Friday, March 19, 2010

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The woman in the stands

Glenn Close was born this day in 1947. To me she will always be “the woman in the stands.” I first saw her on Broadway in The Crucifer of Blood in late 1978 or early 1979. I did not know of her then nor can I recall her performance now. I remember only an impressive piece of stagecraft showing a fierce storm and little else. Those were my Holmesian days, now somewhat past.

I am of a generation in which baseball was close to being a religion and the game remains important to me. The Natural is a film I have always embraced, because it is more about the myth of baseball than baseball itself. The Natural’s mythic imagery casts long shadows.

Robert Redford is Roy Hobbs, a potential great. Kim Basinger is Memo Paris, the sort of woman who will lead a man to ruin. Glenn Close is Iris Gaines, a love from Roy’s past and an angelic presence in the stands -- the lady with the wide hat -- who inspires Roy Hobbs at a dark moment.

But was there ever a more striking character that that of Barbara Hershey as Harriet Bird? She wants to know from Roy if he will be the best there ever was – and once so assured -– shoots him, then crashes to her death from a hotel window. A shattered body on a sidewalk; a bleeding, wounded, would be great player lying on a hotel room floor. A career in ruins. (The incident is based on the Eddie Waitkus shooting. I saw Waitkus play.)

So Glenn Close is 63 today. To others she is remembered as the crazed Alex Forrest of Fatal Attraction or better known for her television and stage work. But Glenn Close will always be to me “the woman in the stands,” the woman who rises up at a crucial moment to help Roy Hobbs be the best that he can be -- if no longer -- the best there ever was.

The painting

The painting is The First Night Game, which I have seen at Cooperstown. The artist is listed as J.M. Mott-Smith. I have not read anywhere that Barry Levinson based the idea of the Glenn Close shot on the Mott-Smith painting, but one wonders.

Looking into the career of one “J.M. Mott-Smith” produces little result. I suspect the artist might be H.M. Mott-Smith (1872-1948), an American painter about whom slightly more information is available. I will send an enquiry to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and perhaps, to Mr. Levinson.


The image of Harriet Bird can be seen in Words and Images 17 (January)

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