Thursday, July 1, 2010

Middle Class Morality 2

D.W. Griffith The Stenographer

I'm watching The Apartment on Turner Classics, taping it at the same time, and, gee, it's terrific. Beautifully edited. (I looked it up and it won best editing, as well as best picture and screenplay and director and b and w cinematography. So this time my HD TV doesn't enhance the movie watching experience, and, frankly, in this case, it doesn't matter). Just no acting awards, although Jack Lemmon and Shirley McLaine are extremely sympathic in their roles. Despite the great directing and screenplay and editing, the movie would have failed if they hadn't nailed their performances.

What I recall of the movie: my older brother loved it and had a major crush on McLaine. I didn't quite understand at the time, although I certainly do now, in my 'wise old age'. (I didn't see this movie in the cinema, too young. In Quebec in the 60's, kids under 10 couldn't go to movies because of a fatal fire in 1927.) Of course, the story line of The Apartment is designed to make teenage boys identify with the Lemmon character.

The movie, although sooooooo 60's, is not dated either, from what I can see. I bet the plot of the Stenographer, above, D.W. Griffith, was similar. Age old story. Did Wilder do the Seven Year Itch?

Anyway, In the Perfect Summer, 1911, the book I am reading, Juliet Nicolson, the author discusses Nickelodeons and their popularity, and her description is detailed. Nickels often smelled of pee, she writes, with young kids getting too excited and wetting themselves.

This non fiction book, from 2007, reads like a novel, with larger-than-life historical characters. And the delight is in the details. It always is. I must remember that as I write Flo in the City, my middle school novel about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era.

Nicolson's non fiction novel also describes all the fooling around the Edwardian upper crust engaged in...husbands and wives anyway. And she names names. One of the 'characters" Miss Diana Manners, an ingenue, was not fathered by her official father.

The ingenues, though, still had to be careful, although they could be rebellious in other ways and have 'big' ideas. No birth control pill.

The Nicholsons of Tighsolas, on which I am basing my novel, Flo in the City, were middle class. And their morality was rigid, as the middle class's tends to be. Even today. Just check out the message boards on the online newspapers. (Except today, for the most part among the middle class, it is acceptable for unmarried middle class girls to be sexually active. Adultery is another thing, just look at the way the media pilloried Tiger Woods.) With respect to Tighsolas and 1910, when Mother Margaret hears of a local man having an affair 'seeing another woman' she writes to her husband that "he might as well throw himself in the river."

Yet, she was a 'new woman' in so many ways, even admiring the militant suffragettes, who were looked upon by some as 'terrorists'.