Writer: Stirling Silliphant
Director: Arthur Hiller
Director of Photography: Jack A. Marta
(Details from http://www.imdb.com – click on the episode title above for more cast and crew)
Screencaps are from the Shout Factory edition of the series. (I don’t know why the blog shows some in black and white and some in sepia. They’re all black and white on my computer. Also the pictures aren't all in line, which is hugely annoying. The text looks smaller than it should be. Carriage returns have popped up where they shouldn't be. Sometimes this system drives me mad.)
This is the first episode of the second season of Route 66, and it’s a humdinger. It’s one of the few episodes my husband has watched and liked, which says something for it. I’m not sure what, but something. It’s a good and proper love story for Buz, and also guest stars the much loved Anne Francis, better known as Honey West. IMDB describes her as ‘One tall, cool drink of water, the beautiful, curvaceous, mole-lipped Anne Francis.’ Well. There you go. For fifty minutes you can see Arline Simms (Anne Francis) struggling to accept that she will very soon die, while Buz, who has fallen in love with her, is completely oblivious to her illness. Tod is her only confidant.
The episode also stars the bleak, scarred, interesting landscape of Butte, Montana, which seems to be a conurbation designed around the human desire to rip the ground apart for metal. We don’t exactly see lots of the surroundings since the episode focusses so tightly on Arline and her angst over her impending death. We do get some wonderful glimpses, though, of stepped, carved landscapes, low mountains, and dusty city streets. Just as impressive are the night scenes of glittering fairground lights and neon signs. Butte feels like a place apart from the rest of the world, but with plenty going on in its dusty surroundings.
This episode is actually available on YouTube. Apparently. Not in my country, but it’s there, and you could get at it with a proxy server, I’m sure.
It’s one of those marvellous Route 66 starting moments, with a voice over from Tod, where we just sit and watch a plane landing. Nothing fast, nothing racy. Just the black and white beauty of a plane touching down with slow grace.
‘Looking back it’s hard to remember exactly how things were before she got here,’ Tod soliloquizes. Buz is reducing copper in an anaconda. Or at Anaconda. Or something. Tod is driving an ore truck. ‘It’s astonishing how much a part of your life someone can become in so brief a time,’ he says. ‘It’s hardly a month ago she came to Butte.’
Isn’t this wonderful? I mean, we’ve all felt this. The holiday in Greece where after only a week the flat feels like your second home and you know every dusty tree and every olive grove and feel it will break your heart to leave. The house guest who you were uncertain about but can’t bear to part with at the end of their visit. (I’m fictionalising there. I’m not good with people. When they leave I’m sorry but I also breathe out hard and start to feel alive again.)
Look at that. Just look. Aeroplanes are beautiful.
The plane contains Arline Simms, played by Anne Francis. Anne Francis has the reputation for being beautiful too. She is, but I can’t quite get past the mole. I’m sorry. I just have a thing about moles.
Okay, she is quite pretty. That hair would be impressive in colour, two. I’ve seen it in colour in the Mission: Impossible episode DoubleCircle, but it looks lighter here.
Tod starts to talk about lemmings. ‘There’s a small animal, the lemming, which every year by the thousands runs off the shores of Portugal and swims out into the Atlantic and drowns miles from shore,’ he says. ‘Nobody’s ever explained why, or why the salmon fights his way upstream to die...’ (Spock, anyone?) ‘...Maybe Arline understood this already the morning she arrived.’
Arline has the look of a lemming. Determined. Fatalistic. See.
Actually it appears that lemmings aren’t fatalistic, but, like so many beautiful things in the world, the victims of Disney. But that’s by the by.
Is it childish of me that I want to edit this so it says, ‘Welcome to Butt’? I’m sorry. It’s a thing I share with a good friend. I alert them to butts. That’s it.
The cabbie is something of a starer. We can understand that. It’s the early 60s. She’s very pretty and very blonde. But she’s having none of it. It’s very obvious that rough sex with random cabbies is the last thing on her mind. She opens the cab door so quickly that the poor chap is denied the chance to do it himself. He continues to gawp, and it’s obvious there’s something more to it than her just being pretty.
