Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Humoresque is my pick for a Father's Day film

Certain things in life can remind you of a loved one who has long since passed away and the ones that get to you the most are those that hold a special meaning just to you and no one else. A number of pop culture items bring my dad to mind,particularly as Father's Day draws near and I'd like to share with anyone who's reading this out there one of his favorite movies,Humoresque.

It's considered a Joan Crawford film but most of the story is centered around John Garfield's character,Paul Boray. Paul is a Lower East Side kid when we first meet him,the son of an small grocery store owner who falls in love with the violin and spends a good portion of his youth learning to play it well.

Only Paul's mother and his sarcastic yet soft hearted piano playing music teacher(brilliantly played by Oscar Levant)have faith in his talent but soon enough,all of that hard work and time play off for Paul as he rises to the top of his field:

As Paul makes his way up the social ladder,he meets Helen Wright(Crawford),a wealthy patroness of the arts who doesn't let her marriage of convenience interfere with her pursuit of casual lovers. Paul's strong will and dominant spirit draw her in and the feeling soon becomes mutual,much to the dismay of friends and foes on both sides.

Helen and Paul do manage to find some moments of happiness together,but it becomes clear that the real obstacle between them is Paul's devotion to his music above all else. There's also the matter of Helen's past affecting the future of his career if they get married and her mood swings,which ultimately lead to some very melodramatic results:

My dad liked this movie for many reasons;he was a fan of both Crawford and Garfield,who many thought was miscast in this part. In my opinion,John Garfield was perfect for this role,due to being the most unlikely looking person to become a world class violinist. The whole point of his character was that this working class fella had the raw talent and the drive to make his mark in the arts,something my father tried to do for most of his life.

He was a painter by vocation,who studied the works of the Dutch masters like Vermeer and other classical figures such as Rembrandt and devoted himself to oil painting for many years. Later in life,he turned to watercolors and was pleasantly surprised at how good he was at them. I think he identified his artistic struggles with Paul Boray's quite a bit.

He also adored classical music and loved the use of it throughout the film. There's a great sequence in the movie where Paul is performing in front of a packed house,with Helen in the balcony and his whole family(including a childhood sweetheart of his)sitting in the audience. Paul's playing and eye contact with Helen during that piece make their relationship painfully obvious and says volumes to all involved. It's one of my favorite scenes in Humoresque,a movie that I know and love thanks to my father.

My father died in 2003 but in some ways,he's never left. Our home has most of his artwork on display and many of the books,films and music that he shared with us are an integral part of my emotional life. I do have my own personal preferences but a good portion of what I find to be mentally nourishing is based upon what my father introduced to me all those years ago.

While we did go off on different paths of taste over time,certain things we always did agree upon and Humoresque was one of them. It's not the most ideal choice for Father's Day,perhaps,but it is a film that makes me think of him fondly and with a little sweet sorrow. If you're unfamiliar with this movie,it is worth watching and not just because my dad said so. It's because Humoresque is a real hidden treasure waiting to be discovered,much like my father and his artistic dreams:

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