The above image is taken from the 1967 Disney musical The Happiest Millionaire, starring Fred MacMurray as the titular millionaire. The Happiest Millionaire is a rather bizarre movie which wasn't originally supposed to be a musical- it's based on the 1956 non-musical play by the same name. After the gigantic success of 1964's Mary Poppins, however, Disney decided that turning it into a musical was the way to go, and even got the Sherman brothers to write the songs for the production. Unfortunately it was a bit of a flop, for a variety of reasons, one being that it's too long; it premiered at 164 minutes though in later releases it was pared down to 118 minutes (apparently there's also a director's cut which is 172 minutes long, which is a scary thought). The movie is also very uneven- some of the plot points and characters work, and some don't. The same is true of the songs: some work, some don't... although most of the songs are pretty good... hey, they were written by the Shermans. Also, most of the actors just seem to be trying too hard: Tommy Steele, for instance, has his fresh-off-the-boat Irishman schtick dialed up to eleven.
Despite its flaws- and they're numerous- I have a sneaking liking for The Happiest Millionaire, mostly because I'm fascinated by the character MacMurray portrays: the millionaire Anthony J. Drexel Biddle. Biddle was a real person; the movie- and play- are based on a book written by his daughter Cordelia (in the film played by Leslie Ann Warren) called My Philadelphia Father. This is the only biography I've seen about Biddle, though I can't understand why: the man was larger than life and there should be volumes wriiten about him. To be fair to Disney, some of the most eccentric bits of the film are the true parts, such as keeping pet alligators in his house, having boxing matches/dinner parties, and giving a chocolate cake diet a try.
Biddle was a millionaire who wasn't content to just enjoy his wealth; he authored books, wrote a sports column for a newspaper, and was an avid boxer, sparring with world heavyweight champions like Jack Johnson and Gene Tunney. During World War I, Biddle joined the Marines despite being in his forties. He opened a military training facility just outside Philidelphia to train soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. He later served in the National Guard and wrote a combat handbook entitled Do or Die: A Supplementary Manuel On Individual Combat. After Pearl Harbour was attacked, 67 year old Biddle was recalled by the Marines as a combat instructor.
Biddle also founded the Athletic Christianity movement, which combined religious teaching with a vigorous exercise program and at its height had over 300,000 followers. Which brings us back to the picture in question; in the movie, this movement is portrayed as the Biddle Boxing and Bible School, which is located in his stables.
In this part of the novel, Elizabeth is dealing with her combined feelings of anger, guilt, and mortification following Mrs. Thornton's visit. On one hand, she's furious at Mrs. Thornton's unjust accusations and the evident satisfaction the woman took in expressing them. At the same time, she knows herself to be guilty of some wrongdoing, though involuntarily and not of what she's been accused. It has been preying on her mind that Mr. Thornton knows of her lie to the police; it's a shock to her to realize that he believes that Frederick is her lover whom she was meeting in secret, and that this was the reason she lied. It is at this point- when Margaret realizes that she has lost Mr. Thornton's good opinion and regard- that she also fully understands the value of this loss. Of course, recognition of Mr. Thornton's worth has been slowly growing on Margaret for some time, which is why she wanted Nicholas to ask him personally for a job. Unconsciously or not, she believed Thornton would not be as vengeful and unwilling to forgive as many of the other mill owners. This is why she is so disappointed when Higgins tells her that Thornton refused to give him work; earlier in their acquaintance she would not have been surprised- indeed, she would have expected it.
As it turns out, Margaret's belief in Mr. Thornton's good character is not misplaced; after investigating Higgins' situation, he offers the man a job. When he finds out that Margaret had told Nicholas to ask him, Thornton is conflicted: he wants her to know that he did indeed employ the man, but he doesn't want her to think that it was on her account. Which, indeed, it wasn't. When they accidentally meet, Mr. Thornton tells her that he hired Higgins, and then breaks down and asks her for an explanation of what she was doing at the train station the night Leonard died. He says that he is asking as a family friend, out of concern for Margaret and her father. Which is true, but not entirely, or he wouldn't be so angry. The fact is, despite what he says about his former regard for her being gone, Thornton is still very much in love with Margaret and is desperate for reassurance that he was not mistaken about her character. Though of course, his pride won't allow him to say so: it's safer to take refuge in anger. When Margaret tell him though, that she can't explain because she's protecting someone, it's difficult to say if his anger is more because- he thinks- she's done something scandalous, or because she cares enough about another man to risk her reputation over him.
