Saturday, November 11, 2006

Buttermilk and Cottage Cheese

I’m posting about lunch—but not my lunch—so no one can accuse me of a NaBloPoMo lame-out! A glass of buttermilk and a bowl of cottage cheese is the lunch Shirley “Hazel” Booth dishes up for Burt “Raucous Guffaw” Lancaster in Come Back, Little Sheba, one of the most baffling movies I’ve seen in a while.

Shirley plays a supremely frowsy housewife who’s married to the polite and refined Burt Lancaster. Shirley loves her husband, but she goes around cheerfully telling total strangers (e.g., the mailman whom she addresses as “Mr. Postman”) all about her husband and how “he’s not a real doctor; he’s a chiropractor” and how he’s also a recovering alcoholic who attends AA meetings! She's always jawing or dancing around the house to "peppy music" (her favorite kind) and as a result the housework suffers.

Meanwhile stoic Burt puts up with Shirley’s sloppy ways and her incessant reminiscing about the past but is unable to prevent himself from developing a crush on a college co-ed, Marie, whom they’ve taken in as a lodger. Marie “spends a fortune on bath salts,” according to Shirley, and Burt periodically sneaks into the bathroom to take whiffs of Marie's spendy salts when no one’s looking. That’s how we know he has the hots for her, you see.

Shirley lumbers around the untidy house in her chenille bathrobe, hair perpetually uncombed, constantly hovering as Marie tries to make out with her crass boyfriend, Turk, who—by the way—is the college's star javelin thrower (?!?). Shirley thinks he's quite a catch! Shirley even pretends to give them some privacy and then spies on them smooching through a crack in the door. Ah, young love!

Burt, on the other hand, can’t stand the loutish Turk, but he keeps it to himself. Then one night Burt sees Turk sneak into Marie's bedroom. Believing Marie’s tossed away her virginity on the worthless and callow Turk (which, of course, she hasn’t because it’s 1952), Burt wigs out and goes on a bender.

He comes home stewed to the gills, calls Shirley a “fat slut,” and tries to kill her with a kitchen knife. He’s pretty terrifying, actually. After he dries out in the “crazy ward” of the local hospital, he tells Shirley he can’t live without her and begs her forgiveness. She immediately forgives him and starts putting more effort into her housework. She even paints the icebox and fries him up some bacon! Now that’s living! Nothing like being called a fat slut and having your life threatened to make you love your husband even more and, of course, realize that it’s high time you reformed your slatternly ways. And that, we are supposed to believe, is all it took for that terribly mismatched couple to live happily ever after.

Come Back, Little Sheba is based on minor and soon-to-be-forgotten playwright William Inge’s play of the same name. What a fucked-up version of reality that guy had. I’ve seen the movie version of his play Picnic, and once again people—especially women—are choosing the worst possible partners for themselves. Inge seems really sold on the idea that women have to have a man—any man—in order to be happy and “complete.” No matter if the guy’s abusive or a shiftless schlub. So irksome, that attitude! Resolve: No more William Inge movies or plays for me. Plus, who would ever believe that anyone would willingly have buttermilk and cottage cheese for lunch? Ew!

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: minorthird


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