“What does he have I don’t? I have a title.”
“We all three have titles. Mine is the best of all.”
“Is he better looking?”
“You’re both handsome, but he’s not dissipated.”
So it went between Ray Milland and luscious Paulette Goddard as the 1945 movie “Kitty” romped to its conclusion.
This film – an earthier variation on “Pygmalion” set in Restoration England – was one of Mr. wOw’s favorites as a child. It was shown a lot, and Mr. wOw – odd from birth – memorized long portions of the script. He loved Miss Goddard, who rose from beggar to royalty within the space of 95 minutes. (In real life Miss Goddard was beloved by many fabulous men – from Chaplin to Erich Maria Remarque. And they begged her!)
Then, “Kitty” vanished. Year after year Mr. wOw hoped it would pop up again. Why, the above exchange between bounder Milland and the furious Miss Goddard – in delectable dishabille – became a fuzzy memory. I did recall that the scene ended with Goddard saying, “Have you noticed? This is the first long conversation we’ve ever had where you didn’t have to correct me?” Then Milland said something mean and Paulette cried.
Finally, about a month ago, Turner Classic Movies found a copy of “Kitty” and aired it. Mr. wOw was so happy he considered it as almost a personal gift from Mr. Robert Osborne himself!
The print wasn’t great, but Mr. wOw was content, and was swept back to his innocence, when movies could bring such pleasure to a boy who was so often disconnected from the realities of his day-to-day existence. On the big screen (drive-ins were just fantastic!) or on TV, movies were more real, and far more satisfying than anything Mr. wOw had to deal with at home, school or among his peers, who found Mr. W. an odd duck, indeed. (Not that I minded very much. After a while I accepted the vivid life in my head, and considered myself lucky to be able to entertain myself so well, all on my own.)
Mr. wOw also fled into a world of books. When I played hooky (is that term even still used?) I could usually be found in the public library. Later, when I was very well-read indeed, and my truancy chronic, I skipped the library and investigated other aspects of life. Often I was thought to be older than I was, having picked up a lot of sophisticated this ‘n’ that from movies and books.
The airing of “Kitty” was a sweet reminder of a sweeter time. For me, anyway.
Oh, I know. You all thought the next Mr. wOw would be tearing into some himbo or bimbo or the terrible Kate Gosselin, who has had herself a whopping amount of plastic surgery.
Eh, not today … as Bette Davis said in “Where Love has Gone”: “Somewhere along the line we have lost all our standards and all our taste.” Davis uttered these lines in a cheesy movie based not-too-loosely on the Lana Turner-Johnny Stompanato scandal. (Thuggish boyfriend killed by teenage daughter of famous woman.)
Miss Davis was on the cusp of slipping standards herself. Though I’m sure she’d have said if challenged: “It’s a job. I’m an actress. F*ck you.”
P.S. If you want to see Paulette Goddard at her best, check out “The Women.” When she arrives onscreen wearing short shorts, cowboy boots and a thin sweater, sans bra, you know you have reached nirvana.