Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Do As I Do Not As I Say

Those of us who have heard the recording "The Lavender Layd" know of  "Aunt Cam."  In a loving reference to her father's sister, Camilla Moorehead, Agnes speaks of her by relating a couple of anecdotes about her.  First the peculiar nature of her speaking voice and second of her concern about her nieces desire to become an actress. "John, she'll get her name in the paper." 

Truthfully I had not considered "Aunt Cam" as a great influence on Agnes.  It's obvious that she spent a great deal of time around her but she never really spoke about her with the exception of her one woman show.  So color me surprised when I turned back to the family tree to finish some things I had started ages ago.  I had always been told that "Aunt Cam" was a spinster but ummm, not so much.  Not only was "Aunt Cam" not a spinster but there are creepy similarities between her and her famous niece.  I have to call them creepy because they are practically identical save one or two small things.

Camilla Urso Moorehead was married to Harold Webster Bay on May 17, 1912 in Muskingum county Ohio.  Not unusual to be married, no sir it surely isn't.  What makes this unusual is the age of the groom and the date they chose to be married.  You see May 17, 1912 was Harold's birthday, his twenty first birthday. Camilla was 14 years older than her groom.  She was thirty five. 

Okay, creepy on two, no, three levels. 
Level One:  Agnes married her first husband on his birthday.  True, although she was not but two years older than him...but still, his birthday, really....was she following her aunt's lead?  I think so.
Level Two: Agnes began divorce proceedings against Jack Lee two weeks after their nineteenth wedding anniversary.  "Aunt Cam" divorced Harold Bay and she did it after exactly nineteen years of marriage.  By December of 1931 Harold had remarried.
Level Three: Hello, is it a coincidence that "Aunt Cam" married a man 14 years her junior and her niece's second husband was 17 years her junior or if you choose to believe Agnes' assumed birth year of 1906 11 years her junior.  There are no coincidences here.

It is more than common for one generation to follow the example of another.  Sometimes we rely on the older generation to point the way.  Agnes spent a whole lot of time around her Aunt.  I am absolutely sure that none of the similarities are accidental.  She relived what she had witnessed bad endings and all.  I am of the opinion that neither woman should have married.  I think both of them did it for the very same reasons.  It was expected of them.  Both women were the only daughters of their respective parents.  Both women were substantially older than the norm when they married and both women were unable to establish a marriage that lasted their whole life through.  I cannot speak to whether "Aunt Cam" had romantic friendships with any female companions because she was spoken of very little and her life is remarkably free of documentation.  I have found no letters or books to indicate how she felt about anything.  I can tell she had no children and her niece had no children.  This is really odd considering their reasons for marrying...because they were the only girls and they had to.  You would think they might feel compelled to have at least one biological child but no.  In fact the only one of Robert and Hannah Moorehead's children who had biological offspring was John Moorehead.  Of his two girls one survived and never had children of her own.  There are no direct decendants of Robert and Hannah Moorehead.  The line stopped with Agnes.
There are cousins, mostly distant, like myself, but nothing directly.  I think Agnes was imitating her Aunt.  The whole "Do as I do not as I say" thing is ironic when you consider "Aunt Cam's" concern about Agnes being infamous and in the papers.  I wonder if "Aunt Cam" ever considered what people thought of her marrying someone so much younger than herself?  I know Agnes never even discussed the age difference between her and Rober Gist.  It seemed natural to her as she followed "Aunt Cam's" lead..."Do as I do not as I say."  "John, she'll ger her name in the papers!"

Friday, April 20, 2012

Body Language

I've been sitting here at work for the past hour thinking about Agnes and looking at some of my pictures of her.  I don't tend to look at her in terms of body language or at least I didn't until this evening.  Then it ran over me like a Mac truck...look at her body position.

It started with another blog I have and a recent post involving the old television show "Password."  This posting showed a male contestant throwing his arms around Agnes and kissing her cheek.  It  struck me that she looked rather dismayed by his emotional outburst.  At first I chalked it up to the fact she didn't know the young man but as I looked furtively through YouTube postings of this show I noticed something I had not really seen before.  Agnes nearly always pats, touches or gazes directly at her female teammate but not her male teammates.  Hmmm I wondered is this mere coincidence?  Not so much.  Just ask Francine York.

For those who don't remember Francine played Aphrodite on an episode of "Bewitched."  During the shoot Agnes would repeatedly pat Francine on the hand and tell her how beautiful she was.  Then it dawned on me that was the same behavior I was seeing on Password particularly with young blonde women.  Hand patting and  direct eye contact.  All this prompted me to take a look at some of the pictures that I have and I found some really interesting things...really interesting.
Christmas photo number one.  Notice the look on Agnes' face.  Her smile doesn't break the plane of her face, no dimples, called a stage smile.  She is physically up against her mother and her body is angled away from that of her husband.  This is a defensive posture.  Someone who studies body language would tell you that someone adopting this posture is attempting to protect themselves from someone they are frightened of.  She has gone out of the way to not touch him at all by pulling her legs in away from his hand on the floor.  He, on the other hand, is clueless of how she feels.  His body is angled toward her and his smile is genuine.  Note he is still wearing a wedding band on his left had and Agnes stopped wearing hers in the 1930's.
Christmas picture number two. Again Agnes has a stage smile on but she appears to be making eye contact with Jack, however, if you look closely her eyes are actually focused above his right shoulder.  She is looking in his direction but not directly at him.  Her unfocused look is what gives this away.  Her body is angled toward her mother and away from Jack.  Her left bicep is tensed meaning he is touching the package but she's not letting him hold it with her.  Her hips are tensed and angled backwards from him.  She fears this man in a substantial way.  Jack is, yet again, clueless.  His smile is genuine and he's leaning toward her while she is leaning backwards away from him.  He is looking directly at her not even realizing that she isn't making eye contact with him.
Another telling picture.  Agnes is leaning to the left away from Jack as he invades her personal space. Another defensive posture.  She has her shoulders tilted toward the camera away from him.  He is still genuinely unaware that she fears him.  His shoulders are angled towards her.