What an amazing, bleak, scoured landscape this is. Meanwhile the cabbie is very obviously listening to the radio, where the announcer is talking about the mystery of the disappearance of Broadway’s newest star, Arline Simms.
In case we doubted it, there she is. Arline Simms, broadway’s brightest new light, handily reposing on the passenger seat on the front of a magazine. Arline doesn’t appreciate this radio story. She’s all bitten up and reflective looking. Whatever’s going on it’s all trapped inside her head.
But she’s not all angst and melodrama. When the cabbie asks if he can let the dispatcher know who he has in his cab she smiles and tells him he can.
‘Let him live,’ she says, with no hint of irony regarding the upcoming plot about living and dying.
No excuse, just the title screencap is pretty.
It is a bleak looking place, scarred by man. Strangely it reminds me of some local scenes here in Wales, where an incredibly important iron age hill fort was blasted away for quarry stone.
Well, here are our boys.
Tod starts to soliloquise about premonitions and how they don’t grow on trees.
|Here's where Tod and Buz parked their car, across from the house, 235 W. Copper. Image from Google Maps. There's a lot of information regarding the locations in newspaper articles on the Ohio66 site.|
‘Most of the big things that happen to us just pop up unannounced,’ he opines. Big things like two handsome working men getting out of their sexy car and just happening to run into a beautiful woman. Whatever your orientation, it’s all good.
Tod is smitten.
Buz is smitten. Tod acknowledges in his voice over that Buz is actually more smitten, but that at that moment he had no idea, because he was too busy being smitten himself.
What a quaint house. Tod is driven into action by ‘one of those chemical things.’ Usually called testosterone.
|Here's the house at 235 W. Copper as it appeared in 2008.|
|And here's the split level road leading past the house.|
Buz is not going to leave Tod to it, as Tod tries to chat Arline up by giving her tips about how he can probably talk the boarding house lady down to a lower price.
Arline is having none of it. She won’t even talk to Tod, who has no clue that not every woman is constantly wishing a young man would come and proposition her to save her from a life of childlessness and loneliness.
No reason. They’re just pretty and bewildered (how did a woman resist us?) and the street leading straight to the mountain in the background makes for a nice shot.
‘It’s the wrong approach,’ Buz says phlegmatically. Tod is just a little bitter.
She acts it all very well. She approaches the house like someone might approach an old dog who might just have forgotten her scent. She strokes the board wall. She looks at the ‘Rooms for rent’ sign with something approaching horror.
She has not come to rent a room. She has come home. She’s been away for six years, ‘without a word,’ her Irish aunt berates her in a loving way. Her aunt can tell she’s hiding something, but won’t tell. I could take caps here of the contrast between pretty Broadway-ified Arline and her homely aunt, but I’ve taken too many caps already and because they’re facing each other I’d have to take two.
Okay, this is kind of a picture of the contrast. ‘The last of the Sullivans and the Simms,’ the aunt laments, ‘and not a child between them.’ That gets to Arline.
Tod and Buz have been watching this all the while.
So Buz, master detective, goes to ask the cabbie (who apparently has also waited around to watch) if it’s Arline Simms. Buz is all starry eyed. It’s sweet.
It’s possible a fight will break out. Tod and Buz both want her.
‘Before I was born, when I was swimming with the spirits, I knew that girl,’ Buz insists. ‘I’ve always known her. I’ll send you the bulletin.’
Tod offers to flip for it. It must be so nice being a woman in the 60s.
Inside, Arline and her aunt are reminiscing in a beautifully lit room of light and shadows. Arline finds it ‘smaller than I remember, but it’s solid, reassuring, like papa’s table.’ It’s a contrast to big, fake Broadway. There’s a sense as she walks about the room, touching things, reminiscing, that she’s already half in the next world. The room is empty of life and her mind is running on death. I’ll let you watch the scene yourself rather than quoting it here. This is such a contrast to what’s going on in Tod and Buz’s mind. They don’t exist at all to her.
