Monday, April 26, 2010

Reading Gallico's "Enchanted Doll" story, Part 2 (No Spoilers)

Fear not, Gallico's story of the Enchanted Doll is a very nice little tale and I won't spoil it for anybody who wants to read it through themselves--no spoilers. But for those who despair of ever getting their hands on the book it's published in, I shall share some of the yummy parts...

The setting is New York City, in the early part of the last century. There are many poor people--everyone in the story is poor. The narrator/hero is Samuel Amony, M.D., a doctor (so romantic!) who is not at all wealthy because his practice is among the poor. He charges $1 per visit, but for people who are really ill and cannot afford to pay, he charges nothing. His office is near Third Avenue and Fifteenth Street and so are the other locations the story carries him to.

[If you are a lover of  New York, as I am, and want to know, as I did, just what part of it Third and Fifteenth is, then this information is for us: it's kind of in-between areas, but is closest to Union Square. Here is a picture of Union Square in 1936. The statue is of the Marquis de LaFayette, who has been gazing at the neighborhood since 1876.]

This doctor sees a remarkable doll in, of all places, a dusty stationery, cigar, and toy shop. Idly looking over the few toys in the shop window, "all a-jumble with boxes of withered cigars, cartons of cigarettes, bottles of ink, pens, pencils, gritty stationery, and garish cardboard cut-out advertisements for soft drinks," for something he could send to his young niece, he sees, in the shadows, a rag doll "with the strangest, tenderest, most alluring and winsome expression on her face."
I could not wholly make her out, due to the shadows and the film through which I was looking, but I was aware that a tremendous impression had been made upon me, that somehow a contact had been established between her and myself, almost as though she had called to me...

...Nevertheless he took her from the window and placed her in my hands and here it was that I received my second shock, for she had the most amazing and wonderful quality. No more than a foot long, she was as supple and live to the touch as though there were flesh and bones beneath the clothes instead of rag stuffing.

It was indeed, as Abe had said, hand-made, and its creator had endowed it with such lifelike features and grace that it gave one the curious feeling of an alter presence. Yet there was even more than that to her. Could a doll be said to have sex appeal in the length and proportions of her legs, the shape of her head, the swirl of her skirt over her hips? Was it possible for an emotion to have been sewn into the seams marking the contours of the tiny figure? For though I am young, I have seen too much, both in peace and war, to be either sentimental or subject to hallucination. Yet to hold this doll was to feel a contact with something warm, mysterious, feminine, and wonderful. I felt that if I did not put her down I would become moved by her in some unbearable fashion.

Dr. Amony pays $14 for her, far more than he can afford, because he can't leave her lying there on the counter "for she was a creation, and something, some part of the human soul, and gone into the making of her."

The rest of the story concerns the mystery of who this dollmaker is, and what her life is like, and why she makes them. Gallico said he wasn't entirely happy with the ending of the story--but I am! :-)

Reading Gallico's "Enchanted Doll" story, Part 1

I'm finally going to do it! I'm ready to read "Enchanted Doll" and consider whatever Gallico has for me in this story.

The selection is preceded by the author's comments, which are very interesting to ED fans. First let's look at what Gallico says what was the inspiration for this story, the little kernal of experience that he could not forget and so needed to write about:

Somewhere in New York, in some shop I saw a painted doll and fell in love with her. I can't remember where or when, or why I was in the shop and in the doll department, but this was a little creature created by a specialist who had hand-painted the face. The expression, as I recall now, was extraordinarily sweet and lifelike, and the little figure touched my heart. If one wanted to really hark back to what the head-shrinkers [psychoanalysts] were saying and doing in those days, one could suggest that this funny little momentary love affair grew out of the fact that I had always wished to have a daughter and instead produced sons.
In other words, Gallico began just as we all do--by falling in love with a doll-person! Then Gallico goes on to discuss the vicissitudes of publishing short stories, even by well-known authors, and then mentions this fascinating little item of primordial ED trivia:

Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was making a series of two-reel half-hour television shorts in England for an American sponsor, and asked my London agent to see my wares. With a wide collection of stories to choose from, he selected and bought "The Enchanted Doll" and filmed it.

Ah ha! Oh ho! Another yummy morsel to track down! And in connection with a famous movie star, woo woo! The Internet Movie Database shows it under the "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents" heading here. (It was also known as the "Rheingold Theatre." YouTube has the opening to a few episodes, but not this one.)

It would be exceptionally nice if the American Film Institute listed "The Enchanted Doll" in its catalog; however, it doesn't seem to, that I can poke up. Nor does it appear in the Internet Archive.  But because of IMDB we can find out a few things: the original episode aired July 20,1955, and the role of the invalid dollmaker was Josephine Griffin. (Her character's name was changed from Essie Nolan to Mary Nolan for the film.)

