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Jewish World Review
May 30, 2008
/ 25 Iyar 5768
Worth a Thousand Words
Here's one for all you film buffs, movie trivia fans, and anyone else who enjoys old movies. Read the following story summaries and see if you can tell what these movies all have in common?
In the 1944 film noir classic, Detective Mark McPherson investigates the killing of Laura, found dead on her apartment floor before the movie starts. McPherson builds a mental picture of the dead girl from the suspects whom he interviews. He is helped by the striking painting of the late lamented Laura hanging on her apartment wall. But who would have wanted to kill a girl with whom every man she met seemed to fall in love? To make matters worse, McPherson finds himself falling under her spell too. Then one night, halfway through his investigations, something seriously bizarre happens to make him re-think the whole case.
"Portrait of Jennie"
When struggling artist Eban Adams meets the beautiful and mysterious Jennie, he is instantly captivated. Before long, Jennie has become his great muse and he is enjoying success and bliss beyond his wildest dreams. But there is a price to pay for such joy, and soon Eban must face the truth about who Jennie is.
"The Picture of Dorian Grey"
Innocent young Dorian Gray has his portrait painted by a close friend. Soon after, under the influence of amoral Lord Henry Wotton, he jilts his fiancée, leading to her suicide. This is the start of a life of increasing debauchery, Gray realizing that the outward signs of this are apparent only in the portrait. Eventually the picture, secreted in his childhood playroom, becomes almost hideous to behold. But Gray still has one pure love - Gladys, the niece of the original painter.
"The Woman in the Window"
Gotham College professor, Richard Wanley and his friends become obsessed with the portrait of a woman in the window next to the men's club. Wanley happens to meet the woman while admiring her portrait, and ends up in her apartment for talk and a bit of champagne. Her boyfriend bursts in and misinterprets Wanley's presence, whereupon a scuffle ensues and the boyfriend gets killed. In order to protect his reputation, the professor agrees to dump the body and help cover up the killing, but becomes increasingly suspect as the police uncover more and more clues and a blackmailer begins leaning on the woman.
John "Scottie" Ferguson is a retired San Francisco police detective who suffers from acrophobia. A wealthy shipbuilder who is an acquaintance from college days approaches Scottie and asks him to follow his beautiful wife, Madeleine. He fears she is going insane, maybe even contemplating suicide, because she believes she is possessed by a dead ancestor. Scottie is skeptical, but after he sees the beautiful Madeleine he agrees to shadow her. He follows her throughout various locations in and around San Francisco, including an art museum where Madeleine sits hypnotically gazing at a portrait of Carlotta, a mysterious woman who died long ago.
"The Ghost and Mrs. Muir"
Set in Victorian England, an independent widowed woman and her young daughter find a new life in a small cottage in an English seaside town. With this new lease of life comes a catch, the original owner, an old sea dog named Capt. Daniel Gregg, whose portrait still hangs prominently in the house, still resides there as a ghost, who won't let go of his home and plays tricks on them. The captain soon comes to admire the charm and spunk of the woman and they come to an agreement - since her finances are low, she will ghostwrite the captain's memoirs and have them published. In the meantime she meets a famous author of children's books, Miles Fairley, who tries to charm her, causing the captain to become more than a bit jealous.
What each of these movies has in common, of course, is the fact that a painted portrait plays a key role in the story. There are other films featuring portraits of the central characters such as "Harvey," "Rebecca," and "Daddy Long Legs." I'm certain there must be many more. If you can come up with any others, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.
But here's the fun part. I got to thinking - wouldn't it be a hoot if someone could acquire these paintings and open some sort of Motion Picture Portrait Gallery museum? Now, I admit this concept isn't exactly all that important in the large geo-political scheme of things, but, hey, it would certainly make an interesting, fun little art gallery for movie fans to visit. I would want to see it.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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