It’s finals time at school, and my mindgrapes have been squeezed bone dry, so instead of doing things like writing papers or learning arias last night, I decided to watch a couple of not-quite-classic live-action Disney Flims: 1977’s Candleshoe, and 1963’s Summer Magic.
Candleshoe, starring David Niven, 14-year-old Jodie Foster, and Helen Fucking Hayes (her full name; no, really), is the story of a ne’er-do-well young hooligan (Foster) in L.A. who gets chosen by a portly British con man to come to merry olde England and pose as the long-lost granddaughter of Lady St. Edmund (Fucking Hayes) — owner of the imposing Candleshoe estate — in order to search her manor for clues as to the whereabouts of a pirate’s treasure hidden somewhere within its walls. St. Edmund, as it turns out, is nearly broke; a fact hidden from her by her faithful butler (Niven) and the four children she has taken in from a local orphanage. Clues are found, hearts are melted, villains are thwarted, houses are saved, and happilys are ever aftered.
So, first of all? Jodie Foster is a lesbian. I mean, we all already know that, and it’s never been a very well-kept secret, but…damn. See, when you ask a straight girl to play a tomboy, you get a slightly frou-frou little thing with a pixie-cut whom everybody knows is eventually going to end up wearing a dress and batting her mascara-laden lashes at some dude before the third act finishes (ala Janet Munro as Roberta in The Swiss Family Robinson). When you ask a lesbian to play a tomboy, you get a hard-ass dyke. And that, at fourteen, is what Jodie Foster is in this movie. And it’s amaaaaaaazing. She and the older of the two other girls in the house, Cluny, have this whole animosity thing going on through most of the film, but thanks to Foster there’s also this entirely other level of “…how you doin’?” running through it that could really be a movie unto itself. Like, if the internet had existed in 1977? There would have been more Cluny/Casey fanfic than y’all would have known what to do with. They get in a fight that ends up in a lake, and there’s a lot of lingering eye-contact, and the poor lanky young British boy playing the eldest orphan is hanging out awkwardly in the background the whole time sort of going, “Not to be a bother, Jodie, but shouldn’t you perhaps be having some chemistry with me?” And Jodie just punches him in the teeth and goes behind a shed to smoke a cigarette and listen to an Ani DiFranco CD. Metaphorically.
Other than that, most of the movie is consumed by David Niven donning a variety of different facial hairpieces. And Helen Fucking Hayes wandering around being Helen Fucking Hayes.
But my favorite part of the whole film had to be during the Casey/Cluny Fight of Much Subtext when the younger orphan girl, who seems to be of Japanese descent, tries to help Cluny…by busting out with some freakin’ karate. Just…out of nowhere. This little thing with a pinafore and a British accent who has ostensibly been raised in the children’s home right outside of town most of her life is all “HIIII-YA!” because all Asian people just know karate. Much like I, as a person of Russian descent, can do that whole crouching-leg-kick dance business with flawless precision, and poop Fabergé eggs. Oh! And! They play that little Asian tune when she fights. Yeah, you know the one; that one made-up “look, something Asian is happening” tune. “Da-da-da-da dum-dum dum-dum dummmm.” Yeah. Life pre-1990, man. What a goddamn free-for-all.
Summer Magic is the tale of the Carey family and their eldest daughter, Nancy (played by Disney regular Hayley Mills). Their patriarch has up and died and left them almost penniless, so they have to leave their beloved home; but Nancy — via a long, lie-ridden letter — convinces one Mr. Osh Popham (Burl Ives, yay!) to let the family move into this lovely, run-down, yellow house he’s looking after while the rich owner is away. Thus, the family ends up in tiny Beulah, Maine, where they are joined by haughty cousin Julia, and spend their time fixing up the old house as jovial Burl Ives tries to hide the fact that he never actually asked the owner if it would be cool for him to rent the place out; and in the last ten minutes the owner shows up and is all young and handsome and he dances Hayley Mills off into the sunset and basically we realize that the Careys’ lives have been an elaborate excuse for a slew of Sherman Brothers songs all along.
If Main Street in Disneyland were a movie, it would be Summer Magic; that whole hazy, nostalgic, turn-of-the-century deal, where every building has an abundance of gingerbread-trim and there are no minorities. It’s like the musical Ragtime, if the show had ended immediately after the first verse of the title song. I won’t lie, though — I’d totally want to live there for a day or two, and have Burl Ives sing to me about bugs ‘n porches ‘n shit. Burl Ives! He’s like a big, bearded potato full of song.
Hayley Mills is presented as being something of a tomboy, but in that other way I mentioned. She’s “tomboyish” in that she has, y’know, thoughts, and likes to sometimes play croquet. She’s also inexplicably British in a family full of Americans, which I like to think is just extreme affectation on the part of the character, like later-years Madonna. I kept hoping for her mother to lose it and, like, turn around while Hayley was speaking and slap her right across the face and be all, “TALK! NORMAL!”
Anyway. There’s a whole song about how being feminine is the only way to get a man, and I still can’t tell if there’s enough eye-winking or tongue-in-cheek-ing going on to make it not quite as horrible as it is, so I’ll just pretend they’re being 100% sarcastic when singing things like “dance feminine/glance feminine/act shy and sigh feminine” and “let him do the talking/men adore good listeners/laugh, but not loudly/if he should choose to tell a joke”. In the end, all the girls put on frilly frocks and suppress themselves and catch some beaus. Beaux? Whatever.
Oh, and the term “yellow peril” is used a couple of times. In jest, but still. Yellow peril. Christ.
Next, I’m hoping to dig up a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, starring Jonathan Pryce as the owner of a demonic traveling circus; and then maybe The Rocketeer, because it’s hilarious. Much like anything having to do with Timothy Dalton is hilarious.