HIS RESPONSE IS; Why sure baby. Don't tell me that tree is gonna lay down and die that easily. Look at that tree. See where its coming from. Right out of the cement! Didn't nobody plant it. Didn't ask (permission from) the cement to grow. It just couldn't help growing so much it just pushed the old cement out of the way. Now when you bust it, with something like that, can't nobody help it, like, like that little ole bird up there. He didn't ask anybody could he sing and he certainly didn't take any lessons. He's so full of it, it just has to bust out someplace. Why they couldn't cut that tree to the ground and (still) a root would push up somewhere else in the cement.
Old movies are one of my great escapes. The ones I like, I'll watch over and over. Somehow, thanks mainly to "TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES" (TCM), even if years get between viewings, these gems can't help pushing their way through the cracks to entertainment me, (and millions of others). This guiltless pleasure radiates within me on several levels but mostly, I appreciate their quality, familiarity and consistency. I rarely get caught-up in their inner, technical workings, I prefer the style, enjoy the stories and love the characters.
I get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the actors and their roles. Like old home movies of a long lost relative or friend, my movies are a time capsule. Remember the old home movies at grandma's Thanksgiving in 1961? And isn't it priceless how the memories are stirred when you see your Uncle Charlie sleeping on the sofa...for the thirtieth time. That's the affect I get when watching the big Hollywood superstars in action.
My friend HJ recently experienced something similar. He informed me that his dad appeared in the late 60's as an impostor on the TV show, "TO TELL THE TRUTH."
|"TO TELL THE TRUTH," USED A PANEL OF FOUR CELEBRITIES TO SEPARATE TWO IMPOSTORS FROM THE REAL CONTESTANT WHO HAD AN USUAL OCCUPATION OR EXPERIENCE. IN VARIOUS VERSIONS, THE SHOW, IN NON-CONSECUTIVE YEARS, APPEARED FROM 1956 TO 2002, FOR 25 SEASONS|
|AMERICAN FRANCIS GARY POWERS, (1929-1977), WAS ON A RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHT IN 1960. HE WAS HELD IN THE USSR FOR TWO YEARS UNTIL HE WAS INCLUDED IN A SPY SWAP.|
I'm jealous, I wish I had some youthful video of my dad speaking. Therefore, I admit that seeing the icons of the silver screen pales by comparison but I still love watching "my" Hollywood friends perform.
Sometimes, the less than iconic stars are fun too. This is true in the case of balding, slender character actor, James Gleason. While casual movie fans might not know him by name, this native of Manhattan is highly noticeable because from 1931-1958, he made a career out of being typecast as a tough New Yorker (usually from Brooklyn) with a warm heart. My connection with this craggy voiced master of double-talk probably stems from me being from Brooklyn and that I could identify with his accurate portrayals.
As mentioned in the prologue above, young Francie Nolan grows up in the turn-of-the-century slums of Williamsburg Brooklyn. Her personality is a combination of her stern, pragmatic, hard working mother and her charismatic, imaginative, deadbeat father.
|FRANCIE NOLAN WILL GROW UP TO BE AN AUTHOR. SINCE I FIRST READ "TREE" IN JUNIOR HIGH, MY WRITING HAS BEEN INFLUENCED BY ONE OF IT'S STRONGEST THEMES...WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW.|
Gleason's role (more richly described in the book) is typical of him. Perhaps because of the difficult nature of running a dive in a poor neighborhood, he is seen as a miserable, cantankerous soul. When Johnny Nolan (32) dies from complications from pneumonia and alcohol poisoning, Katie, who never met McGarrity, feels compelled by her sense of fair play to face the ogre, relinquish her sparse savings, settle her husband's bar tab and retrieve his personal mug, (so Johnny can be buried with it).
Before going to the male oriented bar room, Francie's mother goes to the coroner's office. She pleads (successfully) for the sake of her children to omit any inference of liquor from her husband's death certificate. Then at McGarrity's, she sees the curmudgeon's negativity in action. Still, she prods herself forward, introduces herself and explains her visit.
Johnny's charismatic spirit squeezes up through the grave, through the most unlikely cracks in the concrete of McGarrity's outward appearance and into his heart. The gin mill operator lightens up when he sees Katie's beauty. Then he lies and says that Johnny Nolan already paid off his account.
In reality, Johnny (The Brooklyn Nightingale) was a barfly who was frequently mocked and/or thrown out. He pan-handed free drinks by singing and telling wild yarns about his wonderful family. When McGarrity saw Katie, he figured that Johnny wasn't full of blarney after all. He then confesses to her that he has a miserable personal life. But Johnny's incredible, loving stories made him feel good and made anything seem possible.
This sequence is the catalyst that turns Francie's family fortunes around and will eventually lead to a happy ending for everyone. Well, not Johnny Nolan, who's worth more dead, than alive. This is proven immediately when McGarrity offers Francie's younger brother a job after school, (even though financially, this gesture is poor business decision and unnecessary...it slips through the cracks and becomes an emotional windfall for McGarrity by keeping a part of Johnny nearby).
I once made the mistake of relating myself to the Johnny Nolan character. When my son was young, I couldn't control my enthusiasm for sharing, the great details of my family life. After all, to quote baseball legend Reggie Jackson, "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." But I soon realized that people (many more than I imagined) led tough lives and didn't want to hear so much, so often. Then when I considered that Johnny Nolan died a young man, I toned-down that aspect of my life.
"A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN," is a sensitive coming of age story. Written in a social commentary wrapper, it reflects the American dream as well as being a nostalgic look back to simpler times. So please don't let anyone tell you that, "Tree" is a girlie book or a chick-flick.
|FRANCIE AND JOHNNY NOLAN, AT THE COURTYARD WINDOW WHERE THEY ADMIRE THE "TREE OF HEAVEN" WHICH PERSEVERED WITHOUT WATER, SUNLIGHT OR EVEN SOIL.|
If it sounds like I'm bragging...GOOD! Because there is something inside me that can't stop my praise. So the next time you get an urge to watch a great old movie, do yourself a favor because it's worth seeing (or reading) over and over.