Rosemary’s Baby

I thought about how three key events occurred on Monday of last week.  First, the popular opera singer Beverly Sills passed away.  Second, Lindsay Lohan turned 21.  Third, Wayne Brady’s wife filed for divorce.  I’m watching Wayne Brady more closely for signs of strain in keeping that phony smile plastered across his face as his game contestants forget the lyrics to “Two Tickets to Paradise” and other inconsequential songs.

I had a somewhat lackluster day of work yesterday.  It’s apparent that I won’t be getting a promotion anytime soon.  I think the powers that be simply don’t like me there.  For one thing, my education seems to threaten some people there.  Hardly anyone has been to graduate school.  I have to watch other people who are barely literate get promoted ahead of me because they are supposedly more likable.  I complained to someone about the A’s weak homestand, during which they went a sickening 2-5.  I quietly departed to go to Safeway, where I bought a pizza to have during tonight’s All-Star Game.

I watched “Rosemary’s Baby” last night.  It was OK, though not on the level of “Chinatown,” “Tess,” or “The Pianist,” and somewhat less powerful than I remembered it from years past.  I guess it made a strong impression upon me years ago because I was so young.  It was so strange listening to Mia Farrow speak in this strange accent.  I guess that was the way she actually spoke back in 1968, because in the featurette about the making of the film, she had the same bizarre accent.  Her character is supposed to be from Omaha, Nebraska, but she sounds more like Audrey Hepburn.  Maybe she had a diction coach who was like Henry Higgins.  Mia Farrow is like Madonna, overly influenced by the people she hangs out with.  Fourteen years after “Rosemary’s Baby,” she would begin her string of Woody Allen films with “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.”  I would say that she was one of those women whose looks improved with a bit of age.  She projects a more appealing maturity in her later films, too.  I don’t recall her in any movies during the 1970s outside of “The Great Gatsby.”

“Rosemary’s Baby” certainly has its subversive quality.  It toys with the whole notion of a woman’s pregnancy being so beautiful, how the anticipation of a new baby is such a wonderful period of life, and how all newborns are so adorable and lovable.  There’s a bit of sadism in the story, in fact, as it puts Rosemary through a lot of pain.  She keeps telling people how happy she is, and yet she’s miserable about the way she looks, and her husband’s apparent indifference.  Her doctor seems oblivious to her health and may have some hidden motive.  His name is Dr. Sapirstein.  He has pierce ears, which causes Rosemary to wonder if he is some sort of sadistic nut.  I wonder if there’s the notion of an evil Jew in here.  The fear of the unknown is played out very effectively.

Rosemary seems to possess something masochistic inside her, along with a dose of Catholic guilt.  That’s why she doesn’t interpret her pain as a warning.

If you remember the nauseating 1986 version of “The Fly,” and Geena Davis’ pregnancy in that film, there is some of that creepy quality here.  What the hell is going to pop out of the oven?

When Rosemary first realizes that the baby is alive and moving inside her and takes Guy’s hand and puts it on her belly, Guy pulls his hand away.  Instead of feeling proud and excited, he seems rather frightened.  What could be happening here?

I think that every pregnant woman should see both these movies.

In the featurette, Roman Polanski said he originally wanted to get Tuesday Weld to play the part of Rosemary.  I’m not sure how that would have worked out.  Tuesday Weld is something of a forgotten name for me.  I think I saw her in “Pretty Poison” and a few other things, but I don’t clearly recall what she was like.  Robert Evans said that Robert Redford would have been perfect as Rosemary’s husband Guy.  I can see that in my mind, especially recalling him in that Twilight Zone episode about the old woman who was hiding from Death.  The actor who actually plays Guy is John Cassavetes, who was one of The Dirty Dozen.  I think he’s very good in this movie.  Guy is a struggling actor who appears in Yamaha motorcycle commercials, and whose most notable play credits are “Luther” and “Nobody Loves an Albatross.”

Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her role as the extremely nosey and possibly very dangerous Minnie Castevet.  She sure looked funny eating her cake in that first dinner scene, while wearing a colorful and youthful dress.  Even though she was quite old in this film, one of her best roles would come a few years later with “Harold and Maude.”  She actually sang a Cat Stevens song in that one.  She lived until about 1985, and her last movie was “Maxie,” a Glenn Close movie which many people hated, but I found rather amusing.

The Castavets seem to have odd feelings against organized religion, and Pope Paul VI visiting Yankee Stadium in particular.  And Guy seems to get along well with the old man Roman, enjoying his stories.  He even likes Minnie’s desserts.

One interesting touch is the voice on the telephone of Donald Baumgart, the actor who goes blind, giving Guy his big break.  It’s Tony Curtis.  We never see him.  We only hear his voice, kind of like Charlie in “Charlie’s Angels.”

Also, with Terry’s supposed suicide, which leaves blood all over a VW Beetle, there’s supposed to be a brother in the Navy.  We never learn anything else about this brother.  And there’s a strange dream Rosemary has about Sister Victoria and some windows.

I zoomed in on a Scrabble board in one scene to see what kinds of words were on it: “atone,” “inky,” “grainy,” “begin,” “eels,” “sever,” “id,” “deep,” “ward,” and “ideas.”

The building where the events take place is called the Bramford, but it’s really the Dakota, which has its own real history, including, of course, the John Lennon murder in 1980.  It seems that the time period of the story is from October 1965 to July 1966.  The Woodhouse couple is still watching a black-and-white TV.

The movie has an R rating partly because of a hallucinatory sequence that has some nudity.  The strange thing is that the pair of breasts that are supposed to be Mia Farrow’s don’t seem to match in every shot.  The bare breasts seem to shrink when she’s suddenly covered in her swimsuit.  It would seem that a body double or two were used.  Apparently, this is a case in which we need Mr. Skin to get to the truth.

My favorite scene in “Rosemary’s Baby” is the obvious choice, the one that begins with Rosemary entering that room with all those people with that knife in her hand.  You never actually see anything, but there’s a real shock and surprise to what this room full of people are saying, especially since many of them are old, with a respectable appearance.  The last moments bring up the question of what Hitler’s mother would do if she knew what her son would do to the world when he grew up.  I suppose she would rationalize, as all mothers do, that her boy was the most special person in the world, and under her loving influence, things would turn out all right.  It’s not truly clear what Rosemary is going to do.  Throughout the movie she shows the craftiness of a poker player, along with some silent disobedience that’s rather unpredictable.  Is she playing along with everyone in those last moments with something up her sleeve?

Of course, the whole movie is ambiguous.  You could argue that it’s not a horror movie at all, but the story of a woman’s delusions and paranoia.  However, it is much more fun to think that the horror elements are real.

Beethoven’s “Für Elise” sure sounds ominous.  You can’t ever hear it the same way again after seeing this movie.  Elise is the name of one of Rosemary’s friends, one she seems to trust at a critical moment.

The lesson is to not eat any chocolate mousse with a chalky undertaste.

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One Response to Rosemary’s Baby

  1. Lisa Begley says:

    Mia Farrow spoke in a trans- atlantic accent that was used by actors and also taught in some hoighty toighty schools in Manhattan and such. Think Jacquie Kennedy. Eventually it faded away as people enjoyed more diversified accents. Thankfully. Great article!

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