World War II, Pandemics and Tears

Obviously, in times of wars, epidemics and catastrophes – after the first shock waves subside – it is human nature to do one of many things… Tighten your belts and do whatever needs to be done in the given circumstances; hole up in any available safe place; have a nervous breakdown; or take a very deep breath and pick up a book/check the local cinema…I’m not being facetious here!

factory smlAs a child in WWII, in between evacuation, separation: Dad in the Royal Air Force, Mum working in an ammunition factory, whenever there was the slightest opportunity… Mum and I would sidle off to the cinema to escape the realities of the dangerous world we found ourselves locked in. Who knew that an evil lunatic – seen in newsreels ranting and raving his dangerous rhetoric- would prove to be the death of countless millions of souls around the globe. And what a life lesson it was to me to learn just how adaptable, ingenious, courageous and usually kind, people really were, although I couldn’t fully evaluate or appreciate it then.

What a balm books and films were then. The siren could wail and cause disquiet and concern , but – at first – us children could never imagine what the adults could foresee. Whether one stayed in or went out, it was like playing Russian Roulette, so a trip to that dark cavern where the silver screen would totally change our world for a few, delicious hours, was a huge treat.

1930s-usa-snow-white edit smlI was hooked by ‘the Pictures’ from the mind-boggling time I saw my first film: Walt Disney’s “Snow White.” Like countless other children, I fell in love with the seven dwarves and Snow White, and had nightmares courtesy the witch. The film was released just before the war started. And who could resist the childish charms of the charismatic Shirley Temple pictures, or the quirky, endearing Charlie Chaplin and clever, dead-pan antics of Buster Keaton?

janeeyre1944Once in Wales, dear Aunt Sal held my hand as singer Nelsen Eddy sang “I’ll See You –again…” to Jeanette McDonald from the clouds, having been tragically killed, and I thought my heart would break in two…But, if I could pick two films which had my emotions more firmly in their grip, they would be Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” and “All Quiet on the Western Front.” The latter – being an anti-war film – was so moving; the end so devastating…it deeply affected me. The book “Jane Eyre” on the other hand, affected me even more than the film. I read it aged 13 just after I met my best friend Sheila (Slim) Devo, an enigmatic, elfin-like girl with a huge personality. In the book, Jane’s friend died in the dreadful school they attended and – with my hormones all over the place – I imagined losing my new friend, and it floored me.

As for books, there are far too many to mention, but one which seems to link in with the present pandemic had a profound affect on me. It was Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities.” It started:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the Spring of hope; it was the winter of despair.”

twocitiesSuch an insightful piece of writing. Set in London and Paris in1859 during the French Revolution, a French doctor Alexandre Manette, having served an 18 year imprisonment, is released and goes to live in London with the daughter, Lucie, he has never met. The story is dark and complicated. They find themselves back in Paris. There are two men in love with Lucie and she marries Charles Damay, a French émigré, who is tried for treason against the British Crown; eventually found guilty and sentenced to be guillotined. Lucie’s other suitor, Sydney Carton, bears a striking resemblance to Damay, while an evil, blood-lust character called Madam Defarge is shot while up to skulduggery. In the mean-time, the selfless hero of the day, Sydney Carton, drugs Damay in the prison and changes places with him. Before he ‘goes bravely to the chop’ he states: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Forgive me for revealing the denouement. It left me a helpless, sodden mess… I do seem to enjoy a good cry!!

What about YOU? What films/books left you emotionally drained?

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2020

30 thoughts on “World War II, Pandemics and Tears

  1. Liz Gauffreau 31/05/2020 / 12:38 pm

    Your post really brings home what a treat it was to go to the movies in the days before cable TV and streaming movie services. The movie that immediately comes to mind that brought on the tears is “Out of Africa.” Back in the ’80s, my husband and I had the VHS tape, and we would play it on a regular basis and have a cry-fest on the couch. It disconcerted our daughter’s little friends to no end to witness it.

    • joylennick 31/05/2020 / 4:58 pm

      Thank you, Liz. I recall weeping watching “Out of Africa.” I listen to Classic FM on the TV a lot and they play the music from the film, which is really moving. Keep well.

      • Liz Gauffreau 01/06/2020 / 3:37 am

        I think I need to watch it again. It’s been a while. Take care, Joy.

