Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Stories

In 1970, Howard Minsky produced the film Love Story with Erich Segal's screenplay adaptation of his own novel.

The film starred Ryan O'Neill and Ali MacGraw as the star crossed lovers who undertake risk in order to marry and then face imminent separation because one of them is dying. With a stellar musical score based upon the song Where do I begin? the picture ripped the tears out of millions and set the fantasies of heart throbbing romantics sailing. I won't attempt to articulate what images of the serious, intelligent, and melancholy Ali MacGraw ignited in a just shy of ten year old psyche starting to get a sense of at least one component of what matters in life. Ohh.

The film forged into seldom (at the time) trod territory regarding character vulnerability and risk in romance. While pain on the screen was nothing new, the particular tenderness and simplicity of the anguish in the film accompanied by its music unlocked the hearts of the 1970 audience. Remember when Oliver confronts Jennifer about admitting one's feelings?

"It's a risk, isn't it, Jenny? At least I had the guts to admit what I felt."

She slows down and looks at him, "I care."

She notes her fear, "You're the preppie millionaire and I'm the social zero."

I've tasted the reality of that conversation (as the social zero) and have seen the wall slam across a face when my non-millionaire status came to light mid coffee. In the fictional film they transcend the SES barriers, but sparks fly, and after a particular blow up she bolts and he runs everywhere to find her. After an exhaustive search, he returns home to find her freezing outside their door, her face cinematic gold, "I forgot my key."

MacGraw is then priceless, forever etching "Love means never having to say you're sorry" in motion picture history and pulling tears through your ducts from the moisture under your toe nails. Shot on location at Harvard, the institution ritualistically screens the film to its incoming freshmen, socializing them to ridicule the story. Me thinks thou dost protest...

Another actress with a more prominent trajectory, Farrah Fawcett, now faces in reality the fiction portrayed by MacGraw. While at an older age, Fawcett is dying of cancer. What does this have to do with Love Story? Farrah Fawcett is the for real partner of Ryan O'Neill. Almost forty years after playing the man losing the ultimate love of his live, Ryan O'Neill now gets to see the situation in reality up close and personal. My heart goes out to him, and good for him for finding someone to love so deeply in such terrain.

Her medical records were leaked, resulting in the upgrading of the computer systems of hospitals across the country as well as legislation regarding the security of medical records, legislation with teeth signed by California Governor Schwarzenegger. The result - the tabloids aren't talking much about Farrah these days.

I am inspired by the courage displayed by Fawcett and O'Neill and their willingness to produce their own publication, Farrah's Story.

The critics have raised issues with the production, but frankly I find them infantile in light of the big picture. Until convinced otherwise, I interpret the work as an effort to contribute to others in a profoundly personal way as one faces one's own death. This ain't Little League, and the critics are spiritually dead F-heads that can pound salt. I wouldn't go critical in this terrain with nerf balls lobbed from 30 feet. Neither should anyone else.

Love Story addressed the heart. Farrah's Story addresses the soul, and yes, What a journey.

Word is that her time now consists of days and not many. God speed, Farrah Fawcett. We're all behind you in the queue and closer than we'd like to admit. I pray I can face the music with the courage you have demonstrated. Should I have the opportunity to meet you on the other side, for what it's worth, I'll approach with admiration.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, x4mr. Love your blog, but we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

I thought the show was self-indulgent and significant. Thousands of people are dying of cancer. Why would we be subjected to a show about her decline, which is really no different from that of many others?

I did appreciate Lance Armstrong's book, It's not about the bike that portrays his battle along with that of his racing. I noticed you have Gilda Radner's It's Always Something listed as a favorite book at your profile. Now THAT was an excellent account of the same subject.

I'm not "hot or intense" about this opinion, but I just don't the Farrah show offered much.

5/17/2009 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first anon is being nice about it. You were snowed, x4mr. When your body starts falling apart are we going to have to read all the gross details here?

There's something sick about this "death cam" 24/7 coverage of someone dying. Your interpretation is way too generous, x4mr. This isn't the product of something admirable or good. It's the result of the ultra famous using fame to medicate the sad reality of death with a reach for some more fame.

She's over 60, you know.

5/17/2009 9:23 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

While the first anon claims to "love this blog" I don’t think either of the anons above know how to read it. First of all, and forgive me for speaking for you, x4mr, but I am compelled to share my insight. The familiar know that at this blog the title of the post is super important. What is the title of this post? "A Tale of Two Stories."

