diet and daily exercise regimen? Bet you didn’t.
Or that Charlton Heston was an artist’s model and Burt Lancaster a circus acrobat before becoming movie stars; that Montgomery Clift’s beautiful face was scarred in a horrible car accident and his career was never the same afterwards; or that Allan Ladd was such a tiny little guy that movie sets would appear like virtual irrigation fields the troughs dug so that his leading ladies could walk alongside him and appear smaller than he?
But Mom is 87 now. Her flypaper is drying up and, the flies are dropping off. When we watch a movie together the sound of her uttering, almost to herself, “He looks familiar. I’ve seen that actor before.” and the sight of her brow furrowing with the effort to reclaim lost memory turns on my SPECIAL FEATURES function. And as once she did for me I now do for her. I fill in all the details. But the flies I lob her way don’t stick and she pushes my play button repeatedly.
I read somewhere that seniours respond best to old movies. The pace is slower and there’s less overlapping dialogue than in contemporary film. But there is one drawback.
They have prompted her to ask a new question. After hearing my commentary, now there’s a pause, a moment in which the realization of her advancing age and mortality rises up. “I wonder if he’s still alive.”
Now, we’re going back to the 50’s, 40’s and even the 30’s. So you can guess what my answer most often is.
“No. No Mom he’s dead.”
“Oh,” she says dejectedly.
Remember her flies aren’t sticking, so after 2 hours or so of this we both get pretty depressed. I’ve even, as my sister-in-law suggested, tried declaring in advance - “Dead. Dead. They’re all dead.” This still didn’t stave off the inevitable repeat question.
I thought perhaps a musical, filled with singing and dancing and wonderful costumes, would solve the problem. Mom loves to sing and will sing along with virtually anything. And what could be better than a movie with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire?
I was right! We sailed through the movie without her pushing my SPECIAL FEATURES button even once. Feeling very self-satisfied I turned to Mom and she said, “They looked familiar those actors.”
“Yes, Mom they’re Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. You remember them.”
“Oh yes” she said cheerily. “I wonder if they’re still alive.”
“No they died quite a while ago.”
“Ummm. Must have been from all that dancing.”
We both cracked up. Some flies stick longer than others.