Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Great Sadness

On Monday, the same day I posted about my own battles with depression, Robin Williams committed suicide.  Williams had been seeking treatment for depression.  The Oscar-winning actor for years dealt with bouts of substance abuse and depression and referenced his struggles in his comedy routines. Just last month, Williams announced he was returning to a 12-step treatment program.

The circumstances of the death do not help explain what motivated him, suicide experts said. Understanding that would require a detailed "psychological autopsy" that includes the review of medical and other records, and interviews with family and friends.  These experts stressed that suicide rarely is triggered by a single factor, such as depression or substance abuse. Typically there are at least two such influences, often compounded by acute stress, such as from financial hardship or troubled personal relationships.

I think that if you looked at any of Williams's performances you will see one of the most explosively, exhaustingly, prodigiously verbal comedians who ever lived, yet you would also see an undertone do sadness.  Maybe that is 20/20 hindsight, but Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning, Vietnam, Patch Adams, and so many others show a troubled man who also used humor to hide what was underneath, a great sadness.

The first "gay" movie I think I ever saw was The Birdcage.  It showed men who were gay and were proud to be gay.  It showed something that I had never seen before, and it didn't degrade gay men, just used them as part of the comedy as any other character in the film was used.  It's actually the heterosexuals in the film that become the most ridiculous.

Robin Williams will be greatly missed.  I am sorry that depression took someone who made so many people happy.

If the loss of Robin Williams was not tragedy enough, Lauren Bacall, the smoky-voiced movie legend who taught Humphrey Bogart how to whistle in To Have and Have Not, died at the age of 89 yesterday.

Her death was confirmed by Robbert de Klerk, the co-managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate with her son Stephen Bogart. "She passed away peacefully earlier today in New York," according to family, De Klerk said. Some news sources state that she died of a stroke.

With an insinuating pose and a seductive, throaty voice — her simplest remark sounded like a jungle mating call, one critic said — Ms. Bacall shot to fame in 1944 with her first movie, Howard Hawks’s adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel To Have and Have Not, playing opposite Humphrey Bogart, who became her lover on the set and later her husband.

It was a smashing debut sealed with a handful of lines now engraved in Hollywood history.

“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” her character says to Bogart’s in the movie’s most memorable scene. “You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

The film was the first of more than 40 for Ms. Bacall, among them The Big Sleep and Key Largo with Bogart, How to Marry a Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, the all-star Murder on the Orient Express (1974), each are some of my favorite films.  Those that you can see a hundred times and never tire of them.

In 1996, Bacall appeared as the meddling mother to Barbra Streisand in The Mirror Has Two Faces, a role for which she received her only Academy Award nomination as supporting actress.

She was considered a shoo-in to take home the Oscar but lost out to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient.

The actress told The Times in 1998 that she wasn't bitter.

"The part I had in Barbra's movie was a terrific part just on its own," she said. "The opportunity to work with her was great, but you know, the whole thing of awards is a nightmare, I think. It has gotten out of hand. There are too many awards."

She said she was surprised when she received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in 1997, calling it "a very special honor."

"Listen, I never went into this business thinking of winning anything," she said. "I went into it because I loved it and I wanted to be good at it. It was a form of expression for me. I love to hide behind characters. So [any recognition] I get is a perk. It's just an extra. Just the fact that all that happened to me last year, it is -- well -- fabulous."

Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams were class acts and their legend will continue.  Of you haven't seen one of their movies in a while, I encourage you to do so.  It might just inspire you.


Michael Dodd said...

I share your sadness over the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, noting that had he lived as long as she did, we would have been gifted with another two and a half decades of his brilliance. That was not to be.

In your own case, we all hope your light continues to shine on us for decades more. When one is surrounded by darkness, one can easily forget that one is the light in that darkness for others. As your Bible says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

May you shine on!

Anonymous said...

I am planning a movie marathon with Robin Williams' stuff. Probably Ms. Bacall's, too. "You just put your lips together and blow" is a movie line seared in my memory from the moment I first heard (and saw) it when I was in college.

Truly they are legends, each in their own time, and will be sorely missed.

Peace <3

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute. A great loss but what a tremendous blessing both lives were to the people they entertained. They made us laugh, cry, feel, dream and live in a different reality than our own if just for a few hours every time they took to the stage or screen. They were bigger than life.

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