A morning’s pause…

I did something quite decadent this morning. I watched a movie.

TCM was doing a spotlight last night on screwball comedies featuring Cary Grant and Irene Dunn and I PVRed them. My partner is away for the weekend and I had planned to get up early, make myself a pot of coffee, and get to work. But instead, I paused. It was 8:30AM, I had already thrown a load of laundry in, cleaned up the kitchen, and was hungry, so I did something I don’t think that I’ve done in a very long time–I ate my breakfast in front of an old movie, thoroughly enjoying myself.

And the cat didn’t seem to care what I  did as long as he got his wet food, so he plopped himself down at my feet and watched me laugh at My Favourite Wife.

I’ve seen this movie before.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen all of Cary Grant’s movies, and the chemistry between him and Irene Dunn is simply superb in this 1940 comedy about a guy named Nick (Grant) whose first wife, Ellen, (Dunn) returns after seven years being shipwrecked on an island. Of course he’s just declared her dead so that he can marry another woman–who you know in the first five minutes isn’t quite right for him. While the premise is silly, there is also the seemingly ridiculous, like when  Nick and Ellen (fully clothed)  have lunch at some club with a pool nearby, and Randolph Scott pops up, dripping wet from his quick jump in the pool–all bare chested wearing only a bathing suit making women of a certain era swoon.

While the screwball antics are certainly charming, what I appreciated was the relationship between Nick and Ellen. Ellen had gone away because she had left to go on some survey for work–which means that she was educated and Nick explains to the easily confused judge that they discussed it before she left and decided that she needed to go because she “needed a change.” This shows that there was respect between them, and she is probably the “modern woman.” Of course, she’s come home to be  mother and wife, but I wonder how progressive this all seemed in 1940, even if there are two beds in the master bedroom (I mean come on!)…but those were the times. 

I like thinking about these things.

I forget sometimes to relax. And the importance of allowing oneself to take a morning and watch a good movie. With my schedule I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it all done–particularly with exciting deadlines coming up and things to do and plan. It is good pressure but if I don’t take the time to stop and ponder…

What happened to those two kids in the movie who were pretty decent little actors?

Why is it that two of the movies Dunn and Grant are in end in a bedroom…I guess it is that whole It Happened One Night walls of Jericho thing?

Now that I spend the majority of my time in stories, I watch these movies (and others and TV) with new interest, perhaps watching how the story unfolds, looking for arcs and character development and discrepancies. Like:

They really couldn’t get Dunn to cut her nails for that first scene. She didn’t have a shower for a year but had time to get a manicure?

Why is it that there are pictures of the kids and their father, but no mother? Had their been a picture then the kids might have recognized their mother but the situation worked better if they didn’t know her, so no pictures of her around.  But people weren’t taking that many pictures in those days, right? Even a wedding photo? So we are asked to  just accept this as a possibility.

I wonder how good my work will actually be. And don’t get me wrong, I’m totally happy to accept these things (maybe not the manicure) but I find it interesting how the screenwriters (one of them a woman…huzzah!) kind of asked us to just accept certain things as fact. And we bought the dream–or I did.

As I said, I forget to relax and have quiet time for me that might just be about getting lost in a fun story (well sort of lost because clearly I’m still thinking about the story). But there is something about watching or reading something that is done well.  It inspires me to back to my work and craft something that I can enjoy just as much as I did this movie.

That will be the plan as I head into my writing today. Relax into it and enjoy watching the story unfold.


About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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