Thursday, October 03, 2013

Ben and Cleo

While I was never blessed with Narcissus's beauty, we do share an overwhelming element of self-absorption. I never cease to be amazed by me and by why I am the way I am, or why I see life the way I do.

I take inordinate delight in little things which would either go largely unnoticed by anyone else, or just accepted and forgotten.

This morning, for those reasons known only to but never explained by my mind, I started thinking of little tidbits of pure delight I've picked up while attending movies, though not necessarily from what was on the screen.  I have two absolute favorites, which I keep carefully wrapped in imaginary tissue paper in a little equally-imaginary box on the top shelf of the closet of my mind. I never tire of taking them down from time to time, for the mere pleasure of doing so. If you have heard either of these stories, as well you might if you've been following these blogs for very long, please just skip to the end.

I went to see the movie "Ben Hur" when it first opened in 1959. It was a megabuck production starring Charlton Heston as Ben, and in the course of the movie, set in the time of Jesus, Jesus himself appears two or three times, though his name is never mentioned and, as was the unwritten law of Hollywood until only recently, Jesus' face was not allowed to be shown. His arrival on the scene would be preceded with a welling tsunami of music befitting the Son of God. And, because his face could not be shown, he was always photographed from behind....flowing white robe, long, perfectly-brushed straight blond hair of the color and style apparently worn by most Jewish men of the time.

At one point, Ben is being dragged across the sand dunes by those nasty Romans, his face drawn, lips cracked from thirst. At last, he collapses, unable to go on. And suddenly, the music wells up to the point of shaking the plaster from the theater ceiling, and a hand, arm covered in a pure white robe without a speck of sand on it, reaches down with a cup of water. Ben looks up, awe and reverence on his face, takes the cup, and drinks.

The next scene is a long-distance, low-level shot across the dunes to show Ben, outlined against the clear blue sky, being dragged off again by the Romans, looking back toward the camera and the back-shot figure in the white gown with the long, flowing hair.

At this point, a little old lady seated directly in front of me turned to her friend and said, "Who IS she?"

I loved going to the movies with my best friend Russ, a schoolteacher who looked like everyone's idea of a Catholic priest. He had a brilliant wit, and had the tendency to say things which would send me into hysterical laughter at the most inappropriate times.

We went to see the movie "Cleopatra", the 1963 Liz Taylor/Richard Burton no-expense-spared extravaganza, the highlight of which was Cleopatra's arrival in Rome to be presented to Caesar. The scene required tens of thousands of extras, a couple hundred elephants, phalanxes of Roman soldiers, nubian slaves, trumpeters, drummers, ornate gold-covered carts, long, long shots down a reconstructed Roman boulevard lined with temples and obelisks and pedestaled statues, crammed on both sides with toga-clad Romans cheering and shouting and waving banners and...well, you get the picture. This scene dragged on and on for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, her silk-draped golden litter is set down in front of Caesar and Liz/Cleo steps out and approaches the emperor.

At this point Russ turned to me and said: "If he says 'How was the trip?,' I'm leaving."

Maybe you had to be there.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Okay, I laughed! Your friend's comment was priceless.

Have you ever heard of the Fox Theater in Detroit? It's one of the oldest theaters still in existence and going there is an experience. Aside from concerts, they show a film once in a while. Some friends and I went years back and watched Gone With The Wind.

That's about as close as I'll ever get to having a movie experience from back in the day when going really was an honest spectacle.