Now we have to wonder, did Gallico like and approve of this film? He does not leave us in the dark. He says, that while all the other films made from his stories were "catastrophes," he liked Fairbanks' adaptation of "Enchanted Doll" very much.

It was the first time that I had ever had the spirit of the story, its emotional content as well as the physical appearances of my characters, faithfully translated to the screen. I can't remember now the name of the actress he employed for the part of the unhappy girl, but I do know that she was tender, wistful, and endearing and brought my character most beautifully to life. The part of the young doctor was most excellently played by Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., himself.

So that's all I have to note from the preamble to the story, except to note, as Robert Frost did, "how way leads to way," that the British children's author Enid Blyton wrote a book called "The Enchanted Doll." It's not so easy to find her works in the United States, but maybe they're still getatable in Britain. No real connection to EDs, of course, but still might be interesting as part of the history of the name itself.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Early Dreams of Enchanted Dolls

My father often said there was nothing in the world so boring as listening to somebody talk about their dreams. So if you feel the same--and so do I, very often--you'll want to skip this post!

Long before I ever heard of Enchanted Dolls, I had a dream that expressed my deep wish for a certain kind of doll... Next morning I wrote it down so that I would never forget it, and it has remained special to me all this time. I'm reproducing it here so as not to lose it again--it took me a long time to discover where I'd written it down! It really should be edited for wordiness and excessive length, but then on the other hand, I don't want to lose any of the detail or alter what was recorded immediately after the experience.

A few days later, I had another doll dream, and that is here too.
June 3, 2003

....Now for the dream: Ray and I were at a shopping complex; I was looking around in a beautiful craft and collectibles kind of store while Ray was arranging some kind of financial investment in another place close by. I saw an appealing doll, displayed in a stand on a shelf. She was a lady-doll, about 14 inches long, made of wood, with straight dark hair, shoulder length. She had a pretty face with a pleasing smile and eyes that looked right at me. She had a tall, slender figure and a small waist. She was wearing a long, deep red, prairie-style dress with long sleeves.

I picked her up to see her better; her cost was $18—-not inexpensive, but not more than I could easily afford, either. I had a $20 bill. I held her gently by the waist. There was something special about her: she could move and change expressions, smile, laugh, hold out her arms, gesture—all on her own. The salesperson told me that the doll would bond with me; she would bond to her owner and no one else.

Another woman near by was waiting eagerly for me to put the doll down so that she could buy her, but I walked quickly away from her with the doll still in my hands, determined to buy her myself. I began to feel guilty for being rude to the woman, so I looked for her to offer to let her look at the doll, though not hold her or buy her. But I didn't recognize the woman among the others in the store.

As I walked around and waited for Ray, the doll bonded with me, and I realized she was precious to me. Every few minutes she would communicate with me, through her face and arms, that she knew what I was thinking and feeling. Then the doll revealed that she could, for a short time, turn into a kitten, which I could hold and pet. When Ray found me, I explained to him that I wanted to buy this doll, and that it would sometimes turn into a kitten, but he refused to let me have a cat in the house, since he is allergic to them and we don't want another pet anyway.

But that was a problem: the doll had already bonded with me and couldn't be sold to anyone else—I couldn't refuse to buy her now, and I still wanted her very much. So I explained the problem to the sales lady; she said not to worry, that the transformation must always begin with the doll, and that she could change into some other animal that wouldn't bother Ray—a snail or a goldfish or something else. So I told Ray, very firmly, that I intended to buy the doll and that she need not turn into a kitten and bother him. Then, I told him that if he would not let me buy the doll, I would open a new checking account in my name only, have my paycheck deposited to it, not give him access to it, and mess up the financial arrangements he was making. I knew while saying it that I wouldn't have to follow through on the threat, that I would buy the doll and bring her home.

When I woke up, I enjoyed telling Ray the dream and asked him if he knew what the moral of the story was. He said, "Yes—don't look at dolls!" I said, "No, the moral is, 'Let me have my way!'"

June 17, 2003

Oddly enough, I had another live doll dream last night. Just a brief one, which seemed to refer to the last one. I was holding and looking at a pretty little doll, blonde and smiling, and noticing how she reacted to me. I had said something that was good news to her, that made her laugh and smile, and I thought, "Well, dolls must be alive, because she couldn't laugh and smile like this unless she were alive." What was happening in the dream? I was making her happy, and she was reacting to me, and so making plain that something in doubt was actually true. As in the other dream, the doll had a pretty smile and expression and was looking straight at me--seeing, not unseeing.