Two happy people dancing, right?  Not so much.  Notice her body posture.  Her right shoulder is highly tense and pulled backward away from him.  Her head is tilted to the side back and away from him  Her eyes are looking downward and her upper body is pulled backwards away from him.  Her hips are tensed to the right and backwards away from him.  She's only up against him because he has pulled her that way.  Underneath his fingers the velvet of her gown is creased from his grip.  Over all she is extremely tense denoting fear.
Her she is with a young man she doesn't know who has asked her to sign his book.   Compared to her husband she is actually comfortable with the boy.  Her shoulders are angled toward him as are her feet.  She has no fear of this boy.  She appears relaxed.  There is no tenseness in her body at all.
Here with a group of women.  Her entire upper body is angled toward the group.  She appears tired and drawn.  Her smile is a put on but she is comfortable enough to lean in toward them, however, she is going out of her way to not visually touch them.  Notice that all three of the women to her right are literally scrunched into one another but Agnes has angled her pelvis away from them.  She is afraid of how this might look and is not willing to be physically close to them although she isn't frightened of them.

With Orson Welles she is genuinely relaxed.  She is loose and extremely comfortable.  Her whole body is involved in a laugh.  She enjoys his company.  She trusts him.  She is turning her body toward him and is unafraid to touch him.  She is super relaxed around him.
Here is Agnes with Kathy Ellis.  Notice how comfortable she is.  Her smile is genuine and her eye contact with Kathy is intense.  She is not afraid to touch her.  Her whole body is angled toward her and her arm is around Kathy's waist.  Kathy is very important to her and she trusts her implicitly.
Here she is with Robert Gist in 1953.  She isn't afraid of him but she is extremely tense.  Look at her shoulder muscles.  You can see the tenseness of the muscles.  She is angled away from him with her body.  She is uncomfortable as is he.  His body is angled away from her  and he is leaning to his left away from her.  His smile is forced and they are both avoiding contact with one another.
Again with Gist.  He looks dumbfounded and she has tilted herself away from him to the left.  Her hands are acting as a barrier.  His body indicates he is, at this stage, submissive around her.  His shoulders are rounded and he has pulled himself in while she is totally upright.  Her shoulders are square.  She is dominant at this point in their relationship.
On the set of "Tempest."  She is holding the hand of her costar.  She is leaning her whole body toward her.  She is relaxed and is comfortable with her.  There is a sense of attraction on her part and she feels an emotional connection to this woman.  Her hand on top indicates she views herself as dominant and in control but she has gone out of her way to be casual about it. She has moved her body over in her chair to attain this casual grasping of the hand.  Her knees are open indicating she is completely open.
Her two screen kisses.  Notice the placement of her hands on the upper arms of her male costars.  She is restraining them and asserting her control of the situation.  In the upper picture from "Tempest" she has offset her body to the left of her costar but she is more willing to kiss him and has tilted her head upwards.  In the bottom picture her body is tensed away from Joe and she's kissing him but she isn't all that comfortable with it.
Again she is dominant but open in both pictures.  She genuinely likes these two men and is comfortable with both of them.  She goes out of her way to have her hands in a dominant position if she is embracing a man,

With few exceptions.
She trusts Cesar and allows him to envelope her.  She knows him well.  She is comfortable with him.  There is no threat here.
She trusts David Hedison and allows him to put his arm around her shoulder.
She is far more comfortable with women.  But she is dominant.  She is drawing Debbie towards her.
Again dominant.  She is in control of Tanya and is distancing herself from Quint.  Odd, given his view of the role he played in her life but she is far more concerned with Tanya than him.
She always has her back to Quint no matter how hard he tries.
But is nearly always open to women and has been since her youth.

Believe me I could go on forever about this.  It makes you look at each photograph searching for the nuances of body position, eye contact, and level of angst or comfort.  It boils down to this.  For the most part she was uncomfortable with men.  Paul Gregory called her a "meat grinder" and said that Jack Lee never stood a chance with her.  He also said that she was a "tough, tough woman."  I think that Agnes spent her entire life being comfortable, for the most part, with women and chose men who were either abusive as Jack Lee was, a user as Robert Gist was, or gay as Cesar Romero was and as Quint Benedetti were.  She spent her life guarding her private world from the prying eyes of the public but put herself on display at every event she attended, hosted or was involved in.  Beyond the mere appearance of the photo, she was there.  She was veiled but she was there in all her glory for those of us willing to look and those of us willing to see.