I will be hosting a showing of one of my very favorite films, “Darling” on Thursday 10:45pm at the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles for my dear friend Wayne Federman’s comedian-curated film festival.  I know it’s late but really the movie is worth it, and it’s black and white and easy on the eyes and a nice thing to watch right before bed. Black and white films have a soothing effect on the psyche, like hot milk and lavender baths and spooning with the larger person on the outside the smaller person on the inside, or human on the outside, dog/cat on the inside.

I always loved watching black and white television shows before bed, but color shows seemed to make me unable to sleep. I would feel hypnotic and somnolent after episodes of the old Twilight Zone. With shades of grey and black and bright white, the surreal and haunting images and subject matter were the perfect introduction to sleep, as if the flickering lights and words were translating into your brain as a form of sleep itself, manufacturing REM and kickstarting the dream mechanism. Rod Serling did a good lullaby.

But then you would have to turn off the television right away or you might catch a glimpse of Night Gallery, Serling’s terrifying later offering – a horror series in lurid and screeching all too lifelike and all too deathlike COLOR, or god forbid, a trailer for the most scary movie of all the scary movies – MAGIC with Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margret and that ventriloquist dummy! Both Night Gallery and MAGIC preyed upon my very worst fear – DOLLS. I fucking am so freaked out by dolls and puppets.

The only puppets I can have in my home and commune with are the wooden articulated cobras I purchased from a reluctant but reasonable marionette wrangler, with a fat pocketful of Rupees in Rajasthan, Lily and Lord Khimsar respectfully, which is probably weird because they look like real snakes, living snakes, and have been known to move themselves around the house – I am not kidding. I put them down somewhere and they appear in another place. I deal with it because I love them, and I respect their puppet life. But I don’t think I could survive within the same room as a ventriloquist’s dummy. They really freak me out, especially ones from the 20s and 30s, with their thin eyebrows and lines around the jaw. If ever I was looking at an unmanned dummy and one brow or lip lifted, I think I would faint from fright.

There is no puppet terror in Darling, which is John Schlesinger’s very best film, although it is hard to pick, he made so many amazing ones.  Julie Christie is a wonder in this movie, a wise old soul in a young swinging London girl body, with the always magnificent Dirk Bogarde and fierce as ever Lawrence Harvey madcap behind. It’s a fun movie and kind of a tragedy and kind of a comedy and calming and exciting and terrific and sexy and also somewhat anti-sex. It’s a 60s movie that has a 50s air about it and it’s so British but also very European and actually if you think about it, pretty American. It’s a story about straight people but they could also be gay. They are white but they want to be black. It suggested and supported 3 ways and walking on conference room tables and marrying into royal families and I’d like to wear all of Julie Christie’s clothes in the movie, and I think for a couple of years in the late 90s, my manic vintage shopping accomplished this goal. You would be hard pressed to do this nowadays, with all the furor over the outfits in mad men. If you like mad men style, and of course I do, look to Darling. It’s the same well cut era.

John Schlesinger is unparalleled and hands down my favorite director, and his movies I return to time and time again when I want to know how a story should be told, how a film should be made, how movies should be.  In the dark of an old fashioned rep house or film collective, when any of his glorious work is projected onto the screen and my nice ass is in a seat, I know everything always all the time will be ok (everything sunny all the time always). Midnight cowboy and day of the locust and Sunday bloody Sunday and darling could get stuck in any one of my all region dvd players and I would be happy to watch these films over and over for the rest of my days.  He approached filmmaking like a painter, and every shot, every frame, in every film is a work of art. I knew John in the 90s, partly because of my sartorial obsession with Darling and my deep personal love affair with all of his films, and partly because he was a fan of mine also, which was a tremendous honor.

He brought me to Santa Fe, where he was planning to build a museum entirely dedicated to Georgia O’Keefe. His hot boyfriend Michael drove us around in his jeep and we went swimming and then tanning and ate mysterious southwestern style caesar salads with cornbread croutons with Bryan Singer and kept an eye on the clock so as not to be late for a party John and Michael were throwing for their lady friend.

Their lady friend was Lauren Bacall (!!!), and the icon(truly, I mean it, ICON) and eternally beautiful actress looked down from the top of a barstool and stopped the drinking of a large fizzy watery lemony concoction and with her booming-and-commanding-in-person voice and living legend largesse uttered simply, “……John….”. everyone turned to look and time stood still and the whole room was entirely ears and someone said, “John – Lauren wants you….” and he, the illustrious John Schlesinger, the best director ever, came running. How could you not? it’s Lauren fucking Bacall.

