Old shows, memories

Cover of "Hello, Dolly! Widescreen Editio...

Cover of Hello, Dolly! Widescreen Edition

Was due to catch up with a girl over the weekend when she told me her car wouldn’t start, could we catch up later? I was about to walk out the door and felt a little at a loose end so flicked on the TV to kill some time. I discovered an old movie playing, Hello Dolly. I sat and watched it for 10 minutes before recording the rest while I did something else. I returned to it last night to watch.

I know these movies so well, and the music too. I remember watching these movies growing up, mostly with mum. The music I knew before from mum’s albums, and from the old standards, she would sing around the house. A particular favourite of hers was Barbra Streisand, and by extension, she also became one of mine (it feels like a guilty vice these days akin to admitting to a love of show tunes – which, incidentally, I do pretty much – the old stuff anyway, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Jerry Herman, and so on, and definitely nothing by Andrew Lloyd Webber or anything much from the last 30 years.).

Anyway, I switched on last night and watched the last 50 minutes of the movie with delight. The thing is that so many of these shows are happy shows, and often with the bonus of great music – such as in this case (Hello Dolly, with Satchmo joining in, Put On Your Sunday Clothes, It Takes A Woman, Before The Parade Passes By). Barbra Streisand playing the sassy and tricky character of Dolly Levi, and occasionally breaking into song – and like every time I hear her, whenever she lets it rip I feel a chill up my spine. Then there’s Walter Matthau too playing to character, the curmudgeonly Horace Vanderbilt. He is one of my favourite character actors. Then there are extravagant set pieces like they don’t do any more, and of course, the happy ending that almost all of these shows mandated.

I felt charged up and thrilled watching all this again, but it was also very much a nostalgia trip. I couldn’t help but think of mum at every moment of the film. I imagine that had she been alive I’d have picked up the phone and let her know the movie was screening so she could turn it on. I remembered how we would watch these shows and share conversations about the music, or maybe Streisand through the years. It felt so richly of her, of who she was and what she loved, that I felt I kind of sorrow-less remembrance of her. She was dead, I was sad, but there seemed something to celebrate too in watching again the things she loved and recalling her in that.

At one point I wondered what it meant. She had died, and all that she had loved and experienced was taken with her to the grave. It stopped. I could recall her in these things, but they were past things, memories, things that she could no longer enjoy, or even experience (as far as I know). It was like these things, like everything that was her, had been put in a box and sealed the moment she died. Yet I felt that connection, not just in memory, but in my shared affection for these shows. It was something we had in common, something she had handed on to me and so, perhaps, continued on in some way. That was nice.

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