My sense of humor is an acquired taste; the kind that makes people double over with laughter or with groans of deeply-felt-suffering (sometimes both). My favorite jokes involve puns, wordplay, and linguistic misunderstandings. I’m also a great fan of slapstick and “mugging” (pulling faces); as a trained singer, silly voices are my forte (ba-dum-tssh). I owe this comedic inheritance largely to one man: Danny Kaye.
My first lesson in comedy (other than the singing orange on Sesame Street) was Kaye’s performance as the clown to Bing Crosby’s Mr. Cool in White Christmas. About five years later, shortly after my family had moved to Maryland, my dad brought home a copy of The Court Jester (1955). He promised that it was the perfect film to watch during the Thanksgiving Break, as there was plenty of “turkey” to go around; thus proving that my parents were not entirely blameless in the creation of my silly sensibilities. As summarized on its IMDd page: “A hapless carnival performer masquerades as the court jester as part of a plot against an evil ruler who has overthrown the rightful king.”
Continue reading “Life Could Not Better Be || The Court Jester”
“Everybody Comes to Rick’s” … At least that is what I assume was written on the invitation.
My first experience with Casablanca was a fancy-dress housewarming party, thrown by my parents after they had finished constructing our new home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The event took place in our spacious, fully-furnished basement, and neither my sister nor I were invited. It was after our bedtime, but I remember our doorbell ringing, adults strolling in wearing trench coats or elegant gowns. They looked different from the grownups I was used to, many of them having traded their Stetsons for Fedoras. This was because, I later learned, the party was Casablanca-themed (my parent were such nerds). Today, the only momentos of that dreamlike occasion are the movie poster that hangs on Robin’s wall (my Dad, Richard, invited all the guests to sign the back of the frame), and the peacock-blue, bejeweled dress that hung for years thereafter in my mom’s closet.
This was “the start of [my] beautiful friendship” with the quintessential Hollywood flick. As summarized on its IMDb page: “A cynical nightclub owner protects an old flame and her husband from Nazis in Morocco.”
Continue reading “Here’s Lookin’ at You || Casablanca”
Around the time that I turned 10, I was on a quixotic quest: finding a sport in which I did not feel like a clumsy giraffe. My height was well-suited for basketball and volleyball, but I never took to them. Mastery of the games’ mechanics was beyond my elementary-school patience and, being of a capricious nature, I abandoned these athletic pursuits for artistic ones. It was not until my freshman year of college when the desire to do something physical once more reared its head. Why? Because I was presented with the opportunity to do something of which I, as a child who loved swash-buckling, had longed dreamed: Fencing.
As I learned the basics of swordplay, I began to see myself less as a graceless stork, and more as a nimble combatant, whose height gave her a greater reach and deeper lunge than her opponents. My instructors were patient as they led us through our drills, but when I clashed with them during practice matches, they did not hold back (actually I’m sure they did, it just REALLY did not feel like it). They would spring forward with disarming (pun intended) speed, and always five moves ahead of their students. At the end of my first year, I felt like a Jedi padawan, with much to learn, but with a new-found confidence in myself that would serve me well as I began adult-ing.
Inspired by my enthusiastic reports, my father found a fencing salon back east, and he and I would spar with each other during breaks. I remember one occasion where the snow blanketed our yard, gleaming as white as our fencing uniforms, our breath visible as it puffed out from the mesh of our masks. Thanks to my father, who had first shown me classic movies like Scaramouche (1952), movies that kick-started my imagination and a desire for thrilling heroics, I had found a zeal for swordplay that eventually overwhelmed my reluctance towards physical recreation.
As summarized on the film’s IMDb page: “In France during the late 18th Century, a man sets out to avenge the death of his friend at the hands of a master swordsman.”
Continue reading “Buckle and Swash || Scaramouche”