Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Art complements life
Yes, William Holden was positively dreamy in 1948. But his was not the character who captured my imagination.
It was Edmund Gwenn as a retired philosophy professor who burrowed into my heart. His wife is dead. His son died in WWI. The college strongly suggested that it was time to retire. So he's rattling around in his big house, filled with ennui as he writes his "opus." (We're never told exactly what it is.) When the book is done, he calmly decides he's going to commit suicide.
He loved his wife and son, but they're gone. He traveled every year when he was a husband and father and saw much of the beauty the world has to offer. He loved teaching, but the college no longer wants him. When his book is done, he'll be done, too. It will have been a good life, ending on a high note. Why wait until he is sick and scared to go? Why not check out in his own way, on his own terms, as winter turns to spring?
His plans are upended when he meets the Peggy of the title. She's an exuberant 19-year-old bride, pregnant with her first baby, and she and her Navy vet husband have nowhere to live. Literally nowhere. They are so desperate that they accept the tiny attic in the professor's home. He doesn't want them there, of course. But as long as he's still living on campus, the college can prevail upon him to take them in.
He gets involved with Peggy and her handsome hubby, and their dog and cat, and their preparations for their new baby and he experiences a renewed will to live and enjoy life.
Sound predictable? I suppose it was. But I was totally into it emotionally.
Because just as the lights went down, I learned that Pervy Walt died. Last summer, my 90-year-old neighbor was diagnosed with cancer. This year, over the last 5 months, he went to the hospital three times -- twice in an ambulance -- before this fourth and final hospitalization.
I'm glad he died in the hospital, hopefully with a lot of pain meds and a minister or nun nearby. I'd be lying if I said I'll miss him -- his behavior had gotten too creepy and inappropriate for that. But I wonder if he was like the professor at the beginning of the movie. I wonder if he was ready to go.
And I'm grateful to God and fate and my movie group and Hollywood for giving me Apartment for Peggy to help me work through my feelings.