not in our stars, but in ourselves
For my inaugural post, I believe I’ll tell you all about my academic adviser when I was an undergraduate student at Bennington College. He was Steven Bach – author, bon vivant, former studio bigwig, and all-around great mentor.
By some fantastic stroke of luck, the powers-that-be at Bennington paired me with Steven as an adviser, since I listed “movies” as one of my many interests. I had also listed literature, French, history, education, music, and other fairly broad topics as my interests – but, bless them, the pile my file was thrown into was “movies.” And, almost completely randomly, I was assigned to Steven.
He was a one-man film department at Bennington. Ostensibly, he was part of the Literature department; and indeed, his straight Lit classes were as wonderful as anything. But he also ran regular film classes: a wide-ranging, year-long course in American film history; a screenwriting class; a class about musicals; and a class about the Weimar Republic – mostly an excuse to watch dirty movies and look at dirty pictures. Long ago, he was the senior vice president of production at United Artists; he even wrote a book about the disaster that was Heaven’s Gate. Somehow or other, he ended up at Bennington.
Oftentimes, he’d start the weekly screenings with a 20-minute gossip session about the stars involved. Since he’d worked in the industry for decades, he had LOTS of dirt. I am sure that most of it is untrue…but most of it is also pretty delicious. To wit: we were watching The Maltese Falcon one week, and he began by telling us about Mary Astor.
While still married, she began a torrid love affair with George S. Kaufman – and she was silly enough to keep a diary. Oh, Mary. Her husband found it, of course, and submitted it as evidence in the divorce trial. The only entry that wasn’t too obviously smutty to be read aloud in court said only this: “SEVENTEEN TIMES, MY GOD!”
It was quite easy for little 18-year-old Amelia to see that her original plans of studying hard and becoming a high school English teacher just wouldn’t work out. Who cares about Jane Eyre when Blonde Venus exists, after all? (Well, I still do, but shh.) I had always loved movies (who doesn’t, really), but being thrown together with Steven helped me to realize that even though it is impractical bordering on insane, even though it can only ever be a passion, even though it is built on fantasy and dreams and technologically simulated magic – talking about and reading about and writing about movies are about the only things I’m cut out for. And the only things I want to do.
And so I dedicate my first entry to you, Steven. I’m sure I was just a blip on your radar, just a small star in your firmament, but you are – and I’m not exaggerating here – exactly the sort of person I want to be. Hope you’re happy, wherever you are, and still shocking your American/English friends by taking them for strolls through the Schönfeldwiese.