A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Story Me A Story On Green Dolphin Street
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Last evening Rosemary and I sat down to watch Duel In The Sun with Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotton. My mother loved both of them so as a boy she took me to see as many films with them as she could. I have always been a sucker for Joseph Cotton in The Third Man. But the film on TCM was not Duel In The Sun but Green Dolphin Street (based on Elizabeth Goudge's novel Green Dolphin Country). I am glad of the TCM mixup.

For many years I have enjoyed the jazz standard Green Dolphin Street. My favourite version is from Very Tall - Oscar Peterson Trio With Milt Jackson. I never knew or suspected until last night that the music was from the score of the 1947 film by Polish composer Bronislau Kaper. That a film, set around 1850 when the age of sail was being menaced by the age of steam and New Zealand was virgin territory, could have inspired so many jazz performers is whimsical and wonderful.

The film has two gorgeous actresses, Lana Turner and Donna Reed who play sisters in a comedy of errors in which two men do not, finally, get the girl. At the end of this film Donna Reed becomes the most beautiful bride (bride of Christ)as she renounces the world to transform herself into the most beautiful nun I have ever seen anywhere. Green Dolphin Street won a Special Effects Oscar for an exciting earthquake and tidal wave scene.

As Rosemary and I watched the implausible plot, with scenes on a Channel Island, a remote China, a then unknown New Zealand (possibly the redwood forest in California), a beautiful clipper ship (the Green Dolphin) and scary Maori uprisings we compared notes on how these films are not made anymore. We both enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada but we could not see too many more films like it. Such films like garlic and sex have to be enjoyed in moderation.

Green Dolphin Street
was a fairy story/adventure film. Its unreality was what made it enjoyable even though the ending is more opera than Hollywood. As adults we need stories like these as much as children do.

When my uncle Tony (here with my mother and sitting on the lap of my grandfather Tirso de Irureta Goyena) used to come to visit us on weekends to fly his U-control model airplanes, in a nearby football field, he would tell his son Wency and me stories. We would plead: "Contanos un cuento." (literally story us a story and demonstrating how beautiful Spanish can be).

Uncle Tony would then tell us stories of piratas and espadachines (sworsdmen) and ladies in distress. Sometimes he would scare us with ghost stories.

As I watched Lana Turner's gowns and the elaborate finger waving of her hair and many other nice details, the experience last night was no different to the fantastic stories of my uncle Tony. I have a feeling he might have inherited his story telling from Tirso.


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