When I was a boy, the Dead
Sea was only sick.
— George Burns
Do you remember the scene? It occurs about half way through Tom Jones, a movie which chronicled the adventures and misadventures of a loveable young rascal as he danced and romanced his way across 18th century England.
There were a lot of memorable moments in the movie but the best one has to be what has come to be known as the eating scene. In it, Tom Jones, portrayed by Albert Finney, sits down to a luncheon with a more than accommodating and receptive Mrs. Waters. Tom is, as Tom so frequently was, randy as a rooster. So, it appears, is Mrs. Waters.
She proceeds to demonstrate that fact as the two work their way through a mess of, shall we say, libido-enhancing foodstuffs, all the time eyeing each other lustily across the table amid gobbets, dribbles and juicy, luscious rivulets of oyster, lobster and pear.
Never have a bivalve, a crustacean and an orchard fruit been deconstructed so lasciviously.
The New York Times film critic described it as “one of the funniest, most sensual scenes ever put on film without removing a stitch of clothing.”
Amen to that, but here’s the thing: Joyce Redman, the lovely and vivacious actress who played Mrs. Waters in that scene died of pneumonia last month at her home in Kent, England.
She was, my newspaper informs me, 93 years old.
Ninety-three? How can that possibly be? Didn’t the movie Tom Jones come out just a few — well, quite a few, really, I suppose — years ago?
Quite a few indeed. Forty-nine, to be exact. Tom Jones first hit the movie screens back in 1963.
I find that life is bushwhacking me like that quite a lot, of late. I catch myself humming Girl from Ipanema, then realize the song hasn’t been on the hit parade since Lester Pearson was PM.
I fall to musing about the ‘Big M’s’ of professional hockey — Mahovlich, Messier and Mikita — and it dawns on me that one of them has become a well-upholstered Senator in Ottawa and none of them have seriously suited up for a shinny match in nearly 20 years.
Sarah Polley, the sweet little thing who played in the Road to Avonlea? She’s middle-aged, a wife, a mother and a filmmaker in her own right.
The last Blue Jays World Series win? That was 1993, chum. Almost two decades ago.
Trudeau’s famous “Just watch me” speech? More than middle-aged. It’s getting on for 40 years old.
Time is a slippery and elusive critter — “Too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve and too short for those who rejoice,” as some wag once said.
Charlie Chaplin, who lived to the ripe old age of 88, declared in his dotage that, “in the end, everything is a gag.”
I hope he’s right. In the event that he is, I offer the last words in this column to one of my favourite surrealist gagsters, New Yorker Stephen Wright, who once observed: “When I was two, I was really anxious, because I’d doubled my age in a year. I thought: ‘If this keeps up, by the time I’m six, I’ll be 90’”.
Wright, like Einstein, knows that time is relative. “I went into a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’” says Wright. “I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”