Ali Macgraw and Joyce Dewitt surrounded me and astounded me with their famed brunette manes and crisp white shirts and glowing desert rose beauty. They both wore the hugest squash blossom turquoise necklaces I had ever seen in my life and hugged me warmly and the impressive and costly silver banged into my chest.  Humbly, they introduced me to their gay husbands. They loved their gay men and bowed their shiny heads at them and looked up at them through black eyelashes thick and wet with the appreciation and adoration I know well.  Joyce said in a quiet whisper, “Margaret – this – THIS – is Artemis. He is very special.” She opened her arm to reveal him, like she was showing me her heart, and he stepped forward, handsome, ponytailed and shy, to kiss me on both cheeks.

There was a show of some kind, I don’t remember it though, just these details and small stories I have shared here. I miss John and I miss his moving pictures and he needs a predecessor. He was gay and the greatest filmmaker of all time and I will always be proud of that and of him and that I knew him and that he loved me. I am glad that I get to show Darling on the big screen, like it was my movie, and in some ways, it is.


7 thoughts on “Darling

  1. It’s a shame there aren’t more films shot in black and white. So often color distracts from what a director is wanting to say with his film. It is true that b&w plays upon the subconscious. I loved the reference to watching Twilight Zone before going to sleep. I have seen old episodes of TZ, discovering that all this time I had thought that was a dream I had had. Alfred Hitchcock presents had a similar effect. It must have such a thrill for John Schlesinger to bring you into his life! I loved Midnight Cowboy, and I find a subtlety, and a mastery of subtext in many of the films of Schlesinger and others of his era. Today’s films tend to hit you over the head. They are dumbed down. John’s films were very intelligent. Also Midnight Cowboy was one of the funniest as well as touchingly tragic films I’ve ever seen. A post on my blog, ‘Cosmic secret of inspiration’ touches upon some of what you were saying. Such a great blog, Margaret. I can’t tell you how much your writing raises the bar for my own writing. Thanks for that!

  2. Just wanted to let you know that what you wrote in this post, about dreaming of twilight zone episodes, and how you hate creepy dolls and puppets, inspired a nightmare I had last night. I wrote about it on my blog, Nightmare Castle on the Bay. Check it out, I think you will enjoy it!

  3. When I was working in an off-Broadway box office in the mid-aughts, Lauren Bacall came in one evening to see a show. She would be seeing it with her friends, who had the tickets and had not yet arrived. I asked if she wanted me to reprint her ticket so she could go in and sit down, but she said it wasn’t necessary. I think she just didn’t want to stand out in the open lobby, being Lauren Bacall and all, and so she moved just a little ways to the side and stood there looking into the box office and at me for the next 10 minutes while waiting for her friends. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I continued helping other customers, and gave her an assuring smile when I could.

    When her friends finally arrived, they asked if she had been waiting long. She said she hadn’t, and, motioning to me, said, “This lovely gentleman offered to assist me in going in, but I told him I’d wait out here.” The friends thanked me, and Lauren thanked me, and then they went in to take their seats.

    Being called a “lovely gentleman” by Lauren fucking Bacall will forever be the highlight of my life.

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  5. Hi, Margaret. First of all, Mr. David Sedaris only wishes he could write like you. Secondly, Margaret Cho loves to sew. I just have always wanted to say that since I read the sewing post. Thirdly…Joyce Dewitt!!!!!! Joyce?? Dewitt!! Ahahaha! The sound of me crying. I can’t believe someone met her, and it was you. You and Joyce Dewitt meeting is just icing on my proverbial cake…I’m serious. And it got me thinking, too: Could it be that Artemis is the JACK we all kind of knew Joyce would be desperately in search of ever since 3’s was torn off the airwaves! and television has never recovered from since! and John Ritter my darling John Ritter…sigh…still can’t believe he’s gone, left us to cry. At any rate, I’m jelly, as it sounds like a fantasmagorical party you attended. John S. sounds like a great guy! I’m soo excited to watch Darling! I can’t wait to see what movie Margaret Cho has recommended to me :B I will be back to let you know what I think ! BTW OF COURSE John was a fan of yours. p.s. I love you and I always have n always will…it’s because of girls n boys like you that I believe in Unicorns, Margaret Cho…you have always been a true and solid inspiration to my heart for so many~ little~ things…sometimes wild adventure, as with your leather pants and your Dream, sometimes for discipline, as I know you running thangs and without, thangs don’t run, which I totally get and constantly strive for…you are a comfort to me when I’m lonely bc I know that your soul is too in the same way that I feel that he is when I read Rilke. I feel a soul connection btwn you, me and Rilke. More between you and him bc I believe you both writers possessing a touch of genius…more than a touch. I could go on for 6,969 more Harley miles but I’m going to stop right here bc you have to get back to work being my angel and 100% naturally gorgeous, charming and sexy with ~ yes ~ a bit of a Lauren Bacall “awareness” about you…again, I heart thee. pps: sorry about the long involved post, but your writing had me all riled up :B*Marilyn from Columbus, Ohio*

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