“A Convenient Proposal” [PG-13] 5/5

“A CONVENIENT PROPOSAL”

PART 5 – Regrets and Reunion

Saturday morning arrived brightly over the island of Oahu. Inside the two-story bungalow, four women bustled about, preparing for a picnic on the beach. Actually, three of the women bustled. The fourth remained seated on the living sofa and observed her busy roommates, while her hands rested upon her swollen abdomen.

“Did anyone get the umbrella?” a voice cried from upstairs. Sandra’s voice. “I don’t see it in the closet up here!”

Barbara shouted from the kitchen doorway, “It’s here! Downstairs, near the door!” Evelyn glanced at the front door. Sure enough, a large, green-and-white umbrella stood against it.

Heavy footsteps signaled Sandra’s descent on the staircase. The red-haired nurse appeared in the living room, wearing a white, one-piece swimsuit and a blue dirndl skirt. “Oh, I see it,” she said, glancing at the umbrella. Her gaze turned to Evelyn on the sofa. “Good. You’re ready. Very nice outfit, by the way.”

Evelyn did not doubt the other woman’s sincerity. Just her taste in clothes. The pregnant ex-nurse privately felt the opposite about her appearance. Since her pregnancy prevented her from wearing her favorite two-piece pink swimsuit, Evelyn had to contend with a white, flower-print dress. As far as she was concerned, she might as well wear a mummu. Or a tent.

“Is everyone ready?” Barbara asked. She and Martha entered the living room, dressed in their own beachwear. Whereas Barbara’s outfit resembled Sandra’s, Martha wore a white, short-sleeved blouse and tan slacks.

Sandra replied, “We’re ready. Only the boys and Clarice haven’t arrived yet.” She glanced at her watch. And it’s already after eleven o’clock.”

As if on cue, a car horn signaled the arrival of what sounded like more than one vehicle rolling to a halt on the driveway. Martha went to the window and peeked outside. “They’re here!” She then rushed to the door and opened it. “Hey! What happened to you guys!”

Less than a minute later, Clarice and five Army pilots tramped inside the house talking all at once. Red, Steve, Gooz, a pilot named Arnie Goetz and a very somber-looking Rafe. Evelyn drew a silent intake of breath at the sight of the Tennessee-born man. Deeply tanned and dressed in a T-shirt with a Hawaiian shirt over it and swim shorts, he looked good enough to eat. She barely noticed the other visitors. Or the jar in his hand.

“You’re late!” Sandra snapped. “Ten minutes late, to be exact.”

Gooz rolled his eyes. “Whacha gonna do? Dock our pay?” he responded in his most laconic manner. Sandra speared him with her most formidable glare.

“Now that you’re here, you can help us carry everything to the beach,” Sandra continued. “Except Rafe. He can help Evelyn.”

“God Almighty! I might as well be a slave on some cotton plantation!” Gooz protested, as he picked up a heavy picnic basket. “What the hell is in this thing?”

Carrying the large umbrella, Martha added, “Don’t mind Sandra. She’s been slowly becoming Miss Simon Legree for the past six months. Consider this change of personality as her contribution to the war effort.” She started toward the door.

While the others marched out of the house, carrying various equipment and food for the picnic, Rafe remained behind, looking increasingly self-conscious. Evelyn also found herself growing uneasy. “Ready to go?” he asked, staring directly at her.

Evelyn hesitated, returning Rafe’s gaze with her own. “You go ahead with the others,” she said, struggling to lift her large body from the sofa. “I’ll be right behind you.”

“Sure you will. In about an hour from now. That’s how long it’s gonna take for you to get off that sofa.” Rafe placed the jar on the table and reached for her arm. “Here, let me help.”

“It’s not necessary, Rafe! I’m pregnant, not an invalid!” But the pilot refused to heed Evelyn’s protests. He grabbed her arm and helped her rise from the sofa. “I could have done that on my own,” she quietly retorted.

Rafe shot back, “Jesus Evelyn! It won’t kill you to get a little help!” The former lovers exchanged glares filled with wariness and resentment. Evelyn shook off Rafe’s grip and headed for the door.

When they arrived on the beach, Evelyn and Rafe found the others setting up a picnic. Both Barbara and Martha were spreading blankets on the sand, while Red and Arnie set up the portable grill. Steve seemed intent on erecting the large umbrella – with no success. Clarice busied herself with unpacking the food from the picnic baskets. And Gooz had disappeared.

“Say, where’s Gooz?” Rafe demanded. He abandoned Evelyn’s side to help Steve with the umbrella.

Steve replied, “He went to get his surfboard. You know, the one he made improvements on. I guess he wants to test it before he can slap a patent on it.” He finally managed to erect the umbrella – with Rafe’s help. “Thanks.” Rafe nodded and then helped Evelyn into a beach chair.

Sandra unpacked Barbara’s portable radio and clicked it on. Strains of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” filled the air. “For crying out loud!” Barbara exclaimed. “Turn to another station. Please! I’ve had enough of listening to that song!”

“I happen to like that song,” Steve protested. “What? You have something against the Andrews Sisters?”

Barbara retorted, “I have something against that song. Trust the Army to find a way to get a hit song about them on the charts. What did you guys do? Pay off some recording studio?”

It was not long before the old Army versus Navy feud flared up between Barbara and Steve. Evelyn watched the pair with interest. She realized a few things. One, the verbal spat seemed to lack any real hostility between the pair. And two, in place of any hostility, there seemed to be a playful sexuality. Apparently, Barbara had found a new man to attract her interest. Only she had not realized this yet. Before Sandra could switch to another station, the Andrews Sisters had been replaced with the Glenn Miller Band playing “Tuxedo Junction”.

Gooz returned, carrying his familiar surfboard. “Hey everybody! Ready to hit the surf?”

“What about the food?” Sandra asked. “Who is going to cook the burgers and hot dogs? Evelyn is certainly in no condition to do that, herself.”

Rafe spoke up quietly. “I’ll do it. Y’all just go and enjoy yourselves.” He began setting a fire in the grill.

“You’re sure?” Red asked. Rafe nodded. While the two men exchanged a few words, Red and the others removed their clothes, revealing their swimwear underneath.

Barbara leaned close to Evelyn’s ear and whispered. “Don’t forget. Fight.” Then she turned to the others and cried, “Last person in the water is a facist!” She, Steve, Red, Gooz, Sandra, and Clarice raced toward the water, whooping and hollering. Martha and Arnie began walking along the shore. And Evelyn found herself alone with Rafe for the first time in three days.

Rafe reached for a large platter from the picnic basket and removed the foil covering. Ground beef patties and hot dogs filled the plate. “What do you want?” he asked.

“What?” Evelyn stared at him. Rafe seemed calm. Collected. Maybe a little too calm.

“I asked what you want. A hamburger? Hot dog?”

A nervous Evelyn cleared her throat. She had to admit that breakfast had failed to satisfy her hunger. “I guess a hamburger would be nice,” she replied. “And a hot dog.” Rafe shot her a surprised look. “I’m eating for two, now.”

“I didn’t realize that unborn babies were in the habit of eating hamburgers and hot dogs,” Rafe muttered sardonically.

A smile touched Evelyn’s lips. It felt nice to know that Rafe had not lost his sense of humor. She watched him place a beef patty and a hot dog on the grill. The sound of meat sizzling made her mouth water.

“Do you want barbeque sauce on your food?” Rafe asked. He picked up the jar that he had carried from the bungalow.

Eyeing the jar of sauce like a hungry predator, Evelyn asked Rafe if that was the famous McCawley barbeque sauce. “You know, your dad’s recipe.”

Looking somewhat pleased, Rafe added, “Yeah. My dad gave me this jar before I left Tennessee, two weeks ago.” He paused and smiled. “You remember.”

