Monday, January 24, 2011

24 January 1957 “Jack Lalanne and Peyton Place”

On the Forum I was informed that Jack Lalanne has passed at the age of 96. He was a health guru before such a thing existed.
Here is how I would see him here in 1957. This is from an excerpt of a show from this year with Groucho Marx. He is 44, though refuses to say his name. He felt you were as old as your body type. He looks quite good for 44. I also like that the young lady, who is 20, looks much older by 21st century standards, but love that a woman wanting to look ‘grown up’ was more important than rather other’s thought she was perpetually a teenager.
Jack was also known for a food revolution. Living in California, he had access to more fruit and veg year round, but the Supermarkets all over our country by the late 1950’s were teeming with out of season foods. After the highways were literally created crossing the country in the mid 50’s, trucks began bringing produce quicker and cheaper to all corners of the USA.
Therefore, even a New Englander like me could take advantage of his recipe, here from his show, for Avocado Dip. Why don’t you try it:
petyonplace The film adaption of Grace Metalious’ book, Peyton Place, is released this month. I read the book last year and am re-reading it now. By 21st century standards, this book is as racy as an episode of Sesame Street. But, at the time, Metalious’ portrayal of the small close-minded will knit New England community was so spot on as to cause affront and anger throughout the country.
I personally really love this book. I think the movie is wonderfully done and Lana Turner shines. I do notice, however, that here in the 1950’s, as we have such a strong sense of our own style in clothes and hair, that when we make a movie set in late 1930’s and into WWII, we have no qualm with the hair and fashion being more 1957 than 1942. That said, I love the way this movie is filmed. Though it is seen as a dark exposure of the small town, I actually find myself happily drawn into it.
The town in the book was actually based on three towns in NH where Metalious lived: Gilmanton, Gilford, Laconia and Manchester. It caused much excitement and the author was subject to many rumors about her. Some were purported to be true, her having an affair with a married man, and some completely unsubstantiated, her shopping at the local market in a fur coat and nothing else.
For me, as a New Englander, I would certainly have found much interest in this book. My own little town here, also a water front New England town, would have had many similar characters. Though one would never have talked about it openly, possibly only whispered gossips over fence rails and hushed tones in kitchens over cooling cups of coffee.
This was the type of book that housewives kept wrapped in brown paper and hid under the mattress, yet it sold  60,000 copies within the first ten days of its release and remained on the New York Times best seller list for 59 weeks. Shocked we all may have been, but intrigued we were.
I think this speaks a lot about American’s of the time and before. We are, particularly we New Englanders and our cousins in the Mid West, Puritans at heart. Our ancestors came here to get away from the ‘sinfulness’ of England. We banned Christmas, and singing and dancing, we were not a jovial lot. This sort of judgmental stern quality that hides a desire just boiling underneath, seems to be a recurring American theme. Even if one were to really see modern 21st century movies and TV we see more violence and sex, but always in a way that is about subliminal punishment. As if we need to go to the extreme and blow one another’s heads off, show the gore, and make ‘love-making’ about sin and intrigue. One has only to view movies of the time and now of other countries and see the glaring difference in the 21st century. Yet, in the day, America was still making a good movie, I feel.
I once thought, pre 1955, how ‘quaint’ old movies were. I watched them, surely, not as many as I have now I live here, but found them to be endearing. Yet, they always drew me in. They took me to a place I WANTED to believe in and if it didn’t exist, I wanted to make it. Our American films today seem not to have that. There are some good independent films which portray a more real quality of the average person, but sometimes that reality has a sadness that has settled on itself. It has said, “Well, things are bad, this way, and there is little to do about it, lets be ‘cool’ listen to cool music and just deal with it”.
I find in interesting that we will spend so many millions on CG and explosions and care little for the writing or the plot. Yet, to make an over the top Technicolor explosion of a movie with singing and dancing never occurs to the ‘corporate movie machine’ and I bet THEY WOULD be successful.
But, I digress. I am moving off point. The book, which came out last year, sold like hotcakes. The movie, just released this month here in 1957 will also be a major hit. It seemed, in our shock and anger towards the themes of the book ,we couldn’t help see a bit of our town in there and our need to spy, be the voyeur was too powerful. We were the Puritans, saying how bad it was in public and pointing fingers while at home the offending book was snug in brown paper hidden in the back of the airing cupboard where little Johnny couldn’t find it.
In many ways in the 21st century I am rather disparaged by the loss of community in our small towns that would lead to the intrigue and disgust by this movie. There seems to not be enough real ties to rally to any point, good or bad. Oh, we get together enough for Garden clubs, or 4th of July parades, but the shared communal spirit of the town seems lost. I wonder if this is the case in other countries? Is it due to the media we have available. We spend more time being the voyeur on the internet and then trolling secretly on blogs and other sites saying whatever we think without care of hurt feelings, decorum or language. It is easier, after all, being a judgmental Puritan, when one is not forced to show who they are. The stern ‘round hats’ of today can hide easily behind the computer screen.
Do you think your 1950’s counterpart in 1956 would have read the book? Would you have done it openly, discussing it with friend, or would you have secreted it away from children and possibly your spouse or neighbors? If none of you have as yet read it, do read it. It is quite good. The movie is worth watching as well.
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