It's that screwy, supposedly joyful, yet depressing time of the year again: the holidays. And they're almost over. Thank God, the Master, Freddie Quell or my beloved Marilyn Monroe -- my woman of the year (I'll get to my movies in the next few days).
I despise all year-end parties, which is why I'm now enjoying New Year's Eve, safely tucked away in a sleeper car on a train, ringing in 2013 somewhere at the Oregon/California border. I only wish Sugar Cane was in the next sleeping car, Manhattan in a paper cup. Or better yet, champagne. Marilyn loved her champagne.
When I see MM holding a champage glass in a picture, I often think she is New Year's Eve -- a glistening light, all bright, blonde, silver, slinky-curvy and drunken and gorgeous and who gives a damn if she's had a few too many? Like our New Year hopes, she always embarked on a new start (and succeeded quite well, brilliantly, at times) but fell, like many of us into those ruts. Those fuzzy ends of the lollipops. But she tried. And even if she failed (or fell down drunk), it is she who so famously said, "It's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." Thank you, Marilyn.
Marilyn was flesh and blood, but she's such a holiday to the eyes. I wish to god she'd been more careful and not mixed her meds but... I can't change that. She's many things, that artist Marilyn, but she's our drunken angel. She's my drunken angel, anyway.. I love her.
So, this New Year's Eve, I will think of Marilyn and one of my favorite New Year's movies, George Cukor's blissfully ebullient "Holiday." A picture that I think Marilyn (MM obsessive that I am) probably loved. And perhaps related to. Freedom! Expression! It's hard not to. Funny, carefree, silly, inspiring and yet, curiously sad -- sad because you get the feeling that all the exploring dreams its lead character (a joyous, lovable Cary Grant) hopes and plans for, well, they may not work out in the real world. Can one be that simple yet complex and happy and live their life that way?
So, for me, it's the perfect New Year movie, filled with fresh starts, all night parties, dreams and happy/poignant revelations -- those things we make lists of before the clock strikes midnight and usually ditch a few weeks into the month. But not Johnny, we hope.
An extended, wonderful portion of this movie does indeed take place on New Year's Eve during a society party where Johnny is set to announce his engagement to wealthy Julia (Doris Nolan). But he's falling in love wih her rapturous, different sister (a luminous Katharine Hepburn) who's attracted to his counterculture desires. The movie works subtly and elegantly, infused with an almost startling blend of comedy and pathos.
As Johhny and Linda clearly fall for each other and even literally tumble (in a jubilant scene, the two stars perform a beautiful bit of acrobatic talent) they leave us all bubbly MM intoxicated and charged up for something new ourselves. But what? Is it possible to ever feel elation like that? Is it? We can always do as Cary Grant's Johnny does and attempt a little blind faith. Blind faith can get you through the night. I'm sure it helped Marilyn more than a few times. That, and a sweet glass of champagne. Happy New Year.