Coincidences….

Funny how things seem to coincidentally happen.

The other day, I decided to have yet another search for a book I had read a LONG time ago, 1981 to be precise, and then promptly forgot the title for.

I have done Googles previously and found nothing. This time I was lucky and located it first try!

The book was non-fiction by a wilderness walker who comes across a cave in Nevada which had been inhabited, circa WWI. Intrigued by the mystery-man who had once lived there, he starts a search through records for the man. The title should have been easy to find… book about a man living in a cave…. the title was, as I discovered, “The Man From The Cave” (by the late writer and wilderness walker, Colin Fletcher). However, in the pre-Google days, the book eluded me.

I will be seeking out a copy to re-read.

Fresh from that success, I turned on the TV last night and came across a film called “The Group”. This 1966 film is about a group of women who, in 1933, meet at college. They are members of “The Group”, a sort of unofficial, exclusive club. Their friendships stand the test of time, more or less, and the film follows them past graduation and into the world and their adult lives.

Despite the time during which the film was made and the time in which it is set, it manages to touch on some serious issues, such as birth control, pre-marital sex, miscarriage, lesbianism, spousal abuse, and mental illness — even breast-feeding — in a remarkably forthright manner. There is no moralizing over some of the issues which usually suffer at the hands of Hollywood scriptwriting and the characters rise above the stereotypical social mores one would expect to prevail.

Memorable segments which from the first time I watched the film (some time in the 1980s) were

  • the depiction of the heartbreak of Priss (Elizabeth Hartman) in failing over and over to produce a child for her overbearingly critical pediatrician husband (after the second miscarriage he states that it will give him a bad reputation), her joy at finally making it successfully through a pregnancy, only to find that Sloan plans on using the boy for his “radical” theories on child-rearing whether it is good for either mother or child or not. His theories on breastfeeding, while noble and nutritionally accurate, for instance, not only render her so nervous as to be incapable of managing to do it, they endanger the baby and only encourage Priss to fall back on bottlefeeding. Poor Priss is saddled with actually putting into practice the unworkable “experiments” and every failure is seen as hers, not his — watching weary Priss turning down an invitation for coffee while her son destroys the room behind her is excruciating
  • the frank heart-to-heart discussion between (cannot recall the character) and her mother over birth control –in the time period of the film it was illegal for unmarried women to obtain birth control– and her angst over “the appliance” which she managed to obtain at her mother’s insistence but left in disgust under a bench in the park. Her mother tells her that it strikes her that she doesn’t really love her boyfriend, a revelation she hadn’t actually considered
  • the discussion over women entering college in order to obtain their Mrs. (in order to find a husband)
The film, based on the Mary McCarthy book of the same name, has been called melodramatic, “shrill”, and glossed-over. To my mind, however, as a portrayal of a period in history where women were beginning to break down social, economic, and professional barriers and succeeding, and managing to dare to break a few Hollywood conventions, it is a pretty good film. It may have dispensed with a lot of the political discussion (McCarthy threw in a lot about Republican vs. Democrat political commentary) as well as much of the discussion of Communism, it has not been entirely dispensed with. Perhaps, had the film been made more recently, it might have more astutely dealt with certain issues. However, I would argue that we would have lost some of the Feminist timeliness that the 1960s reflected and I doubt our jaded viewpoint would allow justice to be been done with some of the issues. I highly recommend seeing the film, if only for Feminist historical perspective.

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