by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
September 12, 2006
DEATH IS THE FINAL ESCAPE
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When we hear, "the movie opens Friday at a theater near you," we know we will see stars on promotional tours, and we'll see the characters they play through the eyes of the actors they are. Adrien Brody, first made famous in Roman Polanski's "The Pianist," flopped onto the couch between the formidable ladies staging "The View" each weekday morning at 11:00.
The motion picture he's plugging is "Hollywoodland," a story delving into the suicide but suggested murder of George Reeves, better known as "Superman," hero of the televised series The Adventures of Superman. The program premiered on the small screen in 1951, going from the initial black and white to color during its long run.
Although I had a huge collection of Superman Comics, I was not a fan of the show, finding it laughable to see George Reeves in tights. This was before lycra and spandex so his costume was just colorful long johns with briefs and a cape. When I looked at Superman, arms akimbo, chest expanded, I could only visualize the same George Reeves as one of the prissy suiters fawning over Scarlett O'Hara in the opening scenes of Gone with the Wind.
But I must say, my interest was piqued and I was just as curious as those on The View in asking why they would make a film - and a film noir at that - about George Reeves' purported suicide nearly 50 years ago. Brody replied, "everybody's interested in death."
Of course I am, that's for sure. My television fare, "escape," if you will, is every true crime or contrived crime drama available during prime time every evening. I've seen every Law and Order episode, all the Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) shows and the true forensic procedures on Court TV. I'm not so interested in the crime as I am in the mind of the killer, or the circumstances of the deaths. I like the police procedures and the "gotcha" aspect of closing the case.
In real life, as opposed to "reel" life, the moment between life and death is the biggest mystery of all. As we conjecture, we see a totally black screen taking the place of living color. Our point of reference is when our power goes out. Ah, but that's not the same; we are still "aware" if it's just a power outage. We burst into this life with a scream; we fade out with a sigh, one last escaping breath.
So, yes. Adrien Brody is right. Everyone is interested in death - in one way or another - whether our own with joyful acceptance of the inevitable or that of another just dreading our loss of their presence.
The tagline for the movie, "Hollywoodland," is "Living in Hollywood can make you famous. Dying in Hollywood can make you a legend." George Reeves legend has left the archives of old newspapers and entered into the lore of unsolved mysteries. Not all celebrity deaths are clouded in mysterious who dunnits. Some are mysteries simply because we'll never know why?
Why would famous actress Lupe Valez, the Mexican Spitfire of the 1940's, find life so bad, have a desire for front page stardom so great, that she would dress in her finest, prepare a final meal so sumptuous, take barbiturates and alcohol to assure a long final sleep visualizing her beautiful death photo in the morning paper, and then stagger to the bathroom to vomit that last meal dying with her head in the toilet? Why? We want to ask, What were you thinking?
Handsome, rich, debonair George Sanders left a note: "Dear World: I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck." Why? Is there really any excuse for being bored in this world?
They took their own lives leaving us with neither answers nor any particular legacy. Those who did leave legacies, died with class. Oscar Wilde asked for champagne to sip as he lay dying. He's reported to have said at the last, "Alas, I am dying beyond my means." And George Washington said, "It is well I die hard but I am not afraid to go."
True to her style even at the last moment, Gertrude Stein said slowly "What ... is ... the ... answer?" Nobody spoke. Then, it is reported, she laughed. She said: "In that case, what is the question?" And then she died.
Of all the last words I've heard about (and it's the closest to the way I look at death myself), I think the best are those attributed to Henry Ward Beecher, the great abolitionist. "Now comes the mystery," he said, breathing his last.
I can hear myself having that thought someday, saying those words, feeling as if I'm front-row center; but I can't tell whether I see the curtain before me closing for the final performance, or going up for another opening, another show? Maestro?