Evelyn chuckled. “How could I forget? You’ve talked about it so many times. Frank McCawley’s Famous BBQ Sauce. Even Danny once men. . .” She paused, her cheeks growing hot at the mention of the late pilot.

Rafe averted his eyes. “Yeah, Danny was always crazy about Daddy’s sauce,” he said quietly.

Silence fell between the pair. Evelyn watched Rafe add more meat to the grill. Why did she have to open her big mouth and mention Danny? Just as she and Rafe were learning to grow comfortable with each other again. Evelyn sighed and realized that sooner or later, they would have to clear the air about Danny. Might as well get it over with now.

“Rafe,” she began, “about Danny . . .”

The pilot immediately interrupted. “I know what you’re thinking, Evelyn. But you don’t have to worry. I’ve finally realized that my proposal was a big mistake. And I also . . .”

Evelyn heaved an exasperated sigh. “Look Rafe, may I finish . . .”

“. . . realize that I have some unresolved feelings about . . .” Rafe continued.

“For heaven’s sake, Rafe McCawley! Will you please let me finish talking for once in your life?”

* * * *

Evelyn’s outburst echoed along the beach. Her face flushed pink with embarrassment. Rafe had to admit that he shared a little of that embarrassment, himself.

He opened his mouth to speak. Only a soft, “Sorry,” came out of his mouth.

“No, I’m sorry,” Evelyn quickly apologized. “I didn’t mean to yell at you like that. I know you meant well. It’s just that . . .”

Rafe took a deep breath and finished for her. “I talk too much. I know and I’m sorry.”

“No Rafe.” Evelyn shook her head. “It’s not . . . well, you can be a little overbearing at times. But that’s you. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just . . .” She sighed. “Just let me get this off my chest, first.”

Rafe riveted his eyes on the meat cooking on the grill. “Sure. Okay.”

A pause followed before Evelyn continued. “When Danny first came to me with news of your death, I knew, you see. I knew even before he could open his mouth. It was . . . well, everything just went dark. I had trouble eating. Became obsessed with my work. I barely hung around the other girls during my off-duty.”

“Red told me that you used to cry every night,” Rafe added softly.

Evelyn stared at him questioningly. “How did Red find out?”

“Betty. Before she died, I reckon.”

A somber moment followed. Then, “Oh.” Evelyn pointed at the grill. “I think you need to turn the meat over, Rafe.”

“Oh yeah. Thanks.” Using a pronged fork, Rafe turned over the beef patty and hot dog. “You were talking about after . . . I mean, after I was reported dead.”

Evelyn nodded. “Yeah.” Then she revealed her life during the next three months after she learned about Rafe’s death. Those miserable months during the late summer of ’41. And how she encountered Danny at the movies, one afternoon in mid-October. “It didn’t take long for us to get comfortable with each other.” Rafe made an effort not to wince. “We mainly talked about you, of course. Our memories of you. Barbara, Betty, Red and Billy saw us talking inside the Black Cat Cafe. And when the girls commented on it later, they convinced me that I should move on.” A haunted look crept into Evelyn’s dark eyes. “What I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t ready to move on. At least, not yet.”

A turmoil of emotions – embarrassment, sadness, anger, and jealousy threatened to overwhelm Rafe. “When did you . . .” He could barely make himself ask this next question. “When did you and Danny. . .?”

Evelyn’s face turned even pinker. “I . . . maybe we shouldn’t talk about this,” she hastily replied.

“No! I . . . No, go ahead. I mean, it must have happened some time.” It seemed to Rafe as if a hand had reached inside his chest and squeezed his heart.

A sigh left Evelyn’s lips. Her eyes focused on the six figures splashing about in the water. “A few after we first saw each other. Danny took me for a plane ride over Wakikki Beach. And later . . .” She broke off, as her face became even redder. “Never mind.”

Rafe found his heart rate beating even faster. “I bet it must have been a very romantic moment,” he commented in a caustic voice. He wanted to shrink away. Die. Rail against the gods. Hell, something. Most of all, he wanted to beat his best friend to a bloody pulp. Until he remembered that Danny was dead and just remembering that little fact produced a wave of sadness inside him.

He glanced at Evelyn and noticed that her body had stiffened. “God! I’m sorry, Ev. I didn’t mean . . .”

“Of course you did,” Evelyn quietly shot back. “Not that I blame you, considering what happened. What can I say, Rafe? I was lonely, depressed. And I thought you were dead. Gone. But after what happened in the hangar, I realized that Danny and I were moving too fast. So, I tried to break it off.”

“Why . . . why didn’t you?”

Evelyn heaved another sigh. “Oh Rafe! I tried. I really did. The day after our plane ride. I knew immediately that we were moving too fast. Only . . .” Her eyes grew wistful. “When I saw the look on his face at that moment, I realized I couldn’t do it. He seemed so desperately in love. I think he would have fallen apart if I had broken it off with him. Don’t forget Rafe, he took your death just as hard as I did. Maybe even harder. But it wouldn’t have worked in the end. We started dating for the wrong reason. I would have eventually broken up with Danny. Only I found out I was pregnant. And you had suddenly returned from the dead.” Her voice dropped to a whisper.

Rafe lowered his head and murmured. “I guess everything just went downhill after that.”

Shaking her head, Evelyn replied, “I’m sorry, Rafe. I thought this would be easy, but it’s not. I’m so confused right now. A part of me is so angry right now. Angry that you had volunteered for the RAF. That I’m not carrying your child. And I feel so guilty about Danny. I can’t even mourn him the same way I had mourned you. And it’s not fair! It’s not fair that a sweet and wonderful man like him had died before he had the chance to meet a woman who could have loved him unconditionally. The same way I love you.”

Evelyn’s rant left Rafe’s speechless. Had he heard right? Did Evelyn just said that she loved . . .?

“Uh, Rafe?” Her voice cut into his thoughts. He saw Evelyn wipe tears from her eyes. “Shouldn’t the barbeque be ready by now?”

“Huh?” Rafe glanced at the grill. “Oh! Shit! I mean . . .” He nearly jumped out of his skin as he tended to the meat. “Hand me one of those clean plates near your . . .” Realizing that Evelyn was in no condition to reach for one of the plates near her foot, Rafe snatched one up, himself. “Do you want your bread grilled?”

Evelyn shook her head. “There’s no need.”

Rafe fixed her a hot dog and a hamburger, dripping with his dad’s sauce. Then he handed the plate to Evelyn, before placing more hamburger patties and hot dogs on the grill. The latter took one bite of the hot dog, closed her eyes and emitted a groan of deep pleasure. “Oh my God, Rafe!” Evelyn exclaimed. “This sauce is absolutely divine!”

“Thanks. I hope I did justice to the hot dog, too,” he joked. Evelyn responded with a smile. Then she finished her hot dog in three bites and started on her hamburger. As much as Rafe enjoyed this relaxed moment, he felt the need to finish their conversation. He waited until she finished the hamburger. “Evelyn? About Danny . . .”

Evelyn allowed the empty plate to slip from her lap and onto the blanket. Her dark eyes focused upon Rafe’s face. “What about him?”

“Uh . . .” God! This was difficult! “I just want you to know that I understand what you went through. Both you and Danny.”

“Oh.”

Rafe continued, “I’m . . . Look, I’m sorry for putting you two through so much. Jumping up to volunteer for the Eagle Squadron like that. God! What an idiot I was!”

“You can’t blame yourself what happened, Rafe,” Evelyn said in a quiet voice. “You had volunteered before we even met.” She paused. “Okay, I admit I was upset. But I was angry because . . .” She sighed. “I was angry that fate took you away from me so soon after we had met. We only had one month together. And when Danny and I heard that you were killed . . .” Tears formed in her eyes.

