A kiss before dying

My interpretation of Susie Bright’s complex feelings before Election Tuesday, as she reported them on Facebook yesterday by re-posting her FB image from 11/5/14 (cropped here to focus on the crucial bits):

(#1) From a theatrical poster for the 1969 cowboy dinosaur movie The Valley of Gwangi: on the one hand, exhilaration (above, on being kissed by, omigod, the young James Franciscus in cowboy gear; in the election, on exercising the power of the vote, which has been a big thing for me since 1961); on the other hand, fear of looming devastation (above, in that rapacious death-dealing giant reptile, a vicious allosaurus; in the election, on what could happen if (delusional and malevolent) brutes and bullies take over the government) — is this a kiss before dying?

Interpreting #1. I’m not claiming that this is how everyone should understand #1 as applying to Election Night, or that this is how SB understands it (she might well have her own mix of apprehension and wonder in mind), only that these are the feelings I get from it.

The kiss before dying. A pop-literary allusion; from Wikipedia:

A Kiss Before Dying is a 1953 novel written by Ira Levin. It won the 1954 Edgar Award, for Best First Novel.

The book has been adapted twice for the cinema: first in 1956 and later in 1991.

Now a modern crime classic, Levin’s story centers on a charming, intelligent man who will stop at nothing, even murder, to get where he wants to go

I read it when I was, oh, 13, and still remember some scenes vividly. Here, I’m mining it for its title, not for its content — though the exercise of raw mortal power over other people is one of its themes.

James Franciscus. Kissed by James Franciscus! Here he is in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970, a year after The Valley of Gwangi):

(#2) Franciscus was a moviestar-handsome blond, a genuine athlete, with a lean physique, naturally projecting nice-guy easy masculinity (though he could play villains if that’s what the script called for) and steamy sexiness

Two brief notes on the actor. From Wikipedia:

James Grover Franciscus (January 31, 1934 – July 8, 1991) was an American actor, known for his roles in feature films and in six television series: Mr. Novak, The Naked City, The Investigators, Longstreet, Doc Elliot, and Hunter.

And from IMDb:

In the mid 1980s, he became dissatisfied with the roles offered to him and turned his attention to screen writing. As co-founder of Omnibus Productions, he produced many classic films, such as Heidi (1968), Jane Eyre (1970), David Copperfield (1970), Kidnapped (1971), and The Red Pony (1973).

And in the movie. From Wikipedia:

The Valley of Gwangi is a 1969 American fantasy Western film [about cowboys and dinosaurs] produced by Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen, directed by Jim O’Connolly, written by William Bast, and starring James Franciscus, Richard Carlson, and Gila Golan.

Creature stop-motion effects were by Harryhausen, the last dinosaur-themed film that he animated.

Overall, it appears that the film is something of a mess, but with some great stuff in it. I don’t know where Susie Bright found the poster I cropped for #1. Here’s the standard poster in English (on the cover of a DVD of the movie), which has Franciscus with Golan in his arms (but not kissing her) while fending off the allosaur with fire:


And here is Franciscus kissing Golan in the movie (a screen shot from an intimate moment, rather than the cowboy-gets-the-girl shot in #1):


Voting. Since we’ve both written a fair amount about it, I can say with some assurance that Susie’s experience of adolescence and mine were stunningly different — just to start: born in 1958 vs. in 1940, female vs. male, Los Angeles vs. Pennsylvania Dutch country. And then there was her activism. From Wikipedia:

As a teenager in the 1970s, Susie Bright was active in various left-wing progressive causes, in particular the feminist, civil rights, and anti-war movements. She was a member of the high school underground newspaper The Red Tide and served as the plaintiff suing the Los Angeles Board of Education for the right of minors to distribute their own publications without prior censorship or approval. (Judgement in favor of Plaintiff)

Not me in the 1950s; my activism came later.

Still, we both came out of our teenage years with a passionate belief in the importance of the vote. I turned 21 (then the age for voting) early in September 1961, immediately registered to vote in Princeton NJ and cast my first ballot there that November (an off-year election, but that wasn’t important). Well, we were in for some seriously turbulent times, and I voted on, in Cambridge MA, Urbana IL, Columbus OH, and Palo Alto CA, as I moved from one university to another, and through a series of very different local and state politics.

When my mail-in ballot came to me this year, despite my days being largely taken up with my afflictions and their treatments, I had already spent a serious chunk of time studying all of the election information, so I filled out the ballot and put it in the mail the next day. Our California ballots are often bizarre and baffling, but it’s my job to cope with them as best I can. This is serious stuff.

I’m sure that Susie feels the same way. No doubt she’s been out on the street in Santa Cruz passionately telling everybody how important voting is.

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