1. After at least eight years of procrastinating, I finally made an icon of Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton in Jack Conway's A Tale of Two Cities
(1935). I thought I would use this portrait
, in which he is rather romantically shot despite being canonically disreputable for at least eighty-five percent of the story. I don't mean that I don't like it. I am fairly certain Colman is one of the few actors I like who was classically handsome, even if seeing him first as clean-shaven Carton confused me about his mustache for the rest of my life. He has nice lines and excellent eyebrows. But last night I found this one
, which I had not seen before—nineweaving
wondered if it was a makeup test—and it is at least eighty-five percent disreputable and I like it. I needed to talk about Dickens online
. Also, it feels correct now that I've stopped being able to get to sleep any time before five in the morning and stay asleep for any perceptible length of time.
(At this juncture my husband interrupted to ask if my having a Ronald Colman icon meant he had to make one of Benita Hume. This is one of the reasons we're married.)
Among many things I have wondered about the 1935 Tale of Two Cities
(my favorite version despite some striking infidelities to the text, one of which I'm about to describe), I never had any idea why it included an invented scene in which Lucie runs into Carton on her way to Christmas Eve services and invites him to church in the middle of his pub crawl. It's not as though the source material is low on Christianity, with the whole Resurrection and the Life
business. Plus it got "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" stuck in my head for the next eighteen years.
The thing is, the scene works
. It bridges the book-scenes between Carton's sardonic, drunken dinner with Darnay after the acquittal and his occasional entry to the Manettes' house in months thereafter while lending a little extratextual characterization to Elizabeth Allan's Lucie, who badly needs it. Her impulsive kindness and the grace with which she reads his slightly listing state and does not rebuke him for it (unlike Edna May Oliver's Miss Pross, who sums him up with the splendidly tart "I'd say merry Christmas to you, Mr. Carton, but it's plain to see that you've already had it") are as much incentive for him to accompany her out of his usual sphere as the "golden-haired doll"-looks he noted in the courtroom or the affection for Darnay he envied from the start. She is teasing him a little when she promises to light a candle for him, but she means it, too, and he's not entirely sure what to do with the gesture. When she invites him to the house afterward, it's not out of pity. There is real warmth in her voice when she tells him, touching his arm, "I'd love to have you as a friend—" and then hastily covers, "So would Father!" It's a bonding moment between them and an actual reason for Carton to fall in love with Lucie beyond her beauty and her cardboard catalogue of virtues and whatever it is she represents about a normal life that he preemptively rejects with the novel's anti-proposal (which does not appear, interestingly, in the film). I just wasn't sure why Christmas; if it was foreshadowing the themes of Easter redemption that accompany Carton's self-sacrifice or if it was just reassuring audiences of 1935 that there were good Christian values in the picture as well as the Reign of Terror and Carton drinking everything that wasn't nailed down.
Lo and behold, derspatchel
's theory about holiday timing turned out to be correct: it was a Christmas release. December 27, 1935. Marketing is interesting stuff.
2. Courtesy of handful_ofdust
: have a lovely surrealist double portrait of Conrad Veidt and Lupe Vélez
, as if he's dreaming her, or she's hiding in him. I love the way his right eye makes a coronet for her brow and she almost seems to be holding his right sleeve, but not quite. Their hands cross; they do not touch. 1928 was Veidt's first interlude in Hollywood; he returned to Germany by 1930, emigrating permanently to the UK (I don't believe he ever took American citizenship, though he died in Hollywood in 1943) only after 1933. Vélez is a rising star, racy, outspoken, exotic—the "Mexican Spitfire," later. She's one of the actresses I know by name and reputation only; I've never seen any of her films. She only outlived Veidt—who never acted with her, so far as I know; they meet only in Steichen's camera—by a year.
3. Funding for An Alphabet of Embers
is nearly 50% on its second day. rose_lemberg
has added a new reward level
: personally written poetry. The really awesome news: someone claimed Atlakviða in grœnlenzca
! Next year at Readercon, blood, revenge, and fire!
4. While I am encouraging people to donate money, I'll remind you that Stone Telling
still has a Patreon
and still needs about forty dollars per issue in order to be able to raise pay rates from $5 to $10. As one of the people who hopes to be paid further
by Stone Telling
, I support this charitable cause. Plus you get drawings and gluten-free cookies.
5. Right, and work of mine also features as a reward in the Interfictions Online Indiegogo
. $50 gets you one of the last remaining copies of Chanteys for the Fisherangels
a handbound chapbook collecting poems by me, seajules
, and cucumberseed
. All were inspired by Lal Waterson's "Midnight Feast," which some of you heard me sing at last Readercon's Miscellany. The accompanying photographs are by me, the binding and unique shell-and-feather decoration by Erzebet YellowBoy
of Papaveria Press
. Introduction by nineweaving
, who heard Waterson in the wild. Somebody go for that! Art always needs more money than it's getting.Readercon
starts tomorrow. My schedule is here
. This year should be interesting.