Rafe tossed the empty platter on one of the blankets and knelt beside Evelyn. “Hey! Hey! C’mon Evelyn, don’t cry!” He took hold of her hands. “Please don’t cry. I’m still here. See?”

“I know,” Evelyn replied in a wavering voice. Rafe gently wiped away her tears. “I still find it a little hard thinking about that time.”

Stroking her hair, Rafe whispered, “It must have been a difficult time for you. Wasn’t it?” Evelyn nodded. “Yeah. Red told me that it was also difficult for Danny.” He sighed. “God! Now I know how both of you must have felt.” He felt tears pricking his eyes. “Shit!”

“Oh Rafe!” Evelyn held her arms out, inviting Rafe for a hug. An invitation he did not hesitate to accept. Teary-eyed, he hugged Evelyn, relishing the feel of her arms.

Still crying, Rafe continued, “I miss him, Ev. God! I miss him so much. It’s like my brother had died and took a part of me.”

“I know,” Evelyn murmured. She began to stroke his hair. “I know.”

A comfortable silence settled between the couple. Feeling Evelyn’s arms around him, Rafe felt a sense of belonging he had not felt in seventeen long months. At that moment, he realized that he never wanted to do without Evelyn again. He wanted her. Needed her. Not only to help him deal with Danny’s death, but also because he loved her. Rafe could not imagine life without her.

“Ev?” Rafe withdrew from her arms and wiped away his tears.

Her dark eyes penetrated his own. Evelyn reached out and began to stroke his cheek. “Yes Rafe?”

“Would you marry me?”

A sudden intake of Evelyn’s breath indicated her surprise. She stared at Rafe, wide-eyed. “Rafe!”

He continued, “I’m not just asking out of some obligation to you or the baby. Or even to Danny’s memory. Mind you, I’ll love that baby like he or she was my own. It’ll be like having Danny with me, again. But the main reason I want to marry is . . .” Rafe took a deep breath. “Hell! I love you, Evelyn! I’ve loved you from that first moment I laid eyes on you in New York. After this war ends, all I want for us is to spend the rest of our lives together. So, will you marry me?”

Tears streamed from Evelyn’s eyes. A radiant smile lit up her face. At that moment, Rafe knew he had won her back. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, I’ll marry you!” Defying the laws of gravity, she managed to throw herself into Rafe’s arms. A grunt escaped his lips. “Oh, I love you so much!”

“I love you too, honey!” Rafe maintained a tight hug. “Uh, Evelyn?”

“Yes?”

“Sorry about the lack of an engagement ring. It’s back at the barracks.” Rafe withdrew from Evelyn and peered at her. “Would a kiss be sufficient for now?”

Another smile touched Evelyn’s lips. “More than sufficient,” she murmured. Then she leaned forward and planted a light kiss on Rafe’s lips.

He blinked. “Is that it?”

Evelyn let out a surprised, “Huh?”

“You call that a kiss?” Rafe smiled. “I reckon I can do better.” Despite both of them being on their knees, Rafe drew Evelyn into his arms and kissed her. Deeply. It became a deep kiss, the moment she opened her mouth and allowed Rafe’s tongue to meet hers.

“Hey!” a voice cried out. “Are you two going to kiss all day? Because I think these burgers have been cooking a tad too long.” Rafe and Evelyn reluctantly parted lips, glanced up and found a wet Barbara standing above them. Along with the others.

Rafe rose to his feet, before helping Evelyn to hers. “Sorry about that. We, uh . . .”

“You two have some news for us?” Red asked. A smile lit up his face.

Rafe smiled back. It was his first, genuine, from-the-gut smile that had formed on his lips in a long time. “Evelyn and I are getting married.”

Cries of joy and congratulations greeted the couple. Martha and Arnie appeared. The former demanded to know what was going on. Sandra told her. “That’s swell,” Martha replied in her usual dry tone. “Now is someone going to do something about our food before it burns?”

Rafe uttered a curse, ignoring the horrified look on Sandra’s face. He raced toward the grill. “Everything’s okay. It’s not burned. I just need to get more burgers and hot dogs.”

“It’s in the fridge,” Evelyn replied. “I’ll help you get them. Barbara, could you . . .?”

The blond woman shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Okay, everyone! Line up for the grub!”

The others scrambled for their barbeque. Rafe and Evelyn linked arms and started back toward the car. “So,” Rafe said, “when do you want to get married?”

“How about the next weekend you’re free?” Evelyn suggested. “We can spend our honeymoon at that motor court you had stayed at, when you first arrived in Hawaii.”

“Why not the bungalow?”

Evelyn shot back, “With three other women?”

“They can stay at the motor court,” Rafe explained. “Or find some quarters at the naval base.”

“Tell that to Barbara.” Evelyn’s head rested on Rafe’s shoulders. It felt good. “Rafe?”

“Hmmmm?”

“About the baby . . .”

“Yeah?”

Rafe heard a deep intake of breath from Evelyn’s mouth. “If it’s a boy, why don’t we name him after Danny?”

Daniel Walker McCawley. The sound of that name warmed Rafe’s heart. “I like that,” he said. “A lot. And if the baby is a girl . . .”

“Yes?”

“How about Danielle?”

A quiet pause followed. Evelyn patted Rafe’s arm. “That’s a matter I think we need to discuss some other time.”

In other words, no. Rafe, however, also had other plans for the baby. “Of course, whether the baby is a boy or girl, he or she is gonna be a pilot. Like his daddy. Hell, like both of his daddies. Or hers.”

“Whatever you say, Rafe,” Evelyn replied, her voice radiating warmth. “Whatever you say.”

THE END

“A POCKET FULL OF RYE” (2009) Review

 

“A POCKET FULL OF RYE” (2009) Review

While the producers of “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT” seemed to regard the 1930s as the “golden age” of Hercule Poirot mysteries, I get the feeling that the producers for both “MISS MARPLE” and the recent “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MARPLE” regard the 1950s in a similar manner for those stories featuring Miss Jane Marple. As a fervent reader of Christie’s novels, I must admit that I believe most of the best Jane Marple mysteries had been published during the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. One of those mysteries was the 1953 novel, “A Pocket Full of Rye”.

The novel was first adapted into a television movie in the mid-1980s, which starred Joan Hickson. Another television adaptation aired on ITV some twenty-four-and-a-half years later, starring Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. “A POCKET FULL OF RYE” centered around the mysterious death of a London businessman named Rex Fortescue. After drinking his morning tea at his office, the businessman dies suddenly, attracting the attention of the police in the form of Inspector Neele. Neele and his men discover rye grain in the dead man’s pocket and that he had died from taxine, an alkaloid poison obtained from the leaves or berries of the yew tree. Neele realizes that Fortescue may have been initially poisoned at home due to presence of yew trees at the latter’s country home and the time it took for the poison to work.

