It’s funny, how my mind works. One recent Sunday night my husband
said, “your favorite Rhode Islander is on TV tonight.” To that I
replied, “Van Johnson?” OK, I know I lost most of you right there.
Van Johnson was born in 1916 in Newport and died this past December.
They featured him on the remember those who died this year segment of
the Oscars. He made tons of films, but I’ll just name two you should
see, Brigadoon and The Caine Mutiny. But I digress. Jim was just
reminding me that Family Guy was on. You see, that cartoon on FOX
takes place in Rhode Island. My parents and my sister Judy were all
born in Rhode Island. Get the connection?
And yet I could go on about Van Johnson. He was in a car accident
while filming a movie in the 1940’s. Got a metal plate in his head.
That’s why he was not eligible for service during WWII. Which
explains why he made so many war movies after all the song and dance
movies with Esther Williams and June Allyson.
I have no doubt some people’s eyes have glazed over at this point.
They’ve never seen Neptune’s Daughter and don’t remember the Depends
commercials. But that’s neither here nor there. What I’m getting at
it, I don’t just know about Marilyn Monroe.
I have been, accused I guess is the word, of being a Marilyn freak.
And that is because, yes, I know, we have the same hair. There’s a
vague resemblance. I can intentionally pull off a Marilyn look no
problem. I also found out I can look like Ann Jillian. Look her up
while you’re trolling www.imdb.com (the Internet Movie Database).
It’s just that as I have lost weight over the past few years and it
seems I have turned into a Marilyn clone in many people’s eyes.
Actually, I cannot convince my daughters that I am not her. But
they’re 2 ½ and 3 ½ and just looking at photos on DVD’s so really,
what do they know? Anna Grace tried to shut me down when I told her
she was not looking at a photo of her mother. She said I had the same
shoes. Conversation was over.
But I always knew things about Marilyn, and many other Old Hollywood
types. I know Travilla designed things like her most famous dresses.
That includes the white one from Seven Year Itch and the pink dress
from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
By the same token, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, one of my favorite
movies, is directed by Howard Hawks who directed His Girl Friday,
another great film. And that one has Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.
You want some great dialogue; you watch a Howard Hawks film. See? I
don’t just know Marilyn trivia.
I know that Bogart’s line “Here’s looking at you, kid” was improvised
on the set of Casablanca. Another film that you should know. Have
you noticed a theme?
Oh, sure, I can do more up-to-date films. But it’s really much more
impressive if the people in the movies are dead. You would expect me
to know something about a film in the theater right now. You would
expect me to be able to name a movie in the theater right now.
OK, that’s not fair and I resent it. So I spend most of my time
watching Turner Classic Movies and their documentaries. I can’t help
it if I remember things that do not make the world a better place. I
did tell one of my friends that Tom Jones sings the theme song to Duck
Dodgers in the 24th Century in case it should ever come up in
conversation. You never know when something like that will come in
It’s like when I run through the entire best picture Oscars before I
go to sleep at night. Starting with the silent picture Wings. Don’t
you do that?
Just the other day I was called a walking celebrity dictionary. All
because of a little Elizabeth Taylor trivia. Hey, these are the types
of things that come up in conversation with me. That and when is your
website www.thejanellen.com going live? To answer that—any second
I hope I have put to rest the idea that I have a Marilyn fixation.
What I really have is a trivia fixation and the inability to put
things out of my head. I find the bits and pieces fascinating. It’s
the best part of the cookie jar.