The untold want by life and land ne’er granted

Alex brought round “Now, Voyager” and forced me to watch it.

I’ve never been mad on black and white movies. I watch them out of a sense of respect rather than much enjoyment – but Bette Davies moved me.

In many ways, it’s a clonky old thing. Terrible cuts and giggle-worthy back projections of Rio and the Caribbean but the story is very potent.

Youngest child under her mother’s dictatorial sway has breakdown and goes to a therapist. She travels away from home falls in love with a married man. Comes back strong and defiant. She negotiates a truce with the horrid mother who later passes away. Still in love with the holiday man, she turns down a very suitable marriage proposal and goes back to the therapeutic colony where she meets and looks after the unwanted, unhappy daughter of holiday man. She realises she can’t have her lover but she forges an unusual middle way of caring for the little girl who is also her little self.

Therapeutically that journey is very significant and sophisticated. This is what I scribbled in my notebook the following morning:

she is the model for us gays.

break free of mother. kill her with the truth (your inheritance will not be effected). but don’t look to a ‘better parent’ in love. know what you are. cry in public. admit your illness. and help others . accept that you are perhaps not the marrying kind (in the sense of hiding in a phoney parent like livingstone who gives her money and a house). but find your inner child make it happy, take it camping. and then perhaps you can live and roast wieners on the fire, happily. acceptance is key: wanting the moon as well as the stars is just foolish greed.

13 Comments

  1. Lynn

    June 26, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    That last sentence is so sublimely true.

  2. Geoff Coupe

    June 27, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    You watch black and white movies out of a sense of respect? Dear me, James Whale and Orson are spinning in their graves… But glad you saw Bette. I have a postcard of her with her pictured alongside a cushion embroidered with “Old age is no place for sissies”. So true.

  3. BSB

    June 28, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Lovely stream of thought there, going to carry this with me for a while.

    Thanks x

  4. Chris Vienna

    June 29, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Hi Alistair, Great how you summed this up!

  5. Scott

    June 29, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    “Admit your illness”? I hope you meant the feelings of guilt and lack of self worth many gays grow up with and do not consider being gay an illness.

    1. alistair

      July 1, 2009 at 1:18 am

      Absolutely Scott: there’s a wonderful book, The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs that looks at this. We are not ashamed of being gay – we are ashamed of being unacceptable and unloveable. The one preceeds the other. First we felt unloved – then later we knew ourselves to be gay. It is (relatively) easy to come out as gay – but it can take a life time to accept those feelings of unloveliness.

  6. Boz

    June 30, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    She smokes like a chimney though. The whole time.

  7. robert ryan

    June 30, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Good to see that you appreciate old films Though they may seem stodgy , they have a great deal to offer as a snapshot of the times in which they were made.That being said, I think you offered valuable insight about forging relationships that are based on real feelings of love and support-rather than a search to replace the love ,comfort and feelings of stability that are sadly lacking when parents reject their gay and lesbian children.
    PS If you want to see another great performance by Bette Davis I suggest All About Eve!

  8. Scott

    July 2, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I agree. Thanks for recommending the book!

  9. rob

    July 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Great movie and a memorable performance by Ms. Davis. I watch it whenever it’s on cable.

    Small note: most of the off-set (non-giggly) shooting was done in Laguna Beach, CA.

  10. scott

    July 3, 2009 at 11:24 am

    If you are becoming interested in old black and white classics, see “Rebecca”.

  11. toby

    July 13, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    thats so right on-what you put
    love the child within is your
    best shot xx

  12. Brian

    August 11, 2009 at 1:09 am

    This is a real favorite of mine. If you can ever find it, you ought to read the original book by Olive Higgins Prouty. It’s pulpy, but says so much on the themes you’ve mentioned. Her experience as the odd one out correlates so well to our experiences in the gay world.
    Thanks for your comments on this, I appreciated reading them.

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