Tuesday, July 18, 2006

110. Fallen

I decided to watch Fallen Angel (1945) because I wanted to see Otto Preminger's follow-up to Laura (1944). I had no idea Linda Darnell was in it. I think I've seen her in other pictures--wait; I know I have: Victor Mature's love in My Darling Clementine. But I had to check the IMDb to be sure, so I will treat Fallen Angel as my first encounter with her.

I'll admit it is a meeting I have kind of put off. My father used to say my mother reminded him of Darnell. When I was a kid, I had no idea who she was; but I had seen pictures of my mother in her late teens, photos she said were taken by an admirer when she was in Cuba. They were glamour shots, all right, with her face implacable, almost in profile, chin tilted up, black hair flowing. These are images whose effect on me changed over the years. When I was a little kid, I liked how pretty she looked. As I grew up, I was eager to imagine my parents as real people--especially ones for whom everything for a space had turned out fine--and so in my adolescence I enjoyed such images as signs that they enjoyed their early adulthood--these were highly posed photos, accentuating the positive, so to speak; the effect was of a serene, full adulthood. It made me hopeful. Eventually, though, these images darkened, as her health disappeared and the past seemed a lost thing, and those were perhaps photos of someone else--or, if of her, there was almost a reproach in the image, a feeling that something wasn't so much lost as taken away. I didn't much care to look at them.

And so it was with Linda Darnell. The associations were sad, all but bitter. I loved and pitied my mother, but I think I also pitied myself, the one who had to help her haul around the past while obliterating it. I have been reconciled to this--a simple thing we all do, yes? A necessary shift to sustain one's worth and one's portion of happiness. So when I saw the opening credits of Fallen Angel I hit the Pause button, thought for a moment, and decided it was time to see Linda Darnell.

I do not have much to say here. She did look a lot like my mother in her youth. Both were womanly at an early age, both were dark and full. Standing at this far remove, all but only residual Freudian anxiety gone, I can understand why the moment he saw her my father told a buddy that this was the woman he was going to marry. And in the film, I could understand why Dana Andrews and every other male in the movie fell--not for her so much as after or toward her. Jeez-o-Pete, she stood there in the movie like the last male reality.

I'll stop there; one can tread these waters only so long without sounding maudlin or weird--then again, I'm not sure I haven't sounded so all along. But that's OK: I'm glad to have seen Linda Darnell--and am intrigued by the venue, a movie in which she attracts men so much she's killed for it--and by Darnell herself, a life cut short--at 41 in a house fire, according to the IMDb. And I'm also glad I think I've reached a point in my life where I can gaze without too much flinching at the intersection of my life and all these movies, with familiar faces making up stories, some of them true, sad or otherwise.

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