Arline is on a knife edge, about ready to collapse. Her aunt is bewildered. She’s going from nostalgia to smiles to bitterness to tears. But the phone cuts into her minor breakdown, because no matter how far she runs she can’t escape the outer world. Tod and Buz represent that in one way. Her agent on the phone in New York represents that all too harshly in another.
She has to speak to him, or he will call every half hour until she does. She thought she could run away, but she can’t, no more from that than from anything else. While he tries to get her to come back she is aware that she’s eminently replaceable. She’s a product, not a person.
So she storms upstairs (having beautifully real trouble with the pocket doors on her way out of the room) and into her bedroom. Except... it’s Buz’s bedroom now.
Buz is a little surprised, to say the least, and a little miffed, too, when she starts to take his clothes away. (I love the fact that because this is a real house you can see the real city outside through the window, moving on oblivious to what’s going on in this tiny space.)
‘Hey! What are you doing!? I paid the rent!’ Buz protests.
‘Get out,’ Arline says flatly, throwing all his clothes into the hall.
Poor Buz only has his trousers left. She’s emptying his drawers too. I mean, the kind you keep clothes in, not his underwear.
And there he is, shut out, not exactly the victor in this attempted conquest. Tod looks on smugly.
‘My, you’ve certainly made a hit with her,’ Tod says helpfully.
‘Yeah, well, she went into my room – mine,’ Buz tries to protest.
‘Yeah well, somehow from where I stand that doesn’t even seem like a minor victory,’ Tod replies – and he’s right.
Tod does smug so well.
Poor Aunt Lydia comes to tidy up and apologise after her tempestuous niece, explaining that that’s Arline’s room that Buz was in, and that she has forgotten the hard years while she was away and Lydia had to take in ‘nice gentlemen’ from the mines to make money.
‘But that’s Arline when she gets a notion. That’s that,’ Lydia shrugs. ‘Something made her come back here,’ she muses. ‘What it is I don’t know yet. But the lord works in mysterious ways. He must have had some reason for making her return.’ There’s that little hint again of life and death, something about religion. Is there a cynical suggestion that God has foresaken Arline?
Looking at this careworn woman and how plain she seems beside her glamorous niece, I thought I could see signs of a past beauty. So I looked her up and here she is. I like the idea that she was also beautiful in her time.
Tod always seems to listen to these kind of speeches from women of that age with such a gentle air of interest and sympathy.
Buz is all smiles and graciousness too as she offers him another room. They’re nice boys. It’s a shame Tod was written so cynical in later episodes.
He even kisses her on the cheek, although it looks at first as if he’s making for her nose.
‘Times are I really don’t think I understand your friend,’ Lydia continues (in her soft Irish accent) as Buz walks off.
‘Mrs Sullivan. Stop trying,’ Tod advises her.
It’s these little moments of humour that keep this episode from maudlin.
Buz is outside Arline’s room with a list. The music is playful. I feel this should be subtitled, ‘Écoute.’ Buz tries to convince Arline through the door that he’s the type who ‘digs pyjamas, like the bottoms.’ Some of his things are still in the room, including his pyjama bottoms.
This is very Buz. He’s acting humble and conciliatory but he’s still striding in and getting just what he wants. And look, the reflection of the mirror is giving him a halo. It’s not a real halo. He finds his pyjama bottoms almost instantly, but pretends he hasn’t.
‘Maybe you’re wearing them,’ she suggests tartly.
Buz tries his best to act nice, offering to bring up a plate of the dinner her aunt has cooked.
‘It’s a stew. It’s got everything in it.’
‘Maybe that’s where your pyjamas are,’ she retorts, and walks out, and out of the house.
Poor Buz. He’s not used to this.
There she is at the bottom of the road. Buz has decided to up his game and stalk her. Tod just looks on, like a bewildered spectator at the zoo. One thing you can say for Buz, he’s persistent.
Stalker territory. He crawls along just a little faster than her walking pace, to catch up, and cruises along beside her, reassuring her that he’s not trying to pick her up.
Buz gets philosophical. We love Buz’s beat generation philosophy.
‘The good people either dig each other right now, or forget it. Two half truths never made an integrated single, but two truths together, man that’s a crazy square root.’