Ever read Charles Dicken’s "A Tale of Two Cities"? London/Paris, or Boston/Hollywood, or is it Hollywood about Boston / Hollywood?

X4mr actually devotes more words to "Love Story" than he does to the Fawcett show. The post is about the contrast and distinction between the two dramas highlighted by the irony that Ryan O’Neill starred in the first and has the same role in real life in the second.

I interpret his kind treatment of Farrah as an act of easy and harmless generosity. The woman is about to die. This "ain’t Little League." If you didn’t like the show, get over it. No one will make you watch it again, and in a few days, she won’t be around to bother you with another one.

5/17/2009 10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Farrah Fawcett has the resources to travel to Germany repeatedly for treatments that, obviously, aren't going to save her life.
As we know, there are people here in the US of A who get a cancer diagnosis and can't even afford domestic treatment.
Sad.

5/18/2009 8:41 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

I watched “Farrah’s Story” expecting it to be more informative than it was. Some of the criticism I have read is that the program did not take the opportunity to educate people about anal cancer, the relationship of anal cancer to the human papilloma virus, and the fact that there is a way to screen high risk people. Perhaps that is a legitimate point, but they chose not to go there, for whatever reason.

Farrah Fawcett was certainly not one of our great actresses. She will probably be remembered more as a 70s icon than an actress, but some of her TV movies were far better than the average made for TV movie and I always thought she was underrated.

However, she was enough of an icon and a celebrity to be hounded by tabloid “reporters” and “photographers” for her entire post “Charlie’s Angels” life.

For me, tabloids are just publications that I see when I am standing in line at the grocery store. I think that many of us glance at the headlines and roll our eyes or laugh out loud. They are just simply not part of our world.

But try to imagine being hounded by these pseudo reporters and paparazzi while you are fighting for your life. And, for Ms. Fawcett, the worst part of that was having a hospital employee break federal laws regarding patient privacy and sell her medical record information to a tabloid.

I think that Ms. Fawcett believed she had something to contribute to the conversation about cancer treatment given that she sought treatment that was not available in this country. That could have been one of her major reasons for doing this given that she spent more than two years in treatment. What she accomplished by telling her story is a matter of judgment.

However, I think that another part of her motivation concerned taking back her own story from those who violated her privacy. It was a reclamation of her life and, sadly, her death.

Whatever else one might think, I believe we can all agree that Ms. Fawcett is facing her death with equanimity, courage, and dignity. Some of her reflections were really quite profound, and I do not think I will ever forget what she said about “missing the rain.”

5/18/2009 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Terrific comment, Liza, that captures my thoughts on the matter.

X4mr did not claim the show was a masterpiece or that Fawcett was a great actress, and if he thought so, he would have said so, as he did in his review of Kate Winslet in "The Reader."

Remember, though, that for the bubbly angel air-head, Fawcett did try to break out and produce material trying to make a difference, like one about domestic violence ("The Burning Bed") and some others. She also made a really good movie where a man breaks into her house and almost rapes her, but she gets the upper hand, ties him up, plans to kill him, etc.. I wish I could remember its name. Very good.

It is also worth noting that Germany had superior medical care that gave her an extra two years.

5/18/2009 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Observer,

Extremities.

It was pretty good. I will never forget the scene when she talks about her husband sleeping upstairs, and the man starts yelling, "Ralph! Oh Ralph!"

She's no Winslet to be sure, but in that one film Fawcett delivered a respectable performance.

5/18/2009 10:20 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I lost my mother in 2002 after a year and a half battle with stage-4 stomach cancer. I lost an aunt to lung cancer 3 years before that.

So I get what Anon is saying about all the other people dying of cancer. I'm still glad she's trying to tell her story. It's not often enough that we have terminal cancer issues discussed on prime-time network TV.

5/18/2009 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anon2 said...

Stephen knows the reality of this conversation, and his use of the word "trying" for Farrah is fitting. I don't know, of course, but I doubt the woman thinks her cancer is more significant than that of others.

The woman may not be particularly gifted, but she gets an A for effort, and in her day she was exactly what the country found delicious. Her poster remains the best selling in history.

As Liza and others noted, she did "try" to elevate her work above the status quo, and I think she succeeded on some occasions.

X4mr made no mention of the tabloids, which Liza was quick to point out and I think that is an important part of the equation. As Liza said, Fawcett is reclaiming the story and setting it in her terms, not that of the tabloid trash.

I believe the show, while it could have been better, was well intentioned and not self-indulgent.

5/18/2009 10:52 PM  

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