ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

I come in from three or four hours of writing work, and the phone’s ringing. It’s Joshua, inviting me to tonight’s showing of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.

I need time to unwind — to eat, to rest, to take a walk, so I say: “I don’t really like Hitchcock films, Joshua. The stories are so manufactured.”

After my dinner I head to the park, but I don’t get very far. Something is pulling me back, something is telling me that I need to see this movie, so I call Joshua back. He picks me up forty-five minutes later.

On the way downtown to the Palace Theatre, he mentions that we’ve seen this movie before.

“Oh, we have, haven’t we? The three of us, but I don’t remember anything about it. Do you?”

“I remember the opening shots.”

“Who’s in it?”

“Joseph Cotton.”

“Oh, now I remember. Joseph Cotton plays Uncle Charlie, and Teresa Wright plays his niece, named after him, and he tries to kill her. I remember the scene where she falls down a back step that he’s sawed loose. but that’s all I remember.”

What would Ernie remember?

It’s a hot, muggy night. The theatre is huge, built in the ’20s in Spanish baroque style, with lights like stars piercing a fabulous blue ceiling that mimics a summer night’s sky. Lots of people have turned out, I guess for the same reason they turned out in the ’20s — air conditioning, popcorn, and escape.

The lights dim, and a heavy maroon curtain parts to reveal a wide, blindingly white screen.

The film came out in 1943. Ernie was born in 1931, so the war-time scenes would be familiar to him: banks advertising war bonds, men in Army and Navy uniforms walking in groups on downtown sidewalks or dining in restaurants with their dates. And there’s Uncle Charlie lying atop the bed in his hotel room, his eyes closed.

Immediately I’m struck by how much Joseph Cotton looks like Ernie — Ernie ten years before I knew him, the Ernie I’ve seen in photos. How could I have missed this when I watched the film before? Did Ernie see the resemblance?

So many things I’d like to talk to Ernie about. Big things and little things.

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Ernestina

Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.