[I want to preface this post by adding an addendum to the previous post regarding The King’s Speech. I don’t want anybody to come away with the thought that my problem was severe as his. What he did was truly heroic, as Colin Firth said in an interview. My issue flowed from partial deafness; gnarbled sounds equalled gnarbled speech. Once my parents and school therapists realized one caused the other, my speech impediment was basically controlled by age 11. My comments mainly concerned experiences as child and efforts not to lose ground as an adult. I don’t feel as badly plagued as he was, but can truly empathize and identify. So, there is nothing brave about me.]
Anyway, believe it or not, I’ve been ramping up to talk about my first exposure to fandom, except for maybe the bits about blizzards, dogs and computers. I actually drafted a partial post about an adult fandom experience but realized that if this was to be an introspective view, I needed to explain my thoughts. But everytime I questioned why I behaved a certain way, it led to earlier and earlier experiences requiring more peripheral explanations. So, I’m going to chuck it all and take things way back – before I was born.
When my mother was 16 years old she developed a fascination for a young British actor, named Laurence Olivier. When Wuthering Heights premiered in 1939, she made her boyfriend (my father) take her to see it so many times, he finally refused. Way before he became Sir Larry and Lord Olivier, she knew LO would be considered a great actor. In fact, she would shake her fist and exclaim, “I knew he would be great, before he was great!” I was small child when the film was broadcast on televison for the first time. While she squeed and exclaimed and sighed, my father would smirk, shake his head and walk out of the room. This was my first experience with a fangrrl. I looked forward to repeats just to see my proper mother behave so unseemingly, although my parents’ reactions signaled it was all silly and fun. Later I paid more attention to the actors and thought they talked funny. Then I realized I could understand every word. Remember this was before anybody realized my hearing problem.
Thus was born my love of British films. Because of the lilting tones and crisp diction, I could hear every syllable and consonant. When a speech therapist informed me I wasn’t talking like others’, I loosely patterned my speech after the Received Pronunciation type British accent in an effort to enunciate clearly. Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller was one of my favorite films. British actors became my personal speech therapists and Laurence Olivier headed the list, spurred on by my totally smitten mother. We watched Wuthering Heights every single time it was broadcast (along with anything else LO made). When finally after viewing Love Among the Ruins for the upteenth time I admitted, yes, LO was a great actor, she loudly cheered, “yes, he’s finally gotten to my daughter!” Her crush continued some 47 years until her death. Wow, that’s what I call a loyal fan.
I wonder if her crush would have lasted as long in this internet age of information access. I suspect my mother would have preferred not knowing facts disclosed about LO in recent years. But in her time, the star system and satellite media panted rosey pictures of its actors and so, my mother managed to preserve the innocence of her fantasy. In a way, that’s kind of sweet.
Speaking of sweet, I thought this picture is just that: