What Does Love Really Mean?

Caring Hands

“Self-love is the source of all our other loves.” ~ Pierre Corneille 

Valentine’s Day is now celebrated as a day for romantic lovers. But I’ve been thinking about love a great deal recently. In fact, my sister, niece and I discussed this at great length in my most recent podcast episode: “Bridgerton and Beyond” which aired on Feb. 3rd. We discussed the difference between romance and a true love story. A true love story is one that includes all kinds of love where the friends, family, or lovers work on their relationships. And since I’m a fan of stories, I’d like to use three examples where the love story is embedded in a tale about self-discovery.

I’m a classic movie fan and these three examples I’m going to share with you are just a few of my very favorites. 

The first of these is Now, Voyager, (1942) with Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Raines. This story does have a romance as an element of the story but the main theme is how learning to love oneself can change the whole trajectory of one’s life. 

Bette Davis plays a woman named Charlotte who comes from a wealthy Boston family, but she has a very unhealthy relationship with her mother. Her mother controls every aspect of her life, even though Charlotte is approaching thirty years old. Charlotte, a late child, is expected to take care of her mother in her old age, and at the beginning of the movie she has what was then called, a nervous breakdown. With the help of her sister-in-law, she goes to a sanitarium run by a progressive doctor played by Claude Raines. While she’s there, she learns techniques to deal with her oppressive mother, but more importantly she begins to love herself. 

As the movie goes along she learns to make friends and even falls in love with Jerry, played by Paul Henreid. She knows from the beginning he’s married. They don’t intend to fall in love, but they find a bond because they are in similar situations. Even though they declare their love for one another, they decide not to be together. But the point of their love story is that Jerry has a daughter who is unhappy and also has as difficult relationship with her mother. Charlotte can relate and when she meets Tina accidentally, she decides to take her under her wing. This cements her bond with Jerry. 

To me the entire point of Now, Voyager is that all love is nurtured from our love of self. Charlotte can’t defend herself from her mother, make friends, fall in love with Jerry, or help Tina until she has healed the wounds of self-hatred. And that’s what makes this movie a perfect Valentine’s Day choice. Turner Classic Movies is playing it today. But if you can’t see it today, it will most likely be available on the Watch TCM app. TCM play it often. I hope you will check it out because its message holds up amazingly well and can be appreciated by anyone watching it today.

The second movie I’d like to write about is People Will Talk (1951) with Cary Grant, Jeanne Crain, Hume Cronyn, Walter Slezak and Finlay Currie. This is a very progressive movie for it’s time. It managed to get several situations past the censors, like an unmarried pregnant woman who is not punished for her “sin”. Also there is a thinly veiled jab at the McCarthy era witch hunts. Then there is the fact that Cary Grant’s character, Dr. Praetorius not only protects his companion, Shunderson, a convicted murderer, but marries Deborah, the pregnant woman and accepts her baby as his own.  

Dr. Praetorius is a progressive gynecologist who is on the board of a prominent university. It’s unclear, but he probably lectures there occasionally and is very popular with most of the students and faculty. His main focus, however, is on the patients in his clinic. Hume Cronyn’s character Dr. Elwell, a professor at the university, is jealous of Dr. Praetorius’ popularity so much so that at the beginning of the movie, he’s begun an investigation into Dr. Praetorius past hoping to find dirt on him so he can be expelled from his position. 

In the first scene with Dr. Praetorious we discover that Mr. Shunderson is always at his side. No one knows who Shunderson is, or his relationship to Dr. Praetorius. He’s regarded with suspicion and even ridicule by the students faculty, and staff at the clinic. However, Dr. Praetorius dear friend Professor Barker, played by Walter Slezak, accepts Shunderson without question. 

Another thing that happens in that first scene is that while Dr. Praetorius is waiting for Dr. Elwell in his classroom, he meets Deborah when she faints as he is addressing the class. Deborah goes to see him later that day to find out why she fainted and is told that she’s pregnant. Their frank discussion following this disclosure, and her subsequent suicide attempt, disturb Dr. Praetorius who is dedicated to “making sick people well”. But deciding how he can help Deborah becomes a problem. When he goes to see if he can convince her father to accept Deborah and  her baby, he discovers that she and her father have been living with her uncle, a very closed minded man. It’s obvious they long to escape but because Mr. Higgins is in poor health and is unable to support himself and Deborah they’re trapped. 

Though Dr. Praetorius has truly fallen in love with Deborah, we do see as he goes about his rounds in his clinic, that he is a man of great compassion. He’s willing to try unconventional means to heal his patients. He spreads love and hope wherever he goes and that is the true secret to his popularity.

People Will Talk is a story about love in all its facets, romantic, friendship, family, and caring for the less fortunate. It’s the kind of story that makes me want to be a better person.

The last movie I’m going to share with you might seem a bit unusual. It’s The Big Country (1958) starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston. Although this is a Western, it’s not typical of the genre. It’s a story of Jim McKay, played by Gregory Peck, and the influence he has on the people and situations in his new home. 

Jim’s family owns a shipping line. He’s also the captain of his own ship. He is engaged to Patricia, whom he met in Boston while she was attending finishing school. Her father, Maj. Henry Terrill, owns the largest ranch in his part of Texas. 

When Jim arrives he is unaware that the Terrills are having a blood feud with the Hannassey family headed by Rufus, played by Burl Ives. Tensions flair up on Jim’s arrival. He’s hazed by some of the Hannassey bunch, but when he doesn’t take offense at it, Pat, the Major, and Steve Leach the Terrill foreman, played by Charlton Heston, just don’t understand him. They think he’s a coward. But that’s not it at all. Jim is a man of deep principles. He’s travelled all over the world, been in dangerous situations, seen cruelty, courage, and been confronted with death. All of these things have made him a man of peace. He’s faced his fears and shortcomings, knows his strengths and has accepted who he is. One thing for sure, he’s not a man to stand around and watch senseless violence.

Almost from the beginning Jim feels that he and Pat aren’t the match he thought they were. He comes to realize that Pat’s friend, Julie Maragon is the woman for him. Their love comes about in very subtle ways as Jim decides to try to stop the feud. Along the way he affects both the Terrill ranch hands and the Hannasseys so that they see that the feud is extremely destructive. This movie is the perfect example of how one person can change everything.

I could go on and on about movies and TV shows that shine a light on characters who confront their wounds and then spread goodness wherever they go. These are the kind of stories that enrich my life. 

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day if you celebrate it where you live. Spreading love every day is my goal. I hope it’s yours too.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2021

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards.

Have you ever experienced life shattering events? Yeah, most of us have. In The Space Between Time, Jenna Holden gets slammed by her fiancé walking out, her mother’s untimely death, and losing her job all in one week. But she receives unexpected help when she finds her three-times great-grandmother’s journals and begins the adventure of a lifetime.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published.

Lucinda is also the host of Story-Power a new podcast where she and her guests discuss the stories in all formats that have changed their lives. It’s available here on Sage Woman Chronicles and on Apple, Google, and Spotify podcast apps. Please rate and leave a review. It helps people find me.

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Published by lucindasagemidgorden

I grew up in the West, the descendant of people traveling by wagon train to a new life. Some of their determination and wanderlust became a part of me. I imagine them sitting around the campfire telling stories, which is why I became first a theatre artist, then a teacher and now a writer. They are all ways of telling stories.

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