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Thursday, September 21, 2017

As School Terms Get Underway ...

Good Morning, Miss Dove! (1955) Recalls All Our Classrooms

Where survey was taken of "beloved" movies, and magazines/newspapers used to do these from time to time, sort of an AFI or international critic poll minus the pretension, I wonder how Good Morning, Miss Dove! came out. I'd propose high. There was time when most people I mentioned this title to recognized it. Good Morning, Miss Dove! lured all ages for universal theme that was teaching, and memorable women who taught. Everybody it seemed, had known at least one Miss Dove. The notion of schoolmarms as for most part selfless spinsters was fortified here, and though some might call that profiling, what of fact we all encountered Miss Doves from primary right through highest education? Jennifer Jones did a character that everyone could identify as their own Miss Whatever, and it would be worthwhile to know how often the actress was approached with, "I had a teacher just like Miss Dove." For me, there were several, one in her "teacher house" just across my street, others stood before blackboards for one after other generations, town folk assigning legends to women who claimed little life beyond that with pupils, and parents who occasionally poked noses into life of the school.

We'd all wonder how these teachers came to be alone. It was vital that each have a backstory, however fictional.  Common explanation was a doomed romance back in the war, an only man she could ever love who died in combat. We were sometimes told by parents how beautiful our teacher had been once upon a time. This conferred humanity on otherwise stern and unbending figures of authority. Good Morning, Miss Dove! gives us the pretty and eligible girl ossified by years of routine and obligation. Seeing NBC's 10-28-63 primetime broadcast of the film  helped me understand better a second grade teacher to whom I could now assign a complex past that made her less the ogre she seemed. Maybe it wasn't a tragic affair from the war that sealed Miss Finley's fate. She seemed way too old for that, unless it was loss sustained during the Crimean War. To shorten the point, Good Morning, Miss Dove! really spoke to me, as I suspect it did to legions of others. "Did" is operative word because with schools so changed as now, Good Morning, Miss Dove! would seem antique as something laid in ancient Egypt. The picture rang my bell because our school ran exactly like the one where Miss Dove taught, in a town very much of a piece with the movie's own background.

Good Morning, Miss Dove! and increasingly fewer like it were seeing out small town-set Americana. The show did well because there was still enough of an audience to whom it could mean something. Soon-to-come Peyton Place, published the year after Good Morning, Miss Dove! was released, would strip Americana of sentiment, Fox further blowing taps with their 1957 movie adaptation. Public education changed too, many said for the worse. Miss Dove would serve as longing look back for folks undone by onrush of anything but progress as they saw it. Hollywood serviced that mindset, but on much more limited basis as international markets became critical to break-even. There was Pollyanna from Disney, Papa's Delicate Condition, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Follow Me Boys (again Disney), others that looked to celebrate neighborly times past, most period set because how could they be believed otherwise by the 60's? I watched Good Morning, Miss Dove! this week on TCM after waiting forever for it to turn up somewhere in scope. Their ratio was correct, but the broadcast wasn't HD, which raises query as to whether Fox has a higher-def transfer on hand. There is a DVD, but it is 4:3 letterbox and that's no way to fly. FXM has not run Good Morning, Miss Dove! in some years, and no one to my knowledge streams it. Good Morning, Miss Dove!, along with Cinemascoped Prince Of Players (also shown on TCM, also not HD), King Of The Khyber Rifles, The Revolt Of Mamie Stover (4:3 letterbox on TCM and FXM), plus further handful, each continue to elude us in proper presentation.


Blogger StevensScope said...

This recalls the exciting times of the rather important events evolved when AMC(remember the ORIGINAL and very much MISSED channel?!) introduced television audiences to SCOPE -on-TV --for the first time with their "WIDE SCREEN PRESENTATION OF"---.Host BOB DORIAN would show the feature in the regular pan & scan -full-frame version as well on the same day, perhaps, an evening show in SCOPE. I was so THRILLED and really couldn't believe my eyes that some movie channel would break the mold that would forever change for the better the way they would screen movies--FINALLY in the CORRECT FORMAT for the first time---ON TELEVISION! However, it was actually IRRITATING for the folks who hated the 'BLACK BARS' at top & bottom of the TV frame who thought (TO THIS DAY) that part of the whole picture was missing; and not willing, it seems, to grasp onto the (OPTICAL IMAGE)'SCOPE' IDEA of it all. Then to my utter astonishment they introduced WIDE-SCREEN TELEVISION SETS, which at this point I REALLY could not fathom the fact that the dream of having a device whereas film fanatics like myself could FINALLY see our SCOPE MOVIES in their CORRECT FORMAT(s)..came true!!. OK, they weren't exactly in shape of CINEMASCOPE, but it serves purpose to say the least. And, of course, there's more to the story here; this lead to other formatting practices. Now we have the FLAT PICTURES BLOWN UP to fit the WIDE SCREEN TV'S BLACK BARS ON THE SIDES of the picture!! It seems to this day the public cannot GRASP the IDEA of it all---they just want the image to fill their TV SCREEN! Alas, this has brought us to the PRESENT SITUATION, which has slapped us in 'face- and-fanny' by the FOX FOLKS, who have recently REVERTED , with their gleeful greed, BACK TO releasing their SCOPE TITLES on DVD in the now-antique and HORRIBLE -TO-WATCH PAN & SCAN VERSIONS, and have UNBELIEVABLY SCARRED the industry with this OUTRAGEOUS DECISION. So let us hope for a major correction here at FOX on THAT subject, which remains NOW really sad thing, and after coming all this way (just for the simple want of the original picture-format that didn't ouite look the same to us when,(& if ) showed up on our old square TV sets--- commercials and all,-- and usually at a most inconvenient time). LET US ALL GIVE THANKS THEN for TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES!! .... NOT 'nuff said!