Fortescue’s second and much younger wife, Adele, becomes the main suspect, due to her affair with a golf instructor at a nearby resort named Vivian Dubois. However, Adele is murdered, while drinking tea laced with cyanide. On the same day, a third victim is found in the garden, all tangled in the clothesline and with a peg on her nose. She was a maid named Gladys, who used to work for Jane Marple. When Gladys and Adele’s murders are reported in the media, Miss Marple pays a visit to the Fortescue home to learn what happened to Gladys. Miss Marple informs Inspector Neele that she believes the three murders adhered to the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”, which may have something to do with one of Rex Fortescue’s old dealings – the Blackbird Mine in Kenya, over which he was suspected of having killed his partner, MacKenzie in order to swindle it from the latter’s family. However, an investigation of Fortescue’s financial holdings and family connections reveal the possibility of other motives, as the following list of suspects would attest:

*Percival Fortescue – Rex’s older son, who was worried over the financier’s erratic handling of the family business
*Jennifer Fortescue – Percival’s wife, who disliked her father-in-law
*Lance Fortescue – Rex’s younger son, a former embezzler who had arrived home from overseas on the day of Adele and Gladys’ murders
*Patricia Fortescue – Lance’s aristocratic wife, who had been unlucky with her past two husbands
*Elaine Fortescue – Rex’s only daughter, who resented his opposition to her romance with a schoolteacher
*Gerald Wright – Elaine’s fiancé, a schoolteacher who resented Rex’s hostile attitude toward him
*Mary Dove – the Fortescues’ efficient housekeeper, who harbored a few secrets in her past
*Vivian Dubois – Adele’s lover and professional golf instructor
*Mrs. MacKenzie – the slightly senile widow of Rex’s former partner, who urged her children to seek revenge against the financier

I honestly did not know how I would view “A POCKET FULL OF RYE”. To my surprise, I enjoyed it very much . . . aside from a few scenes that I felt were out of place. The movie turned out to be a well-paced mystery that featured some solid acting from the cast. Although not completely faithful to Christie’s novel, the television movie proved to be a little more faithful, thanks to screenwriter Kevin Elyot and director Charlie Palmer. The character of Miss Henderson, Rex’s religious sister-in-law from his first marriage, was deleted from this production. And I did not miss her. I am also very grateful that Elyot and Palmer stuck to the novel’s original ending and avoided a ridiculous chase sequence that seemed to mar the 1985 adaptation. Although there was nothing really dramatic about the story’s final scene, it projected an air of justice finally achieved that I found particularly satisfying, thanks to Julia McKenzie’s performance.

I was also impressed by the movie’s production values. One, production designer Jeff Tessler and his crew did a top-notch job of re-creating the movie’s mid-1950s setting. I should add . . . “as usual”. After all, Tessler worked as production designer for the “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MARPLE” series since it debuted back in 2004. “A POCKET FULL OF RYE” proved to be the first of four episodes for the series, in which she served as costume designer. Her work in this film provided audiences with the color and top-notch skill in which she created costumes for that particular time period. Another veteran of the “A POCKET FULL OF RYE” was cinematographer Cinders Forshaw, whose sharp and colorful photography proved to be one of the hallmarks of the series. One thing I cannot deny about “A POCKET FULL OF RYE”, it is damn beautiful to look at.

Did I have any problems with the movie? Well . . . yes. A few. Actually, I have only one major problem with the production . . . namely the addition of sexual situations in at least two or three scenes in the film. I am not a prude. Trust me, I am not. But . . . I found the sexual scenes featured in “A POCKET FULL OF RYE” out of place. Yes, the Christie novels have featured the topic of sex in many variations – including adultery, incest and homosexuality. And I have seen on-screen sex in one other production – namely 1965’s “TEN LITTLE INDIANS” and 2004’s “DEATH ON THE NILE”. I have never seen “TEN LITTLE INDIANS”. But the sex featured in “DEATH ON THE NILE” seemed so minimalized. I can say otherwise about “A POCKET FULL OF RYE” and the performers involved were clothed. But the way Palmer shot the scenes seemed so in-your-face. I can tolerate the scene featuring Adele Fortescue and Vivian Dubois. Personally, I thought their sex scene pretty much fit the narrative and confirmed (in a rather ham fisted manner) that the pair was involved in an affair. But the sex scenes featuring Lance and Patricia Fortescue seemed just as ham fisted. Even worse, I could not see how they served the narrative. The scene (or scenes) seemed to come out of no where.

I can certainly state that I had no problems with the performances in this production. Well, I had a problem with one performance. Julia McKenzie was excellent as soft-spoken Jane Marple, who seemed very determined to learn the murderer’s identity, due to her past with one of the victims. I can also say the same about Matthew MacFadyen’s performance, which struck me as intelligent, yet deliciously sardonic as Inspector Neele. I also enjoyed Helen Baxendale’s subtle performance as the quiet, yet observant housekeeper, Mary Dove. On the other hand, Rupert Graves gave an exuberant and very entertaining portrayal of the Fortescue family’s black sheep, Lance. And he clicked very well with actress Lucy Cohu, who gave a charming performance as Lance’s wife, Patricia. Another interesting performance came from Liz White, who portrayed Rex Fortescue’s enigmatic daughter-in-law, Jennifer. Actually, I believe she gave one of the better performances in the movie. Another first-rate performance came from Anna Madeley, who portrayed Rex’s shallow and adulterous wife, Adele.

I really enjoyed Joseph Beattie’s portrayal of Adele’s sexy, yet desperate lover, Vivian Dubois. And Ben Miles gave a subtle, yet complex performance as Rex’s pragmatic older son, Percival. Kenneth Cranham, Laura Haddock and Prunella Scales gave memorable performances as Rex Fortescue, his secretary, Miss Grosvenor and Mrs. MacKenzie. It seemed a pity they were not on the screen long enough for me to truly enjoy their performances. “A POCKET FULL OF RYE” also featured solid performances from Hattie Morahan, Chris Larkin, Ken Campbell, Wendy Richards and Rose Heiney.

“A POCKET FULL OF RYE” proved to be an entertaining movie and a worthy adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1953 novel. Along with a fine cast led by Julia McKenzie, I thought director Charlie Palmer and screenwriter Kevin Elyot handled the adaptation very well, aside from the sex scenes that struck me as unnecessary. Despite that . . . setback, I still managed to enjoy the movie.

 

The 18th Century in Television

untitled

Recently, I noticed there were a good number of television productions in both North America and Great Britain, set during the 18th century. In fact, I managed to count at least six productions. Astounded by this recent interest in that particular century, I decided to list them below in alphabetical order:

 

THE 18TH CENTURY IN TELEVISION

banished

1. “Banished” (BBC TWO) – I do not whether this was a miniseries or regular series, but it was basically about a penal colony in New South Wales, Australia; where British convicts and their Royal Navy marine guards and officers live. Russell Tovey, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and MyAnna Buring star in this recently cancelled series.

black sails

2. “Black Sails” (STARZ) – Toby Stephens stars in this prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “Treasure Island”, about the adventures of Captain Flint.

book of negroes

3. “Book of Negroes” (CBC/BET) – This six-part miniseries is an adaptation of Lawrence Hill historical novel about a West African girl who is sold into slavery around the time of the American Revolution and her life experiences in the United States and Canada. Aunjanue Ellis, Lyriq Bent and Cuba Gooding, Jr. star.

outlander

4. “Outlander” (STARZ) – This series is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” book series about a 1940s woman who ends up traveling back in time to 18th century Scotland. Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies star.

poldark

5. “Poldark” (BBC ONE) – Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson star in this new television adaptation of Winston Graham’s book series about a former British Army officer who returns home to Cornwall after three years fighting in the American Revolution.

sons of liberty

6. “Sons of Liberty” (HISTORY Channel) – Ben Barnes, Rafe Spall and Henry Thomas starred in this three-part miniseries about the Sons of Liberty political group and the beginning of the American Revolution.

turn - washington spies

7. “Turn: Washington’s Spies” (AMC) – Jamie Bell stars in this series about a pro-American spy ring operating on behalf of General George Washington during the American Revolution.

 

“GIANT” (1956) Review

“GIANT” (1956) Review

I have always been partial to family sagas. This has been the case since I was in my mid teens. Whether the story manifested in a novel, a television series or miniseries, or even a movie; I would eagerly delve into that particular story if I found it interesting.

