Parting Glances: Snowshoes in the bushes

By |2018-01-16T12:21:36-05:00February 5th, 2009|Opinions|

$14.99 is small price to pay for a glamourous trip down memory lane. (The older I get the more trips I take, the intervals growing shorter and shorter, with an occasional rest stop in between.)
So, among the movies on sale during my weekly visit to Barnes & Noble I chose “The Razor’s Edge.” It’s dated viewing – hokey in its Westener seeks life’s meaning at 2,665 feet in a mountain retreat in Southern India – but true to the book by British author Somerset Maugham.)
A David O. Selznick’s 1946 postwar production, the movie cost a hefty $4 million dollars back then – about $12 million pre-2008 stock market crash dollars – and employed over 18,000 extras to compliment its stellar cast.
I wanted to see Tyrone Power – just out of the U.S. Marines at peak of his handsome good looks – Gene Tierney’s breathtaking loveliness at 26, and Clifton Webb’s faggy waspiness, made so memorable in the 1944 “Laura,” his first Hollywood venture, again with Tierney.
(My Cass Tech homeroom teacher, Lawrence Timothy Ray, was a Webb look-alike. Mister Ray – who taught English and often began teaching with – black horn-rimmed glasses in hand for elegant emphasis – “all right, teenagers let’s take interactive dictation!” – had been a Broadway dancer with Webb some time back in the 1920s.
Apart from Webb’s Academy Award-nominated Best Supporting Actor performance in “Razor” (loosing out to Harold Russell, for “Best Years of Our Lives”), the film has other gay historical subtexts.
Actor Tyrone Power was bisexual, and was reported to have had a troubling fling with swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn. And there’s a brief passing comment – which only those sophisticatedly “in the know” might pick up on – made by Tierney about Maugham being “a rather queer sort of man.”
Maugham was indeed that. Married and father of a daughter, he said of his homosexuality, “It was only later in life that I realized I was a quarter straight and three quarters gay.”
It was also Maugham who tattled that Sir Winston Churchill had slept with wildly popular music hall entertainer and actor Ivor Norvello (every bit as photogenically-handsome and rugged as Power) and who described the encounter to Maugham as “musical.”
Picking up on that note (and because it’s dead of winter), here’s a warming antidote about Sir Winston I chanced to blog across.
One morning Winston Churchill was woken by a Prime Ministerial aide, who nervously informed him that a backbench member of Parliament had been arrested in the bushes with a guardsman, and that the newspapers had got hold of it.
Mr. Churchill ruminated for a moment, and then asked whether he was right in thinking that it had been particularly cold the previous night.
The aide shakily confirmed that it had been one of the coldest February nights on record. Before turning over and going back to sleep, the Prime Minister exclaimed, “Makes you proud to be British!” (Or, if the snowshoes fit, American.)

About the Author:

Charles Alexander