Come September

Friends and readers of my vintage would recall that Come September is a 1961 Hollywood movie billed as a romantic comedy, directed by Robert Mulligan and starring Rock Hudson, Gina Lollobrigida, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. There is a theme song of the same title with catchy, rocky or jive music, sung and played by Bobby Darin. The music was probably more popular than the lyrics and it stayed on top of the pop chart for some time.  Sadly, though inevitably, all but one of the characters I listed have since gone before us, leaving memories of the era which I had called the formative years in my first memoir.

Robert Mulligan (1923 – 2008) was a very famous director and producer, best known for his humanist dramas, including To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Summer of ’42 (1971), and Same Time, Next Year (1978). Mulligan was certainly rather successful and skillful in his presentation of characters and relations between men and women and their primordial instincts. I have since taken a non-judgmental stance of the primary plots which ran through the dramas, even though I had been fascinated by these movies when I was younger.

Rock Hudson (1925 – 1985) thrived in the days when it took good looks and being tall and handsome to be a successful actor, rather than good acting skills. Gina was reportedly attracted to take up the leading role in the film because of Hudson. Well, he died young, before he was 60, again reportedly of AIDS-related complications. Bobby Darin (1936 – 1973) died even younger, at 37 after a highly publicized marriage to Sandra Dee whom he met on the screening of Come September, but which ended in divorce and less than pleasant publicity and outcome. Sandra Dee (1942 – 2005) began her career as a child model and had been a reasonably successful actress in the early days, but after the divorce with Darin, things turned for the worse. Her life was marred by alcoholism, mental illness, and other medical conditions including anorexia nervosa.

On the other hand, the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida is now 94 and is still going strong, having taken on a second career as a photojournalist. She was one of the highest profile European actresses of the Fifties and the early Sixties, an era in which she was portrayed internationally as a sex symbol. Today, along with Sophia Loren (now 86), Gina is among some of the last living, high profile international actors from that Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. In the Seventies, Lollobrigida achieved a scoop by gaining access to Fidel Castro for an exclusive interview. She has continued as an active supporter of Italian and Italian American causes, particularly the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). In 2008, she received the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award at the Foundation’s Anniversary Gala. In 2013, she sold her jewelry collection, and donated the nearly US$5 million from the sale to benefit stem-cell therapy research. (Source: Wikipedia)

The moral of the story may be somewhat like this. Good looks and good fortune won’t be good enough to last one long enough. One certainly needs good health, good friends and solid skills. I have been looking at the lives of women actresses and singers who have lived long and well, including Sophia Loren, Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand. I say all of them, like Gina Lollobrigida, have done well. All have worked very hard and in their own way, have left their marks in the world. I have read both memoirs of Julie Andrews recently and was more than impressed by her full and colorful life, and may I add quickly, it was not the colourful bits that matter most, it’s how and what she has learnt from the experience and the processes. I accidentally watched the full length concert of Barbra’s 1994 New Year Concert on YouTube. It was wonderful experience and entertainment, and it was free. I know most of the songs she picked and I could empathize the choreographies she had selected. Su was impressed that I knew the words of most of those songs; and she began to wonder whether I had spent more time studying what HKU taught me or learning the songs of those eras. In response, I asked her to re-read my memoir. Talking of my memoir, I gave out seven copies last Saturday, one for each table as table prizes, at the Lodge Ladies Night. Three of the winners came to me for autographs afterwards. Not bad; and I was pleased.

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