(Do we have a clue what he’s saying here, at least in relation to himself and Arline?)
‘Now, you take me for instance. I never batted three hundred, probably never will.’
(This must be some American thing.)
‘Never climbed Mount Everest and I don’t have perfect pitch. But I can tell you about Arline Simms. Somebody or something has dropped a glass wall around her and now she looks at people from the bottom of a fish bowl...’
Now he’s getting to her. Is it deliberate that she’s stopped with a fence on one side of her, so she can’t break away – a fence that looks like it’s been hit and battered but never knocked down? She looks plain and ordinary and tired.
‘...so she’s come running back to lean on the past,’ Buz continues.
I’m impressed that George Maharis reels off this speech while having to keep the car at a crawl alongside Anne Francis. Although I suppose he’s reeling it off while being towed and talking to a camera on some kind of dolly or something.
Now they have both come to a halt.
‘To reach out for things that are gone. Look, if you wanna bust out of that fish bowl, if you wanna be free, all you’ve gotta do is think free. All you gotta do is say, I’m free. I’m me.’
That could be the start of a song, Buz.
There’s contempt in that look. Buz is full of philosophy, but this time he has no idea. He can’t tell Arline Simms about Arline Simms – at least not how she should get over her problems – because he has no idea what her problems are. Buz and Tod don’t roam around the country facing the concept of their own mortality. Most of the problems they face can be solved.
Now at this camera angle she is obviously looking down on him. There is sky above her. Just the wall she cannot push through, and the sky.
She looks as if she’s going to walk away, but actually she’s coming round to the driver’s side. All around her telegraph poles make crucifixes in the sky.
‘Move over,’ she says, but for all of Buz’s hipness he embraces the masculinity of the era. ‘When I play games I play my rules,’ she insists.
‘In the man-woman battle it’s the man’s rules,’ he says. There isn’t really any way to win a war like that. Unless you're Arline Simms.
‘Win the battle, lose the war,’ she shrugs, and makes to walk off.
What was that about man’s rules, Buz?
How long have they been driving around? This must have been a very long day for Arline, since I think it’s the same day that she stepped off the plane.
Poor Buz still isn’t getting through her carapace of pain. It sounds like they’ve been on a bit of a pub crawl, and she’s still bitter with pent-up anger.
She cuts an interesting figure at the bar, where everyone flanking her is wearing plaid. Hell, one guy’s still wearing his hard hat.
Buz comes in with his ‘I don’t understand women, but this makes me sad,’ face on, and watches her wistfully as she downs liquor.
Arline watches wistfully as a couple dances with an intimacy that you sense she has never had in her life, and believes she never will.
The couple dancing are oblivious to everything. They’re their own story.
She seems to come to some kind of decision. It’s too muted to be called an epiphany, but maybe deep inside it’s something of that. She goes and gives Buz back the car key and asks him if he knows ‘where Columbia Gardens is?’
This is the complete opposite to that closed-in, small bar with the people and the music and the dancing. This is dark and big and empty. She’s come to reminisce.
‘Sundays were always the best days,’ she sighs. ‘I sometimes wonder why we can’t live all the rest of the week like we do on a Sunday.’
Buz is aware that he isn’t seeing what she’s seeing. She’s in another world.
‘I’ve got to remember all of it,’ she says in a low voice, then, getting more agitated, ‘Why can’t I remember? Why have I forgotten so many thousands of things? All the good things like what mama used to cook for breakfast, the colours of papa’s ties, and the words, all the words he said. What did he say? I can’t remember. All I can remember is those last few words just before he died. You’re right. I’m leaning on the past, just as you said. But I can’t help myself. I’m afraid. I want to run to my father. Not like we write in books and plays, not sick, but I want them back. I want my mother and my father back, Buz. I need them. I need them so.’
‘What can I do?’ Buz asks. ‘Just tell me. What can I do?’
That sounds like one of those lines, like the ‘Let me help,’ line in Star Trek’s City on the Edge of Forever. One of those lines that transcends time. Buz has forgotten his intentions for some kind of sexual conquest in the face of this helpless, scared, sad little girl.
