Wednesday, February 26, 2014

famous couples

The Genre Reading Group will meet again on Tuesday, March 25th at 6:30pm to discuss books about women and women's history in recognition of Women's History Month.  Read a book, watch a movie, listen to an audiobook, (your choice!) then come tell us about it.

Last night, we met to talk about famous couples, real and imagined.

Angelmonster by Veronica Bennett
( Veronica Bennett's lush reimagining of the life of Mary Shelley — on the eve of her authorship of the classic gothic novel Frankenstein — is a gripping story of love and obsession.  In the spring of 1814, poet Percy Shelley enters the life of young Mary Godwin like an angel of deliverance. Seduced by his radical and romantic ideas, she flees with him and her stepsister to Europe, where they forge a hardscrabble life while mingling with other free-spirited artists and poets. Frowned on by family and society, persecuted by gossip, and plagued by jealousy, Mary becomes haunted by freakish imaginings and hideous visions. As tragedy strikes, not once but time and again, Mary begins to realize that her dreams have become nightmares, and her angel . . . a monster. Now the time has finally come for the young woman who would become Mary Shelley to set her monster free.

Both of Us: My Life with Farrah by Ryan O'Neal
( Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett: One of the most storied love affairs in Hollywood history, their romance has captivated fans and media alike for more than three decades. Fans of each other from afar, Ryan and Farrah met through her husband, Lee Majors, and fell passionately in love. Soon, however, reality threatened their happiness and they struggled with some serious matters, including the disintegration of Farrah’s marriage; Ryan’s troubled relationship with his daughter, Tatum, and son, Griffin; mismatched career trajectories; and raising their young son, Redmond—all leading Ryan and Farrah to an inevitable split in 1997.

Ryan fought to create a life on his own but never stopped longing for Farrah. Older and wiser, he and Farrah found their way back to each other and were excited to start a new life together. But their bliss was cut short when Farrah was diagnosed with cancer and passed away just three years later. Ryan’s deep love for Farrah and his devotion to preserving her memory are evident in Both of Us.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: Many just remember Farrah Fawcett from her stint on Charlie's Angels, but she was a wonderful actress in her own right, starring in such gripping films as ExtremitiesThe Burning Bed, and Logan's Run.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
( In 1959, a young woman, Haruko, marries the Crown Prince of Japan. She is the first nonaristocratic woman to enter the mysterious, hermetic monarchy. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress, Haruko is controlled at every turn, suffering a nervous breakdown after finally giving birth to a son. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman to accept the marriage proposal of her son, with tragic consequences. Based on extensive research, The Commoner is a stunning novel about a brutally rarified and controlled existence, and the complex relationship between two isolated women who are truly understood only by each other.

Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne by Ben Hills
( The tragic true story of Japan's Crown Princess.  It's the fantasy of many young women: marry a handsome prince, move into a luxurious palace, and live happily ever after. But that's not how it turned out for Masako Owada. Ben Hills's fascinating portrait of Princess Masako and the Chrysanthemum Throne draws on research in Tokyo and rural Japan, at Oxford and Harvard, and from more than sixty interviews with Japanese, American, British, and Australian sources-many of whom have never spoken publicly before-shedding light on the royal family's darkest secrets, secrets that can never be openly discussed in Japan because of the reverence in which the emperor and his family are held. But most of all, this is a story about a love affair that went tragically wrong.  The paperback edition will contain a new afterword by the author, discussing the impact this book had in Japan, where it was banned.

Happy Trails: Our Life Story by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Jane and Michael Stern
( The warmhearted, intimate story of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. From Roy's success with the Sons of the Pioneers to the couple's meeting, marriage, and rise to superstardom, Happy Trails decribes Roy's and Dale's professional trials and triumphs, and tells movingly of their personal tragedies, including the deaths of three of their children.

Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents Roy Rogers and Dale Evans by Cheryl Rogers-Barnett
( He was the King of the Cowboys. She was the Queen of the West. They were the idols of boys and girls everywhere who thrilled to their exploits in the movies or on TV and grew up humming their theme song, "Happy Trails." They were the author's idols as well. But they were also her parents.

Cheryl Rogers-Barnett practically grew up on the Republic Studios lot where her parents made their great movies. She remembers, as a little girl, rehearsals with the original Sons of the Pioneers. She was aware of Roy and Dale as celebrities-but also saw them as loving parents to a large and very diverse family. She shared their joy when they received honors and fame, and wept with them through the tragic loss of three siblings. Through it all, her parents remained in private what all of their fans wanted them to be - honest, straightforward, loving people who lived lives of generosity, adventure, and humor-especially humor.

Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans tells the story of Cheryl's beloved parents from a point of view that is uniquely hers. It's filled with hilarious and touching stories of their relationship with each other and with their children and includes countless behind-the-scenes stories of Roy and Dale's movies, television appearances, and music. Leavening the warm and illuminating stories and memories are dozens of rare photographs-family snapshots, studio portraits, behind-the-scenes stills-most of which have never been published in a book and many of which have never been published anywhere.

