Films, Movies

Let’s Not Become “Old Miseries” – from the 1971 film gem “Melody,” a personal review

blogmelodyyy4

A scene from “Melody,” with Jack Wild, Mark Lester, and Tracy Hyde

“Most old people I know are old miseries.”

So says young Daniel, played by Mark Lester, to his new-found sweetheart Melody, played by Tracy Hyde, in this golden coming of age story.  He coins the phrase “old miseries” to describe most of the adults in his life.  Indeed.

At the beginning of this tale, Ornshaw, played by Jack Wild, befriends Daniel and they strike up a close friendship.  If Jack had been given the proper praise and acclaim that he should have for this role, I would have heard about the film long ago while still a young girl; I would have had eyes only for Jack as he breezed across the screen.

Instead, I only happened to come across it on YouTube last year; a lucky find that upon my initial viewing stirred a sentimental soup pot of emotion and smile for the boys from “Oliver!”  Then I watched it again.  I discovered, with growing wonderment, that there was much more to Ornshaw than the cheeky, adorable kid, (although that is reason enough to like the film!)  I found in Ornshaw’s character a deep well of subtle, multi-faceted vulnerable loveliness, and Jack’s performance an exquisite treasure.  What a shame that it wasn’t in every theater across America.

There is also more to Daniel than just falling into puppy love with Melody, (although THAT is reason enough to like the film.) You have to cheer Daniel on in his sincere, young quest to discover his own path – even though his journey ultimately leaves Ornshaw with some heartache; heartache that the viewer acutely shares.

Coming of age can be beautiful but confusing “in the morning*” of your life, “where no one understands,*” where the innocence of looking at life and love for what it is meets the adult world of how things “should” be – before you grow up and everything is sorted out in your box of neatly bound packages of conformity – before you become an “old misery.”

Old miseries; indeed, the adults in the movie move and breathe in a world of boxes:

  • where a student asks a thoughtful question and is met with humiliating admonishment rather than encouragement
  • where a father would rather hide behind his newspaper and make disparaging remarks about the neighbors than have a real conversation with his son
  • where a mother gets all uptight about her son’s choice of artwork rather than encouraging him in his desire to expand his talent in an obvious choice for creativity, not a desire to look at girlie magazines
  • where adults get all up in arms because of an innocent childhood wedding officiated by another kid.

Our young heroes in “Melody” work things out themselves in this moving coming of age tale; sometimes with their own form of rebellion, but mostly with true friendships that endure confusion and defy class separation, potential grudges that die before they take root, and most of all…love, in so many wonderful outside-the-box ways.  The movie is a timeless classic that brings a lot of relevance to today’s table, one that is easily, and should be, revisited often.

One question it begs me to ask is how did ours become a world in which some teenagers would prefer to end their precious life rather than be open and secure in the knowledge that they are beautiful just as they are?  We ought to go back to the age of our innocence, to see the beauty outside the box, to create a world where life is embraced.

Just had to share my thoughts on a film that I think is quite the masterpiece.

*From one of the many Bee Gee’s songs in the film, “Morning of My Life”

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

JACK WILD The Adored…and MARK LESTER’S Role in His Claim to Fame

jackmarkbestblog

Jack Wild and Mark Lester in the 1968 hit musical “Oliver!” This picture and all pictures shown here are courtesy of google images; no infringement intended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just as Jack Wild WAS the irresistible Artful Dodger,  Mark Lester simply WAS the pure-hearted Oliver Twist.  Was there ever a better recipe in all Hollywood?

One could go mad having a crush on the late Jack Wild.  What was it about the charming British child actor from the late 60s that was and is so bloody compelling?  Countless young girls (and I dare say a fair share of adults) swooned over Jack, who stole their hearts as the Artful Dodger in the 1968 hit musical “Oliver!”  Even Hollywood’s Oscar fell in love; his role as the Dodger won him a nomination for best-supporting actor.

With such a spotlight on his fast-growing popularity, Sid and Marty Kroft soon handed him the role of the loveable Jimmy in the 1969 hit TV series “H.R. Pufnstuf;” every Saturday morning we gleefully welcomed him into our homes.

As one of those young girls whose heart he stole, I can give you MY reasons for falling for him:  His cheeky, maddening smile; his friendly, Cockney accent that on Jack was so irresistible; his warm, liquid eyes that could melt the coldest heart.

