Greek Orthodox Easter is just fading into the past. During that significant calendar date for Christians, semi comatose in over 34 degrees Celsius on the couch of an evening, I wondered if Ireland suffers (an appropriate term for the period covering the Passion in the Christian calendar) a surfeit of old Biblical epics on its TV channels as we do every year.
The same things strike me as I zap: Hollywood beauties in fluorescent lipstick and Twin Peaks sculpted upper storeys that would knock your eye out, when we all know that bras did not exist back then, and dressed in materials that were not around at the time. Then there’s the usual bevy of scantily –for then- clad dancers all heaving their far from slim bodies and well fleshed thighs in the same fashion no matter whether they were Jews, Philistines or Arab. (Whoopee for old Hollywood where women looked like women!) I guess the choreographers all copied each other for ‘period’ moves or, the same trainer coached for all the studios.
Then there’s the wonderful beefy, clean-faced hams Victor Mature, Yul Brynner and other major Hollywood stars of the past tightening their bible belts and sucking in their bellies. For young folk these stars of the past must seem as old as the stories they tell. There is also the not quite Methuselah class Richard Gere complete with bad-perm wig dancing like a baby who has just filled his Pampers to capacity. And speaking of poo…whenever the late Charlton Heston is mentioned in trailers in Cyprus, the Greek speaking announcers politely mispronounce his name as ‘Easton’. Why the connection? Well, if they said Heston properly they would be saying “Poo on him.” (That’s me being polite!)
Then we also have the more recent cover versions of the old movies and what a difference. The dances haven’t changed that much but the faces are dirty, the clothes are made from more appropriate materials, and you have dirty toe and finger nails to add to that delicate ‘period’ feel. You can most smell the sheep droppings off their garments as well as toe jam from their sandals. Think about it people, the heat was atrocious and deodorant wasn’t invented back then… gasp! And apparently only the rich had (or supposedly took) baths. When Hollywood takes history or bible tales, we don’t expect total reality as per Europe. Creative license rules the day. However, a little reality wouldn’t hurt where truly needed. Take the scene in (Heston’s) Moses where the girls rush around to wash his feet in gratitude (see below). The same exhausted Moses who, after a night’s rest near the oasis and whose manic energy levels have been upped by a feed of sun drenched dates, was ready to staff the brains out of some tribals (can’t recall which) who were giving their flocks precedence to water owned by the girls’ father and beating the women and their live stock back from the well.
Easy to tell Heston’s feet were not really dirty or smelly, just seen to by a make up artist because the totally squeaky clean females, vying to wash his stinking feet showed not so much as an indrawn breath or held a couple of fingers to a nose. This Moses had gone through the heat of the burning sands with only one day’s ration of food and water… fully clothed in the blanket of a robe his mother had made for him and, under which he wore a roughly hewn ancient (really ancient by the time he got to the well) garment. Talk about your personal sauna…talk about pongs. Almost as bad as the modern films that show stars in really cold climates with their jackets and shirts open at the neck and no head gear! Everyone knows what extreme temperatures do when the kopf is uncovered, yes? Why don’t Hollywood dressers? But these machos have to look as tough in the snow as overdressed Moses was in the desert. The other thing that gets me is when actors/actresses walk in and out of houses and leave doors open! ANYONE who struggles with trying to heat a home in winter would NEVER walk out and leave a bloody door open! We don’t all have Hollywood budgets.
Did any poor peasant in Biblical times wash his face let alone his hands or feet? I mean if one was living near an oasis…? One thing is rather obvious with most of the old male stars…lack of solid muscle – compared to the aggressive work outs modern stars undergo to look fit and muscular, with the possible exception of Yul the laser-eyed Pharaoh in Moses. Both leads in Moses walked in strange ways – which is not a pun on their religious beliefs. I couldn’t help but think that Mr. Heston might have had a Pampers ala Mr. Gere under his robes. Either that or he had incredibly flat feet…one at each corner as he walked. Yul is so muscle bound he walks like one of those Egyptian statues come to life. He had legs Arnie the Terminator would die for. He too walks as though there is a Pampers under his skirt. Or finally, both gentlemen were so well endowed… All joking apart, I love watching both. In my youth these people were gods in their own way.
One thing for those of us familiar with the ancient Greek names is the fun we have listening to how they are (mis)pronounced on screen. In the film about the 300 Spartans who held back the mighty Persian army, the warrior much loved by all Greeks who pronounce his name Lay-o-nee-das, is called Lion-eye-das in the movie, which induced much merry chortling among teenage boys leaving the cinema and calling each other the latter. Other epic Greek-themed films usually have badly pronounced names. My prime memory is sitting in a cinema watching Alexander (the Great) starring Colin Farrell and other Irish actors, and hearing Irish accents call out names in Greek. So, I guess the Greeks are entitled to call one Mr. Heston…Mr. Easton!