She cries, ‘Hold me. Please hold me’ throwing herself against him. This wasn’t how he’d wanted things to go. He’s awkward and taken aback, but he does what she asks and holds this stranger in his arms.
The camera pans away, slowly and beautifully, to leave them alone, and all we can see are the harsh patterns and contrasts of the shadows on the stairs.
Buz is pensive the next morning as he and Tod set out with their little tin lunch pails. He starts to chide Tod for not starting the car, when Tod reminds him he has the keys.
Tod is feeling smug and self-assured, announcing, ‘Tonight it’s my turn.’ For Buz this thing has changed completely, but Tod’s not up to speed yet.
Buz is looking pretty in the morning light. (This isn’t the prettiest screencap, but he keeps moving.) He tells Tod that Arline won’t be available that evening because she’s got a date with a priest. Tod is bloody persistent and thinks he can pick her up after that. They really are quite aggressive in their determination – Tod now more than Buz. Buz knows she’s not in a fit state.
‘It’s like the – like the insulation’s broke,’ Buz explains. ‘She’s shorted out somewhere. She’s driving without lights, in a panic.’
That’s Buz’s morning electrical metaphor report.
Both Tod and Buz are melancholy at the idea of a hot actress who is in such close proximity to them but with whom they have such a small chance of sex.
Later, Arline is going into the church, with a scarf over her head this time, more modest and sombre. Stairs with the beautiful, harsh shadows again.
|Here's the church, St Lawrence O'Toole Church, in 2012, thanks to Google Maps, and to the Ohio66 site for the location. It sounds like Butte had quite a large Irish contingent. The church is still used for weddings and open for viewing today.|
And this time it’s Tod doing the car-stalking thing.
|That big metal thing on the left is still there, as of 2012, but rather more battered looking. (Thanks to Google Maps).|
You can’t say those harsh shadows weren’t deliberate. Arline is on the cusp between life and death, black and white, a jagged separation. Tod’s stalker approach is shot at an angle, the shadows far less harsh, everything far more ordinary.
The same filming choice again, straight on, straight down the centre with the pews on either side. Harsh, balanced, stark.
The cross straight ahead of her as she walks into the church, the shadow of the cross now between her and the Father as they meet. This is beautifully filmed. Arline has a quiet, humble piety that one might not expect in a great Broadway actress.
‘Father, please help me,’ she begs. ‘I haven’t the strength to fight any more, nowhere else to turn. I thought maybe the house where I was born, maybe there I’d find something to hold on to. It’s just as empty as New York. I’m falling. I keep reaching out for something to stop me. I’ve come home, Father. I’ve come home to die.’
That shadow of the cross is still visible to the side of her head as she starts speaking, but as she continues the shot becomes tighter and we lose sight of it. There is just Arline.
Oops. All this time Tod has been listening.
He starts to move but the floorboard creaks. He knows he can’t leave without her knowing someone is there. At this point he should shove his fingers in his ears and start trying to calculate Pi, but he doesn’t.
Like all fathers (well, at least, like mine), the Father thinks that a cup of tea will help. He doesn’t realise how serious she is.
She explains it’s called ‘lupus erythematosus disseminatus,’ and if you search for that on Google expect to find a lot of heavy reading.
‘It sounds like a Latin name they use for some pretty flower, doesn’t it?’ she smiles. ‘I look at myself in the mirror and I’m not Arline any more. I’m a host for lupus, an expert suddenly able to enunciate all the tongue-twisting impersonal medical terms that isolate me from my stranger’s body. Lupus, Father, is a degenerative process involving the blood vessels. Acute lupus inevitably terminates in death, usually from toxaemia, usually within a few weeks.’
She says all this with a kind of almost smiling resignation. She’s been though it all, you sense, and knows there is nothing to do about it.
The Father is rattled, but stays calm. ‘How long have you known?’ he asks.
‘Through all kinds of pain,’ she answers. ‘Special treatments, antibiotics, steroids, transfusions, cortisone. Through all kinds of delaying actions... The top doctors in New York say the end of July,’ she says. ‘I got sick of New York in July, dying on the instalment plan. So here I am.’
