Richard Chamberlain & Diana The HuntressWednesday, February 13, 2008
It was 1970 and Rosemary and I had been married for two years. We lived in Mexico City's Zona Rosa within walking distance of the Cine Chapultepec. It was right next to the beautiful glorieta (roundabout) of la Diana Cazadora (Diana the Huntress). For a while in the 50s during president Adolfo Ruiz Cortines's 6 years in office his wife had ordered a metal "bikini" bottom attached to the rousing and beautiful statue that was also a fountain. Since we left Mexico City in 1975 the fountain was moved and perhaps the Cine Chapultepec is long gone. But I remember it well for several reasons.
With my friend and mentor Raúl Guerrero Montemayor (who speaks at least 10 languages) we saw many Antonioni films at the Chapultepec. We also saw Italian comedies. A couple featured bidet jokes. More often than not the Chapultepec was packed full and Raúl and I would sit separately. There would be a bidet joke and I could hear him laugh as he would hear me laugh. Mexicans had no knowledge of the function of bidets. It was at the Chapultepec that Raúl converted me to a film snob and I am grateful!
But it was in 1970 when the movie house seared in my memory a couple of events that I can now look back with a smile. When Rosemary and I approached the ticket booth, we were asked for ID. We were both flatered by this!
The featured film (classified as Solo Adultos by Mexican censors) was Ken Russell's The Music Lovers which was an out of the ordinary biography on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky played by Richard Chamberlain. The film is full of nightmarish flashbacks, and in one as a child, Tchaikovsky sees his mother die horribly, forcibly immersed in scalding water as a supposed cure for cholera. He is haunted by the scene throughout his musical career. Tchaikovsky dies of cholera in a bathtub scene so horrible that I refused to see Richard Chamberlain films for a long time.
In 1998 I had the opportunity to photograph Chamberlain for the Globe & Mail at the Vancouver Hotel. He was gracious to Globe writer Chris Dafoe and Chamberlain laughed with me when I told him of the Cine Chapultepec incident. He considered that film one of his best even if most people have forgotten it.
I wish I could tell him that I plan to see him in The Man In The Iron Mask with Rebecca and as many of his swashbucklers as I can find. The Music Lovers will have to wait a bit. Below is a photograph I took in 1997 that shows the Diana in its new location much closer to the (only now) aptly named Cine Diana which is a modern type of movie house without the charm of our old Cine Chapultepec.