"I don't need an education: I'm going to be an actor!"
-- Pinocchio, to J. Cricket
"What's an actor need a conscience for, anyway?"
-- J. Cricket, to himself
James Lileks' Bleat for this past Monday [May 24] was a typically wide-ranging affair, but I was stopped cold by this photo that appears midway through:
This is a still from the 1935 Gable/Laughton version of Mutiny on the Bounty, and I know I have one reader [Hi, Bridget!] who will recognize immediately that this photograph depicts the actress Mamo in the role of Maimiti, Fletcher Christian's Tahitian beloved.
Mamo gets only one name in the Bounty credits, but she appears elsewhere in the late 30's -- always it seems as an Island Girl or Native Maiden or such -- under the name of Mamo Clark. The reason to tell you all this, however, is that I knew her some 40 years after Bounty as Mamo Rawley, the wife of James Rawley, better known to those of us who attended Granada Hills High School in the mid- to late 70's as "Mr. Rawley" or "J.R.," the drama teacher.
J.R. had an interesting history himself: he studied acting with the first wave of Moscow Art Theatre veterans to come to the U.S. bearing the "Method" of Stanislavski but had a distinctly spotty film and television career. His largest film role, I believe, is as "Dr. Johnson," part of the surgical team that allows the Creature from the Black Lagoon to breathe with lungs instead of gills in the 1956 sequel The Creature Walks Among Us; he can be seen very briefly cowering as a fearful elevator operator during the heist at the beginning of the original Steve McQueen version of The Thomas Crown Affair, etc. He had a recurring role on Bonanza as the telegraph operator in Carson City. Unfortunately, over the long course of that series only two telegrams ever needed to be delivered.
J.R.'s acting career serves as a reminder of what a challenge it is actually to make a living in that line of work. He was a fine and enthusiastic teacher, though. Under his influence, I was bitten by the acting bug for several years: I wound up playing the title roles in high school productions of Julius Caesar and The Man Who Came to Dinner and the Mayor in Gogol's The Inspector General and, when I went on to college, spent at least as much time hanging around the Dramatic Art department at Berkeley [Hi, Rick!] as I did in pursuing my English major. I had figured out by that point that the law pays rather more regularly than acting, but the hammy impulse remains with me still. This occasionally makes me the despair of our eldest son (age 16), but his brother (13) is usually amused. *Sigh*
So, Mamo it seems has served as a sort of Proustian madeleine carrying me back down the carefree paths of the past. [Hums quietly: Mem'ries light the corners of my mind/Misty water-colored mem'ries of the way we were . . . . (Fade out.)]