For fans of the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West-and for anyone interested in the great performers of yesteryear-this book provides an up close and personal introduction to Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, their family, and the many colorful characters who rode beside them on those happy, happy trails.

The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe by Jeffrey Meyers
( The 1956 wedding of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller surprised the world. The Genius and the Goddess presents an intimate portrait of the prelude to and ultimate tragedy of their short marriage. Distinguished biographer Jeffrey Meyers skillfully explores why they married, what sustained them for five years, and what ultimately destroyed their marriage and her life.

The greatest American playwright of the twentieth century and the most popular American actress both complemented and wounded one another. Marilyn craved attention and success but became dependent on drugs, alcohol, and sexual adventures. Miller experienced creative agony with her.  Their marriage coincided with the creative peak of her career, yet private and public conflict caused both of them great anguish.

Meyers has crafted a richly nuanced dual biography based on his quarter-century friendship with Miller, interviews with major players of stage and screen during the postwar Hollywood era, and extensive archival research. He describes their secret courtship. He also reveals new information about the effect of the HUAC anti-Communist witch-hunts on Miller and his friendship with Elia Kazan. The fascinating cast of characters includes Marilyn's co-stars Sir Laurence Olivier, Yves Montand, Montgomery Clift, and Clark Gable; her leading directors John Huston, Billy Wilder, and George Cukor; and her literary friends Dame Edith Sitwell, Isak Dinesen, Saul Bellow, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Meyers offers the most in-depth account of the making and meaning of The Misfits. Written by Miller for Monroe, this now-classic film was a personal disaster. But Marilyn remained Miller's tragic muse and her character, exalted and tormented, lived on for the next forty years in his work.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: As our topic this month was in recognition of Valentine's Day, we did have a short discussion on love and the nature of love.  Topically, we talked about it in relation to technology, but we certainly weren't the first.  Two wonderful (awful?) 80's films that explore the issue are:

Electric Dreams (1984)
( Lonely architect Miles (Von Dohlen) purchases a fancy new "Pine cone" personal computer and clumsily spills champagne on it which, of course, imbues the computer with human (or more than human) intelligence, prodigious musical talent and the voice of Bud Court. The computer (now called Edgar) proceeds to fall in love with Miles' upstairs neighbour, beautiful cellist Madeline (Madsen) with whom it engages in anonymous musical duets thanks to the talents of iconic 80's film composer Giorgio Moroder. Madeline of course assumes the music comes from the obviously shy Miles and a romance ensues. A romance which stokes the fires of jealousy on the part of Edgar. By way of revenge, Edgar cancels Miles' credit cards and wreaks various other havoc on his on-line accessible identity. Meanwhile Madeline cannot understand why Miles won't play music with her when he obviously has such talent. Nonetheless, human love prevails and Edgar nobly commits suicide when he realises that he will never, can never, win the heart of his human love.The film contains several neo-classical musical numbers, various examples of state-of-the-art 80's computer graphics and 80's sexology icon Dr. Ruth in a cameo.

Cherry 2000 (1987)
( Cherry 2000 is the heartwarming tale of Sam Treadwell (David Andrews), who will stop at nothing to find another model of his broken companion android, Cherry. Griffith plays E. Johnson, the tough-as-nails tracker who helps him track her down. As deliriously chowderheaded as the premise of the movie sounds, it's actually not half bad and immensely fun to watch. The surprisingly mature plot (nobody gets naked!) involves Treadwell's gradual discovery that there's more to a good woman than a beautiful body and perfect subservience. Don't worry, there are plenty of explosions to keep you from getting bored. Griffith absolutely owns the movie--she looks like a complete badass handling surface-to-air missiles, though of course she still sounds like she picked up diction tips from early Shirley Temple movies.

A recent film that explores this idea for smartphone users is Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams.
( Joaquin Phoenix stars in Spike Jonze's soulful sci-fi drama about a lonely writer who falls in love with his computer's highly advanced operating system. Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) has built his career on expressing the emotions that others cannot. His job is to pen heartfelt, deeply personal letters to complete strangers based on details provided by the clients of the company he works for, and he has a knack for finding just the right words for every occasion. Meanwhile, reluctant to sign the papers that will finalize his divorce to his childhood sweetheart, depressed Theodore has slowly withdrawn from his supportive social circle, which includes his longtime friend Amy (Amy Adams), herself floundering in a failed marriage. When Theodore purchases a new state-of-the-art computer operating system with the ability to learn and grow with the user, he sits down at his desk and prepares to get his life in order. Adopting the name Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the perceptive software slowly begins to bring Theodore out of his shell by encouraging him to start dating again, and joining him everywhere he goes. Very quickly, their relationship turns intimate, with Theodore teaching Samantha what it means to feel human and Samantha giving him the strength to walk away from his failed marriage. Things soon get complicated, however, when Samantha's rapidly evolving knowledge base begins to alter the very core of their relationship.

This same premise showed up in an episode of The Big Bang Theory too.  Raj, unable to speak to women face to face, is delighted because he has no trouble talking to Siri, the voice of his new iPhone.

 Who is YOUR favorite couple, real or imagined?

No comments: