I’m a big fan of Turner Classic Movies and when a flick falls into my wheelhouse I try to make a point of watching it. Such was the case recently with “The Last Time I Saw Paris”, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson. I have to admit that one reason I tuned in was because at 22 Taylor was very easy on the eyes. But the main plot concerned a failed writer, which somewhat defines yours truly, so that was my main purpose.
It didn’t hurt that “The Last Time I Saw Paris” was the film version of a novel by my favorite author, F. Scott Fitgerald, who in his lifetime also saw himself as something of a failure.
Johnson and Turner fall in love right at the end of World War II in Paris. He is a journalist and she is a bon vivant, taking after her scheming, broke father who never quite recovered from fighting in the First World War. Before marriage and during its early stages Taylor keeps up her profligate ways. Johnson on the other hand is serious and something of a stuffed shirt. Then they have a child and some Texas oil fields owned by the father which have been the family joke because they were barren begin to gusher. As a result, Taylor and Johnson reverse roles.
Taylor begins to be more serious. She pursues her husband and takes care of their daughter conscientiously. However, Johnson becomes a lush. He just can’t seem to deal with the constant reject letters from publishers. This wasn’t how he planned for his life to go. Johnson expected to be a noted novelist As a result, he rejects Taylor (how nutty can you be), spends a lot of time with divorcee Eva Gabor (nice, but not Lizzie) , and spends a lot of time partying and becoming inebriated.
For me, the plot of “The Last Time I Saw Paris” hinges on an entreaty Taylor makes to her husband. She pleads with him to get his priorities straight. In essence, she tells him that he is a great writer and that he shouldn’t listen to the losers who are rejecting his novels. Instead, he ought to keep writing and be grateful for their new riches and family.
But Johnson keeps drinking and sinking into despair. Unfortunately, Taylor dies and Johnson’s behavior is indirectly one of the causes.. When she comes looking for him (he’s not around much), Johnson fails to respond to her knocks at the door because he is in a drunken stupor. She has to go across Paris to her parents in a storm since she can’t gain entry to the home. Consequently, Taylor catches pneumonia and expires.
The movie ends well, as movies did in those days. Johnson is redeemed. But the main focus for me with “The Last Time I Saw Paris” is to learn from the wisdom of Taylor’s character and the poor choices made by Johnson.
The aspiring writer let the naysayers get to him and ruin his life. Things didn’t have to go the way they did for him. Taylor was right. Johnson needed to get his self worth from some place besides the people who were rejecting him.
I had some angry feelings myself when I had to face a big rejection recently after I interviewed for a high paying job. I was well qualified and had to overcome a bunch of obstacles to even get to the meeting. Yet, the man I interviewed with was an ass.
This CEO was very unprofessional. He greeted me with what he probably thought was a “funny”, telling the receptionist that he didn’t know who I was. His prospect (me) was much better dressed than he was, though I needed a haircut. (This man is bald and he was wearing a golf shirt. My, my, times have changed in corporations.)
My potential new boss obviously hadn’t prepared for the interview because he had my stuff spread out in front of him on the receptionist desk. “I’m looking at your stuff here,” he said. In addition, the man kept messing with his cell phone during the interview. I knew during the interview that I was being played.
Getting to this meeting cost this unemployed dude a good amount of time and money. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I interspersed comments at how much effort I made to come to them, noting that “I want you to know that when I want something I really go after it”, or words to that effect.
I was hoping I did not get the job. I could not see working for this charlatan.
In fact, I mentally wanted to write the human resources guy that set this up and say,”Thank you for interviewing with me. However, I have several strong candidates for employment that are a better fit. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.” In other words, I wanted to send them a rejection letter before they dropped theirs on me. I didn’t, but the next day I got theirs. It was a big relief, but I was still pissed.
When I complained about my interview to some friends, they didn’t really want to hear my “negativity.” Unlike Taylor though, they offered no positive wisdom to me other than one fellow who complained about my constant complaining.
What “The Last Time I Saw Paris” taught me is that the assholes will always be with you. (Apologies to Jesus for twisting his comment about the poor.) They are part of this fallen, wicked world. So in one respect, my friends are right. Complaining about them is just a lose-lose proposition.
What is more productive is to do something about my own life and perhaps seek change in important areas along the way, at least as much change as possible in this wrecked planet.
One example of someone who has learned this lesson the current mayor of my town. He has done wonders in a city that should be much worse off than it is. There is a reason why he runs unopposed every election.
After high school he got a job in a city department, but he was unhappy with some things. He asked his father for advice and his reply was,”You have two choices. You can get involved in politics and seek change. Or you can go back to work, and keep your head down and your mouth shut and just take it.”
Van Johnson’s character in “The Last Time in Paris” illustrates that there are other options to deal with how we are treated in this world besides immersion in things like addictive substances and irresponsible behavior.
Yeah, as one of our current presidential candidates likes to say, the system is rigged. But just complaining about it will only fill the empty air and drive those around you crazy.
So I think for me it’s better to seek positive change and live a worthwhile life instead of “whining”. I can still give a prudent acknowledgement that there are problems, but I might keep my sanity and friendships if I focus less on them and more on the solutions that can be implemented in this lifetime..