Friday, 6 February 2009

Writer's Influences

Writers are often asked about the influences that shaped their writing. One aspect that comes to my mind is the interaction of animals and humans. When I think about this particular aspect, a fantasy movie comes to mind from my childhood: The Three Lives of Thomasina. This was a Walt Disney fantasy film and released in 1963. It starred Patrick McGoohan, Susan Hampshire and child actress, Karen Dotrice. This is a story about a ginger cat and her influence upon a family. It was filmed in Inveraray, Argyll, Scotland and in London, England and based on Paul Gallico’s novel.

The story takes place in the town of Inveranoch, Scotland in 1912 with Andrew MacDhui (Patrick McGoohan), an atheistic veterinarian, his seven year old daughter, Mary (Karen Dotrice) and her cat, Thomasina. MacDhui is a widower with little sympathy for people’s pets.




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On the day MacDhui is operating on a dog who was struck by a car, Thomasina is chased by dogs in the marketplace, falls off some boxes and sustains an injury. MacDhui mis-diagnoses her as having tetanus and orders his assistant to put Thomasina to sleep. Thomasina is not fully anesthetized, and at this point in the story, she experiences an out-of-the-body, fantasy trip to "Cat Heaven", where she encounters Bast the ancient Egyptian Cat Goddess. Mary, meanwhile, is shattered by both Thomasina's apparent death and her loss of faith in her father. Mary and her playmates give Thomasina a funeral. They take her out to the glen beyond the town, but are unintentionally frightened away by "Mad Lori" MacGregor (Susan Hampshire), a kind-hearted young woman who lives outside of the town. Some of the townspeople believe her to be a witch, but although she is a bit of a recluse, she has great love and sympathy for all sick and injured things.




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Lori nurses Thomasina back to health, but the cat now has no memory of her "First Life" with Mary. Late one night, Thomasina returns to the town; Mary sees her and chases her into the rainstorm pursued by MacDhui. Thomasina returns to the safety of her "Second Life" with Lori. Mary then contracts pneumonia and becomes dangerously ill. MacDhui, meanwhile, has come to know Lori as many of the townspeople are boycotting his practice, and turns to her to try to help Mary recover. The same night Mary reaches the crisis stage, Thomasina sees lightning strike the tree outside Lori's cottage, and the shock restores her memory. Thomasina races back to the MacDhui house in time to save Mary. At Lori's urging, MacDhui himself coaxes Thomasina back through the window, and he himself places Thomasina in Mary's arms, thereby symbolically restoring both Thomasina to Mary, and Mary's love for her father. MacDhui, in the meantime, has grown to love Lori and develops a more sympathetic attitude in general. Then MacDhui and Lori marry, and Thomasina now begins her "Third Life" with them.

What movies influenced your writing?

20 comments:

David Cranmer said...

I forgot all about this movie until I saw the clip. It seemed for a time that Karen Dotrice was everywhere. My movies (from childhood) would have to be The Wizard of Oz, The Bond films, and Star Wars. Later on: The Third Man, Stalag 17, and the Dollars trilogy.

Charles Gramlich said...

Somethings about that movie strikes a chord but if I saw it I don't remember many details.

I'll have to give this some thought. I was a very compulsive reader as a kid and didn't watch much TV. I saw only two movies at a theater before I was a teenager and could drive myself. Those were Bambi, and Song of the South, I think. Later, I think the Sergio Leone Spaghetti westerns had some influence on me.

Teresa said...

Barbara, the scenes from that movie were great. I had never heard of it before. I've never been much of a movie person; I prefer to invent my own mental movies as I read books. But I think I would enjoy watching The Three Lives of Thomasina. I wonder if it's still available.

Barbara Martin said...

David, I chose this movie as it had the fantasy element in a live action scenario as opposed to cartoons.

As a child, my mother would see that my brothers and I saw movies for our age group regularly, as had happened to her in childhood. She thought it a good way to expand one's mind. Also, there were always the current news segments before each feature.

I was always pulled toward those films with archeology in exotic places, the screen epics like Ben Hur, Cleopatra and Lawrence of Arabia. And there were the Saturday afternoon matinees at the Sahara Theatre of adventure movies I saw with my brothers who were coerced into taking me with extra money for treats.

