"Anthem" by Leonard Cohen

"The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what has yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On Top of the World (1955)

My father in his prime. He was a doctor, best-selling author and happy family man. A first-generation Russian-Jewish Immigrant, naturalized US citizen, and WWII veteran, life didn't get any better than this.

Scratch the surface just a bit, and underneath the facade, he was married to a beautiful woman who didn't love him and passed off her son by another man as his. He was a gambler, who financed the start of his medical practice from his winnings on the troop ship back from his service in Okinawa. His best-selling book was ghost-written by his wife's ex-first husband, whom she still had a thing for. 

He was also an alcoholic and a womanizer.

In addition to his legitimate medical and psychiatric practice, he made a great deal of his money under the table as an abortionist in a time when it was still illegal. My dad enlisted his sister, my aunt, in his schemes, and she kept two sets of books for him until she died. 

But the women who got their procedures with him were safe from dangerous back-alley abortions because he was a medical doctor.

Contrary to the popular view, life was complicated in the 1950's. One of the big differences between then and now is that people didn't talk so openly about it during those times. 

When I look at him in this shot, I can't help thinking about that final shot of a crazed Jimmy Cagney at the end of his 1949 classic movie, "White Heat", when he is shouting:

"Top of the world , Ma!".

At least in that famous shot at the end of  the film, Cagney knew he was on fire and that he was about to die.

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