One of those family sagas that caught my interest at a young age was “GIANT”, the 1956 adaptation of Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel about a wealthy Texas family. However, “GIANT” used to be something of an enigma to me. I found it difficult to appreciate the movie’s last hour, which was set in the 1940s and 50s. And I also found myself confused over which leading man to cheer for – Rock Hudson’s Jordan “Bick” Benedict Jr. or James Dean’s Jett Rink. Both characters were portrayed ambiguously. And being a simple-minded teenager, I found this a little difficult to accept. I needed clear cut heroes and villains to understand this story. Because of the ambiguous portrayals of the leading male characters and the story’s shift into the post-World War II era, I avoided “GIANT” for years. But recently, curiosity and maturity drove me to watch the movie again.

Produced and directed by George Stevens, “GIANT” began with the wealthy Bick traveling to Maryland to purchase a horse from a local landowner. During his trip, Bick meets and woos the landowner’s older daughter, Leslie Lynnton. They marry and head back to Bick’s large ranch Reata in Texas, where Leslie is forced to adapt to the semi-arid climate and rough culture of the state’s western region. More importantly, both Leslie and Bick are forced to realize that beneath their sexual chemistry and love for each other, they are two people with different social ideals and cultural backgrounds who barely know one another. And they would have to learn to overcome their differences to become a long-lasting couple. One last obstacle to their union turned out to be Jett Rink, a ranch hand who works for Bick’s older sister, Luz. The ambitious Jett not only hopes to get rich, but also falls secretly in love with Leslie. His feelings for the Maryland woman produces an unspoken rivalry between Jett and Bink – a rivalry that spills into business, when Jett strikes oil on the land given to him by Luz Benedict.

After my latest viewing of “GIANT”, my opinion of the movie had changed. I was finally mature enough to understand the ambiguity of the two leading male characters. I also learned to appreciate the movie’s post-World War II period, thanks to the performances of the leads – Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. But not only did I enjoy how “GIANT”gave a bird’s eye, though somewhat exaggerated view of Texas, I admired how director George Stevens and screenwriters Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat explored the cultural tensions that manifested throughout the state during the early 20th century – especially tensions between the state’s Anglos and those of Mexican descent. “GIANT” also focused on class tensions through the antagonistic relationship between Bick and Rink. This was especially apparent in the movie’s exploration of Texas’ gradual shift from cattle ranching to oil production as its leading industry. And Leslie became a voice for gender equality when she expressed her displeasure at society’s patriarchal order to her husband and his male circle of friends. These tensions served as either character developments or stagnation for our main characters.“GIANT” also explored the gradual change of the state’s leading industry from ranching to oil production

Some of my favorite moments in “GIANT” featured these developments and barriers for the main characters. Jett Rink’s discovery of oil on his land and his confrontation with Bick Benedict proved to be one of those memorable moments and should have served as a development in his character. Aware of the contempt Bick has conveyed toward him, it was easy to wallow in his triumph when he finally confronted the rancher. But Jett’s open leer of Leslie Benedict undermined his moment of triumph and proved to be a sign that newly founded wealth would not improve his character. Leslie’s travails as a bride in Texas was never more apparent than in the barbecue sequence that ended for her in a dead faint. But one of my favorite Leslie moments proved to be the famous scene in which she challenged the status quo of women keeping silent during social gatherings at Reata. The tension between the characters in the scene – especially Leslie and Bick – was deliciously obvious. The first half of “GIANT” did an excellent job of conveying Bick’s arrogance and self-worth as a member of the Benedict family, especially in his scenes with Bick. But my favorite Bick moments proved to be the Christmas Eve 1941 sequence in which audiences become fully aware that he is aging and not as self-confident as he used to be; and the famous roadside diner scene in which he gets into a fistfight with the diner’s bigoted owner and lose.

George Stevens had been wise to film most of the film in Marfa, Texas. Located in the high desert of West Texas, Marfa provided the perfect look for the movie’s setting. Cinematographer William C. Mellor, who had worked with Stevens on a few other films, did a first-rate job in utilizing Marfa’s flat terrain in giving the film its wide and sprawling look – especially for the Reata Ranch setting. Mellor’s photography also served well in certain scenes; including Leslie and Bick’s arrival in Texas, Luz’s brutal ride astride the Maryland horse purchased by her brother, the funeral of a World War II combatant (which brought tears to my eyes, by the way), and Jett striking oil. “GIANT” also benefited from Boris Leven’s production designs and Ralph S. Hurst’s set decorations. The work of both men aptly conveyed the changes at Reata, due to Leslie’s influence and the passage of time. I wish I could say something profound about Dimitri Tiomkin’s score. But the problem is that I have no real memory of it. The best I can say is that Tiomkin’s score blended perfectly what was shown on screen. I have only one complaint and that was Tiomkin and Stevens’ use of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas”during the famous diner fight scene and near the end of the movie. I found this use of the song rather bombastic.

If I have one major complaint, it is Marjorie Best’s costume designs. Mind you, some of them were colorful to look at, especially those costumes worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Carroll Baker and the movie’s other actresses. But yes, I had a problem with Best’s costumes. I feel they had failed to reflect the time period in which most of the movie was set – especially those scenes set between the 1920s and 1941. For example, the following images of Elizabeth Taylor are set in the early 1920s:

03 02 01

And the following two images featured actresses Fran Benedict and Elsa Cárdenas in two sequences set in December 1941:

05 04

The blue dress with white trimming worn by Taylor looked as if it could have been worn in the early-to-mid 1950s. I could say the same about the costumes worn by Benedict and Cárdenas. Whereas the outfit worn by Taylor during the “Arrival at Reata” sequence looked as if it had been designed in the early 1930s. No wonder I that for years, I thought “GIANT”began in the early 1930s. It took the realization that Leslie and Bick’s twin children – Jordy and Judy – were in their late teens in the 1941 sequence. Best earned an Academy Award nomination for her work. And while I cannot deny that her costumes looked very attractive and colorful, I feel they were historically inaccurate and perhaps that Oscar nomination was not fully deserved.

What can I say about the acting in “GIANT”? Three of the cast members – Rock Hudson, James Dean and Mercedes McCambridge – earned Academy Award nominations. It seemed a pity that a few others failed to get one. Overall, the actors and actresses did a good job. Those who portrayed the movie’s Mexican-American characters did not fare well. Elsa Cárdenas gave a solid performance as Bick and Leslie’s daughter-in-law, Juanita Benedict. But Juana proved to be a slightly dull and ideal character with little depth. Actually, I could say the same about all of the Latino characters. I had expected Sal Mineo to be given an opportunity to display his acting skills as Angel Obregón II, a laborer’s son. Instead, Mineo barely spoke any lines and simply served as a symbol of young Latino manhood. Both Fran Benedict and Earl Holliman fared slightly better as Judy Benedict and her ranch hand husband, Bob Dave. Other than the pair’s desire to start a smaller ranch, the pair was able to overcome minimal characterizations to give solid performances. Only Carroll Baker and Dennis Hopper were blessed with interesting characters as Jordy Benedict and younger sister Luz Benedict II. And both made the best of it. One of Baker’s finest moments occurred when Luz becomes silently aware that the man she loved – Jett Rink – was merely using her as some kind of substitution for her mother, whom he had remained in love. And Hopper did an excellent job of developing Jordy from a soft-spoken young man longing to reject his father’s overt patriarchal expectations in order to become a doctor, to the still soft-spoken young man with a hot temper and balls of steel.