Jack Wild

The flame was rekindled for me late last year when I first discovered the 1971 British film “Melody,” which came out when I was ten years old.  How could I have missed this perfect gem of a movie so full of young teen angst and Bee Gees music?  I can only conclude  that it mysteriously went highly underrated in the United States.

Jack played the teen-age Ornshaw, who had a surface cheeky bravado similar to the Dodger, but his portrayal was in no way a typecast.  Beneath Ornshaw’s outer layers bubbled a multi-faceted, complex, vulnerable character that Jack exquisitely unfolded so well I am inclined to say it was his best role, rivaling even his exquisite work in “Oliver!”

Mark Lester, who had the starring role next to Jack in “Oliver!,” melted hearts as the endearingly sincere Daniel; he became Ornshaw’s friend and confidant.

Mark Lester as Danny and Jack Wild as Ornshaw

Mark Lester as Danny and Jack Wild as Ornshaw

trackmeet3

The scene at the track meet in “Melody”

 

 

 

 

As I watched “Melody” a second time, gaining new appreciation for every nuance of Ornshaw’s heart, I wholeheartedly tipped my hat to the talented Jack.  The Dodger and Ornshaw were very different characters.  The fact that Mark Lester costarred next to him in both films  occurred to me with growing curiosity; they certainly had the ability to light up a screen together.

Ornshaw and Danny in West London

Ornshaw and Danny in West London

This movie was full of young teen angst relevant to today's youth.

This movie was full of young teen angst relevant to today’s youth.

Ornshaw (Jack Wild), Daniel (Mark Lester), and Melody (Tracey Hyde) in “Melody.” Ornshaw watches his best friend walk away with the girl.

During the 1970s Jack starred in other movies and British TV shows, including the moving 1973 film “The 14” as Reg. While I applaud each and every one, in my heart the Dodger and Ornshaw remain on the top shelf as my favorite Jack characters. They strike a deeper chord with me than his other roles, and it seems to me Jack shines just a little brighter in them.  Did Mark Lester lend inspiration to Jack’s performances?  After a bit of sleuthing, I strongly believe that to be the case.

jack mark swim big

Having a “we’re being goofy kids” day

Jack and Mark obviously spent time together making two movies, but they were good friends as well as costars.  Not only are there many pictures available to the public that depict this, but  on the show “Where Are They Now Australia 2007,”  when asked via live satellite video if he and Jack were “mates,” Mark answered,

“Absolutely; we were mates on set, we were mates off set, we were friends our whole lives until sadly, Jack died.”

In an audio interview during a British newscast in March of 2006 soon after Jack’s death, Mark had this to say about his relationship with Jack:

“Jack was like a brother to me during the making of the film (“Oliver!”) and was always very protective; I gained a lot. The chemistry between us was just something very, very special and lasted throughout our lives.”

Mark Lester, Jack Wild

Mark Lester, Jack Wild

These statements resonate in me with deep conviction, and leave me smiling in warm appreciation.  This chemistry was always very palpable to me in “Oliver!” and shines through in their performances in “Melody” as well.

Some sources reportedly say that after “Melody” they were no longer friends, and completely went their separate ways. Granted their lives took them in different directions, but obviously theirs was a friendship that lasted beyond the relationships of everyday life; the type of friendship that lasts through time and distance.

Jack had a natural charismatic charm and acting talent unrivaled thus far by any other child actor or Dodger ‘wanna be’. He had something ELSE, though, that will help ensure he goes down as the best Artful Dodger ever; he had Mark Lester for his Oliver. This would turn out to be the role of Jack’s life, and he couldn’t have had a better costar.

Jack Wild and Mark Lester, the Dodger-Oliver combination that broke the mold in “Oliver!”

Mark Lester, “Oliver!”

While in many YouTube circles Mark’s contribution to “Oliver!” is erroneously underrated, Mark was a necessary ingredient in what could well be the most ingenious bit of casting in all cinema. The director Carol Reed could have searched every kid on the planet and not found a better Oliver to complement Jack’s Dodger.

Mark Lester, who has his own following of fans, WAS the angelic, vulnerable waif, and he reflected the cheeky, streetwise Jack with brilliant light. Their energies and talents mingled and fit together like a perfect recipe in a science laboratory, and this recipe created incredible magic on the screen; a recipe that is not likely to be repeated any time soon…if ever.

Jack Wild and Mark Lester in "Oliver!"

Jack Wild and Mark Lester in “Oliver!”

Standard