" A little bitty tear let me down, spoiled my act as a clown. I had it made up not to wear a frown, but a little bitty tear let me down"
Recently I was in southern Illinois when I saw a sign that said Newton. I had to smile as I had been playing some music on my car cd player by probably the most famous person to be buried at Big Mound Cemetery which is very near Newton, Illinois.
That person would be the legendary folk singer, actor Burl Ives. Ives was born near Newton and died April 14, 1995. Ives attended what now is Eastern Illinois University for a short while but dropped out of college in the 1930s' to wander the country and play his music. In 1940 he had a popular radio show,The Wayfaring Stranger, on WBOW radio in my home town of Terre Haute, Indiana.
In 1958 he won an Oscar for his role as Big Daddy in one of my favorite movies "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof." The movie also featured Paul Newman (Brick) and rather young a very attractive (Maggie) Elizabeth Taylor. Wow- what a couple they were and they also played.
The movie involves a troubled wealthy family who live on a large country estate in Mississippi. Ives plays the old intimidating patriarch of the family. Brick (Newman) one of his two sons is an aging football legend who struggles with alcohol and is married to Maggie (Taylor). They are childless and have a turbulent marriage.
Big Daddy learns that he does not have long to live and there is a scene in the movie where they have a heated exchange where Big Daddy describes to Brick the tension that exist between one being very wealthy and the real significance of life.
"The human animal is a beast that must eventually die, and if he has money, he buys and buys and he hopes one of the things he buys is life everlasting." To quote Big Daddy.
What Big Daddy is really saying is his life is coming to an end and he wants to have had some significance. One of the things he wanted was grandkids. He did not want to be forgotten as reflected in a closing line he says to his son:
"I want a part of me to keep on living. I won't have my life end in the grave."
As I drove on making my way to Lawrenceville and eventually Olney I recalled that line from the movie. "I don't want my life to end at the grave."
"I said I'd laugh when you left me, pull a funny as you went out the door"
But a little bitty tear let me down"
Who among us does not hope that our lives, our influence will live on after we are gone?
September 16, 2017