Those characters who portrayed members of the older generation fared better. Jane Withers had a peach of a role in the character of Leslie’s best friend Vashti Snythe. Withers did an excellent job of conveying Vashti’s character from a very shy young woman to a bolder one, who became more adept at socializing with others. Chill Wills, whom I have never taken seriously as an actor before, gave a skillful and subtle performance as Bick’s uncle, Bawley Benedict. Mercedes McCambridge, on the other hand, was fantastic as Bick’s iron-willed sister, Luz Benedict. For the short period she was on screen, McCambridge nearly took my breath away in a performance that could have easily veered into caricature. I found myself wishing she had remained on the screen longer. At least she managed to earn an Oscar nomination.

James Dean also earned a nomination as the movie’s most enigmatic character, the laconic and very ambitious Jett Rink. I noticed that most critics have labeled Dean’s performance as the best in the movie. I doubt if I would agree. Mind you, he gave a superb performance, especially in the movie’s latter half as the older and corrupted Jett. But in the first half, he had this habit of keeping his hands busy, which deflected attention from his co-stars. And I found this annoying. Also, Stevens had a habit of posing him in these iconic shots that struck me as slightly artificial. The last actor to earn a nomination was Rock Hudson, who portrayed the family’s patriarch Jordan “Bick” Benedict. Although critics have been willing to compliment his performance, they tend to prefer his comedic roles. They are entitled to their opinion, but I truly believe that Hudson gave one of his best performances of his career in “GIANT”. Although I admired his portrayal of the ambiguous Bick, whose likability was marred by his bigotry; I found myself blown away by his portrayal of the middle-aged Bick. There were times when I forgot that he had been 29-30 years old at the time. Elizabeth Taylor was the only one of the three leads who did not receive an Academy nomination. Some have expressed no conflict with this oversight. I cannot agree with them. I feel she deserved a nomination just as much as her two male co-stars. Her Leslie Benedict proved to be the heart and soul of “GIANT”. And Taylor did such a superb job of maintaining this sprawling movie on her 23-24 year-old shoulders. She also skillfully conveyed Leslie’s journey from a “fish-out-of-water”, to a strong matriarch who proved to have a great influence not only on her family, but also her new community.

Looking back, I realized that I had been too young to appreciate “GIANT”, when I first saw it. The movie proved to be a lot better than I first believed. Although it was not perfect – what movie is – I now realize that George Stevens did a phenomenon job of translating Edna Ferber’s novel into this 201 minutes epic. And the amazing thing is that I was not bored one bit. The movie maintained my interest from start to finish, unlike the 1939 movie “GONE WITH THE WIND”, which bored me senseless during its last hour. And I cannot believe that this movie, along with a few others, lost the Best Picture prize to the likes of “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”.

“A Convenient Proposal” [PG-13] 4/5

003f00qg

 

“A CONVENIENT PROPOSAL”

PART 4 – Advice From the Lovelorn

Evelyn sat back into her chair. A sharp pain stabbed her lower back. God! How uncomfortable she felt! “Before we start this discussion that’s making you look so earnest,” she said to Barbara, “would you mind if we move? My back is killing me.”

“Oh.” Barbara blinked. “Sure honey.” She sprung out of her chair and helped Evelyn stand up. The pair headed straight for the living room, where Evelyn slowly eased onto the large sofa. Barbara rushed back into the kitchen to fetch refreshments for the pregnant woman.

While the blond nurse was in the kitchen, the other three nurses descended the staircase and headed for the front door. Martha and Sandra had changed into civilian dresses. “Remember,” Sandra said to Evelyn, “if you need to talk, I’ll be back.” Evelyn thanked her and the trio left the house.

Barbara returned to the living room, carrying a tray filled with sandwiches, a pot of coffee and two cups. “Here you go, sweetie.” She placed the tray on the table, situated in front of the sofa. Then she piled two sandwiches on a napkin and handed them to Evelyn. “How do you like your coffee?”

Munching on a sandwich, Evelyn replied, “With lots of milk and sugar.”

Barbara prepared a cup of coffee, just as Evelyn had ordered. She placed it on the small table, next to the sofa and within the latter’s reach. Then, “Honey, may I ask you a question?” She reached for her own sandwich.

“Shoot,” Evelyn said between bites.

Blue eyes stared directly into dark brown ones. “Evelyn, what were you thinking?”

The blunt question took Evelyn by surprise. She stared at Barbara. “Huh? What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the late Captain Daniel Walker,” Barbara shot back. “And that.” She pointed at Evelyn’s swollen abdomen. “Just what in the hell were you thinking?”

Evelyn’s cheeks burned hot with embarrassment. She placed the remaining sandwich next to her cup of coffee. “Don’t you think you’re being a little too personal, Barbara?” she retorted in a cool voice.

“Personal?” Barbara’s blond brows shot upward. “Honey, we’ve been talking about your love life for the past hour or so with the other girls. You didn’t seem to mind then. Tell me,” she leaned forward, “did you love him? Danny, I mean.”

Evelyn shot back, “Of course I did! Danny was a wonderful man. Warm, sweet and compassionate. And very loving. Did you know that he wrote poetry?”

Barbara took a sip of coffee. “No kidding. I didn’t know you like poetry.”

“It’s nice,” Evelyn said with a shrug.

Silence followed as Evelyn found herself squirming under Barbara’s direct scrutiny. Then the older woman smiled. “So it’s nice, huh? Exactly what did you mean by nice? It’s okay or it’s grand?”

An impatient grunt escaped Evelyn’s lips. She retorted, “What are you getting at, Barbara?”

“It’s like this, honey. Were you in love with Danny?”

“Didn’t you hear what I said? I told you, yes!”

Barbara shook her head. “You said that you loved Danny. You never said anything about being in love with him.”

Evelyn’s patience snapped. “What’s the difference?”

“The difference is this,” Barbara began. Her face expressed a patience rarely seen on her face. “Loving someone is like feeling deep affection and warmth toward him. Or her. It’s a feeling you would have for a . . . a beloved relative or a friend. Or even an old boyfriend you had a lot of fun with.”

Evelyn stared at her friend. “Was that how you felt about Billy?” She referred to the pilot Barbara had dated, until his death during the Japanese attack at Pearl. Billy had been the victim of a delayed bomb that had landed not far from the pilots’ barracks.

Barbara shrugged. “Not quite. I guess I felt a little more.” She paused and glanced away. “After all, I had dated the bum for nearly a year. But I wasn’t in love with him.”

“I still don’t understand what you’re saying. What’s the difference?”

“Being in love,” Barbara continued, “is like having a soul mate.” Her eyes grew wistful. “Two hearts beating as one. Chemistry. Magic. Like Greer Garson and Ronald Colman in ‘RANDOM HARVEST’. You can barely breath when you’re around him. Or her.” She paused. “How did Danny make you feel?”

Certainly not like that, Evelyn immediately thought. Then she mentally castigated herself. How could she say that to herself? Those two months with Danny had been wonderful. She even managed not to think of Rafe. At least most of the time. And yet, she had to admit that she never felt any chemistry or magic around Danny. Quietly, she answered, “He made me feel nice. Loved.”

“Breathless?”

Evelyn paused. Might as well be honest. “No,” she finally replied. “He didn’t.”

Barbara nodded. “I’m not surprised. And Rafe? How do you feel about him?”

How did she feel about Rafe? Evelyn recalled that first moment her eyes had met his at Mitchell Field eighteen months ago. And the way her heart thumped rapidly at the sight of him descending the airplane just two or three hours ago. A deep heat washed over her body.

“You know, if only you could see yourself right now,” Barbara commented, interrupting Evelyn’s musing. “You’ve got this big, silly grin on your face.”

Embarrassment quickly wiped away Evelyn’s grin. “I do? I mean . . . oh! Never mind.” She took a sip of coffee.

Barbara continued, “You never answered my question about Rafe.”

Evelyn quickly responded under her breath, “I love him.”

“What? I didn’t hear you.”

