Friday, January 30, 2009

Better in Black and White, the Conclusion

Ladies and germs, I present to you the greatest black and white comedy ever made.

I saw this movie first-run on a rainy night in Syracuse, NY (where nearly all the nights are rainy). The group of us who went wondered if Mel Brooks could top "Blazing Saddles" and there are those who still prefer the Western parody. But I fell in love with this movie from the opening credits.

First of all, the look was exactly right. Not too many years ago, I saw an interview with Mr. Brooks who said he couldn't seem to get the right dark look until he had his Director of Photography, Gerald Hirshfeld, watch the old Universal classic Frankenstein movies. Supposedly, Hirshfeld then said "I got it." And he did.

What luck that Kenneth Strickfaden, the designer of the laboratory (accent on the second syllable, please) in the original film was still alive and still had the equipment. What genius of Mel Brooks to find Strickfaden and use that equipment for the young Dr. Fronkensteen's lab. According to imdb, Mel gave Strickfadden the screen credit he'd never gotten for the original.

The casting was impeccable as well. From Gene Wilder to Teri Garr to the merest extra, they played together like a long-time rep company. Special kudos to Cloris Leachman who was Frau Bl├╝cher, a woman so fearsome horses neighed in terror at the sound of her name. When this film was made, Cloris was a gorgeous woman, a real "hot ticket" as they'd say in Massachusetts. She was willing to make herself look ugly to make her part work. Cloris, I'll never forget your funniest line, "YES. YES. Say it. He vas my... BOYFRIEND!"

It seems that everyone was willing to try what they could to make this movie great. The famous "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene was Gene Wilder's idea. Mel hated it, but filmed it anyway. When they saw an audience in hysterics at a preview, Mel put his director's ego aside and let it stay, unlike almost half the movie that was shot! The "Young Frankenstein" that we know came about through ruthless cutting of the original by Brooks and Wilder. Every joke that didn't work was cut, leaving us all the best.

What a script that was. The jokes just kept on coming, and my sisters and I still quote the movie to each other. One of them recently had surgery and I went to the hospital with her for a pre-op seminar for several patients and their family members. The nurse was describing what was going to happen the day of the operation and explained how the patient would be given a sedative. My sister busily wrote on her notepad and slid it to me to read "Sedagive." I had to bite my cheek. I can't quote all my favorite lines here because that would be the entire script.

Let us remember those major cast members who are no longer with us. Peter Boyle, who starts as an incoherent monster and ends up as an urbane sophisticate who makes his bride sing "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life!" as they make love. The beautiful and brilliantly funny Madeline Kahn who knew she was wrong for the part of Inga, the lab assistant, but right for Young Frankenstein's chilly fiancee Elizabeth. And dear funny Marty Feldman, Eyegore, whose hump mysteriously moved from shoulder to shoulder and who brought home a brain from someone named "Abby Normal."

So thanks, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. On the far-off (I hope) day when Mel's at the Pearly Gates, I can hear St. Peter going over the list, "Hmm...boob jokes...tsk, tsk...Springtime for Hitler...dear me...oh, wait - YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN? Come on in!"

And so we conclude my series on beloved black and white movies. This also concludes my contributions to this blog. As of Sunday, Feb. 1, I will no longer be living in Folly Cove, leaving this blog to Leslie, its originator. Once again, I find myself quoting Irving Berlin as my farewell:

"If you're blue and you don't know where to go to,

Why don't you go where fashion sits,

Puttin' on the ritz."

- Maureen

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oh, Mr Preident, You Dance Divinely!

I was doing a workshop at the Portland Fiber Gallery in Maine today and went to the North Star Cafe, a few doors down to get a bit of sustenance before class. There was Obama, Latin dancing! I always said, "Give me the right beat and any inhibitions go out the door." Lucky for me I had the right outfit in the car.
Blog (and Salsa) On!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dropping More Balls Than An Old Pair of BVD's

That's my line of the day and maybe the year! I don't remember hearing anyone else say it. It came to me as I read the email by the Yarn Yenta telling me she had never received what I had promised to send her. Thanks to and I am pretty good about orders as they come in. But this was a gift to a special person and the thought, untied to reality by a material reminder, evaporated. Her email was a gentle nudge. Armed with the power of now I had her gift in the mail in a nano hour. Anyway, that was the line that come into my head when I realized my gaffe. Has anyone ever heard it before?
Blog On!

Friday, January 2, 2009

My First Internet Christmas

For most of my years in business, Christmas meant being here working to make special orders and keep the store stocked to a comfortable bursting. The only money I made was from who came in the door and that meant being here. But the past few years has seen me going out to sheep and wool festivals and focusing my website on my shawl pins and other fiber related items. The beginning of April I added Paypal to my site and discovered that I could be doing something out of the studio while someone in California or England ordered an item from me. I could be paid at 2:00AM for an item I would ship at 2:00 PM the next day. So this Christmas I went to parties (and therefore ate more food) and sang at every event Three Sheets to the Wind was booked. The horizon now seemed a lot further away.
Looking back on January 2nd I have a fuller perspective. I did miss the interaction in the studio. And since I wasn't open as much I did not have the studio looking in a way that encouraged gift buying. What it did encourage was stress for me and confusion for anyone who came in.
The biggest difference is that I am used to face to face interaction. Most customers know me or of me through years of being in Rockport. On the Internet they only know one thing: they are waiting for an item they have paid for but only seen in pictures. It has to come fast and be just like what they saw in the photo or better. Mostly I can do that. But two times I really messed up. In one order I sent the wrong items to the lesser of the preferred addresses. So today I resent their order along with a refund to take some of the sting out of a late Chrstmas gift.
The second order was belatedly discovered under something about twelve days after the fact. Although I always communicated with the buyer the anger and disbelief that I had not done this on purpose was all too obvious in the tone of the emails even after delivery.
This is not a world that encourages trust among strangers especially where money is involved. My only power is to ship fast, communicate with buyers, listen to the feedback to limit misunderstanding and, above all, turn off the ego.
Blog On!