Columnist Jim Cahillane: Falling in love with love

  • People walk a electronic board reading “Welcome Back to Broadway!” after cancellations of the Broadway shows due to COVID-19 cases on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, in New York. AP

Published: 9/20/2022 5:14:18 PM
Modified: 9/20/2022 5:13:39 PM

In September, we celebrated our wedding anniversary, and a few birthdays with a picnic in Look Park. Following three years of COVID-19 restrictions it felt great to greet dozens of loved ones for the pure joy of hugging each other.

In 1942, my parents took me to New York City. I was nine. The trip changed my life. At first, I fell in love with Judy Garland in the MGM hit, “For Me and My Gal.” Garland played opposite Broadway’s Gene Kelly in his first movie.

In Nora Ephron’s film, “Sleepless in Seattle,” Rosie O’Donnell tells her friend, Meg Ryan, “You don’t want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie!”

In days of impressionable youth, that appeared like a plan.

Change the word movie to musical and you own the last 70 years of my life. Romance is different than in 1952. I may appear old, but, inside I’m evolving. Charles Darwin was deeper into his research than I was to the effects of popular music. The strangest of colleagues, we share an interest in natural selection. He for plants and animals, me for life partner choices.

After falling in love and marrying, psychologist Arthur Aron sought an area of study. His own experience of falling in love was, he found, under-examined and chose it as a subject. His research produced 36 personal questions. Their purpose was finding insights to our complex existence.

Of the 36 questions, number six asks: “If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?”

How to solve that one when you’re 20? Impossible, but not at 89. The simple answer is ‘both,” but, no, you have to choose, and the professor wants an answer. The Beatles got away with “will you still love me when I’m 64?” Ninety is a quarter century beyond 64, rebutting worries from our 60s.

I enjoy reading book reviews, if not always reading actual books. When I do get into a book its more often a biography. I’ve just finished reading Rachel Syme’s New Yorker review of Kristen Marguerite Doidge’s new book titled “Nora Ephron: A Biography.” Nora admired the late columnist and wit, Dorothy Parker. She wanted to be her. I’ve felt close to Nora Ephron after reading her books about love, romance, and its mysteries. Also, because Nora was a classmate of Northampton’s Marcia Burick, whose life deserves to be remembered. Marcia passed away this year at her Wellesley class reunion. Because she was a matchless friend, we survivors know that we’ll never have another like her.

Falling in love is easy; I’ve done it hundreds of times. In my case it’s not catting about, a forgotten phrase, but my heart melting at a lyric or weeping when a film strikes a chord. The ” If I loved you” duet by Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae from Carousel is perfect. Also, Billy Bigelow’s eight-minute-long soliloquy when he learns that he’s going to be a father. Billy sings “My boy Bill” joyously imagining raising a son, suddenly realizing that he and Julie’s child might be a girl. How could a carnival barker like Billy cope with raising a beauty who’s, “a tintype of her mother?” Sadly, Billy’s dreams end in the trying.

Jack Viertel’s, “The Secret Life of the American Musical,” delves into the form: The King and I scene of, “Shall we Dance” “tears up theatergoers because they see not just a couple finally in love, but also two societies finally seeing each other with loving eyes … in a single dance the whole world might change, even move forward.” It echoes current history wrought by the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and a bloody 21st century “war in Europe.”

Viertel views crashing civilizations. “Western social dancing in ‘Shall we Dance?’ carries the weight of cultural imperialism as a world cracks open in front of us — in song and dance.”

The luckiest people in today’s world are those whose lives are enriched with songs of love in Broadway and Hollywood musicals. With a cell phone, young lovers of 2022 can call up the love songs of the past via YouTube or TV’s on-demand. I recall all the shows that I’ve enjoyed on stage and in films.

In 1954, we saw a Pal Joey on a London stage. It first starred Gene Kelly on Broadway. Decades later we made it to Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. In 1972, it was 1776 in Washington, D.C. Stubby Kaye played Ben Franklin when the show toured at UMass Amherst. One day Ben Franklin came by our dealership to thank us for loaning him a car. Meeting Stubby Kaye is the closest I ever came to a film star. His, “Sit down you’re rocking the boat,” in Guys and Dolls stops the show.

God bless The Valley Light Opera Company for Gilbert & Sullivan, plus! Your to-do list: Singing in the Rain, My Fair Lady, The Producers, An American in Paris, Kinky Boots, The Music Man, Chicago, Porgy and Bess, On the Town, High Society, Show Boat, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Gypsy, The Roar of the Greasepaint, Kiss Me Kate, A Chorus Line, Oliver and Godspell.

Jim Cahillane lives in Williamsburg and can be reached at Thank you to family visitors Paul and Jan Stone of Cambridgeshire, England for crossing the ocean to celebrate our 70-year US/UK special relationship.

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