Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Let’s Put On A Show!

There was a hackneyed theme in movie entertainment sixty or seventy years ago. Mickey Rooney or some other homunculus would turn to Judy Garland or some other soon-to-be-drinking-right-from-the-bottle starlet, and exclaim: “Let’s put on a show!”

Of course they’d get up a stage made from packing crate lumber and bedsheets, and sing and dance, and have some good old-timey fun; and they’d save the orphanage from the evil bankers who wanted to foreclose on the mortgage and turn it into a Dickensian factory. With the orphans chained to the machines, no doubt.

The only problem with the theme was that it wasn’t real. The essence of entertainment is to make the difficult seem easy, or better –effortless. When you see Gene Kelly splashing in the puddles, he’s always got that huge beaming smile on his face. Four minutes and fifty seconds in to the routine, he’s still got that smile pasted on there, even though I imagine his lungs are on fire and his knees are groaning and his lower back is barking at him and his stamina is tested like a marathoner 1000 yards from the finish line.

You’re not supposed to see the effort he put into it before the cameras were turned on, or the pie plate with stubbed out cigarette butts atop the battered piano in the third floor walk-up in Brooklyn where the song was written. You don’t want to hear about the splinters suffered by the crewman making that packing crate stage to hold Fatty Arbuckle.

But all the apparatus that makes self expression possible is getting easier to get your hands on all the time. And there are still a lot of kids in straitened circumstances with a lot of time on their hands, and they still decide to put on a show. And the internet and the digital world it represents makes room for the amateur — he who does it for love– to compete ably for your attention with the mighty professional.

Hail to you, whoever the hell you are, because you were down in your mother’s basement, and said to yourself: Let’s put on a show!:

7 Responses

  1. You don’t want to hear about the splinters suffered by the crewman making that packing crate stage to hold Fatty Arbuckle.

    Well, actually, Sip, I do. And even though, given my parentage, I was never, ever under the delusion that any of it was easy, I am still utterly willing to enter into that contract between audience and performer(s) which Peter Brooke described as the “magic if” in The Empty Stage. (Great book by the way; I read it more than a quarter century ago and still think about it.)

    I thought “Tony” was pretty cute, especially early on when in danced in that rangy, still-growing sort of way of still-early adolescence. (I can see my own son doing that, in the not-too-distant future: he displays all of the signs.) But it did become pretty clear (didn’t it?) pretty soon after that point that he’s not yet managed to get a lot hands’-on experience (ahem) with girls yet. Otherwise, I think even with THAT song, he might have come up with something a little…different than the chair sequence (after the initial “twirl”) and on to the end.

    Ah, youth. Makes ya grin, sometimes.

  2. Well, this certainly was a test of “willing suspension of disbelief.”

    I, for one, could barely believe what I was seeing. Full of life, as my grandmothers used to say.

    Youth makes you grin, indeed!

  3. Gack! I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I was/would apply “the contract” to poor Tony! (I’m not that open, believe me.) No, I was referring to the first part of the paragraph from which I drew the italicized excerpt. (Got that tortured mouthful? Good.)

    Poor Tony’s got a way to go, if he’s dreaming of “auteur” status.

    (And I must confess to a brief moment of struggle when I first saw the clip and wondered what meaning to attach to his kicking the chair around.)

    vh: begyz

    Tony’s begging y(ou) to z–what?

  4. Fred Astaire had a great quote about teaching his dance moves to his many varied partners:(slight paraphrase)

    “The girls would always say, ‘Oh, I can’t do it, I just can’t!’ and there was more carrying on, and I had to spend a lot of time not just working on it, but convincing them that they could actually do it.

    Oh, but not Ginger! Not ever!”

  5. Happy First Blogiversary, nine days late. Sorry that I missed the event.

    Love, love, love the SipCot blog.

  6. Ruth Anne- Thanks!

    Reader- I share your interest in the trivial. But we’re weirdos. We don’t count.

    As far as being an auteur, someone once told me that everybody has one hit song in them. Perhaps this is his, as it were.

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