“Maid” for Fame

         At the beginning of the semester I was worried as to what this course would entail, and how I would be able to best represent my feelings about the films and be able to find some sort of interconnectedness between all the different mediums. Well, now I see exactly what connects them all. It is the maids! In almost every film and book we studied this semester there was some deviant maid intertwined in the story and meddling in the love affairs of the main characters.

         I was surprised as the class progressed that this reoccurring theme was not just my imagination. In book after movie after book I kept seeing housekeepers that were messing things up, when their original intention was to help. The first was Nelly in Emily Brontë’s 1847 Wuthering Heights, played by Flora Robson in the film. Not only was she the narrator, but she also was the reason Heathcliff’s troubles started. Over and over again she tried to help, but just ended up making a mess of things.

         Next was Aunt Lavinia (Miriam Hopkins) in William Wyler’s 1949 The Heiress, based on Henry James’s 1880 Washington Square. Her original intention was to stay at her brother’s home because she was recently widowed, but as the story progressed, she was the one that pushed Morris (Montgomery Clift) onto Catherine. Even as Morris repeatedly showed that his intentions were less than admirable, Aunt Lavinia did everything in her power to keep Catherine interested.

         The Turn of the Screw, written in 1898 by Henry James and filmed in 1961 as The Innocents by Jack Clayton, was no different. When the governess, Miss Giddens in the movie, as played by Deborah Kerr, arrives, the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) immediately presents that she is going to be playing a big factor in the story. As the children’s behavior becomes worse and worse, she ignores the obvious signs and puts the governess in much distress because she failed to recognize the danger.

         My favorite observation is the one I have made here. I am not sure if you need a meddling maid to make a good story, but over and over again it seemed to be the case in this collection of stories. This is definitely a theme I will look for in the future when viewing movies or reading novels.

Lauren Taylor