In a louder voice, Evelyn repeated, “I said that I love Rafe.”

“That’s nice, honey,” Barbara said with her usual sardonic tone. “But are you in love with him?”

Evelyn’s eyes flew open. “I . . . I mean . . .” She sighed. “Yes,” she finally confessed. “I’m still in love with him.”

Barbara gave a knowing nod. “Thought so. And that’s why you were so upset over his marriage proposal. You wanted one that was a little more romantic. Especially from the man you love.”

“Yes,” Evelyn whispered. She stared at the tray of sandwiches and coffee. “Unfortunately, that won’t ever happen. Will it? Not with me carrying Danny’s child.”

Barbara let out a sigh. “Maybe Rafe is afraid that you don’t love him anymore. Like you said, there’s the baby to consider.” Silence fell between the two friends. Then Barbara continued, “You also forgot to answer my first question.”

“What’s that?” Evelyn asked.

Leaning forward, Barbara said, “What in the hell were you thinking? Dating Danny so soon after Rafe had been declared killed in action. Geez Louise, Ev! Three months!”

“I was lonely!” Evelyn cried in defense. “After you all saw me at the Black Cat Café with Danny, you kept telling me to move on. Get over Rafe. Live again. So I did.”

Barbara rolled her eyes. “Honey! I don’t know what the others meant, but my idea of moving on was go out every once in a while with Danny or us. Go to the beach or the movies. Go riding around the island on weekends. Not have a torrid romance with your allegedly dead boyfriend’s best friend! Who told you to do that?”

“Well, Betty thought it was a good idea.”

A heavy sigh burst out of Barbara’s mouth. “Oh my God! Why on earth would you take advice from a eighteen year-old girl? I loved Betty. And I miss her something awful. But Evelyn, she was not exactly qualified to give you advice on your love life. I don’t care how old she was when she ran away from home, she wasn’t that experienced.” Her eyes rolled toward heaven, Barbara muttered just loud enough for Evelyn to hear, “Betty, of all people!”

Evelyn looked away. “You don’t understand, Barbara,” she said quietly. “You don’t know what it was like after I heard that Rafe had died. I felt as if . . . I don’t know. As if a part of my soul had been torn away.” Tears pricked at her eyes, as a small burst of laughter left her mouth. “Golly! Listen to me! I sound like something out of some Joan Crawford melodrama.” She clumsily wiped away her tears.

Sympathy poured out of Barbara’s eyes. “I can’t say I really know how you felt, honey. But I understand.” She paused. “Danny helped you through a dark time in your life. But Ev, didn’t you ever stop to think that it all happened too fast? Or that you simply weren’t ready for another romance so soon?”

“Of course I did!” Evelyn protested. She closed her eyes momentarily. “After that night with Danny in the hangar, I realized it was all happening too fast. Only . . .” Memories of that moment in the garden with Danny rushed back to her. “Only, you should have seen his face when I tried to tell him, Barbara. He looked so . . . so desperate for some happiness. Like a little lost puppy who had finally found a home.”

Barbara shook her head. “And because you felt sorry for Danny, you ended up in some romance with him. What a mess!”

“I know,” Evelyn quietly acknowledged, as she dropped her head into her open palms. “Now what am I going to do? I’m pregnant, the baby’s father is dead and I just turned down a proposal from the man I love. Rafe’s never going to ask again.”

A shrug lifted Barbara’s shoulders. “You don’t know that. But if you’re right . . . well, you shouldn’t let it end like this.” Life glimmered in her blue eyes. “If Rafe won’t come to you, you’ll have to go to him. I’m not just thinking of the baby, Ev. You can easily get a phony wedding ring and birth certificate and tell people that his or her father is dead. Which is the truth.”

“Barbara . . .” Evelyn began.

The blond-haired woman leaned forward. “Look, Evelyn. If you love Rafe that much, fight to get him back. Make him fall in love with you again. Like Scarlett O’Hara in ‘GONE WITH THE END’.”

“Scarlett lost Rhett Butler in the end.”

“Not quite. Don’t you remember? Instead of giving up, she decided that she would get Rhett back, no matter what. That’s what you need to do with Rafe,” Barbara continued. “Because you know something, honey? This might be your last chance for some real happiness.”

* * * *

Rafe’s eyes swept over the half-empty beach. “Not many people here,” Red commented, as his eyes followed those of the other man. “You should have seen it last year, around this time. A guy could barely take a step without tripping over a body. Now look at it.”

“There wasn’t a war going on,” Rafe responded. “At least not here.” He paused, his eyes now fixed upon the waves crashing against the shore. “Now everything’s changed.”

The two men fell silent as they watched a bronze-skinned, middle-aged man deftly ride the waves on a surfboard. The Hawaiian managed to reach the shore without falling into the water. “It’s a good thing Gooz isn’t watching,” Red said. “He’d be bombarding that fellow about his surfboard.” Rafe stared at the red-haired pilot questioningly. “Gooz has plans for a new kind of surfboard. One that will make him rich.”

A grunt escaped Rafe’s mouth and the two friends continued their walk along the beach. “Okay Red,” Rafe said, “you got me alone. What do you want to talk about?”

“Do you love Evelyn, Rafe?”

Red’s question stopped the other pilot in his tracks. “What the hell are you getting at?” Rafe demanded.

Red sighed. “I . . . I just want to know if you’re still in love with her?”

Rafe snapped back, “Of course I am! Didn’t you hear what I told the others?”

“Then why did you ask her . . .” Red paused momentarily. “Why did you ask her to marry you like that? As if you were proposing a business deal?”

The sounds of crashing waves and voices on the beach filled the silence between the two men. Rafe took a deep breath and began walking. Toward what direction, he had no idea. It seemed as if his feet automatically needed to move, while he contemplated Red’s question.

“Rafe? Rafe, I’m sorry,” Red said in a breathless rush. “I d-d-didn’t mean for you to get s-s-sore.”

Rafe paused. For once, he wished he had developed a smoking habit. At least he would have something to keep his hands occupied. “No . . . I mean . . . well, yeah, I’m a little sore. But you’re right. I wasn’t exactly the most romantic joe when I proposed to Evelyn.” He sighed. “You don’t understand. I reckon I was afraid. Afraid that . . .”

“Afraid that Evelyn might not love you anymore,” Red finished. “Because of what happened between her and Danny.” Rafe remained silent. “Am I right?”

A small ball of anger formed within Rafe. His mind flashed back to that horrible night outside the hospital at Pearl. When he learned about Evelyn and Danny. As much as he loved them both, as much as he missed Danny with nearly every breath within him, he could not forget the feeling of betrayal from that night. Nor the shock he had received when Evelyn revealed her pregnancy.

“You don’t understand,” Rafe retorted. “Can you imagine what it was like to escape death in order to get back to the woman you loved? Only to find out that she’s moved on with your best friend?”

Red shot back, “No, I don’t, dammit! But I do know what Danny and Evelyn went through! Especially Evelyn.” He paused and a pink flush crept over his face. “I’ve known ever since Betty was killed, six months ago.”

Guilt hit Rafe like a sock in the gut. He had been so caught up in his own guilt and anger that he forgot the suffering of others. “I’m sorry, Red,” he began. “I didn’t realize . . .”

“It’s okay, Rafe. I don’t expect you to keep an eye on me every waking moment.” Red sat down on the sand. Rafe joined him. “I haven’t told this to anyone,” he continued. “Right after Betty’s death, I had been too busy to really have a chance to grieve. Especially with us training for Colonel Doolittle’s raid. But after we got back, it sort of hit me that I was alone. Betty was dead. Anthony had been killed in China. That’s when I met her. Just before you returned to the States to bury Danny.”

