Monday, January 30, 2006

Sob story

I just saw a commercial on TV advertising the release of the new movie “Bambi II.” It immediately made me think back to when I was young and saw the original “Bambi” movie. I cried my eyes out when the hunter shot Bambi’s mother. I think the movie emotionally scarred me for life.

I’ve always cried over sad movies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been too embarrassed to show my mascara-streaked face in the theater lobby after watching a real tear-jerker. I also can’t count the number of times my husband has relentlessly teased me about it.

For some reason, he and my mother always have had a knack for finding the humor in sad movies and spoiling them for me. In fact, there have been plenty of times when they have caused me to want to slide underneath my theater seat and hide there.

For example, back when I was a kid, my mom took me to see the Disney classic, “Old Yeller.” It was a movie about a beloved dog that ended up saving the life of the boy he belonged to and then dying of rabies at the end of the movie (the dog, not the boy). The name “Yeller” referred to the boy’s slang pronunciation of the yellow color of the dog.

Well, my mother suddenly started to laugh in the middle of the movie. As heads turned toward us and eyes glared at us, I asked my mother why on earth she was laughing. She explained that the lead actress (Dorothy McGuire) had such yellow teeth, she’d thought that SHE was Old Yeller, not the dog!

Then there was the time I took my mother to see the movie, “Romeo and Juliet.” I’d already seen it once and had been so touched by it, I wanted my mother to experience the same intense emotion I’d felt.

My mother was fine until the scene in the square where Juliet’s nurse, wearing a huge, puffy skirt, came looking for Romeo. The guys in the square began to taunt the nurse, making faces at her and dancing around her. Then one of the guys, Mercutio, lifted a corner of the nurse’s skirt, stuck his head underneath it and came out holding his nose and gasping.

That did it. My mother dissolved into fits of laughter. She laughed through the wedding scene. She laughed through the death scene. She laughed all the way out to the car after the movie had ended. And to this day, whenever I mention the movie to her, she still bursts out laughing.

I’m pretty sure we made a lot of enemies in the movie theater that day.

When my husband and I were dating, I convinced him to take me to see “Love Story” at the Rex Theater in Manchester. About 15 minutes into the movie, I could tell from his sighing and eye rolling that he probably would rather have been sitting in a Laundromat and washing his socks.

He managed to keep silent, however, until Ali MacGraw’s death scene. It was supposed to be romantic and touching, a real Kleenex moment. But the minute Ali said to Ryan O’Neal, who played her husband in the movie, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” my husband could remain silent no longer.

He burst out laughing. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“Shhhhh!” I said. “This is the sad part! She’s going to die!”

“If we’re lucky,” he said, “he’ll put a pillow over her face and help her speed things along!”

I heard a few other men in the theater start to laugh.

An irritated-sounding “Shhhhhhhh!” came from the woman who was seated behind us.

Once again, I had to hide my face behind a box of popcorn as I left the movie theater.

When I sobbed through “Wuthering Heights” and the ending of “Funny Girl,” my husband mercilessly razzed me. And when I cried buckets over “Brian’s Song,” he called me a marshmallow, even though I thought I detected him swallowing against a lump in his throat.

But then came the day when Hugh Beaumont, the actor who played one of the world’s most popular dads on TV, Ward Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, passed away.

Leave it to Beaver always had been my husband’s favorite TV show. He watched all of the originals when he was a kid and then all of the reruns when he grew up. When my husband came home from work that night, I casually mentioned that Hugh Beaumont had died.

His face immediately paled, and to my shock, he burst into tears. “Not Ward Cleaver! It can’t be!”

He spent the rest of the night sobbing over poor Ward. I honestly had never seen him so emotional about anything. The man practically needed a sedative.

The next morning, my husband really looked embarrassed. “Gee, I don’t know what got into me,” he said. “I mean, after all, Ward Cleaver was only a TV character.”

Ever since then, he hasn’t teased me much at all when I’ve cried during sad movies.

Could it be that maturity finally has softened him?

Nah. It’s because he’s afraid I’ll tell all of his buddies about the Ward Cleaver incident.