Side by Side


Some people have died, and even though I don’t do obituaries here, really, I should mark their passing. Jean Darling, star of OUR GANG comedies, whom I sat next to at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, in a seat I sort of scammed my way into through a kind of willful obtusity, passed away in September, aged ninety-three.

“Comedy is tragedy.”

And now Mike Sutton has died, much too young. I got to know Mike properly when he contacted me on Facebook, worried that we had both been commissioned to write essays for Masters of Cinema’s Blu-ray of John Frankenheimer’s SECONDS, and hadn’t known about each other so hadn’t conferred. I told him my piece was mainly about Frankenheimer and he was relieved because his piece was mainly about the book-to-film adaptation.


Now I hold the disc, and booklet, in my hands, and though there are a couple of overlaps — neither one of us could resist talking about how apposite Rock Hudson is in the role of a reinvented man, a human facade — I feel the essays compliment each other well. I’m pretty pleased with how mine came out. Mike’s is brilliant and heartbreaking. I’d known from his Facebook posts that he was battling oesophageal cancer, but didn’t realize the fight was this close to over. Knowing that, while you read his piece, which is full of sorrow and anger, like the film, like life, makes it all the more powerful.

“Seconds. Second lives, second chances, seconds ticking away in our hopelessly fragile, trivial little lives.”


That’s the first line. The last, describing Hudson staring out the window of an airliner, is ~

“Even before his new life collapses in on itself, one feels that he is already dying, looking at an empty sky, in the words of Philip Larkin, he is staring into “the deep blue air which shows nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.”

8 Responses to “Side by Side”

  1. Yes we must all at the mercy of what Gore Vidal called “Time’s wing-ed wastebasket”

  2. And yonder all before us lie
    Deserts of vast eternity.

    Doesn’t really rhyme, but it’s good stuff. “Andy Marvell, what a marvel.”

  3. It rhymes if you say it with the Dick Van Dyke-Mary Poppins accent.

  4. henryholland666 Says:

    After spending the last half hour reading about the unfolding nightmare in Paris, I think Pvt. Pyle sums up my feelings:

  5. I’d love to offer something more upbeat. But I can’t, really. Hoping everyone I met while making Natan is safe. Hoping everyone currently in peril gets rescued.

  6. I have several friends in Paris I’m very worried about.

  7. Naturally. Statistics are on our side, but still…

  8. Well I’ve just heard from Dennis. He’s OK and so are his pals. Mark Rappaport, Peter Friedman and Jean-Louis Commoli are likewise OK.

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