Lovefools and the Moon

Mary (Donna Reed) and George Bailey (James Stewart) singing "Buffalo Gals"
on a moonlit night in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

For centuries upon centuries, even after the first moon landing, the celestial entity that is the moon has marveled people, became a muse for some, and has been a larger than life element in someone's romantically cliché mise-en-scène, a persuasive tip over the iceberg for someone to get some. Lip service and the moon especially with a little booze are a deadly combination. There's nothing like a moonlit walk that steers your heart in a certain direction. I myself have fallen for that tactic of using the moon to set up the scene at least twice. One would only hope that I'll be a little more careful next time.

Is the moon masculine or feminine? There is supposed to be a Man in the Moon, or what looks like a human face on the moon made by its darker regions. Is the man in the moon a woman or a man? In Mame (1974), Vera says that "[t]he man in the moon is a bitch." In Georges Méliès's Le voyage dans la lune (1902) (A Trip to the Moon), the man in the moon looks like a crabby old man.

Le voyage dans la lune (1902)
If I didn't know that thing in his eye is a rocket,
I'd say that he got hit by a giant can.

I often think of the moon as a feminine entity since Latin-based languages such as Spanish (la luna) or French (la lune) refer to it as a feminine noun.

In Chinese folklore, Cháng'é was a sort of Pandora-like character who opened a box she wasn't supposed to open, which contained a magical pill she swallowed and caused her to float and land on the moon. Thus she became the moon goddess in Chinese mythology. As it happens, a rabbit lives on the moon as well and serves as her companion.

Cháng'é, the Moon Goddess

Kenneth Anger makes references to the rabbit on the moon in his avant-garde short Rabbit's Moon (1950):

In Rabbit's Moon, Pierrot the clown is enchanted by the moon and wants to jump up and catch the rabbit that is on the moon. The other clown Harlequin appears and teases him with an illusion of Columbine with whom Pierrot falls in love with. Pierrot is the lovefool in this scenario as clowns are often associated as fools in most cases.

For example, in the silent film He Who Gets Slapped (1924), Lon Chaney plays Paul Beaumont, a genius theorist turned fool who gets screwed over by a baron and his wife. He resorts to being a clown for the remainder of his life as "He who gets slapped" since life is always playing a cruel joke on him, allowing others to laugh at him in derision. Even though he is heartbroken, he sees that his audience get so much joy in watching him play the fool in an act where a whole entourage of clowns slap him in the face and stomp on his little prop heart.

a French poster for He Who Gets Slapped renamed as Larmes de Clown (Tears of a Clown)
You can see his prop heart sown on by Norma Shearer here.

The moon has also fascinated people as a faraway destination, a larger than life goal as illustrated by Méliès's Le voyage dans la lune (1902). In A Grand Day Out (1989), Wallace and Gromit take a trip to the moon in search of cheese (since the moon is made of cheese in this narrative).

Wallace and Gromit, having a cheese themed picnic on the moon in A Grand Day Out (1989)

In Despicable Me (2010), Gru seeks to steal the moon by shrinking it down to the size of his hand.

If you look at quotes regarding the moon in movies, it's seen as an unattainable, symbolic aspiration of some kind; it's an untouchable.

The famous ending line of Now, Voyager (1942) shows how protagonist Charlotte Vale acknowledges the fact that something she wants can never be and so she'll settle for the next best thing.

-Charlotte Vale, Now, Voyager (1942)
In Sabrina (1954), attaining the affections of rich playboy David Larrabee is synonymous with the moon in two different cases:

1. When David fails to realize that Sabrina has a crush on him:
"He doesn't know I exist. I mind as well be reaching for the moon." -Sabrina Fairchild


2. When Sabrina comes back from a cooking school in Paris as a beautiful, fashionable young lady and David likes what he sees:
Thomas Fairchild: Nothing's changed. He's still David Larrabee. And you're still the chauffeur's daughter. And you're still reaching for the moon.

Sabrina Fairchild: No, Father. The moon's reaching for me.
I love how after she says, "The moon's reading for me" in a kind of kooky lovesick way,
a moon is superimposed close to her face as we switch to a new scene.

If you look at songs as well, the moon is usually adored by lovelorn or lovesick people. In Billie Holiday's cover of "Blue Moon," the person in the song is asking the moon for help as she is "saying a prayer for / [s]omebody [she] really could care for."

The best known crooner's song in reference to the moon is "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)." Even though the most famous version is sung by Frank Sinatra, I prefer Julie London's cover. This is kind of a nice juxtaposition between Sinatra's version and Astrud Gilberto's version of this song:

Down With Love (2003)
(The disproportional ratio of this video irks me.)

I've also had a lifelong love affair with Norah Jones's "Shoot the Moon," which is a song for what I call a "seasonal change of partners," a bittersweet acceptance of faces who come and go.

Like some of the people in these moon references who are reaching for loftier things, I never know if I'll ever find whatever I'm looking for. To the kind people who are taking the time to read this and to the people who are so dear to me, I hope somewhere out there you'll find whatever you're looking for wherever you are. I'm still dreaming. The little girl in me is still reaching for the moon.

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