Rafe frowned. “Met who?”

“Margie.” According to Red, he had met a civilian nurse named Marjorie Gronowski at the Black Cat Café. She had been recently widowed after her husband, an Army infantry lieutenant, was killed during the Japanese takeover of the Philippines Islands. “Margie was supposed to join her husband right before Christmas, but the Japs struck Pearl. Four months later, she got word of his death from a buddy of his.”

Slowly, Rafe added, “And you two became . . . you know . . . lovers. Right?”

Red nodded. “Yeah. It happened a week after we first met. After talking about Betty and Jon – her husband, we started drinking a lot. One thing led to another and then . . .” Red ended his sentence with a shrug.

Curious, Rafe asked, “How long did it last?”

“Almost a month,” Red answered. “I just ended it two days ago. I realized our relationship was going too fast. And that I really wasn’t over Betty. At least not yet.”

A bitter laugh escaped Rafe’s mouth. “Too bad Evelyn and Danny didn’t feel the same.”

“I think Evelyn did,” Red commented. “You have to understand, Rafe. Both she and Danny were really upset when they thought you were dead. Danny used to drift away, time to time. And I once saw him staring at your picture at the bar.”

Rafe looked away.

Red continued, “As for Evelyn, Betty once told me that she used to cry herself to sleep nearly every night. At least until she and Danny started dating around October. I don’t know about Evelyn, but there was something odd in the way Danny went after her. Like he was desperate and needed her to keep him from going over the edge. Margie reminded me a lot of him. But I think Evelyn, like me . . . well, I think she began to regret dating Danny. Once I saw her staring at nothing, as if she had something else on her mind. Danny had to snap her out of it. I think he was a little upset.”

After a moment’s pause, Rafe asked, “Are you saying that she was thinking of me?”

“I don’t know. I can’t answer that.” Red stared at Rafe. “Only Evelyn can.”

“Meaning?”

Red sighed. “Maybe you and Evelyn need to talk. Have you two even bothered to talk, yet?”

Rafe recalled Evelyn’s visit at the motor court. If he had to be honest, he did most of the talking that morning. “Maybe it’s time I listen to Evelyn,” he mumbled.

Apparently, he had mumbled loud enough for the other man to hear. A smile appeared on Red’s face. “You were always a pretty smart fellow, Rafe.”

The Tennessee-born officer slapped Red’s back. “I reckon you’re the smart one, Red. And you know what else?”

“What?”

“You’re also a good friend. I hope you’ll stay my friend for a long time.” The two men remained on the beach and watched the surfer dive back into the ocean.

END OF PART 4

“POLITICAL ANIMALS” (2012): Episode Ranking

003

Below is my ranking of USA Network’s 2012 six-episode limited series called “POLITICAL ANIMALS”. Created by Greg Berlanti, the series starred Sigourney Weaver, Carla Gugino and Ciarán Hinds:

 

“POLITICAL ANIMALS” (2012): Episode Ranking

1- 1.05 16 Hours

1. (1.05) “16 Hours” – Secretary of State Elaine Barrish instructs one of her twin sons, Douglas “Doug” Hammond, to keep an eye on journalist Susan Berg during a trip to San Diego regarding a sunken Chinese submarine, in order to keep her distracted from any news regarding the drug overdose of her other son, T.J. Unexpected sparks results. And Elaine’s mother, Margaret Barrish, discovers that Doug’s fiancee, Anne Ogami, is bulimic.

 

 

2- 1.01 Pilot

2. (1.02) “Pilot” – After a failed attempt to win the Democratic nomination for President, Elaine asks her husband, former President Donald “Bud” Hammond, for a divorce and becomes Secretary of State for election winner Paul Garcetti in this episode that introduces the series.

 

 

3- 1.04 Lost Boys

3. (1.04) “Lost Boys” – This episode featured flashbacks that revealed the origins of an earlier suicide attempt of T.J. Hammond, while he struggles to open a new nightclub. Meanwhile, Elaine and President Garcetti deal with a Chinese submarine that nearly sunk off the U.S. West Coast.

 

 

4- 1.06 Resignation Day

4. (1.06) “Resignation Day” – While the Garcetti Administration deal with the tragic crash of Air Force One and President Garcetti, Doug decides to elope with Anne; and both Elaine and Bud contemplate her running for president again in the near future.

 

 

5- 1.02 Second Time Around

5. (1.02) “Second Time Around” – Elaine convinces President Garcetti to appoint Bud as a negotiator to release three journalists held hostage in Iran. Susan serves as a member of the journalist corps, appointed to cover the story. And Doug leaks to Susan that Elaine will make another bid for president.

 

 

6- 1.03 The Woman Problem

6. (1.03) “The Woman Problem” – To prevent Elaine from running for President again; President Garcetti asks her mentor, Justice Diane Nash, to retire from the Supreme Court, so that he can appoint Elaine to replace her. And Elaine’s announcement of her decision to run for President draws negative reactions from Margaret, Doug and T.J.

“DUPLICITY” (2009) Review

Duplicity (2009)

“DUPLICITY” (2009) Review

Several years ago, “BOURNE” franchise scribe/director Tony Gilroy went another direction and wrote and directed this 2009 comedy thriller that barely earned a profit at the box office. This romantic spy flick centered around a pair of romantically involved former intelligence spies who team up for a business scam that would allow them to enjoy an extravagant lifestyle together.

“DUPLICITY” began five years in the past in which MI-6 agent Ray Koval is ordered to seduce and spy upon a woman named Claire Stenwick, who unbeknownst to him, is a CIA agent. After Claire drugs Ray and steals classified documents from him. The movie’s opening shifts to a physical fight between CEOs Howard Tully of Burkett & Randle and Dick Garsik of Equikrom, establishing the longstanding professional rivalries between the pair. Several years later, Ray, who has become a corporate spy for Equikrom, encounters Claire in New York City. He eventually discovers that she has been an Equikrom corporate spy, working undercover at Burkett & Randle. Ray and Claire decide to create a con job in which they manipulate a corporate race between Tully and Garsik to corner the market on a medical innovation. A con job they hope will reap huge profits for them.

When I first saw the trailer for “DUPLICITY”, I figured that Gilroy would have a smash hit on his hands. He had two leads whose screen chemistry had already been established in the 2004 romantic drama, “CLOSER”. He also had Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson (both fresh from winning awards for their performances in the 2008 HBO miniseries, “JOHN ADAMS”). And he had an interesting story line. What could go wrong? Apparently, a good deal went wrong.

To be honest, “DUPLICITY” was not a terrible movie. The four leads and the supporting cast provide excellent performances – especially Roberts and Owen. And Gilroy managed to write a very witty script. Unfortunately, I also found his script slightly confusing thanks to the flashbacks that featured Roberts and Owen’s budding romance and a slow build up to their scheme to scam Giamatti and Wilkinson. But what prevented “DUPLICITY” from being a winner for me was the ending. As it turned out, Wilkinson’s character had been aware of the scheming ex-spies all along and used them to bankrupt his rival, Giamatti, with phony plans for a new medical innovation. A flashback revealing the listening bug in Roberts’ apartment revealed how he had learned of their scheme. But the movie failed to explain how he had become suspicions of the two in the first place. I also have to add that I was disappointed that Roberts and Owen’s characters had failed to succeed in their scheme. I usual hate these ironic of endings in comedic movies that feature con artists.

What else can I say? “DUPLICITY” featured some excellent performances from Julia Roberts (who had earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy for her performance), Clive Owens and the rest of the cast. Tony Gilroy’s screenplay also featured a good deal of witty humor. But if anyone plans to watch this film and expects a well written and fascinating narrative, I suspect that viewer might end up disappointed. I certainly was.