About four years ago I took the InFocus projector off the shelf and brought it to my friend Gary’s to watch an outdoor movie on Labor Day. I thought about what would be the best end of the season film; It dawned on me that the quintessential Labor Day film is Picnic (1955).
It was a perfect, perfect night weather-wise, and in the back of Gary’s apartment was a covered deck that we turned into a mini-movie theater for the night. Stacy and his boyfriend even brought a cake with the names of the film’s stars on it.
As a child my parents let me watch everything with them, so I had a vague recollection of seeing Picnic when I was eight or ten. But seeing it again, outside, and on Labor Day, it really hit home how the film captures that feeling that summer is over, school is going to start. I think after generations of starting school in September we are conditioned that the time for new beginnings is September, not the new year or birthdays. The Human Resources director where I worked claims that people change their jobs more often in September. Everyone wants a new start.
The wide-screen Technicolor drama looks beautiful projected and the characters are bigger than life. I could go on about how beautiful Kim Novak is, or how handsome and wonderful William Holden is (even though he’s a bit long in the tooth for the role), but the one reason to see this film is the tour de force performance of Rosalind Russell as Rosemary, the spinster school teacher. She’s her performance is hysterically funny, then turns into a drunken melodrama that shows how she fears growing old alone; it’s a performance that is Oscar worthy. However Picnic only picked up awards for Best Color Art Direction and Editing.
The high point of the film has to be the picnic dance in which Holden and Novak dance to Moonglow, which segues into the Picnic theme song. It’s a magically moment of theater. If you watch this scene, a bit of trivia: Holden was so nervous about dancing on camera that he was drunk while filming this… The film also has a gorgeous score by George Duning.
The Picnic Dance
This movie also has bittersweet memories, because it was the last evening that everyone got to be with our dear friend Bob Lesh who passed away the following month. Endings, beginnings. Fall is here.
The Picnic Trailer
For a really comprehensive review of Picnic I highly recommend watching Steve Hayes (Tired Old Queen at the Movies)