  2. olganm 31/05/2020 / 1:06 pm

    There have been quite a few books over the years, and movies as well, but what comes to mind at the moment is Little Women, both, the book and several of the film versions I’ve watched. The book was a firm favourite of mine since I was quite young and Jo’s character inspiration for becoming a writer, and although I know exactly what’s going to happen, I’ll cry every time, and it does not matter which version of the movie I watch either. I’ve watched the recent one not long ago, and yes, I cried again. Thanks Joy! Keep safe!

    • joylennick 31/05/2020 / 5:16 pm

      Oh I well remember seeing “Little Women” when young, and it made me less selfish. I recall scouting around for second-hand clothes to give to the poorer souls I knew. I also saved my comics for a large family. And it was certainly a tear jerker.

  3. Darlene 31/05/2020 / 4:28 pm

    Movies and books have always been a wonderful escape. We lived on a farm, about one hour from the nearest city with a movie theatre, so we didn’t get to see many movies. But I will never forget the evening, after chores, when my dad took us into the city to see Old Yeller. We all cried, including my big cowboy dad! Another movie that I recall was Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender. My grandfather, who lived in the city, was babysitting my aunt and me and decided to take us to the drive-in theatre where the movie was playing. My aunt and I cried and cried when our hero died at the end. We were about 8 or 9 years old. I still get weepy when I hear the song. xo

  4. joylennick 31/05/2020 / 5:31 pm

    Yeehar, Darlene! That must have been such a treat for you. There were so many tear-jerker films around years ago. Now there seem to be a pre-dominance of violent, dystopian offerings which certainly don’t appeal to me. x

  5. robertawrites235681907 31/05/2020 / 7:58 pm

    This is a lovely post, Joy. My mother often mentioned how she went to the movies with her siblings during the war. They also did some lovely activities at Sunday School. A war is different to this pandemic as people could be together and support each other. The separation is the worst part of this Covid-19 pandemic. Stay well, Joy.

  6. joylennick 31/05/2020 / 9:13 pm

    Bless you, Roberta, although we were separated for long periods – to Wales and once to Derbyshire, with the school – when we were together, it was always special as she was such a fun person. I know you are close to your mother, which is lovely. Take care. Hugs xx

  7. CarolCooks2 01/06/2020 / 3:58 am

    A lovely snapshot of times past, Joy..my mother grew up during the war and often tells us tales of when they were evacuated and when my grandmother had evacuees they also had each other which although I am lucky as my son and two children are with us during this…Lily happened to be staying when the lockdown came and tells me she has another month before she needs to go back to the village…it must be awful for people who are on their own…Stay well and safe Joy 🙂 x

  8. joylennick 01/06/2020 / 7:50 am

    Thank you for reading, Carol and your kind remark. Husband and I keep a look-out for a few women who are alone at this worrying time. It’s easing a lot this week, although our area of Spain has listened, heeded and faired well compared to the cities.It is heart-breaking what some people have been through. One daughter-in-law, who lost her father in Madrid, couldn’t visit or arrange his funeral, bless her. Let’s hope this pendemic loses its grip soon. Take good care, Carol. It’s great that you have family with you. Luckily, two of our three sons live nearby Virtual hugs. x

  9. D. Wallace Peach 01/06/2020 / 5:38 pm

    What a moving post, Joy. I could relate, not to your specific memories, but to the feelings that films and books evoked at different times in my life. They are so powerful and the ones that we remember best are those that seemed to have appeared in our lives at just the right time when we feel their messages to our core. Thanks for sharing. Be well. ❤

  10. joylennick 01/06/2020 / 6:14 pm

    Thank you, Diana. Yes, there are many more memorable films and books that left their mark. I bet “Little Women” had an effect on many girls and women too. Also “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” another powerful film. Take care. Hugs x

  11. dgkaye 02/06/2020 / 4:07 am

    Seems we are Kleenex girls Joy. I love those old war movies, but nothing like a good Streisand movie like Funny Girl. which I watched again the other night. That broken love story still gets me even after the 50th time of watching lol . Hugs ❤ xx

  12. joylennick 02/06/2020 / 9:38 am

    Hi Kleenex Girl… I have seen Funny Girl around four times and loved it each time. Barbra’s incredible; what a voice and talent! My singing’s like caterwauling. At an audition (for being in Mother Goose), around nine, I had to sing “Over the Rainbow” and can still hear the producer yelling NEXT! I was chosen to be in the chorus of dancers instead. – that I could do! Thems were the days…Take care. Hugs xx

    • dgkaye 04/06/2020 / 12:27 am

      Omg Joy. I was just about to say when he called ‘next’ he could have shattered your self-esteem. But I was glad you finished with saying they gave you the chorus dancer spot. The right thing to do. So, therefore, no Kleenex required. LOL. Hugs back! ❤ xx

