Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 1987

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Veronica Lake Effect

What is it about Veronica Lake that makes her so completely unlike all other 1940's blonde femme fatales? Something in her gaze reflects a sweet tender concern; something in her voice casts a gossamer warmth--the cinematic equivalent of a warm shoulder to weep yourself to sleep into-- even as her aura, face and beautiful blonde hair freeze you where you sit like a blast of Arctic air.

So many of her directors seemed determined to hide her beautiful hair in strict buns, or pulled under stupid hats and turbans. Perhaps her hairstyles reflected the tenseness and repression of the times. Veronica Lake's long blonde hair shone like a moon that could turn the tides, and so was kept locked up tight in buns of steel and bizarre hats. Repression hates changing tides. When Lake's hair was free it could wash all the sins of the depression and the war away, as in the amazing bathrobe scene of Sullivan's Travels (which is so aptly captured in Starlet Showcase). But when her hair was hidden, Alan Ladd sulked and Brian Donlevy and Joel MaCrea shot pained glances.

If my text is incoherent, forgive me. I've got a bad cold and am delirious... which I don't mind a bit with the cinematic ghost of Veronica Lake hovering above me on the TV screen. But what is it about her? Her voice always seems distant and far away, as if it was dubbed in later by the ghost of a flower. Rene Clair must have tried to access this supernatural power in I Married a Witch, because the film seems primed to take off into some alternate dimension. It never succeeds totally, but it spawned that TV show, Bewitched. Goddamn Dick York for his part in emasculating the male ego ideal of this great nation! Frederic March is at least a stronger force than Jimmy Stewart in Bell Book and Candle. Kim Novak has some of this weird Veronica Lake magic, but it's not the same brand.

Do you, dear reader, dare assume there are no such things as witches? Veronica Lake was a witch!!!! Maybe that's why she's such perfect company in the fires of a late November fever!

P.S. Here's a true fact about me: Some of my relatives (on my father's side) were tried and hung as witches in Salem, Mass, back in the day (Mary Easty was hung; Mary Edwards escaped). My great grandmother, who recently died at 107, and my grandmother, now 94, both have inherited some of this weird magical daemonic power that Veronica Lake had. Is this why we like some stars over others? Genetics? We feel emotions through cinema's stars as if they were vessels, proxies; stand-ins for our dream selves. Now let's presume that, on an unconscious level, you can connect yourself through the past to these moving images of people long dead... is that not itself a form of black magic? To connect your soul with that of Veronica Lake is to merge with the past, facilitating not just the common shallow depth unconscious drive of returning to the womb, but the deep end unconscious drive of merging with the womb behind your mom's womb, back further still, behind you great grandmother's womb, to all-seeing I am Womb, from which all beings come, and from which comes birth, thought, expression, action, life, death, retention, release, all just facets of the same ever-sparkling tinsel-toed diamond?

Imagine your own ancient ancestors who lived before telephones and electricity -- what would they think if they could see you now? They couldn't see you if they tried, and oh how they tried. They tried with crystal balls but they couldn't look that far ahead. But we can see them, all the way back when they were young and pretty. Just as I can connect to the gossamer image of Veronica Lake through my fevered viewing of This Gun for Hire, so we can see our own ancestors, and marvel at the pre-digital age. And if this is true, it is also and obviously true that future generations of ourselves are right now looking back at us, peering through the silvery veils of screening room time to marvel at the age of tools and celluloid and pixelated flesh; a time before all was pure thought; a time when man and machine were separate entities; a time before the cleansing hand of 2012 came and washed it all away until there was nothing, just the eternal blazing brilliance of her blond and wavy hair, the peaceful calm stillness of a Veronica Lake.


  1. A most excellent tribute to a most deserving screen goddess - or witch.

    I find it weird that our grandkids will be able to look back on us with the veil of changing technology. I mean sure, it will change, but it can't get much more "lifelike" - color, sound, even sharpness - than it is now. It's already weird to see young people in the 70s and now that now they are old - not just middle-aged, but old! (Think 28 in '71, 65 now). It will only get weirder as the gaps between decades became less discernable based on media alone.

  2. You got that right, brother. The thing I'm foreseeing is not a sharper picture, but the next step, complete immersion... it's the only logical move, inward. the chip in the brain, the jack behind the ear... it's only a matter of time.

    I was 4 in '71 and am 41 now, so I like to imagine being 41 in '71, and imagining growing up in the freaking 1940s! What? It's like puddle jumping, from there you can puddle jump back as far as the dawn of recorded history, slowly cementing your sense of self to the whole lineage of man, Bowman style.

  3. She wasn't a witch. She was a Buddha. An Enlightened Being. She was harmless to all. Loved them and accepted who they were as they were. She gave all she had and walked away. She was selfless to allow her beauty to fall away allowing the safety of women to come before her fame and fortune. She was filled with love like Hare Krishna. Krishna's lips are a pot of bliss as was her hair a waterfall of bliss. Much like Goddess Ganga, Goddess of Water that sits atop the head of God Shiva. She was more the Goddess Mirabai in my eyes as she drowned herself in sorrow and loss with acceptance. This is just a theory though. I cannot state it as a perfect truth. Buddhas surpass witches. :) Loads of love and prayers to you.