Shall We Have A Drink First Or Shall We Go Right To Bed?Thursday, November 20, 2014
"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.”
Goodbye to Berlin - Christopher Isherwood
"Shall we have a drink first or shall we go right to bed?"
Sally Bowles (Julie Harris) to Christopher Isherwood (Laurence Harvey) in I Am A Camera
La ignorancia es atrevida. Ignorance is daring.
Asomó el rabo. He showed his tail.
The latter remark had to do with the fact that my Roman Catholic grandmother had been born in Catholic Spain in the 19th century and people then made comments related to Darwin and that mankind had apes as ancestors.
The above is but a gentle reminder to me that at age 72 I still live and learn. The learning bit seems to be quickening as the more I read and the more I see, the more I know how little I know.I had never heard of the film I Am a Camera and for reasons that escape me, little of what I read about author Christopher Isherwood in my NY Times stuck in my memory. I Am a Camera came into my consciousness (sort of randomly) while reading Pauline Kael - 5001 Nights at the Movies while sitting where "el rey va solo."
I Am a Camera is a 1955 film directed by Henry Cornelius starring Laurence Harvey, Julie Harris, Shelley Winters and Anton Diffring. No film with Julie Harris can ever not be good. It is a change to see the aristocratic Diffring play a repressed Jewish man when he later appeared mostly as scary Nazi officers in American war films.
There is only one copy of I Am a Camera in Vancouver that I know of. It is currently at home rented to me by Limelight Video on Broadway and Blanca. It is a VHS tape so I have my now most useful RCA cables connecting my recently brought-back-from-basement- retirement VHS machine to my Sony Trinitron TV.
Of the film my friend John Lekich (who has never seen it) told me that when the Broadway play (also with Julie Harris) premiered in 1951 noted American theatre critic Walter Kerr said of the production directed by John Van Druten. “Me no Leica.”
The film was entertaining, funny (and best of all it did not have Joel Gray in it. If you wonder why; just look it up.) It managed to only hint of Christopher Isherwood’s (played by big -haired Laurence Harvey) sexuality when Harvey says, “I am not the marrying kind.” British censors in 1955 must have been draconian.
There is a tiny twisty connection for me that came to mind when I finished seeing I Am a Camera. In the late 80s Les Wiseman and I would sometimes skip warm-up acts at the Commodore concerts when the bands were bad or not sophisticated enough for sophisticated rock music critic Wiseman. We would walk around the corner to our favourite cheap beer hangout, the Dufferin at the Dufferin Hotel. It had second-tier exotic dancers who in our opinion were surprisingly inventive to compensate for perceived lacked charms. One of the waiters looked exactly like Laurence Harvey. He must have known this as he cultivated that big hair protruding over his forehead.
One such day, the warm-up band was terrible. We left the Commodore and we ran into our favourite exotic, Miss Mew who was the only dancer in town who included the music of Lou Reed in her act. She asked us where we were going. We answered. She said, “It’s changed.”
We sat down and ordered our beer. The Harvey waiter was not in evidence. I then told Wiseman, “There are quite a few men here who are holding hands.” Wiseman noted, finished his beer and said, “Let’s go.” We never returned and I believe neither did the dancers. The Dufferin, indeed had changed.
I never did see a waiter at the Dufferin with Nordic good-looks who might have played a Nazi officer in an American war film.