When he asks if she’s told anyone she replies, ‘Father, in my world, death is for big players, or something that happens off stage. Oh, it doesn’t happen to the star, except in tragedies. They’re not producing tragedies this season on Broadway. And I get more and more afraid. Can I find something to hold on to?
The Father responds with something wonderful. ‘Death may deprive us of the wonder of this existence, my child, but it can never erase the triumph of our having existed, whether for one year or for one hour.’
I love this. No mention of everlasting life in heaven. No mention of eternal reward. That’s not what this is about. To talk about that would be to in some way efface Arline’s very real, very painful struggle with the idea of leaving life. The Father is celebrating her existence, not placating her with promises.
Now Tod leaves. What happened to that squeaky floorboard? He can’t leave while the silence of the church is ameliorated by their voices, but he can once all is quiet?
Finally Arline leaves too.
‘What cripples we are, Father,’ she reflects, looking up at the stars. ‘How easily crushed. How nothing. Look at them up there. Their cold light. It’s all around us, Father. Everywhere we look, indifference. A whole universe of indifference.’
(This reminds me of one of Julie Hale’s speeches in Hell Is Empty, All The Devils Are Here, where she says, ‘All of a sudden I know how an insect feels. How helpless when it’s caught by a cruel child. A blank face bigger than the sky, smiling down at you from somewhere beyond your own tiny world. Smiling down and taking its time, letting its icy fingers pull off your legs and your wings.’)
‘You say the universe is indifferent,’ he replies. ‘Yes, yes it is. But there’s a higher order, my dear. The love in each of us which makes us care. I’m not indifferent, Arline. If I could die for you I would gladly as I would for any who need belief.’
This would be the perfect moment for him to talk about heaven, but still there’s no mention of that. This is about this life, this world, and the feelings and love of people who are in it now.
Something’s building in her again. She stumbles down the steps as if she is very tired, but then she begins to run.
So, Tod. He shouts as she starts to run, and she seems to see him as a lifebelt in a storm.
This is not the kiss he was looking for, although he did seem to take a moment to smell her hair as she held on to him. He doesn’t kiss back. He just confesses how he overheard her in the church.
Tod can philosophise just as well as Buz. ‘When you were running away from the church I could feel your panic like it was my own so I called out to you. You threw yourself into my arms. Do you know why? To feel flesh and blood. Another human being, not me. Life. If I hadn’t known that I’d have grabbed back, but I knew it, so I couldn’t. You don’t even know my name, do you?’
He gets to be praised by her for being so logical.
Never one to pass up the slight chance of romance, he gives it his best shot. ‘Now that the words are out of the way, how about trying it again, without being so logical?’
Oh, Tod. The woman’s dying.
She goes off to walk in the darkness. It really is dark. No crosses looming up. Just nothing by lights powered by science, and enveloping dark.
Tod is sad, either for Arline or for the loss of the chance at sex with a Broadway star.
Tod is pensive about what he’s found out.
Buz is pensive waiting for Tod to return (and this is a lovely shot, with all of the light and shadow and lines and angles.)
This isn’t really a relevant screencap, but the dvd drive freaked out and made this.
So Tod surprises Buz by tossing over the keys and saying, ‘You can’t win ’em all.’
There’s a kind of wistfulness in his face. Why does he decide to hand it over to Buz now he knows about Arline? Is it that he senses deeper feelings in Buz for Arline than he has? Is it that he wants to give Arline the chance at a relationship with someone who doesn’t know? You would think it was clear she wasn’t after any kind of relationship. Is he scared? I like to think that it’s because he sees that Buz is clearly more involved.
‘Keep it light, just for laughs,’ he advises his friend. He’s trying to protect both of them.
So Buz takes the car and drives off like the cat that’s got the cream, presumably intending to cruise the streets of Butte until he happens across her.
Meanwhile, Arline is gazing wistfully through shop windows at the future all women want, the future she can never have. Children, babies, all the domestic things. The camera pans to a clock pendulum ticking away. It’s half past eleven. Nearly the end... I don’t think we needed this visual metaphor on top of the baby things.