3:20 PM  
Blogger MikeD said...

Mention of the old American Movie Classics and Bob Dorian brings a tear to my eye. I don't remember the dual presentation in one day, but maybe that was before I got AMC or I wasn't paying attention.
With regard to our spinster teacher's backstories, something that I wouldn't have been aware of back then was maybe those spinsters preferred the company of other women and were forced by the norms of the time to life their lives alone or hidden from public view.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

@MikeD: Regarding what you said about the spinster, she would get her drubbing later in the novel (and film version of) Good Luck Miss Wyckoff, in which the lady of the title is feeling lonely and lacking (male) human companionship, as well as sex, and is encouraged to get some by her GP. She gets the latter, but not the former, and supposedly feels liberated by the experience.

@Steven: With streaming making itself felt, what TCM is now may not be here for long.

10:33 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer speculates on the inner life of Miss Dove, and ones like her he's known:

I had a "Miss Dove" in my life. Her name was Susan Parsons and she taught the third grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Levittown, Pennsylvania. She had a stern manner and a severe expression, tolerated no nonsense, and was not adverse to pulling ears or hair to obtain a student's undivided attention or to emptying desks on the floor as encouragement to neatness and order. This last lesson did not stick with me, but I came to realize how drawing a pussy willow could reveal a beauty I hadn't suspected that existed or how words could be used to convey meaning or even touch a heart. The contents of my desk might have ended up on the floor, but when she found me reading Collodi's "Pinnochio," though the class was busy with a lesson, she did not chastise me but only said that it was a wonderful story, but for another time. When I told her that her appearance reminded me of Abraham Lincoln, that stern visage softened. She understood that it was my way of saying that her face was beautiful.

I never found more satisfaction in my studies than in her class, nor appreciated any higher purpose in them until many years later, when I went away to a small college in a small southern town.

Watching "Good Morning, Miss Dove" on TCM the other night, however, I found something artificial and off-putting about it. There seemed to be a need to demonstrate that Miss Dove, behind her no-nonsense manner and circumscribed personal life, was really quite content and even fulfilled. This was largely through the actions of the other characters in response to hers, in a celebration of her life that went well beyond what one might have expected of such people. It indicated that our reward is found not so much in our hearts as in what others may think of us. Such is success, evidently.

For those who have lived life and experienced disappointment and loss, there may be compensations in dedicating one's self to a good and useful purpose, especially where children are concerned, but I don't believe that there is true contentment. It is more likely that hopes or desires which cannot be fulfilled have been sublimated toward the accomplishment of other tasks and obligations. The wound remains, unhealed by the regard of others, no more than a stone is wet beneath the surface by the river. Goodness and love have not been abandoned, but the reward lies in serving them, apart from what others might say.

As touching as the movie is in places, for the way in which it resonates with shared experiences--that is, with those of us have grown up in small towns--and as splendid as Jennifer Jones' performance is--often suggesting in a subtle shading of expression the feelings the words of the screenplay do not convey--it would have been truer and even more affecting, had it suggested that what was celebrated in the life of Miss Dove had not come without great price, for which the cheers of others was payment in another currency altogether.

4:18 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Part of the appeal of films like this is the increasingly fairy tale idea of roots: Having the same teacher as your siblings and even your parents; going through your school years with the same cohort of chums you still know as an adult; and a prosperous but slow-growing community where seemingly most of the kids stay in town and find mates and careers. And everybody is fundamentally decent, in agreement with each other, and lucky.

On a slightly separate track is the Olde Tyme Americana epitomized in films like MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and eventually made real with Disneyland's Main Street. Compare ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON, a period film that doesn't wallow in nostalgia, with STRAWBERRY BLONDE, practically a theme park of quaint gingerbread scenic design, Keystone cops and old songs. This genre includes POPPY, THE OLD FASHIONED WAY, LADY AND THE TRAMP, EXCUSE MY DUST, POLLYANNA, IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, SUMMER MAGIC, CENTENNIAL SUMMER, HELLO DOLLY and so on. SO DEAR TO MY HEART doesn't quite qualify, since its sentimental rural setting isn't bathed in period glamour and collectibles.

I'm a big fan of these films, even though their world is about as real as the Universal monsters' middle Europe or the G-rated Old West with its spiffy, fresh-painted towns and elaborately trimmed saloons.

6:19 PM  

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