Monday, September 18, 2006

The World of Henry Orient

I can't believe I had never heard of this film, as Ghost World borrows so heavily from it (and honours it by having Enid put a poster somewhat like this one on her bedroom wall) and it is a fantastic movie, so great that as soon as I had seen it, I bought the DVD. Thanks, Otago Film Society, for bringing it to my attention.

Of course, I went along simply because it was a Peter Sellers movie - there was some mention in the little blurb that he was some sort of pianist and had some kind of female problem with a woman. The reality is that he is a subsidiary character: the real stars are Val (Tippy Walker (who, apart from doing this movie at age 17 and then being in Peyton Place never really found a place in the movie business)) and Gil (Merrie Spaeth). They are two 14 year olds, who have just moved to New York. They bond over shared hatred of certain teachers and having teeth retainers.

So, the bulk of the movie is about their relationship: they spark off each other brilliantly, and arrive at great schemes, one of which involves Henry Orient. They first run into him as he pursues Stella Dunnworthy (Paula Prentiss): she is so worried about being found out that the only place they can get together is on a rock in Central Park. Unfortunately, it just happens to be the same rock Val and Gil are hiding behind in some game they're playing: they peer over the pair, popping their gum. Henry later describes this scene: "And then two small bladders came out of their mouths. And just when she was beginning to hum, too."

After that, quite inadvertantly, their paths cross. It is only when Gil and Val attend one of his performances (a very avant garde orchestral thing, where it probably would not have mattered that Henry had forgotten what key he was supposedly playing in) that Val decides she is in love with him. So their big scheme thereafter is to follow him: they enter a blood pact under which Gil is to do all she can to bring Val and Henry together. As guys go, Henry is of course complete crap but the movie never endangers the girls, rather has them engage in this harmless romantic pursuit. Along the way, Val and Gil continue to make up the most monstrous of stories: they really are a great pair of girls, and it is their joyous spirit which is what makes this movie. I've read accounts on IMDB of guys seeing this when it first came out and being completely smitten by Val in particular, and can fully see why. (In a very nice footnote to the movie, Tippy Walker herself has been contributing on the IMDB message board connected with it.)

But childhood and innocence unfortunately can't last forever, not even in the movies: reality in the form of parental control intervenes. Val's mum is a very stern Angela Lansbury (she reminded me quite a lot of Emily Gilmour, although I can't quite imagine Emily succumbing to the charms of someone like Henry Orient). Dad is Tom Bosley (of Happy Days fame): he has been your typical rich absentee dad, but really comes through at the end as someone rather cool.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home