THE IMPORTANCE OF QUOTING ERNEST

Did you fathom that the title of my last post (THE OLD MAN AND THE SEASON) was a play on Ernest Hemingway’s last completed novel, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA? Because that post was about aging and autumn, perhaps I was remiss in not including a Hemingway quote (such as the first one below) among those I gathered for the occasion.

This post will attempt to make up for that shortfall with a selection of Hemingway quotes, starting with this autumn-appropriate eulogy he wrote for a friend:

Best of all he loved the fall/the leaves yellow on cottonwoods/leaves floating on trout streams/and above the hills/the high blue windless skies./Now he will be part of them forever.

For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. 

When you go to war as a boy, you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed, not you… Then, when you are badly wounded, you lose that illusion, and you know it can happen to you.

In modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.

True nobility is being superior to your former self.

No weapon has ever settled a moral problem. 

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

There is no lonelier man, except the suicide, than that man who has lived with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it.

But hold on — happy or not, this isn’t the end. The title of this post is another play on words, this being Oscar Wilde’s peerless comedy of manners titled THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST….a parody of Victorian age social standing previewed in this trailer for the 1952 film (not to be confused with the inferior 2002 remake) of the Wilde play:

Now (as the movie says when it’s over) this is THE END

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STRAIGHT WOMAN, WITH CHASER

Today marks (or should I say, Marx) the 133rd birthday of my favorite comedic character actress of all time — a woman so well preserved that she doesn’t look a day over 1933, when she appeared as Mrs. Gloria Teasdale, or 1935, as Mrs. Claypool….not to mention 1929 (Mrs. Potter), 1930 (Mrs. Rittenhouse), 1937 (Emily Upjohn), 1939 (Suzanne Dukesberry), or 1941 (Martha Phelps).

Yes, thanks to that most wondrous of preservatives called celluloid, those larger-than-life ladies, played by and fka (forever known as) the wonderful Margaret Dumont, live on in blessed memory in two of the funniest films ever made: DUCK SOUP (1933) and A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935)….as well as in such other Marx Brothers mayhem as THE COCOANUTS (1929), ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930), A DAY AT THE RACES (1937), AT THE CIRCUS (1939), and THE BIG STORE (1941).

“Who was Margaret Dumont?” asks Roy Blount Jr. in his book HAIL, HAIL EUPHORIA! Presenting THE MARX BROTHERS IN DUCK SOUP, THE GREATEST WAR MOVIE EVER MADE. “From the book Hello, I Must Be Going by Charlotte Chandler, I got the impression that she grew up in Atlanta in the home of her godfather, Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus stories. Even though a descendant of Harris assured me that this wasn’t true, I want to believe it because I like to imagine B’rer Rabbit and Margaret Dumont doing a scene together.”

“But no. Margaret Dumont was born Daisy Baker in Brooklyn, New York, in 1882. Her father was an Irish seaman, her mother a French vocalist. Daisy became a showgirl. In 1915 she married an heir to a sugar fortune. In 1918 he died. She was presumably not left as well off as Mrs. Teasdale [Groucho’s  straight woman in DUCK SOUP] because she went right back to work.”

Which brings us to the reel Margaret Dumont, the indispensable straight woman/comedic foil to Groucho’s lecherous leerings who (quoting Wikipedia) “played wealthy high-society, posh-voiced widows whom Groucho alternately insulted and romanced for their money.” Never has an actress been more perfectly typecast….as evidenced by these scenes:

HAIL, HAIL EUPHORIA is, of course, a play on HAIL, HAIL FREDONIA, Fredonia’s satirical national anthem in DUCK SOUP, with Groucho as Rufus T. Firefly and Margaret as Mrs. Teasdale:

HAIL, HAIL MARGARET DUMONT! RIP.