August 25, 2013

20,000 vinyl LPs 24: The Member of the Wedding

      The Member of the Wedding
         opening title from the film

Julie Harris died today. I was saddened when I heard the news as her spirit was an integral part of an early period of my life through her films. I will never forget them.

My first encounter with the brilliant acting of Harris was with her third film, I Am a Camera, 1955, in which she played, Sally Bowles. This film was based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood; in turn, I Am a Camera was the base for the blockbuster musical, Cabaret, in 1966. In 1955, she also starred in the splendid film, East of Eden, based on the novel by John Steinbeck.

It was her first film, The Member of the Wedding, 1952, which I didn't see until sometime in 1955, with her character of Frances 'Frankie' Addams that made me fall in love with her. Member of the Wedding was based on the Carson McCullers novel of the same name. I will always remember her soft, gentle dialogues with John Henry (). Nor will I forget the wonderful interchanges between her character Frankie and Berenice Sadie Brown (). I used to think the "Frankie" and "Sally" roles couldn't have been more contrasting but later realized this is not so.

In Member of the Wedding, she plays Frankie Addams, a boyish, articulate 12-year-old girl, who is going through an unhappy stage of her life, having been spurned by the neighborhood girls and friendless. She spends most of her time in the kitchen talking to her maid, Bernice (), and the young boy next door, John Henry (). Her brother Jarvis () is going to marry Janice (), and Frankie imagines that she will leave town with them. Her unrealistic plans become too obviously unworkable. She runs away from home but has a disastrous encounter with a soldier who tries to have sex with her. Berenice learns that her foster brother, Honey, has been involved in a hit-and-run accident with a stolen car and ends up in jail. Several months pass, John Henry has died, and because Frankie's family is moving, they no longer need a housekeeper. Frankie says goodbye to Berenice who reflects sadly on the death of John Henry and Honey's prison sentence, but Frankie has her mind on the teenage boy down the street, says goodbye and skips out of the house. As the film ends Berenice has tears in her eyes, a sad smile on her face and hums quietly to herself. Has Frankie learned nothing from all this? It is a sad and bitter movie.

Julie Harris (left) as Frankie Addams, 
Ethel Waters as Berenice Sadie Brown, 
and Brandon de Wilde as John Henry 

When I think about the endings of both the films, I Am a Camera and The Member of the Wedding, I realize both roles actually are similar in that both characters end the film with a non-nonchalance for what has happened that is somewhat disturbing. In spite of the negative qualities of the films, the performances turned in by the cast of both make them gems of cinema.

Ms. Harris starred in almost a hundred (99) films and TV appearances; they are all listed at the Imdb website.

I have the vinyl LP recording of the Member of the Wedding with Carson McCullers reading from The Member of the Wedding and other works on MGM Records which I will listen to and recollect my thoughts and feelings all those many decades ago when I first met Julie Harris as Frankie.

Clips from The Member of the Wedding film can be seen at:

Turner Classic Movies
Opening credits
It Don't Do
Green & Crazy Summer

Eyes On the Sparrow (Ethel Waters singing)
Bernice's husband

Julie Harris was 87 years old. She will live forever in my heart as Frankie.

The entire collection is for sale. Interested? Contact Styrous®

Styrous® ~ Sunday August 25, 2013


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