  13. Lovely post Joy and brought back times of challenge when a good movie or book took you out of yourself and gave you a boost. For me it was the musicals… I have pressed to share on my blog later this afternoon..hugsxx

  14. joylennick 03/06/2020 / 4:14 pm

    Gracias, Sally, Oh, mum and I and Eric and I were suckers for musicals too. We adored ‘Oliver’ and ‘West Side’ in particular (mega!) and so many others. In my 20’s, I was in a very good production of ‘Carousel’ – not singing (am a caterwauler) but dancing in the chorus, and loved it. My best friend, Sheila Devo, was a good actress and had a big role, as she COULD sing, Hugs xx

  15. Jacquie Biggar 03/06/2020 / 7:57 pm

    I love that you and your mother found escape at the movies, Joy. It must have been a frightening time for her. A couple of movies that stayed with me from childhood are, Where the Red Fern Grows, about two hound dogs- https://youtu.be/s59fftn3PTU
    And Born Free- a 1966 British drama film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, …
    My heart burst with joy and sadness over both of these films.

    • joylennick 03/06/2020 / 11:15 pm

      Many thanks for reading, Jacquie I too loved Born Free, and the tears flowed…Many hours of magic were spent in cinemas. It was a real escape… x

  16. tidalscribe 03/06/2020 / 9:31 pm

    We were just talking about A Tale of Two Cities the other day, a quiz question I think and trying to remember how the big swap came about. My mother was always quoting from books and films and ‘It’s a far far better thing’ was one of her favourites.

  17. joylennick 03/06/2020 / 11:19 pm

    Hi Tidalscribe, Thank you for reading my post. I loved so many of Dickens’ books years ago, and Oliver made a memorable, wonderful film too. Cheers. ..

  18. Tandy | Lavender and Lime 04/06/2020 / 9:20 am

    Our cinemas are closed so that is not an escape for anyone right now. I read a lot but have not been emotionally drained by a novel. I have been moved though – by the writing of Richard Bach. Trust all is well with you? Stay safe 🙂

    • joylennick 04/06/2020 / 11:51 am

      Thanks, Tandy. Wishing you happy cooking. Keep well. OK here. Cheers! x

  19. Marje @ Kyrosmagica 04/06/2020 / 9:43 am

    I watched Contagion which felt so true to what’s happening now, frighteningly so. At the beginning of lockdown I definitely lost my reading mojo but it has returned now. I have been writing more than usual though – lockdown diaries, short stories, flash and poetry which I will be releasing sometime – the title – This Is Lockdown.

  20. joylennick 04/06/2020 / 11:47 am

    Thanks, Marje, Oddly, I didn’t read much either and ideas seemed dormant..Back on track now. Hopefully! We’ve just been into town to see solicitors and most people are still wearing their masks here in Spain, which is as it should be.Heart-felt hope that an antidote will be found soonest. Take good care. Hugs xx

  21. Miriam Hurdle 05/06/2020 / 8:14 am

    I enjoyed reading this touching post, Joy. As a kid, I loved Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. Later on I fell in love with musical and watched South Pacific, West Side Story, Carousel and many others. As for movie, I watched The Pianist many times.

    During this pandemic, one thing I missed the most was to be with my daughter for the birth of my second granddaughter. Nora is 10 weeks old now.

  22. joylennick 05/06/2020 / 10:44 am

    Hi, Thanks Miriam. How wonderful to have another grand-daughter. A warm welcome little Nora, may the stars light your way!. Sadly. despite having three great sons, I have no grand-children, more’s the pity. I worked with children for ten years and am very fond of babies and toddlers. Enjoy! Here in Spain – touch wood – things are much better, especially in our region of the Costa Blanca. No new cases in four days now, thankfully. Stay safe. Hugs x

  23. Jennie 06/06/2020 / 4:08 am

    What a wonderful post, Joy. Your memories of WWII always have me glued. And now you brilliantly relate that to today, when people feel the same way, scared and hanging on to family rituals. I can tell you that Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals rip my heart out while making an important statement about social acceptance. I know Sally feels the same way. There are other movies, “Imitation of Life” with Lana Turner in 1959 is a classic that makes me cry my eyes out. It’s that good.

  24. joylennick 06/06/2020 / 9:06 am

    Thank you so much Jennie! It’s great when people – especially writers – react and dig into their own memories. It’s very uniting….What we do without music and words, eh?! The honey of life, apart from love of course…Cheers. x

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