The clock was running down on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was time. Resolutely, I stifled the sniffles, pulled myself together and phoned home. I knew instantly something was wrong. It was the way my mother lifted the receiver: ‘What’s wrong, Mum?’ I had never heard the like of the wail of utter desolation in which my mother declared: ‘Laurie didn’t marry Jo – again!’ So it was true. We sobbed together, unapologetically.
Love – what is it good for, eh? Clearly spreading cinematic misery far and wide and disturbing the peace of quiet Sunday afternoons! This shared emotional trauma was occasioned by watching a television matinee of Little Women. It was the classic 1949 version with the incomparable June Allyson as Jo and Peter Lawford as Laurie giving life to the unendurable conundrum of the love that ought to have been but is never fulfilled.
And no, I’m sorry Louisa M Alcott, your Little Women may be a thinly veiled version of your own life, but who can accept with complacency that Laurie ends up with the insufferable Amy, or that Jo is truly happy and reconciled to life with the improbable Prof Bhaer, even when embodied by Rossano Brazzi! As far as my mother and I are concerned it is eternally, perpetually, repeatedly just not on. Except, of course, for the inescapable fact that it is unalterably always just so. That’s the movies for you – love fixed and imperishable as death, with death being the other stock in trade of cinematic trauma.