This time it was not a question of purchasing or possessing the doll; she was already mine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gallico's " Enchanted Doll" Short Story

So this is the way it happened:

We have a new iPad at work, just sitting out on the table, and the boss asks us each to play with it and get used to it a little bit so that we can use it for "roving reference." (That's when the reference librarian walks around the library asking people if they need help, rather than sitting behind the big desk waiting for people to come to her.)

And when I picked it up to play with it (and it really is fun--and cute) what else would an obsessed ED fan search on google but "Enchanted Doll"?  So that's how I came to see a few sentences on Marina's blog that I had never seen before. I would have sworn I'd read every column inch of it many times over, but no--I had never before seen this part:
When I needed to come up with brand name to give my dolls an identity, I decided to name them after Paul Gallico’s fictional, short story called “Enchanted Doll”, where a young woman creates dolls with so much love that they enchant people at first sight with their compelling, delicate, life-like beauty.
And this is my goal also.
Well, that was a surprise, because I've read Gallico for years--it must have been Junior High when I read Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris for the first time. But this short story, and the collection it is from, I had never heard of before. I'm so curious how Marina discovered it.

One of the nice things about working in a library is that when you hear about a book you want to read, you can march yourself downstairs and see if it's on the shelf. In this instance, it was! (I skipped the part where I got a little help from the catalog identifying which short story collection it was in.) 

And now that I have it I'm kind of afraid to read it... There is just something so powerful about the concept of those enchanting dolls. I know from reading other Gallico books that he writes well about magic (one of his titles is The Man Who Was Magic)  so I should trust him to do justice to them.
The whole prospect goes back even further into childhood when I read the "Land of Live Dolls" books and other stories about dolls who became real. Though less subtle than fiction for adults, they were still about forming a personal, intimate connection to a very special doll.

But I shall read it--I'm far too curious not to!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yren's New Stilettos...

...arrived a few days ago and she has been agitating to show them off  a bit! They take some time to put on, the first time. But they are worth the effort! We just love them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Having TOO much fun on Picnik

Stop me, somebody! I may never eat or sleep again. I'm Picniking.

Hee hee, I did about five different apps to this one. First I turned it into a pencil sketch. Then I used "Neon," making the neon lights white on a black background, to give the lines that rounded shape. Then I used "Invert" and then whited out the edges with "Matte." Then I museum framed it to give it a little better balance in space.

Annina's knits have a Picnik

I'm continually amazed at what the Picnik photoediting site will let you do. I uploaded my favorite picture of Yren from the last post because I was loving the textures of Annina's knits with the smooth porcelain and wanted to play with them. The effect below came from using the Pencil Sketch tool, then increasing the strength and reducing the fade, then applying a matte vignette finish to it. I think it looks like an old photograph from a very romantic book.

Presents from Annina!

At last Yren and I have been able to take some pictures of her with the beautiful knitted gifts we just received from Annina in Sweden. We both agree that one of the most marvelous things about Enchanted Dolls (Yren modestly admits it) is that they bring people from all over the world together in friendship. Yren has had gifts and mementos from Ireland, France, Australia, England, and Sweden, as well as from Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Florida here in the United States. And we love to send gifts to other people too.

We had to stay inside for pictures today because even though it is sunny out, it's very cold. Here she is with a very clever knitted collar-style scarf in her favorite color. To close it, Annina used a special Rainbow Moonstone bead that came from a necklace. 

The stitches in this lovely scarf are so tiny, I just can't imagine how she managed to knit them with human-size fingers! Maybe Iðunn is really the one who knits them in secret. If the word got out, then everyone would want Marina to make them a knitting ED too.

After we were done taking pictures I left Yren on the work table while I went to tidy up after us... She says she finds knitting very soothing and fun to do already--even though the hardest parts of this knitting set have already been done by Annina. (Or by Iðunn, if our theory is correct!) Yren often sees me knitting--or struggling to knit, as I'm just a beginner--and I think she feels fairly certain she can do a better job of it than I. Well, I'll give her all the thread she wants! But she'll have to get vastly better at it than I am to come close to the lovely things that came to her from Sweden!

Thank you, Annina!

Monday, April 5, 2010

She Wanted Hoops

I made Yren a pair of red earrings to wear with her red gown and flaxen wig and red lipstick. Then she said she wanted hoops too. Hoops! I don't know how to make hoop earrings. But Yren has a strategy for getting her own way: she invites me to imagine what she'd look like with whatever it is she wants. And once I had pictured her in hoop earrings, I had to try them.

