I watched (and ultimately read) Gone With the Wind and I was struck by two characters. Yes Scarlett, that’s a given. When I really studied the characters I realized that the one who made the biggest impression—the one who I wanted to be like—was Melanie (Hamilton) Wilkes. She wasn’t brash, she wasn’t outlandish, but she wasn’t a mouse either. She was soft spoken, kind, understanding and had a quiet gentle spirit. She was admired and respected but she could stand on her own two feet. I always thought if only I were more like Melanie…
Then there are the characters that couldn’t be dreamed up in fiction. Let’s look at Mae West.
I adored her. Mae told it like it was. She didn’t put on airs. She had definite views and wasn’t ashamed to let them out. A very controversial woman, she was a vaudevillian actress who moved over to the film world. She can also be thanked in the discovery of the handsome Cary Grant. Mae wrote and produced her own plays. She beleived talking about sex was a basic human right. She was the original feminist.
She wrote produced and directed a Broadway show entitled Sex (It was very popular for about a year before the New York Police Department raided West and her company, charging them with obscenity, despite the fact that 325,000 people had watched it, including members of the police department and their wives, judges of the criminal courts, and seven members of the district attorney’s staff. West was sentenced to 10 days in jail, getting out two days early for good behavior. The resulting publicity increased her national renown.)
Mae shared her opinions on everything in life from the censorship she often encountered to love and marriage. Many common everyday sayings can be linked back to her in origin.
Have you ever said (or heard) “Marriage is an institution”? Mae said it first. She said: Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.
How about “Pure as the driven snow” It was commented by her “I used to be snow white, but I drifted.”
Mae was quite well known for her many…shall we say, friendly acquaintances… ( I just heard Mae in my head screaming “Hell honey, say it like it is!”)
Mae had many affairs and when asked about her relationships she made off the cuff remarks such as: “I go for two kinds of men. The kind with muscles, and the kind without”. Or “I only like two kinds of men; domestic and foreign”. One of my favorites “It's not the men in my life that counts, it's the life in my men.” And the one that really brought a smile to my face: “A man in love is like a clipped coupon -- it's time to cash in.”
While I had a desire to be a sweet and good-natured as Melanie I ended up being more like Mae. (Aw honey, there are no good girls gone wrong, just bad girls found out.)
What are some characters that stuck with you? Was there anyone you ever wanted to emulate? Tell us about them!
Come up and see me sometime