Against all odds, Buz has found her. Maybe Butte isn’t a big place. Maybe he knew with masculine instinct that she would be drawn to the baby clothes. The shop opposite is called ‘Toggery,’ which is a wonderful name.
‘Well, Tod reported a strike out so I figured it was time for the second inning,’ he says. I’ll pretend he’s talking about cricket, then I’ll at least have half an idea what he’s on about.
He offers to exercise whatever’s bugging her. ‘Exorcise,’ she corrects him.
So off they skip, the happy couple. Perhaps Arline is thinking that a bit of rough won’t hurt.
This is just pretty. The cars gleaming in the streetlights, the lights disappearing off into the distance like a string, the signs and the faces of the buildings.
So Buz woos her with his fake English (Indian-English?) accent and a tale about meat. What more could a girl want?
Look at that. The shadows on the stairs as he carries on telling his tale, no straight-on shots as they are when Arline is bleak and alone. This is intimate and fun.
It’s all text book. The intimate moment outside her door, the arm up and almost around her. The laughter, the leaning in.
But no. The kiss doesn’t happen. Not on her part. ‘I was just trying to steal the flavour,’ he tells her ruefully. She smiles and disappears through her door.
Buz sneaks in to Tod’s room. He does a great job of sneaking. He turns the light on, winces at the slam of the door, then whips the sheet off Tod’s head. His motives seem mixed.
‘Do you realise we sleep away one third of our lives?’ Buz asks.
‘Well, I did, until I met you,’Tod retorts.
Not the face of someone who wants to be awake.
Buz is all starry eyed and grinning as he tells Tod how wonderful Arline is and how he has no report and didn’t even kiss her.
Tod is not impressed that Buz woke him up to tell him this.
Buz has ‘a whole programme in orbit.’ He tells Tod to go back to sleep to save his strength ‘while the rest of us are spending ours.’ Ironic.
Here goes the plan...
This is just quite fun to watch, because they’re really doing it. Tod tells us in voice over how all through the next three weeks through days and nights Buz ‘knocked himself out to be with Arline, even insisted she pick him up at the end of each shift.’
More of those wonderful lines. The crosses of the telegraph poles aren’t so evident now against the background of life going on.
How often does someone else get to drive that car? She looks rather tired and wan until she sees Buz. Those cogs are pretty awesome, though.
That hat just looks too big.
Tod narrates, ‘It was though some special force was driving him to make Arline love him. She’s crazy about Sundays, he’d tell me, because Sundays were the good days when she was a kid. So I’ll give her a month of Sundays, a lifetime of Sundays if it’ll make her happy.’
He’s so excited to see her that he jumps the fence.
I love this, with the car and the cogs behind. Old and new. Functional and stylish.
Having fun on a speedboat. This really does look fun.
This makes me want to go out on a lake in a boat. Not that it’s hard to get me to want to do that.
Poor Buz has another go at kissing.
‘I thought we’d settled all that,’ she tells him. ‘Nothing serious. Just for laughs.’
Buz wants to reopen the discussion. She doesn’t.
Does Tod ever get the use the car nowadays?
Wow. Fun place to film from, right under the incredibly heavy truck. (I’m not being sarcastic.)
Tod is wearing his hat at a rather rakish angle. He’s looking worried, though.
It’s the ‘what are you doing here, Buz?’ look.
Buz wants to play a game of ‘which hand?’
So sweet. Buz is proposing to Tod right by his big burly man-truck. Actually he’s planning on proposing to Arline at the Columbia Gardens. Tod does not think this is a good idea.
Arline is doing some kind of weird ineffectual thing to her hair that involves combing the bottom inch of it backwards when Tod comes a-knocking on her door.
Now Arline has the halo from the mirror.
She looks like she’s been caught by the police when Tod asks her if she’s going to Columbia Gardens.
Tod looks very serious. He tells her that Buz is going to propose. He tells her that she’s going to accept.
‘I can’t. You know I can’t, Tod,’ she protests.
‘But he doesn’t know that you can’t, and that’s why you’re going to,’ he says, with some kind of Toddian logic that is all of his own.
