In the 1960 movie version of the novel, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Doris Day is a rather frustrated housewife whose once family-guy husband is quickly becoming an aloof, career man when his drama-critic job suddenly blossoms. While the now famous James Mckay (David Niven) is being seduced by actresses, celebrated at fancy cocktail parties, and heralded at posh, New York clubs, his wife Kay (Doris Day) charges ahead with their former dream of moving to the country to give their four boys a better life than stuck-in-an-apartment, city-life.
Of course, because it’s a Doris Day movie, though she has four children, a huge fluffy dog, is fixing up a run-down country house with her mother-in-law, trying to win her husband back, volunteering to sing/dance in a country show to raise money for the school…she always looks perfect. Ridiculous? yes. Unrealistic? of course. But do we love it? YES. Seeing reality reflected in films, tv, and magazines is a new phenomenon that I don’t really understand. I see reality 22 hours of the day, everyday, for the two hours I might set aside for a movie, I want somethin’ fantastically unrealistic. No one looks up to reality or strives for reality. Reality just happens. Doris Day? There’s something wonderfully unreal about her and that’s something to dress up for.
Bonjour Tristesse (“Hello Sadness”) is a fairly obscure novel written by Françoise Sagan in 1954 and adapted into a 1958 film version starring Deborah Kerr and David Niven. The rather depressing story follows a young girl abroad with her playboy father who bases his life on Oscar Wilde’s famous line: “Sin is the only note of vivid colour that persists in the modern world.” Of course, the consequences of his life-motto are vivid indeed…and, not in a good way. As foreshadowed by the title, the novel and the film end in tragedy and David Niven, the playboy father, learns that his view of life may bring instant gratification, but it also forces him into saying over and over, “bonjour tristesse.”
Despite all the sadness, a silver lining in the film version of the novel is Deborah Kerr’s adorable spring/summer style. She dresses comfortably without ever looking sloppy, and casual without ever looking lazy. I think her secret is pairing casual items with a tailored piece: putting shorts with a button-down, an easy, tailored shift-dress with a scarf instead of t-shirts and cut-offs. Even spending days at the beach, her hair is always pinned into submission and she never looks like she had an “I give up day.” Instead, though the film is rather dark, to Deborah Kerr you could definitely always say, “bonjour beauté!”
Bonjour tristesse images via lemonwade.com | filmposterarchive
Post-Thanksgiving marks a crucial time for most people. It’s the changing of the seasons from a sleepy fall into a full-blown, countdown to Christmas. I can feel it in the air. People are either quivering with excitement to release their energy on decking their halls, or are dangling on the precipice between stress and a breakdown over arriving at this time of year again and beginning to realize what needs to be done to”prepare” for the holidays. Or, throw in yet another factor. Perhaps you can’t even imagine spending a moment on Christmas preparations because life has, once again, accelerated at a ridiculous speed come the last month of the year.
I tend to stand on the side of those quivering with excitement to begin this season. So, this past weekend, even though Thanksgiving came early this year, I couldn’t help myself and decided to spend Friday in my sweats with nothing on my to-do list except officially initiating the house with the first of some Christmas cheer:
As I was hanging garland, straightening bows, and distributing some sparkle on Friday, I thought about the two approaches most people have to this time of year: Utter dread and disinterest, or unabashed obsession and excitement.
If you’ve never seen it, the 1947 Christmas classic, The Bishop’s Wife pretty much sums up these dichotomies. The film is about a Bishop (David Niven) who is so distracted by his ambitions for raising money to build a new cathedral, he has made his wife (Loretta Young) completely miserable by his selfishness and drive for the latest, greatest things. He never spends time with her or his daughter anymore, believes her small attempts to bring joy into their house childish and wasteful, and begins to treat everyone in his home as slaves.
Into this disgruntled family, an angel (Cary Grant) enters disguised as a man applying for a secretary job to assist the overworked Bishop. His real intentions become clear though when the angel, or “Dudley,” shows the Bishop’s wife how to be happy again, how to be kind and show love, how to appreciate small things, and how to bring joy back into a home. While the Bishop obsesses about how to impress people so that they will give him money, Dudley seeks out lonely people to cheer with some of the joy of the Christmas season. And, while the Bishop is focused on building a spectacular cathedral, Dudley focuses on rebuilding a home that is crumbling under the burden of supporting the Bishop’s ambitions.
At the conclusion of the film, it’s clear that Dudley’s simple ways have made a far bigger contribution to the Bishop’s parish and family than the Bishop’s overblown attempts at perfection. So, this year, be a Dudley. Even if you don’t have the powers of an angel, you do have the power to make some magic just by keeping it simple.
Don’t let your ambitions for a perfect Christmas run away with you, or, don’t let the fear of not creating the perfect Christmas paralyze you from enjoying a very, very special time.