For her part, Margaret is miserably sure that, not only does Mr. Thornton no longer care for her, he now must thoroughly despise her. The realization that she has lost his regard and respect- just when she was realizing what they were worth- is another blow to Margaret, and it brings her almost to her breaking point. Margaret has been trying to be strong for her father's sake, but the pain over her mother's death- and Bessy's, the strike, the strain of trying to keep Frederick's presence in England a secret, the fear of a police investigation following Leonard's death, and her personal guilt and shame about lying about the event, have left Margaret exhausted and despairing. Now added to that is the regret that she rejected the love of Mr. Thornton- however clumsily it was offered- and the knowledge that this was a mistake she can never take back. It is at this low point that the letter arrives from Edith saying that they are returning from Greece to London, and would love to have Margaret with them. At the beginning of the novel Margaret, care free and happy, couldn't wait to get away from the shallow pursuits of London and live in Helstone with her parents. Now, with Helstone a distant memory and her mother gone, Margaret, tired and sad, thinks back wistfully on her years in London where she was free from care, pain, or loss. She begins to think that it would be good to escape to London, and leave behind all the grief she's experienced in Milton.
I did my First Aid recertification yesterday after realizing that I had accidentally let it expire in May. Oops. I'm now once again an official First Aider, ready to perform CPR, administer an AED, prevent choking, poke people with EpiPens, and bandage/treat all manner of injuries with confidence and efficiency...
Kidding aside, our instructor was really good, with lots of personal experience/ practical advice because he's formerly navy, currently a paramedic, and attending medical school. After the exam, on the way home I started thinking about Emergency! the classic TV show about the early days of the paramedic program. Running from 1972-1977, it starred Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth as paramedics/firefighters in Los Angeles. Tighe played sensible family man Roy DeSoto, while Mantooth was impulsive, nurse-chasing Johnny Gage. Both, however, were skilled and dedicated paramedics. Fun fact: the firehouse used in the series was an actual working station and the other firemen in the show were all real firefighters. The series was created by Jack Webb, and was a spin-off from his earlier police show Adam-12. Though of course the equipment and methods the paramedics and doctors use in the show are outdated, the humour, drama, and topics addressed in Emergency! hold up remarkably well. My parents own DVDs of most of the seasons of the show and I'm never sorry if, while spending an evening with them, they put on an episode or two and we pass some time with the firemen at Station 51 and the medical staff at Rampart Hospital.
The theme of our choir's spring concert was "Journeys" and one of the songs we did was taken from composer Randall Thompson's work Frostiana. Frostiana is a collection of seven songs which Thompson wrote in 1959 for the bicentennial of Amherst, Massachusetts. He wrote his music to accompany seven poems by Robert Frost, who had lived in Amherst for a number of years. The song we sang from Frostiana was "The Road Not Taken," Frost's most well known work. It's very pretty, and grew on us, but at first no one in the choir was particularly fond of it due to the fact that our director was taking it at a very slow tempo. For a while, we just referred to it as "the dirge". Eventually our director took the hint and sped things up, and we performed it at about the same tempo as the choir in the video below.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
The scene below is from Spellbound, Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 psychological thriller/murder mystery starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. In it, Bergman plays Dr. Constance Petersen, a psychoanalyst at a mental hospital in Vermont. The hospital's director is suffering from nervous exhaustion and is being involuntarily retired; his replacement arrives- Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Peck). Though very attracted to him, Constance begins to notice some oddities about his character, eventually realizing that he is not actually Dr. Edwardes after comparing his signature with that of the real doctor. It turns out that he is a man suffering from amnesia; he can't remember who he is, but he confesses to Constance that he believes that he killed the real Dr. Edwardes. Unable- or unwilling- to believe that the man she has fallen in love with is capable of murder, she takes him, now wanted by the police, to her mentor and friend Dr. Brulov. She hopes that Brulov will be able to help her break through his amnesia and find out what really happened to Dr. Edwardes.