‘How can I love if I can’t offer a lasting relationship?’ Arline asks him angrily. That’s a philosophical question far deeper than this episode has time for. ‘I don’t even know if I’m going to see the rain again. I don’t know if I’m going to see tomorrow’s sun. How can I hurt Buz by loving him and letting him love me when it can’t go anywhere.’
‘But it can go somewhere,’ Tod corrects her.
‘What, a day, two days, maybe a week?’
Tod is getting high pitched. ‘A minute if that’s all there is, but a minute that counts.’
Tod’s hung up on his father’s last days, when he knew he was dying and decided to live his last days to their fullest. ‘He said, Don’t let yourself be hobbled by fatalism and don’t run from death. Recognise it. Accept it for what it is, just as much a miracle as being born, maybe more so. Only when we lose our fear of death can we defeat it, and we can make every hour of our existence really count.’
Suddenly I’m getting a Harry Potter moment. ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’ (Although apparently that’s a quote from 1 Corinthians 15:26. I didn’t know that until now.) I’m not sure about death being more of a miracle than being born, though. I mean, not personally. Personally you kind of lose out more by dying than by being born. Unless (another Harry Potter moment) you subscribe to Dumbledore’s philosophy of ‘to the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.’ (I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before, too.)
He’s very worked up. He’s worried about Buz, more than Arline, I suppose, since Buz is his friend. ‘Buz is a guy who’s with things,’ he tells her desperately. ‘He feels every minute of every experience in every pore, and if he did know this is the way he’d want it to be.’
So, it’s evening, and Arline is dancing with Buz at Columbia Gardens. It’s all very romantic, although hideously crowded.
I went to look up Columbia Gardens on Google Maps. I found this.
Wikipedia tells us 'The Berkeley pit grew with time until it bordered the Columbia Gardens, a large fairground established by Montana businessman William A. Clark. After the Gardens caught fire and burned to the ground in November 1973, the pit was expanded into the site.' Does anyone else find that slightly suspicious?
Read more about Columbia Gardens here. If you really want to read more about it read a guy's MA thesis on the place here. (I'm not so dedicated. It's 83 pages long. And I don't think it mentions Route 66.)
This is the face of a man who’s wondering when to pop the question.
This is the face of a woman who is deep in the midst of an existential dilemma.
Buz is suave. There’s no getting down on one knee. He just subtly slips the ring out and holds it up before her. She’s just as restrained, replying with a single nod.
Maybe Tod was right. Maybe that one moment of joy was worth it.
Buz whispers something in her ear. Fittingly, we can’t hear it. This is their moment.
Then everything changes as Arline collapses.
Buz struggles to carry her out through the crowd. You’d expect there to be a bit more reaction.
Outside the fair carries on, oblivious, while Buz waits for the ambulance. A crowd has gathered, the ubiquitous ‘they’re filming Route 66 and they need a crowd!’ crowd.
Buz could be alone with Arline for all the notice he takes of the people behind him.
‘Buz didn’t tell me, and I’ll never ask, what it must have been like with Arline in those first few minutes until the ambulance arrived,’ Tod recounts in voiceover. ‘But as soon as he’d called for an ambulance, he called me. I borrowed a car, only making one stop on the way, and got to him as fast as I could. I stopped for Father Prior.’
Here they all are. The guy playing the Father almost slips over on the railing as he comes over, and recovers very well. (I’m suddenly struck wondering if Tod shouldn’t have got her aunt, too.)
Father Prior gets the nod from the doctor to do the last rites, as silent as Arline’s nod was to Buz’s silent proposal.
‘Father, I’m not afraid,’ she murmurs. Perhaps that’s the thing. When death comes and is inevitable, dying is the only thing to do.
Poor Buz isn’t happy.
Tod’s not too pleased either.
‘I was alive. I really was alive,’ Arline murmurs.
Tod seems pleased at that.
She reaches out for Buz’s hand, but her hand drops before he can take it.
Buz is definitely not happy.
Really very much not happy.
Very much upset. There’s a lot of screaming. (If you want a happy ending, she may not actually be dead. She swallows in the last shot after this bit.)
The fair goes on as if it doesn’t care about minor human tragedies. Which it doesn’t.
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