I'm going to keep making little tiny pairs of earrings and whatever else seems do-able in order to practice the basic wire techniques. Then I'm going back to the bead shop for an intermediate class, and the basic stringing class too. Yren does not protest--she thinks it's a fine idea. The more I learn, the more things she can picture herself wearing!

I like this pink fluffy stuff she's wrapped in. Emily and I went to Hobby Lobby today and there was a hunk of this in the remnant section. I thought it could be a winter coat or a stole for her, so it didn't matter that it's only about 6 inches wide. But now that we've seen how nice it is, Yren would like some bedding made of it... Maybe one of the other fabric stores in town has more. I hope so!

PS: When these photographs get blown up to large size I sure can see my mistakes excellently well. Sigh. Two new tools needed: round-nose pliers with smaller tips, and a magnifying visor with stronger lenses. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A "Hitchcock Blonde"

So we were reading an InStyle magazine this morning and we came across an article called "What's Your Perfect Color?"  In the section on red, there was this transfixing bit: "'Striking shades, such as true red, really frame women with this coloring, like Gwyneth Paltrow,' says designer Michael Kors, who dubs these cool types with flaxen hair, light eyes, and porcelain skin 'Hitchcock blondes.' Kors adds, 'Muted tones wash them out.'

And of course, this was illustrated with a really stunning photo of Gwyneth in a red dress... Well! On seeing that, Yren did not care to lose any time transforming herself into a Hitchcock blonde! She reminded me that has light eyes, and a flaxen wig that was a present from Aneemal, and a siren red dress from Miss Orchid...."And as for porcelain skin--I ask you! Skin doesn't get any more porcelain than mine!" So we dressed her up and put on lipstick the same color as Gwyneth is wearing. It's rather cold for posing this morning  but Miss Yren did not complain--just another sacrifice for beauty.

We dedicate this photo shoot to Monika Viktoria, who especially likes Yren's blonde hair and who permitted Miss Orchid to create this dress, thus making Yren's Hitchcock Blonde look possible.

PS. And did we check out the rest of the article to see which other perfect colors Yren can wear? We did indeed. Periwinkle was one; also, if she is wearing her dark wig, violet; or her red wig, olive, emerald, or forest green. Knowing that, we're probably going to be exploring these ideas quite soon! And noticing what else Gwyneth Paltrow wears. ;-)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rainy Renny

Poor Renny, it's raining and what she wants more than anything is to go for a walk in it. But she can't; she can't get wet at all, and it makes her sad. So she sits here by the door, or sometimes in the window seat, and gazes out past her reflection at the lovely sad rain and dreams of how it would feel....

Easter Day update: I added this picture too, just because her reflection shows in it...

Sweet Things from Monika Viktoria

You remember when Monika liked Yren in her blonde wig so much that she painted her portrait?  Well, as you might expect, Yren just had to have the original of that painting. I understood completely, and secretly felt the same way, but I wouldn't confess it to Yren. Better that she should think I'm indulging her once again.

So we went to Monika's lovely etsy store and bought it. Yesterday it arrived, all beautifully wrapped in silver paper and tied with ribbon, and like Yren herself it is even more beautiful in person....But there were more treats in store for us! Turns out, Monika had promised herself that whoever should be her first etsy customer would receive extra lovelies from her to celebrate and she was just waiting to see who that would be. And it was us! Yren and me!

That's how we came to be the proud owners of that wonderful side poof skirt and that sweet button made with one of her early, very special, drawings.

With Spring in the world and new clothes and a pretty portrait Yren is feeling on top of the world! And the toppest top of the world seems to be this little hill covered with violets in our back yard, so that's where we went to take pictures. It's a little overcast today, so we had a slightly easier time than yesterday in the evening sun, but I think even more overcast would have been good...Silvery clouds smooth all the harsh lights away... But she did love being out in the sunshine... I caught her just relaxing, too. Benny found the violets and she wanted to just lie there for awhile. But she can't stay there long, for it looks like rain soon....

Friday, April 2, 2010

Yren's new "Side Poof" Skirt

It's almost 8 o'clock here in the Midwest on this early spring evening. The sun is deep, long shadows are falling. Yren is climbing down off her stand in eagerness to show you that the forsythia bush started blooming just today, and that she has a way cool new skirt from Monika Viktoria.

What, a package from Monika Viktoria? Yes! And tomorrow you shall see and hear all. For the moment, Yren is enjoying the warm colors of the sunset and the balmy breeze and the fact that she looks like a little miniature Monika, who told us that she wears skirts like this to her work at the jewelry store. We think it is ingenious and therefore suspect that Miss Orchid may have had a hand in it. Till tomorrow!