A copy of Strange Interlude just passed over the counter here, and as always, whenever that play (or indeed any of Eugene O’Neill’s plays) comes to mind, I think of Groucho Marx pointing with his cigar, waggling his eyebrows, and saying Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.
It got me thinking about how often I become familiar with a spoof or parody or even a reference to a thing before I encounter the thing itself, and how that colors my experience of the thing. I mean, I saw Young Frankenstein before I saw Frankenstein; I learned a bunch of opera motifs through Gilligan’s Island. I think I probably saw Prufrock before I read the one that starts “Let us go then, me and you/when the evening has dropped like an old shoe/the first of what must inevitably be two”, but I honestly don’t remember. I saw Murder by Death before watching any of the Charlie Chan movies, and I think before watching any of the Nick and Nora movies, although I had seen (and I think read) both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Can’t remember whether I had seen The Maltese Falcon, by then. I definitely saw The Maltese Falcon before watching The Cheap Detective, but I hadn’t seen To Have and Have Not or The Big Sleep, or even Casablanca.
I don’t think my enjoyment of Casablanca or Frankenstein was ruined by that experience. I’m not sure about the Charlie Chan movies; there is so much that makes those a truly guilty pleasure that Peter Sellers being screamed at by the moose head on the wall is probably small potatoes. And if there are a few songs that have been ruined for me by a filk or parody, well, they are just songs, anyway. So maybe it’s just Eugene O’Neill. I was thinking there were more, but now I come to write the note, I can’t think of any.
Are there movies or books or plays that were ruined for you by exposure to the parody first? Tarzan? Michael Jackson? How Doth the Little Busy Bee?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,