Films, Movies

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

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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”

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1971 Film “Melody” Review: The Story of Ornshaw and Daniel

The track meet scene

Ornshaw and Daniel at the track meet in “Melody”

If you’ve never seen the 1971 movie “Melody,” I highly recommend doing what you have to in order to get a copy of this five-star gem.

The movie is often described as being “a movie about puppy love,” referring to the charming story line about Daniel Latimer and Melody Perkins. I believe the movie, which came out 44 years ago, is more about the close friendship between Ornshaw and Daniel, played exquisitely by the late Jack Wild and Mark Lester; it is simply a story about love.

Melody, played by Tracy Hyde, plays a pivotal role in affecting that friendship.  The movie is aptly named “Melody” because she is the centerpiece that the boys trip over-the catalyst that stirs and causes emotions to rise and tumble forth in all their beauty, pain, and angst, as love often does to challenge its bearers.

There are many types of love, you may point out. Love isn’t always so simple; what type of love am I talking about?

I am talking about this type of love:

The type of love that frees one to let down his guard and drop his defense because his soul feels safe with another;

The type of love that enables one to see through the confusion of pride and misunderstanding and emerge strong and victorious;

The type of love that prompts one to do whatever he can to meet a need of the other, even when trusted resources fail to help him meet that need;

The type of love that drives one to rise up to the defense of the person who disappointed him, even if it means standing up to his peers;

The type of love that calls one to step outside his comfort zone to do a favor for a friend, especially when doing so goes against his own self-interest;

The type of love that cannot hold a grudge, even though there have been all types of pain inflicted. Not only are grudges lifted, but this love will inspire one injured party to stand up with the other in support of the other’s happiness.

Against such love there can be no law.

All of this is in the movie “Melody?” This is what I have experienced, all spread out before me like a banquet for the soul; this and Bee Gees hit music to take you there.  If “Melody” fans have missed any of it, I encourage you to go back and watch again.  I think this is what the movie “Melody” is all about; and it doesn’t sound like puppy love to me.

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