Barbara Martin said...

Charles, a movie from the south that endeared me to the locale was the movie "Good-bye My Lady" about a boy who finds a Basenji in the swamp, trains it to hunt and later has to give the dog back to its owner.

Barbara Martin said...

Teresa, you can acquire the DVD through Amazon.com. The Disney movies of the 50s and 60s were well done because of Walt Disney's exacting standards. The quality of the films altered after his death and became gimicky.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I read and loved 'Thomasina' as a book, when quite young, though I cannot remember much about it now. Was there another book by Gallico about a cat, called 'Jennie'?

I have not seen the film. The influences on my creativity have been books, paintings and the outdoors. My appreciation of the atmosphere of places may well have been triggered by something I read as a child. I remember sitting in a corner of the garden when very young, just imbibing the feel of the place, completely entranced.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I've just come back to watch the film clips, Barbara, as I didn't have time before. They are brilliant! I really must watch this film - I'm hooked now!

(How amazing - the word verification is 'impeling' - I'm obviously meant to see this film!)

Barbara Martin said...

Raph, the movie had originally been released in English and Gaelic. I think I used all my allowance that one summer going back for repeats of movie viewing. Now I want to see it again and will have to check Monday if I have any money left on my Indigo card.

When I first visited Scotland in 1970 I loved the cobblestone streets of the older part of Edinburgh and the buildings. Now, sometimes I feel the call of the highlands stirring inside (great-great grandfather came from Glasgow). With cousins living near the Galloway Forest its mighty tempting to make arrangements for a summer trip. Though I have always wanted to visit the outer islands of the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, the idea of becoming seasick enroute produces second thoughts.

I did manage a ferry crossing over the English Channel near Dover during a storm the same year I visted Scotland. My mother said she'd never believed a person really turned green until she saw my face. With the waves swelling well over the top of the upper deck and the ferry bobbing up and down I found looking at the table infront of me and nothing else helped. Before crossing the Channel I had asked whether we could wait an extra day before crossing, but no we had to go with the others of our tour group. It turned out the next day was mild with no winds or storm.

BernardL said...

I remember Thomasina now. I think Clint Eastwood's 'Dirty Harry' movies had an impact on my writing.

Reader Wil said...

Barbara, it's absolutely lovely. I read the book by Paul Gallico and I didn't know that there was also a movie about it.
I am sure that you'll love the video on you tube about the ginger kitten and a young deer. I put a link on my blog to this video and called it :" What a Wonderful World" ( sung by Louis Armstrong). It's so sweet.

Barbara Martin said...

Bernard, another movie for me, more recent would be Matrix.

Barbara Martin said...

Wil, this movie has a quaint feeling about it that I find comfortable.

Lauren said...

I love this movie and had completely forgotten about it. I'm going to rent it watch it again. Thanks for reminding me of it :).

Merisi said...

"The Three Lives of Thomasina" is a movie I knew only by name. Thank you for writing about it, I shall look for it!

bindu said...

Hadn't heard about this movie before - now I'll look for it in the rental store. We have cats, so this sounds very interesting!

Barbara Martin said...

Lauren, it's a nice step back in time.

Merisi, I'm certain you will enjoy it.

Bindu, the very first pet I recall is a large male ginger tabby cat, so this colour is my favourite over the others.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I have heard of this movie,but have never seen it. I shall add it to my list now, however. It sounds like something I'd love. I'm certain movies have influenced me greatly over the years. I still vividly remember seeing Fantasia when it was re-released to the theatres when I was really a little, little girl and I was so amazed that it resembled the scenes I had in my own head. I love the writing in The Philadelphia Story and The Lion in Winter. And, of course, The Wizard of Oz had a divine effect on my imagination.

Dark Wolf said...

If I would be writing I would say "Blade Runner". But I can say it anyway, because it is an influential movie (and novel) in many ways. And maybe sometimes it influences my reviews :)

Barbara Martin said...

Pamela, the early movies held sway over me moreso than television.

Mihai, I remember reading the book and seeing the movie. I'm a big fan of Rutger Hauer.